Power Rankings: Image Comics

(Image: Image Comics)

Today introduces an article that I hope to do more of in the future. It’s called Power Rankings where we rank comics, video games, films, characters, etc. This week marked the 25th anniversary of Image Comics and I’ll be writing a separate article regarding the history and impact of the publisher. This is just ranking the seven initial titles that launched Image back in 1992. The comics scene was much different in the early 90’s than it is today. It was all about bombastic art and extreme characters. Writing and plot took a back seat and Image represented the height of this trend. For some this is a history lesson and for others, this is a trip down memory lane.

(Image: Image Comics)

7. Youngblood: Created by Rob Liefeld

Youngblood was the first comic to be launched by Image. Created by superstar artist Rob Liefeld, Youngblood was an idea Liefeld had for the Teen Titans that he repurposed for Image. It’s about a young team of heroes sanctioned by the US government and they are treated as celebrities. Liefeld was just coming off of New Mutants and X-Force fame, and Youngblood is basically X-Force with different costumes. Even though it sold well, critically Youngblood was not well received and the art was criticized. The title was plagued with delays that would ultimately kill it. Youngblood represents the height of the “Extreme” era of the 90’s but it also represents the worst.

(Image: Image Comics)

6. Cyber Force: Created by Marc Silvestri

The majority of the creators who founded Image Comics worked on the X-Men at Marvel. Most of the early Image titles were just copy X-Men ideas. However, nothing represented this more than the tile Cyber Force. Created by Marc Silvestri, who drew Uncanny X-Men for years, Cyber Force was about a group of mutants ( yes they were actually called mutants) who were experimented on by a shadow government organization dealing with cybernetics. The fact that the characters were called mutants is one thing but most of Cyber Force were just reskinned X-Men. Ripclaw was Wolverine, Cyblade was Pyslocke and so on. Marc Silvestri is a talented artist who was popular, but the delays and the similarities to X-Men kept this title from really succeeding.


(Image: Image Comics)

5. Wetworks: Created by Whilce Portacio and Brando Choi

While Wetworks is considered a launch title, it did not come out until 1994 due to While Portacio’s sister passing away. The comic is about a team of government black ops who on a mission, get exposed to an agent the gives them the ability to cover themselves in golden armor. Wetworks focused on supernatural threats like werewolves and vampires. I loved this comic as a kid because it was fun and cool. However, as an adult I realize the writing really was not there and the comic just is not very interesting.


(Image: Image Comics)

4. Shadowhawk: Created by Jim Valentino

Shadowhawk was character who had a great design, even though it is reminiscent of Wolverine. The title character who was recently infected with HIV, decides to take up a career as a vigilante. Now that may sound like a poor and inappropriate concept, Shadowhawk was actually one of the better written Image titles of the time. It did not make light the disease and actually handled it with maturity. Shadowhawk did not find its footing like the other Image titles but it did stand out from the rest.


(Image: Image Comics)

3. WildCATS: Created by Jim Lee and Brandon Choi

Jim Lee was THE most popular comic book artist in the world in the early 90’s. He was the face of X-Men when he was at Marvel and his artwork and character designs inspired fans for generations. The story followed the centuries old war between the Kherubim and the Daemonites, whose race now resides, hidden on Earth.  When WildCATS launched, it was extremely popular. The artwork was phenomenal, however, like most early Image comics, the writing was lacking. Lee would eventually hire talented writers like Alan Moore to write the title, and he would go on to sell the characters and concepts to DC Comics. The early WildCATS had a great concept it just lacked the execution.


(Image: Image Comics)

2. Spawn: Created by Todd McFarlane

Spawn is one of two of the original titles on this list that is still produced by Image Comics today. Created by Todd McFarlane, who rose to fame on Spider-Man at Marvel. Spawn follows the story of US Marine Al Simmons, who gets betrayed and killed on a mission. He makes a deal with the devil and comes back as a supernatural hero. Out of the original Image comics, Spawn had the most success with crossing over into other media. The character launched a toy line, multiple video games, a live action movie (the less said about it the better) and an excellent mature animated series on HBO.  I was huge fan of Spawn as a kid and collected all of his comics and toys. While Spawn is nowhere near as popular as he was in the 90’s, he represented Image Comics mission statement, in that it was possible to create a character and concept that could rival Marvel and DC.


(Image: Image Comics)

1. The Savage Dragon: Created by Erik Larsen

Out of all the original seven Image Comics, The Savage Dragon is the only one to still be completely written and drawn by the original creator today. Erik Larsen created the Dragon as a homage to Silver Age Marvel comics, like the Hulk. The character wakes up as an amnesiac in Chicago. He eventually joins the Chicago PD and fights crime with other heroes and villains.  The title was very popular and spawned a mildly successful cartoon series and action figure line of its own. What made this title stand out form the original Image seven is that it was not a direct rip off of the X-Men. The Dragon has its own flavor. I loved the Savage Dragon as a kid and even though I do not currently follow the title, I’m glad it’s still around and Erik Larson never lost his creative drive.

There you have it. My rankings of original seven Image Comics. The company and the comic industry is completely different today than what it was when Image launched. While most of the titles were lacked quality, independent comics would simply not be where they are today without them.

Share some of your memories of the early days of Image in comments or on our Facebook and Twitter page.

Written by Eddie Sampson





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