It’s hard to say. Quality control was something in Marvel’s favor. You need to consider the flood of books that came out after Image formed. Some were good, and a lot were bad. Look at what Marvel was doing back then. They had a system in place that seemed to work. Just to give you an example a friend of mine from the 5th grade got a copy of every Marvel comic that came out in the month of August of 1990. Almost everything was great that month. He had this awesome issue of Daredevil drawn by Mark Bagley, two issues of the Amazing Spider-Man, and the Hulk written by Peter David and drawn by Dale Keown. The first appearance of Gambit came out that month too. Clearly Marvel had a lot of ducks in a row. (http://marvel.wikia.com/Category:1990,_August)
One unintended casualties was the fact that comics were no longer “innocent’. It seemed as if Image’s goal was to make their comics as grim and gritty as possible. Marvel had found a really nice spot between hokey and realistic. I think Image really helped confuse the matter, “Is this for kids, or is this for adults”. Sure there was the Dark Knight Returns. But I think Image took that concept and ran with it.
This pit Marvel against itself. Marvel had to thrust it’s farmed talented into the not ready for prime time 90’s grim and gritty world. For the first time they HAD to do what everyone else was doing because Image had the hot books. But surprise, surprise this top loaded the bloated comic market with that “grim and gritty’ style. So Marvel was now doing two things wrong. It wasn’t doing what it did best, creating that spot between hokey and realistic, and now their artists were abandoning what they did best for the Image style.
The consequences of this drastic stylistic move was the alienation of it’s core readers. Think about it, if Marvel was now a second rate Image, why read Marvel comics?
But really who’s fault was this? If Marvel had been reasonable in the way that it treated Kirby and other work for hire superstars maybe creators wouldn’t have been so hesitant to lend out new ideas.
When asked about creating a union for comic book creators Erik Larsen had this to say, “I don’t think a comic book union will ever work. Too many people looking for work and too many companies. Plus–if a creator really doesn’t like the way things are at Marvel or DC they have quite a few other options.
Hello…? Image Comics…?
At this point with sales at their historic lowest it would be hard to pull off–and most creators get it. Jack Kirby and others got the shaft. That’s why Marvel and DC keep recycling the same 50-70 year old properties–because nobody is willing to give them anything new, knowing what happened to Kirby. These companies are already getting what they deserve–ever-decreasing sales, stagnation and apathetic readers.
Thinking about it–in effect, there is a union and the union is withholding what these companies need most: new characters.”
So if these Image guys had stayed at their Job and worked the Marvel system, they would have continued to keep the Marvel Comics bubble intact. That is the Idea of comics would have survived.
As far as I’m concerned Image killed the comic tradition. But it had to be done.
In fact it’s healthy, because eventually the things that work will float to the top and the things that don’t will sink.
I think if the Image boys stayed at Marvel, Marvel’s sales would have continued to do well. Comics in general would have done well. I think when Marvel had to scramble they lost their focus. I think indie comics would have continued to grow steadily on it’s own. They would have then become the natural alternative to the big two. These indie comics could have grown in popularity until the market demanded their presence.
But we’re still working with the same problem, how do creators get paid for their ideas? Especially if the Image guys stayed at Marvel.
I can’t say definitively one way or the other which would have been better. Who am I to say to Erik Larsen, stay at Marvel and draw Spider-man for three more years, and then do Dragon. It’s obvious he wanted to do Dragon and he needed a push to start publishing on his own. With the members bonding together they were able to make enough publicity to set the wheels in motion so that they could continue making comics indefinitely. That’s why Image worked.
I always thought that Independent Comic creators belonged to a club of people who wouldn’t take no for an answer from any major publisher. If I couldn’t draw at all how dumb would it be for me to start soliciting Marvel for a job? There’s this x-factor in some Indie comics that isn’t about writing or drawing. The Big-Two wouldn’t try anything like that stylistically different, giving the indie market plenty of room to grow.
I mean if your book is a direct rip off of Youngblood and you try to draw like Rob Liefeld of course it’s going to fail. It’s a poorly drawn and poorly written parody. So when someone does something unique and from the heart, like ‘Blink”, positive word of mouth is going to keep it going and give it momentum.
It really was a ripe time for a comic fall out. We had all these number one’s coming from Image. We had the Death of Superman. People were buying because they thought comics could be worth money and they wanted to have that first issue. The market dictated what worked and what didn’t.
Personally I’d rather have my book be clearly different from Marvel or DC. So if someone already knows they don’t want those two, then they might find something in mine that they like. With all the different kinds of publishers that have popped up in the last 20 years suddenly my book doesn’t stand out at all. It’s one long gradient between corporate and competent to shotty and poorly drawn.
The way I look at it, I’d never be welcomed at Marvel. So my stance is, why even try? Why do what they’re doing? You’re chasing a rabbit. So Independent creators have one thing going for them, that is they have nothing to loose. Except tons of cash.
I think the Marvel tradition had it’s benefits. I think if you’re unhappy with the system, leave. But you don’t have to be spiteful in the process. You know, what if Erik said I’ll do your Spider-Man for three more years and then you’ll help me promote my book until I can stand on my own two feet. That way both parties get what they want and the magic of comics isn’t destroyed. I really can’t say because I wasn’t there. I’m also assuming Marvel cared about it’s top talent.
Now I’ll Ask You One… or two:
What was the moment you knew Cerebus was going to work? Can you describe what you were thinking about in terms of promotion and special efforts you made on your part. What tipped you over to the point of success?
I’ve always wanted to know about “Ave, Avid.” What does that mean? I’ve always wondered if you cut of the D from Dave and David. I was wondering if those different names meant a different personality. And why not David Sim? Has it always been Dave?