My oh my, how time flies. Image Comes turned 25 this week, and the anniversary has brought back a ton of memories for me.
Founded in 1992 by Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, Erik Larsen, Whilce Portacio, Marc Silvestri, and Jim Valentino, Image Comics sent shock waves through the industry. The idea was to have a place where writers and artists could have their work published, while retaining ownership of their creations.
That mission is still going strong 25 years later. But if you were around in 1992, then you know that the Image Comics of today is far different from the one that published Youngblood and WildC.A.T.S.
I for one loved those books, and still do. I also think they get bad rap these days sometimes unfairly. So now, here are 5 underrated comics from Image’s early years:
5. Angela (1994)
Published in late 1994, the three issue Angela mini-series remains a hidden gem from Image’s early days. Written by Neil Gaiman, with art by Greg Capullo, this series puts the spotlight on Angela, the hunter of Spawns. But what happens when she finds herself defeated by her prey?
One of the best characters to come of Spawn was Angela, and who better to tackle her first solo book than Neil Gaiman? Add in some of Greg Capullo’s magic, and you got a great comic series.
Here we learn some of her back story, and see her home. We even meet some of her “sisters.” And you can still find these comics for a decent price if you look hard enough.
4. Mars Attacks Image (1996)
The Martians launch their invasion of Earth, first taking out a Stormwatch Sentinel sattellite and then destroying 76.3% of Earth’s military; Earth’s super-heroes begin to notice the attack: Grunge and Caitlan Fairchild see reports on the television in California; Spawn defends his alley friends from giant insects in New York; Savage Dragon and Superpatriot rescue Alex Wilde on the streets of Chicago; and President Bill Clinton calls Jacob Marlowe to ask for the WildC.A.T.S. assistance; The Martians discuss that if they face too much trouble from Earth’s heroes they will promise Earth’s governments peace if they surrender their super-heroes.
Mars Attacks Image came out in late 1996-early 1997, around the same time Tim Burton’s “Mars Attacks!” was released. Unfortunately, the movie didn’t click with audiences and tanked at the box office, and I think the Image series suffered for it.
I for one liked Mars Attacks Image better than the movie, and with talents like Keith Giffen, Andy Smith, and Bill Sienkiewicz. how could I not?
3. Spirit of the Tao (1998-2000)
Written by Billy Tan (plot), D-Tron (Plot; Script), and Malachy Coney, Spirit of the Tao tells the story of Lance and Jasmine possess the Spirit of the Tao, a dragon spirit that is prophesied to one day destroy the Earth; They try to live their lives as normal college students while being secretly trained to control their powers by their mentor, Lang.
Unfortunately, a group of Tao Hunters learn of their existence and attack, even though Lang fears the kids are less than ready to face their destiny, they have no choice but to fight back.
I liked this series because it was different from anything else on the stands at the time. The characters and story were solid, and Spirit of Tao also introduced me to the art of Billy Tan. This short-lived series got lost in the shuffle, and that’s a shame because this was a great read.
2. Cyberforce Origins #1 (1995)
If you go only by the cover of Cyberforce Origins #1, then you probably think this is just another mediocre 90’s Bad Girl comic, but you would be wrong!
In Cyberforce Origins #1, writers Marc Silvestri, Mike Heisler, and artist Joe Benitez tell the origin story of Cyberforce member Cyblade. Born Dominique Thiebaut, she was spoiled and pampered as a child.
Her mutant powers manifested after she was attacked by gunmen at her school, at which point her father hired a new nanny who would also serve as her bodyguard. But this woman was no Mary Poppins, and she secretly trained Dominique to become a killing machine. And that’s just part of the story.
By the time Cyberforce Origins was published, the origins of Image characters were… messy to say the least. Spawn probably had the most decent origin in the company, but even that had to be changed when Rob Liefeld left the company.
However, Marc Silvestri, Mike Heisler, Joe Benitez delivered a top-notch origin for Cyblade. I honestly could not ask for more from an origin story, its just a shame this book has been largely forgotten.
1. Wildcats Aliens #1 (1998)
When an escape pod crash-lands on New York with injured StormWatch agent Flint enclosed, the WildC.A.T.s decide to get involved. Void teleports the team up to SkyWatch and into the middle of a disaster zone. They discover two things; for one, the aliens arent Daemonite and two, they are going to have one hell of a time getting the survivors, and themselves, off the space station alive.
But how can even the WildC.A.T.s survive an encounter with the Aliens when StormWatch has already fallen. Get ready for a horror/sci-fi/super hero slugfest the likes that has never been seen before!
In Wildcats Aliens #1, Warren Ellis, and artists Chris Sprouse and Kevin Nowlan decimated my favorite Image team: Stormwatch. Ellis, Sprouse, and Nowlan killed or maimed some of my favorite characters, and Stormwatch didn’t even get their name on the title. After reading this one-shot, I was shocked, and sad.
Maybe the early years of Image weren’t the best but think of it this way: without the foundation laid by Younglbood, Wetworks, Shdowhawk and the rest, we may not have The Walking Dead, East of West, Reborn or Paper Girls. So next time you see a 25 cent copy of Youngblood #1, don’t dismiss it as another crap 90’s comic.
Anyways, happy birthday Image, and thanks for some fun comics!