Image Comics is an American comic book publisher. It was founded in
1992 by several high-profile illustrators as a venue where comics
creators could publish their material without giving up the copyrights
to the characters they created, as creator-owned properties. It was
immediately successful, and remains one of the largest comic book
publishers in North America. Its output was originally dominated by
superhero and fantasy series from the studios of the Image partners,
but now includes comics in many genres by numerous independent
creators. Its best-known series include The Walking Dead, Spawn,
Savage Dragon, Witchblade, The Darkness, Invincible, Saga, and Chew.
1.3 Partial break-up
2 See also
4.1 Inline citations
4.2 General references
5 External links
ComicCon 2007 on the 15th anniversary of the founding of
Image Comics. From left: Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Erik Larsen, Jim
Valentino, Marc Silvestri,
Rob Liefeld and Whilce Portacio.
In the early 1990s, comics creators Erik Larsen, Rob Liefeld, and Jim
Valentino had dinner with
Malibu Comics editor-in-chief Dave Olbrich.
Malibu was a small but established publishing company sympathetic to
creator-ownership, and Olbrich expressed interest in publishing comics
created by them. These and several other freelance illustrators
doing popular work for
Marvel Comics were growing frustrated with the
company's work for hire policies and practices, which they felt did
not sufficiently reward the talent that produced them, as the company
heavily merchandised their artwork, and compensated them with modest
According to Todd McFarlane, he,
Jim Lee and Liefeld met with Marvel
president Terry Stewart and editor
Tom DeFalco in late December 1991.
Larsen and Silvestri, who joined the group the night before, were not
present, but the group that met with Stewart indicated that they were
representing them as well. Contrary to what has been reported by other
sources, McFarlane says that they made no demands of Stewart or
Marvel, but merely informed him that they were leaving, gave their
reasons why, and cautioned Stewart to heed those reasons, lest the
company suffer future exoduses. The creators had the same meeting with
DC Comics the next day. After
Whilce Portacio returned
from his yearly trip to the Philippines, his
Homage Studios colleague
Lee asked him to join the group.
A group of eight creators then announced the founding of Image Comics:
Todd McFarlane (known for his work on Spider-Man), Jim
Rob Liefeld (X-Force),
Marc Silvestri (Wolverine), Erik
Larsen (The Amazing Spider-Man),
Jim Valentino (Guardians of the
Whilce Portacio (Uncanny X-Men); and longtime Uncanny
X-Men writer Chris Claremont. This development was
nicknamed the "X-odus", because several of the creators involved
(Claremont, Liefeld, Lee, Silvestri, and Portacio) were famous for
their work on the
X-Men franchise. Marvel's stock fell $3.25/share
when the news became public. Image's organizing charter had two key
Image would not own any creator's work; the creator would.
No Image partner would interfere – creatively or financially –
with any other partner's work. Image itself would own no intellectual
property except the company trademarks: its name and its logo,
which was designed by writer Hank Kanalz.
Each Image partner founded his own studio, which published under the
Image banner but was autonomous from any central editorial control.
Claremont was not part of the partnership, and Portacio withdrew
during the formative stages to deal with his sister's illness, so
Image originally consisted of six studios:
Todd McFarlane Productions, owned by Todd McFarlane
WildStorm Productions, owned by Jim Lee
Highbrow Entertainment, owned by Erik Larsen
Shadowline, owned by Jim Valentino
Top Cow Productions, owned by Marc Silvestri
Extreme Studios, owned by Rob Liefeld
Their initial titles were produced under the Image imprint, but
published through Malibu Comics, which provided administrative,
production, distribution, and marketing support for the launch of
The first Image comic books to arrive in stores were Liefeld's
Youngblood, Larsen's The Savage Dragon, McFarlane's Spawn, and Lee's
WildC.A.T.s. (Youngblood and
Savage Dragon were not entirely new
creations, having debuted in Gary Carlson's Megaton, an independent
comic book title published from 1981 to 1987.) Propelled by the
artists' popularity and the eagerness of comic book collectors to get
in on the "next big thing", these series sold in numbers that no
publisher other than Marvel, DC, or
Valiant Comics had achieved in the
years since the market's decline in the 1970s. (The
company experienced lesser successes with Silvestri's Cyberforce,
Valentino's Shadowhawk, and Portacio's much-delayed
Wetworks.) Within a few months, the Image titles'
success led to Malibu having almost 10% of the North American comics
market share, briefly exceeding that of industry giant DC
Comics. By the beginning of 1993, Image's financial situation was
secure enough to publish its titles independently, and it left
Some of the founders' studios came to resemble separate publishers,
each with several ongoing series set in a shared universe. (At first
there were indications of an "Image Universe" shared by the studios,
but these decreased as the studios developed their own directions.)
The use of freelancers to write or illustrate series that were owned
by the Image partners led to criticism that some of them had
reproduced the very system they had rebelled against, but with them in
charge instead of a corporation. Image partners such as Larsen and
Valentino, who did not take this approach, assumed a neutral position
on it, in keeping with the requirement that none of them had any say
in how the others' studios were run.
Some of the Image partners used their studios to also publish new
works produced by independent creators, allowing them to retain
ownership and editorial control over those series, an arrangement
which was then uncommon among large publishers. These included Sam
Kieth (The Maxx),
Dale Keown (Pitt),
Jae Lee (Hellshock), and the
team of Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, and
Alex Ross (Astro City).
Later, some established self-published series also moved to Image,
such as Jeff Smith's Bone and Colleen Doran's A Distant Soil.
The partners had little business or management experience, and many
series quickly fell behind their intended publishing
schedule.[note 1] Comparing them to vaporware, one reader reported
that 17 of the 36 delayed items in his December 1992 order were from
Image. Retailers' advance orders of newly offered issues were
typically based on the sales of recent issues, but as the issues
shipped weeks and even several months late, fans' interest tended to
wane, leaving retailers with inventory they couldn't sell when it
arrived. In response, retailers cut orders to reduce their risk. This
significantly hurt the studios, which were each responsible for their
own cash flow and profitability. In late 1993, the partners hired
Larry Marder to act as "executive director" for
the publisher; Valentino quipped in interviews that Marder's job
was literally to "direct the executives" (i.e. the Image partners).
Marder developed better financial planning and had some success in
disciplining creators to deliver their work on time, in part by
insisting that retail orders for new issues would not be solicited
until the books had been illustrated, usually ensuring they would be
ready to ship when promised.
By the mid-1990s Image series such as Spawn and The
Savage Dragon had
proven themselves as lasting successes (the former frequently topping
the sales charts for months in which new issues came out), while new
series such as Wildstorm's Gen¹³, and Top Cow's
Witchblade and The
Darkness were also successful. Image had become the third-largest
comics publisher in North America, exceeded only by long-established
industry leaders Marvel and DC Comics.
Disagreements between partners began to develop. Several of the
partners complained that Liefeld was using his position as
Image to promote and perhaps even to financially support Maximum
Press, a publishing company that Liefeld operated separately from
Image. Silvestri withdrew
Top Cow from Image in 1996
(although he retained his partnership in the company), protesting that
Liefeld was recruiting artists from his studio, including the highly
popular Michael Turner (Witchblade). The other five
partners discussed ousting Liefeld from the company, and Liefeld
resigned in September 1996, giving up his share of the
company. Silvestri subsequently returned
Top Cow to Image.
Wildstorm's Cliffhanger imprint, established in 1998, was a commercial
success, launching high-selling creator-owned properties by Humberto
Ramos, J. Scott Campbell, Joe Madureira, and others. However, Jim Lee
sold Wildstorm and its characters to
DC Comics in 1999, citing a
desire to exchange his responsibilities as a publisher for the
opportunity to do more creative work.
A panel of non-founding Image creators at the 2010 New York Comic Con
(l–r): Tomm Coker, Tim Seeley, Ben McCool, James Zhang, Nick Spencer
and Ron Marz
The founders of Image were best known for their dynamic and
extravagant art, and for character-driven, thinly-plotted stories in
the superhero genre. Although the company also published dissimilar
works, many readers came to perceive this as the "Image style" of
comics. Valentino had become less active as a creator after the
company's first few years, and responded to this development in 1997
by using his position as a partner to seek out and publish a number of
titles by other creators in distinctly different genres and styles, in
a deliberate attempt to diversify Image's output and how it was
perceived. Although most of these series—ironically dubbed the
"non-line" because of their lack of commonality—did not sell well
and were soon cancelled, they introduced an increasingly important
business model for the company: offering other creators the same
total-ownership terms the partners enjoyed, but taking a fixed fee
upon publication for the company's administrative costs. This practice
was later formalized as a function of "Image Central", a business unit
independent of any of the studios. This focus on
non-studio comics increased when Valentino took on the role of Image's
publisher, assuming many of the responsibilities held by Marder until
he left the company in 1999.
The company's position in the North American direct market diminished
in the 2000s, challenged by
Dark Horse Comics
Dark Horse Comics and
IDW Publishing for
the position of "third largest publisher" after Marvel and DC. In
February 2004, Larsen replaced Valentino as publisher, largely
continuing existing business practices. Larsen stepped down as
publisher in July 2008 and executive director Eric Stephenson was
promoted to the position. Valentino returned to operating his own
studio with his
Shortly after Stephenson's appointment, Image added a new partner.
Robert Kirkman, whose black and white series The Walking Dead had
emerged as a long-running and popular series, and whose Invincible
became one of the longest-running series featuring a superhero created
in the early 2000s, became the first partner added since its
founding. In July 2010 he announced that he would create an
imprint under his direction, known as Skybound.
Starting in 2009, Image began to greatly expand both the types of
comics it publishes and the types of creators drawn to the
publisher, beginning a period of critical acclaim. Among its
award-winning series, are Chew, Morning Glories, Fatale, The Manhattan
Projects, and Saga. Saga creator
Brian K. Vaughan
Brian K. Vaughan explained why he
chose Image to publish that series:
I love all the other companies I've worked with, but I think Image
might be the only publisher left that can still offer a contract I
would consider "fully creator-owned." Saga is a really important story
to me, so I wanted a guarantee of no content restrictions or other
creative interference, and I needed to maintain 100% control and
ownership of all non-publishing rights with the artist, including the
right to never have our comic turned into a movie or television show
or whatever ... [Image Publisher] Eric Stephenson was the only
publisher I spoke with who was thrilled to make that deal, and
co-creator Fiona Staples and I didn't have to sign exclusives or agree
to work on a bunch of corporate-owned titles to get it.
Image's sales grew significantly during this period to a market
share of around 10% in 2015, and an influx of Marvel- and
DC-associated creators began publishing creator-owned work with
them. By this time, a clear majority of titles Image published in
a given month were non-studio productions. Meanwhile, McFarlane's
Spawn and related titles, his
McFarlane Toys line, Silvestri's Top Cow
imprint, and Kirkman's various series remained a substantial segment
of Image's total sales. As of 2016, McFarlane's Spawn and Larsen's
Savage Dragon continue as the longest-running creator-owned titles by
Image partners, with over 250 and 200 issues, respectively.
In September 2016, Stephenson announced that the company's
headquarters would be moving from
Berkeley, California to Portland,
Oregon in early 2017.
San Francisco Bay Area portal
Image Comics publications
^ For example,
WildC.A.T.s was a "monthly", but in one nine-month
period only four issues appeared (#29–32: Apr '96, Jun '96, Sep '96,
^ Our Publishers
^ "MV Creations Facing Bankruptcy, Looks To Fans For Help". CBR.com.
November 24, 2004.
^ "Jim Valentino: Broadening the Base and Raising the Bar". Comics
Bulletin. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
^ Johnston, Rich. "The Not Quite Secret Origin Of Image Comics".
Bleeding Cool. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
^ a b Reed, Patrick A. (February 1, 2016). "On This Day In 1992: The
Start Of The
Image Comics Revolution". Comics Alliance.
^ a b c Phillips, Patrick (April 22, 2015). "Image Comics: An Origin
Story". Geek Insider.
^ a b Khouri, Andy (July 27, 2007). "CCI: Image Comics: The Founders".
Khoury, George (June 12, 2007). Image Comics: The Road to
Independence. TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 76. Archived at Google Books.
Retrieved April 26, 2017.
^ a b Booker, Keith M. (October 28, 2014). Stewart%2C Image
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Jim Lee Join McFarlane's New Imprint at Malibu," The Comics Journal
#148 (February 1992), pp. 11–12.
^ "The Image Story", The Comics Journal, 2005-10-25. Retrieved on
^ Erik Larsen, "Grand Larseny", printed in the back of various Image
titles, February 2008
Larsen, Erik (November 15, 2011). "The 'Ask Erik' Thread". Image
Comics. Archived from the original on April 26, 2012.
^ "Whilce Portacio: The man behind the X-Men", by Cynthia de Castro,
Asian Journal, December 7, 2008 Archived October 31, 2010, at the
^ Platinum Studios:
Awesome Comics Archived February 2, 2008, at the
Wayback Machine. Accessed February 3, 2008
Gary Carlson Fox Cities Book Festival
^ "NewsWatch: Malibu Commands 9.73% Market Share," The Comics Journal
#151 (July 1992), p. 21.
^ "Malibu Moves Ahead of DC in Comics Market,"
The Comics Journal
The Comics Journal #152
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^ "Image Leaves Malibu, Becomes Own Publisher," The Comics Journal
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^ The Creator's Bill of Rights: A Chat with Steve Bissette
^ "NewsWatch: Hulk Artist Leaves Marvel"
The Comics Journal
The Comics Journal #151 (July
1992), p. 21.
^ "Wizard Market Watch". Wizard (22). June 1993.
^ "Letters". Computer Gaming World. March 1993. p. 104.
^ Johnston, Rich. "The Not Quite Secret Origin Of Image Comics".
bleedingcool.com. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
Larry Marder Joins Image,"
The Comics Journal
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^ "Chapter Three: Image Litigation, Cont.",
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^ "News Watch: Image, Liefeld Settle Lawsuit, if not their
The Comics Journal
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^ a b
Miller, John Jackson (2016). "Market Shares of Comics Sold to
Coimic Shops". Comichron. Retrieved April 25, 2017.
^ Brady, Matt (July 9, 2008). "Eric Stephenson: Talking to the New
Image Publisher". Newsarama. July 9, 2008.
^ Brady, Matt (July 22, 2008). "
Robert Kirkman Named Image Partner".
^ Armitage, Hugh (July 20, 2010). "
Robert Kirkman launches Skybound
imprint". Digital Spy.
^ Hennum, Shea (March 12, 2015). "What Spawn Means to the Future of
^ Uzumeri, David (March 14, 2012). "'Saga':
Brian K. Vaughan
Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona
Staples Bring a Stellar Sci-Fi Comic Into the World" Archived January
9, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.. ComicsAlliance.
^ a b Scott, Aaron (September 1, 2016). "
Image Comics To Move To
Portland". Oregon Public Broadcasting.
^ Meylikhov, Matthew (September 16, 2013). "The Shifting Landscape of
Creator-Owned Comics". Multiversity Comics.
This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain
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2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Khoury, George (June 2007).Image Comics: The Road To Independence
TwoMorrows Publishing. , ISBN 1-893905-71-3 excerpts:
"McFarlane and Khoury on 15 Years of Image Comics". Comic Book
Resources. June 13, 2007
Marc Silvestri from Image Comics: The Road to Independence".
Newsarama. June 14, 2007
Dale Keown excerpt from Image Comics: The Road to Independence, June
Image Comics at the Grand Comics Database
Image Comics. Big Comic Book DataBase.
Image Comics at the Comic Book DB
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