Most people think that there are only two comic book companies, Marvel and DC. That has never been the case. History is littered with the corpses of companies big and small. Some never had more than a single comic under its imprint, and others had characters more popular than anything the big two ever produced. By the early 90’s though, the comic book industry worked more like Gordon Gecko than Stan Lee. The companies were making more money off licensing than the comics themselves. This led to mega million dollar deals, and smaller companies having their catalogs bought out by DC. One of the biggest tragedies however was how Marvel and DC began to treat their talent.
The 80s and 90s were littered with stories about how Bob Kane never saw any money from Batman, or Siegel and Schuster having to sue to make any money off of Superman. On one hand you have to look at the industry as a business, and the business revolves around creativity. The companies are designed around creating characters that they can sell. of course they have to pay people to create for them, and since there were only at the time two major players in the game, they could do whatever they wanted. Granted the industry in the 90s was nowhere near as bad as it was when they got all the negative publicity from the lawsuits, but the spike in popularity the industry was getting had an effect on a group of popular young artists and writers.
The million dollar ideas of independent contractors working for Marvel we’re not paying as much to their creators, so a large group of them split off in 1992 to form their own company, Image. Image was sort of like FOX, a hip new comer, who wasn’t really perceived as a threat. However, sales of the books proved otherwise.
Two books in particular chosen for this article were Spawn and Gen13.
What initially drew me to Todd McFarland’s Spawn was the sheer cool factor of the book. Glossy covered, with amazing art, Spawn was something I had never read before. Spawn was like Venom from hell. a demon symbiote attach3ed to the body of Al Simmons, a murdered CIA spook. After becoming Spawn, Al wandered the Earth preparing for an upcoming war between Heaven and Hell.
The comic was bloody, disgusting, and blasphemous, three things an altar boy loved. But what I loved about Spawn was that I was watching a mythology develop. Superman and the X-Men had been around for decades before I was born, for books like that, I had to read and learn their history. For Spawn however, I watched history develop on my own.
Gen 13 on the other hand was simply about boobs.
I know it’d sound more impressive if I read the book because it was a fantastically scripted book about being a teenager, like X-men was in the 70’s or the Teen Titans in the 80’s, but in reality I read Gen13 because I loved the way J. Scott Campbell drew women. What’s weird though is that the more I read that book because of the boobs, the more I started paying attention to the story, and really enjoying everything else it had to offer.I began to care about the characters of Fairchild, Burnout, Freefall, Rainmaker, and Grunge. (BTW is there anymore 90’s character names than “Grunge”?)
Image comics to me was about enjoying comics that were written specifically for me, a male teenager in the 90’s. I gave Kevin these books, because they were a milestone when I discovered that comics could be orientated to an audience without relying on heavy baggage of being around for 40 years.
Next week: Kevin’s take on “Spawn and Gen 13″
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