Image Comics turns 30

Originally published at: Image Comics turns 30 | Boing Boing


I was managing a comic shop back when Image launched (I’m still an avid reader of comics). I honestly expected them to go the way of most of the other minor publishers and disappear fairly quickly.

While they had great artists (and Liefeld) at launch, none of them had any experience in writing. Many of their titles were pretty much direct rip-offs of the work they had been doing at Marvel.

I’m happy to say that my initial expectations turned out to be completely wrong. They had real problems in the first couple of years with books shipping late, but he sorted this out after a year or two. Now they’ve got a strong name in putting out some great comics.


Mad love for Image; doesnt seem like it’s been that long…


This right here. Spawn was one of their first titles, and I would dare say that while it was a “comic book” story, the production quality and writing of the first year or two was fantastic. The art was gorgeous, and it had a solid plotline and sympathetic main character. It was a solid foundation for what was to come, and they’ve gone on to do marvelous work far beyond the usual comic hero tropes.


Is Fantagraphics dead?


I have mixed feelings about that, on one hand image was and is a daring, innovative publisher, on the other hands they are in a large part responible why comics in the 1990s were so terrible.


I dunno about that, I’ve gotten the impression that graphic novels are doing very well.


Single issue sales are in the toilet, and manga is killing American sales…and by a WIDE margin too.

Considering that the movies are as popular as they are, I’d say we’re in a rough spot. You can’t get better advertisement than a 300 million dollar blockbuster.

Superheroes, as a concept, are doing phenomenally, but American comics- in print, at least- are doing terribly. If ONE manga book can outsell the entire industry six times over, I’d say we have to reevaluate our approach.


What do you suppose is wrong with our approach?

I read US and European graphic novels, but not Manga. Does the latter include stories that amount to a parallel to our graphic novel genre?

I ask the latter question because I’m wondering if you focus on superhero comics includes or overlooks graphic novels.


Only 15.5 million units of western comics in 2019? Lustiges Taschenbuch alone sells 1.5 issues a year in Germany alone. A new Asterix is good for 5 million issues.


My loyalty is to comics as a medium, irrespective of country. I love quality comics from around the globe. However, as an American who aspires to work in the comic industry, I understand that superheroes are the dominant genre in our industry. I wish other genres were as popular, but more on that later.

Marvel and DC are the two biggest comic publishers in America. Full stop. They deal in superheroes. Everyone else is playing catch-up ball in the states.

Having said that, manga is stomping a mudhole in Marvel and DC, and a lot of that is because the big two have built a cult audience that only cares about superheroes. This is a mistake. That’s why I’m rooting for Image as opposed to Marvel and DC. Image allows for a greater array of genres and varying levels of maturity, similar to European books.

American comics are dying BECAUSE we primarily focus on superheroes.

In other countries, comics are as valid a medium as any other. In America, comics are synonymous with a nerdy subculture that worships superheroes. As a result, it’s challenging to gain new readers that don’t care about superheroes, and it’s even harder to ween the comic nerds off of superheroes.

The whole thing is a mess. Lol


Their 30th anniversary helps me pinpoint exactly when the comics bug bit me as I remember picking up all of the first issues at the local comic shop. So of course I was 1 year old…I mean…11 years old.


I was all over the Image books when they first came out. I still have nearly all of them. I think I accidentally sold a short run of the original Spawn I was keeping for myself, but eh - I am trying to let half of the books I have go.

Spawn and Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon turned out to be the Two books that had staying power.


Good for them, 30 years is a long time!
I still am particularly fond of The Maxx:

wacky art, wacky story, still have all of them. Not giving them away, noo.
And c’mon, the nineties were not so terrible in US comics, there were also lots of pretty neat DC Vertigo books. Ordinary superhero stuff cannot hold a candle to other countries’ comics but these were far better, an excellent effort.


Confused. Aren’t there seven names in this sentence?

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No. They still publish a half dozen or so titles a month


Good catch, brother.

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Us numbers – 16.2 million adult graphic novels were sold in print in 2020, according to a report from the publishing tracking service the NPD Group.
PS: Image publishes lots of month comics that barely dent the sales charts. Their real success in is the GN business.


Cartoonist Kayfabe did some interesting readings of the depositions for the Neil Gaimen vs Todd McFarlane case. It paints the early years of Image as having a bit of a tech bro’, wild west vibe.


Blimey, Ken Stacey’s colouring on that Spawn #1 cover is eye-watering in a good way.

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