Image Month: Image Through The Years - 1992

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It was in 1992 that eight people, all of them then rising stars in the field of comics, announced the formation of a company intended to change the way the industry worked. This was Image Comics.

Born out of frustration with the long established work-for-hire philosophy of Marvel and DC (but particularly Marvel), Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Erik Larsen, Marc Silvestri, Jim Valentino and Whilce Portacio, as well as  X-Men writer Chris Claremont,  were the founding fathers of the idea of  Image, a company conceived after Marvel refused to agree to demands from a delegation of  creators to grant them ownership of their own work instead of the then customary standard page rate and occasional royalties. In the event, neither Claremont nor Portacio eventually became Image founders, but the remaining six did, each forming his own studio which would publish under the Image banner while still retaining total creative control of their own product.

The six were Wildstorm (owned by Jim Lee), Extreme Studios (Liefeld), Top Cow (Silvestri), Shadowline (Valentino), Highbrow Entertainment (Larsen) and Todd McFarlane Productions (work it out for yourself). Initially, the Image titles were published by the already established Malibu Comics, a smallish independent company which supported Image’s creator owned philosophy and provided them with the means to produce, distribute and market the books.

The first Image titles released were Erik Larsen’s The Savage Dragon (about a super powered police officer), Liefeld’s  superteam book Youngblood, Jim Lee’s WildC.A.T.S, and McFarlane’s immediately hugely popular Spawn, soon followed by Valentino’s Shadowhawk and Silvestri’s CyberforceShadowhawk sold well but never caught on to quite the same extent, but the others were instant successes, the high profiles of their creators guaranteeing high sales even before they were launched, and Malibu’s faith in Image was rewarded by a colossal increase in their market share.

By 1993 though, with Image titles selling in numbers high enough to cover their own production and distribution costs and still turn a profit, Image were ready to come out from under Malibu’s wing and fly solo.

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