Who can even remember the 90’s? It seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it? Actually I remember the 90’s pretty fondly – I also remember when Image started and the odd backlash that Marvel received. People suddenly blamed Marvel for… who even knows? For owning characters that were contractually theirs? I’m not really sure. I know McFarlane was always sour to how much Marvel made off of the characters he had a hand in creating – but that’s sort of how business is run. Everything that they made belonged to Marvel and they knew that going in. It certainly didn’t stop them from creating new characters! I have my ideas on what happened exactly -mainly artists whose ego became too big and were no longer happy with the company that paid them quite well.
They wanted more and that was that. The artists involved believed that everything they created should be partly owned by them. While there is certainly an argument to be had on that idea the truth is that a business can’t run that way. Want proof? Look no further than McFarlane himself. Early on Image had the idea that they could create a shared universe much on the level of Marvel and DC while still letting the creators own their characters. Troubled bubbled to the surface right away when Liefeld was kicked out of Image and Todd had to retcon the person responsible for killing Al Simmons in Spawn. Does anyone remember who he had established as his killer early on? That’s right, it was Chapel. A member of Youngblood.
Todd couldn’t continue to use Chapel without Liefeld’s say so – and since the two weren’t on speaking terms – McFarlane simply created Jessica Priest as Spawn’s “real” killer.
Another example is even more recent. Neil Gaiman’s ownership of Angela sounded awfully reminiscent of the battle that McFarlane had with Marvel years earlier – except McFarlane was now in the Marvel spot. From Wikipedia:
“The series continued to feature all of the characters after Gaiman’s involvement ended. Some characters had tie-ins with McFarlane’s toy company, and Cogliostro had a prominent role in the live-action movie in 1997. McFarlane had initially agreed that Gaiman retained creator rights to the characters, but later claimed that Gaiman’s work had been work-for-hire and that McFarlane owned all of Gaiman’s co-creations entirely, pointing to the legal indicia of Spawn #9 and the lack of legal contract stating otherwise. McFarlane had also refused to pay Gaiman for the volumes of Gaiman’s work that McFarlane republished and kept in print. In 2002, Gaiman filed suit and won a sizable judgment against McFarlane and Image Comics for the rights due any creator. All three characters were then equally co-owned by both men. In 2012, McFarlane and Gaiman settled their dispute and Gaiman was given full ownership of Angela”
It seems McFarlane was trying take a page out of the Marvel handbook – only Marvel was upfront and honest about what happens to the characters created under their umbrella. McFarlane, on the other hand, certainly had the idea of moral superiority over the heartless corporation but when it came time to practice what he preached he fell short.
It may sound like I’m being overly harsh on McFarlane but the truth is I highly respect the man and his talents. What he was able to accomplish was no small feat – in fact, today Image is a breeding ground for the biggest talent in the industry – all of which the creators own their own series – an incredible and important resource for writers and artists today. I just also remember what Image almost did and the lasting effects it had on the comic industry. Every new series that Image produced in the 90’s became more and more blatant that it was a cash grab without real substance. Wait – that’s not fair to say – it was one artist in general that was leading that charge: Rob Liefeld.
I have shared my thoughts on Liefeld before – I’ve never been a fan – but the fact that he still has fans after he treated them like his own personal piggy banks in shocking! I recently scoured through a 25 cent bin and came across two comics that perfectly encapsulated what was wrong with Image 90’s comics – and Liefeld in general. I warn you what you are about to see can’t be unseen:
This a chromium wrap around cover to Glory / Avengelyne #1 with art provided my Liefeld himself. The man might not have an idea how humans are put together or even how a woman stands but this cover shows how much Liefeld thought of his audience. Notice that $4 price tag – in the 90’s that was a big deal. The rest of the issue is filled with these two women posed in awkward poses flashing their derrieres and even ending the whole issue with these two kissing. Can we just take a look at this character’s stance?
This guy made millions off people drawing women like this! How about the other issue I promised – this cover dumps all the pretenses of what really is selling his comics:
This is an actual cover to a comic sold to people – but really, I can edit it even better to sell – ready?
This is what people think of when they look back at 90’s comics – this is what people make fun of and rightfully so. This is what people were buying. Three boobs on a cover.