Image United was supposed to be a celebration of Image’s history. Written by new partner Robert Kirkman and illustrated by founders Marc Silvestri, Rob Liefeld, Erik Larsen, Whilce Portacio, Todd McFarlane and Jim Valentino and featuring all of the creators’ characters, the six-issue mini series was anticipated by longtime Image fans. But now, six months since Image United #2 hit stands with no #3 in sight, it has instead become an accurate representations as to the problems that has plagued Image for some time.
Created in 1992 by a group of Marvel artists looking for creative ownership of their characters and titles, the seven founders (the seventh being Jim Lee, now a part of DC) launched their own wave of titles to great anticipation. Some, like McFarlane’s Spawn and Larsen’s Savage Dragon gained followings and kept going strong. Others, like Liefeld’s Youngblood and Portacio’s Wetworks, fizzled out for one reason or another. However, nearly all the titles became synonumous with production delays, with books just not showing up when announced or even solicited. A shift in leadership didn’t fix the problem, but at least kept solicitations from being released before a title’s completion. In fighting led to the resignation of Rob Liefeld and the temporary estrangement of Marc Silvestri. Titles like Jim Lee’s WildCATS faded away after time and others, like the aforementioned Youngblood, desperately tried to gain an audience with relaunch after relaunch.
So when this title was announced – reuniting the founders (except for Lee) with their signature characters (popular or not), it was met with some skeptism from fans amidst the excitement. After all, a 10th anniversary special uniting Larsen, McFarlane, Silvestri and Valentino, didn’t come out until 2005 – three whole years after it was solicited. But Image United was to be different – it would be one story, written by a single writer with each artist only drawing panels featuring their characters. That meant they would only have 1/6th of the normal art chores, of which they themselves would not have to plot. Of course, it also meant that if one artist didn’t pull his weight, the whole book would suffer.
And thank you for that, Todd McFarlane. Despite having a key part of the book’s plot (namely its villain), McFarlane has struggled producing his art for the title, resulting in the (thus far) half year delay, much to the chagrin of the other creators. He’s not denying the matter, but rather saying that he warned the others of his “crazy life”. But seriously – not even halfway through a series that you’re not even doing full art on. What the hell, man? I’m upset by this and I’m not even reading the book (I took one flip through it and thought the shifting art was awful).
But McFarlane has allowed Image United to continue the tradition set by its founders so long ago: sub-par comics produced by high-profile creators at a heavily-delayed pace. That is Image Comics defined.