Marvel and DC Comics have dominated the comic book industry for decades, and there seems to be little indication of that changing. In all likelihood, they will continue to be the two biggest players in the field, but that is not to underrate other legitimate and successful publishers that not only maintain but excel in a world where Marvel and DC are iconic.
Some of their power and influence has come from having the money and resources to hire and maintain the best talent available. Hence Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Marv Wolfman, and many others have forever been associated with the two publishers. But as a new generation of artists were recreating the insides of comic books, so too would they find a way to redistribute the wealth and talent of the industry. In the early 1990s, when comics were experiencing a boom in sales, strife ran rampant between artists and publishers. The end result was an exodus of seven highly talented and lucrative artists who together become known as Image Comics. Their story, how they have survived, expanded, and redefined comics is told in Image Comics: The Road to Independence.
The ringleaders include (most famously) Todd McFarlane, Erik Larsen, Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio, Marc Silvestri, Jim Valentino, and Rob Liefield, who launched some of the most talked about and anticipated series including Spawn, Savage Dragon, Youngblood and Shadow Hawk. Their flight from Marvel into this successful joint venture shook up the playing field and changed some of the ways in which Marvel and DC Comics did business with their artists. Through extensive interviews with all but Rob Liefield, Khoury takes readers from artist to artist to understand how Image Comics came to life.
Of course, Khoury doesnít just cover the comics but follows the artists through their lives, from their first interest in comics to their current activities. The interviews cover upwards of thirty or more pages often supplemented with ample examples of the artists work, though mostly from their work at Image Comics. Khoury doesnít stop with just the core group; he follows suit with interviews of Marvel editor (at the time of Imageís creation) Tom Defalco, Malibu Comics publisher David Olbrich, and a slew of other interesting top talent who have at one time or another worked for Image. These include Sam Keith (Maxx), Brian Michael Bendis (Powers), Robert Kirkman (Walking Dead), and several others. These interviews arenít as extensive as the earlier ones, but readers still enjoy hearing these artists chime in. The book includes several other small essays as well as a color picture gallery with some of the classic Image characters presented.
The industry has certainly changed since the arrival of Image, and indeed it has been for the better. As well as challenging the relationships between artist and publisher, Image Comics has also proven time and again that serial comics can be about more than super-powered people in tights. Some of the most compelling (and award-winning) work of the last decade has stemmed from these new frontiers that comics are expanding into, and they have Image to thank for much of it. Anyone who wants to get a good grasp of a company that can only be described as the embodiment of a movement would do well to pick up this book.