Director Patrick Meaney’s chronicle of the group of innovative artists that gave Marvel and DC the collective bird and took control of their own lives is a wonderful insight and word of warning at what happens when there are too many cooks in the kitchen. Surely, no one person is to blame for helping Image nearly drop out of the scope of pop culture and crash, but when you team a group of artists together who could walk the walk and talk the talk, there is bound to be conflict and inevitable resentment. I consider myself lucky enough to have grown up during the Image Revolution, where most of my money was spent on DC and Marvel, and immediately went over to Image. I bought titles like “Prophet,” “Youngblood,” and “WildCATS” religiously, while cutting my teeth in Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld’s art for many years.
Image Comics was a who’s who of some of the best Marvel artists that had had enough with Marvel refusing to give them credit and respect, and sought out to create their own comic book company. Named Image Comics, they took control of their own titles and characters, and reaped the rewards. One of the most compelling interviews in the group of the original Image founders is Todd McFarlane. McFarlane was an aspiring artist who would have given one of his limbs to work for one of the big two labels. After streamlining their best characters and ushering them in to the nineties, McFarlane saw his work go literally unrewarded, to where he couldn’t even garner a free copy of a licensed T-Shirt with his iconic version of Spider-Man on it.
It’s interesting to see that even today McFarlane has incredibly passionate hatred toward Marvel and DC and despises their practices. So much so that he was willing to make “The Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman part owner of Image, once he completely dropped Marvel and DC from his work slate to focus on Image. McFarlane is the heart and soul of Image in its beginnings, and he really hosts the most resentment and anger toward Marvel and DC. Though it’s only covered in a mostly surface level, there’s plenty of bad blood and bile that McFarlane sports toward the big two companies that he never clarifies. It’s not hard to see why he hates them, but I would have loved to delve more in to why it’s such a sore topic.
Rob Liefeld even laughingly notes an anecdote at how McFarlane screamed at a fan during an early Image panel when he asked about Liefeld taking part in the Marvel’s “Heroes Reborn” fiasco. “The Image Revolution” avoids a lot of the blunders and missteps that these men walked in to, and instead focuses on how Image changed the canvas of comic books. There’s little to no discussion about Liefeld being ostracized by his peers, Lee being lambasted by fans for his practices with DC Comics, and the like. Instead “The Image Revolution” depicts the original group of founders as wunderkinds that took control of their lives, and eventually became classic cases of too much too soon.
There’s also a lot of respect paid to Robert Kirkman who defined independent comic books with “The Walking Dead,” and helped pave a new dawn for the comic book brand. That said, “The Image Revolution” also wisely reflects the perils of working with artists, and how they can often work well, but eventually want to steer the ship by themselves. This eventually becomes the downfall for the company as the band of rebels inevitably became bitter enemies with their own name brands that competed for the top of the heap in comic sales. Patrick Meaney’s “The Image Revolution” is an entertaining, insightful, and nostalgic look at one of the biggest revolutions in comic book history, that changed the face of the medium forever, for better and for worse.