When do I get my own button-fly jeans commercial?
In 1992, comic books had skyrocketed in popularity, in a way not seen since Marvel’s glory days in the 1960s. This was thanks to an up-and-coming crop of hot young artists, who brought a highly-detailed and over-the-top extreme style to the likes of Spider-Man and the X-Men. Then the unthinkable happened. The seven best-selling artists in the industry left their cushy jobs at Marvel and started their own company—Image Comics. This started a storm in the comics world, and it is still raging more than twenty years later. The Image Revolution is a new documentary chronicling Image’s history with interviews from those who were there, from director Patrick Meaney.
I’ll admit it: When the Image guys jumped ship in the early ’90s, I jumped with them and was one of the Image faithful for several years. People scoff at those early Image books, but come on. Spawn? Savage Dragon? WildC.A.T.S.? Cyberforce? The Maxx? Those were good times. Even better, Image served as my gateway to the world of independent comics, where I learned just how varied and complex comics can be as an art form. In recent years, thanks to the company’s founding principles of creator ownership and creative freedom, it has become one of the most artistically diverse publishers in comics, with stories in all sorts of genres and styles. Recent titles like Saga, Great Pacific, Alex + Ada and Morning Glories have been personal favorites.
Enough about me. This documentary isn’t the rise and fall of Image, so much as it’s the rise-and-miraculous-recoveries-from-what-could-have-been-falls. The recurring theme of the movie is how when things looked at their most bleak, the Image guys manage to bounce back and keep going. The whole thing moves along at a quick pace, cramming more than two decades of comics’ history into its 83-mintue runtime.
The big deal about this one is the brand new interviews with the Image founders. Todd McFarlane (Spawn) is the serious one, dedicated to creator ownership and still furious at Marvel for its alleged mistreatment of artists. Erik Larsen (Savage Dragon) and Marc Silvestri (Cyberforce) are just ordinary guys who want to draw for a living, swept up in Image’s craziness. Then there’s Rob Liefeld. The Youngblood creator gets a lot of screentime, because he’s the one who courts the most controversy. For as much as people online call him a jerk, Liefeld comes across as likable and fun-loving, and his impersonation of McFarlane is hilariously spot-on. Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead, joins the party later on, offering a wide-eyed “fan turned pro” attitude.
Director Patrick Meaney, with this being his fourth comic book-related documentary, does a good job of keeping things moving, adding in a lot of wonderfully retro early ’90s archive footage and splicing in panels from the comics that reflect what the interviewees are saying. All we’re really dealing with here is people talking about comics and publishing, and it’s not stuff hardcore fans don’t already know, but the movie is engaging throughout and is never dull. Although this is a “for the fans” movie, it doesn’t pull any punches with regards to some of Image’s notoriety, such as improbable anatomy, missed deadlines, and behind-the-scenes infighting. But, as noted above, we see the Image guys continually roll with the punches and come back for more.
Shout! Factory’s DVD release offers up a standard def 1.78:1 widescreen transfer and Dolby 2.0 Stereo track, both of which are serviceable and clean. Not much in the way of extras, though. Just extended interview footage.
The Image Revolution is big fun, but there are some gaps along the way. There’s a lot of talk about the personalities of the artists, but the actual content of their comic books get glossed over. Comics newbies will wonder what the big deal is. Similarly, casual viewers will hear phrases like “speculator boom” get tossed around and not know what that means or its significance.
Overall, the movie is filled with terrific early ’90s comics nostalgia, and is a must-see for fans.
Not guilty. Make mine Image!