As I mope around my house, having missed Comic-Con for yet another year (it's already on my bucket list), I have spent some time going through my comic collection, and I have a lot more Image Comics than I originally thought.
Back in 1992, when artists Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Marc Silvestri, Erik Larsen, Jim Valentino, Whilce Portacio, and Chris Claremont broke off from Marvel because they were unhappy with the rights and distributions, they formed Image Comics, and soon after, they published work by Sam Kieth and Dale Keown, creators of The Maxx and Pitt, two of my favorite series. These artists were the Avengers or Justice League of comic books. The things these guys could do with a pencil had me tracing, sketching, and copying for years; it's where my interest in drawing derived. I still go back and try to duplicate how McFarlane drew capes and Keown splattered blood...and I often fail if not looking directly at it.
During their time at Marvel, the founders of Image transformed super heroes into what we see on the big screen today. They took Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's brilliant characters/stories, which had started to feel outdated, and revamped their appearance, suits, webs, bodies, and all, from Iron Man to Fantastic Four to X-men. Though it's debated, McFarlane is often credited as co-creator of Venom. Lee and Claremont created Gambit, and Claremont had part in Rogue, Mystique, Phoenix, Emma Frost, Sabretooth. Sound familiar? They should. The entire list has been included in the X-men movies, some more worthy than others--Gambit could have been a hundred times better. His accent wasn't even delivered right; the cartoon did it better.
This is just a taste of what some of these artists did. To list it all would resemble an encyclopedia. A lot of these guys are now working for DC, but some seem to have practically dropped off the planet, and it's a shame. McFarlane, maybe my favorite comic book artist, doesn't appear to do anything but design toys for his company. At this year's Comic-Con he is introducing work he did with Stan Lee called Blood Red Dragon. I might, for the first time in years, buy myself a comic, yet I'm still hoping he'll return to Spawn at some capacity.
The HBO series of Spawn was outstanding, so close to the dark, edgy feel of the comics. Ultimately, it was cancelled with no clear ending. A lot of HBO series end this way (Carnivale, Deadwood), and the Spawn movie was a sham. It was watered down for a general audience, filled with corny dialogue, bad action, and a troop of bad actors. The special effects were horrible. If Hollywood considers any remake or reboot, it should be Spawn. I usually don't pay attention to the rating system but anything less than a R rating on a Spawn movie isn't worth my time. The comics were violent, sexual, and gritty. The movie should be too, the way the cartoon was.
Speaking of Hollywood, there's a multitude of films to be had from the Image series of the 90s: Pitt, The Maxx, Cyberforce (Ripclaw), Youngblood, The Savage Dragon, and WildC.A.T.S. They could easily take these characters and develop them the same way Marvel has with the Avengers. I'd look forward to a Deathmate trilogy as much as Infinity Gauntlet. They'd probably all be dark and violent, but it worked for Frank Miller's Sin City and 300.
While it's a bit off topic...give me Deathblow, X-O Manowar, or Neil Gaiman's Sandman too, instead of rehashing films like The Thing, Fright Night, or Total Recall that are classics to begin with. The artwork and stories for great movie franchises are there; they just have to be molded into compelling live-action.