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Comic Theme Month – Best Image Comic Book Series Ever

All December long, I will be doing daily installments of Comic Theme Time. Comic Theme Time is a twist on the idea of a “Top Five” list. Instead of me stating a topic and then listing my top five choices in that topic, I’m giving you the topic and letting you go wild with examples that you think fit the theme.

Today’s topic is “what do you think is the best comic book series that Image Comics ever produced?”

You really don’t need samples for this, do you? Just in case you do, some popular ones over the years have been Savage Dragon, Walking Dead, Invincible, Torso, Chew, Fell, Wanted, Codename: Stryke Force, Jinx, Nightly News, Morning Glories, Noble Causes, Powers, Phonogram, Proof, Stormwatch, Severed.

That’s just a sampling. Which one do you think was the best?

51 Comments

Not even a question in my mind — it’s Chris Giarrusso’s G-Man. Fantastic comic. Hilarious. Smart. Fun.

And right behind it is Dynamo 5. Classic superhero action with complex emotional dynamics.

I miss both of those books so much!!!

No Spawn mention = :*(

I think I’ll go for the best one of the first bunch, The Maxx. It got a bit derailed as it went along but for quite big part of its run it was one of the better superhero comics ever, weird fun. Especially considering what kind of books most other early Image titles were…

Either Invincible or Fell. I want to give credit to Stormwatch, but Wildstorm was DC by its high point

I can’t choose between Bulletproof Coffin and I Kill Giants for top spot

I feel compelled to give shout outs to:

Ferro City
King City
Orc Stain
The Maxx
Popgun

Phonogram 2: The Singles Club means more to me than any series I’ve ever read.

Elephantmen. You wouldn’t think that a series about giant mutant animal-people in a dystopian Los Angeles would be complex, heartbreaking, and charming all at the same time. You’d be wrong.

Other picks include Fell, Noble Causes (and pretty much all the rest of the Faerberverse, including Dynamo 5), and Chew. Casanova and Powers also deserve mentions, even though they inevitably followed their creators to Marvel’s publishing house.

Not sure where to draw the line, since some titles (Groo, Astro City, Bone, Liberty Meadows, True Story Swear to God…) were there partially. But as far as titles I would associate with Image mainly I’ll go with:

1963
Invincible
Age of Bronze
Leave It to Chance

(And now I see Leave It to Chance was only at Image for its last issue — oops)

Jack Staff + Weird World of Jack Staff, easily.

Savage Dragon.

from start to finish i pick the Maxx.
but Madman, Bone and Strangers in Paradise were all briefly published by Image too…..

Easily 1963…I wish it had been an ongoing series.

Bloodstrike.

1963! SO GOOD!!! (Yes, writing in all-caps good.”

Ed (A Different One)

December 16, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Of the early, original (or near original) series, I think you have to go with The Maxx. It was really the only one in those early days that featured both solid Art AND writing on any kind of consistent basis.

And if not that, then you always have Cybeforce (I kid, I kid . . . . )

Moriarty
Blue Estate
The Vault
Red Spike
Samurai’s Blood
Marksmen

My favorite is definitely The MAXX.
Also Jack Staff, Trencher (I still want the end of that first story dammit!), Hellshock (recently found the collected edition so I’ll finally get to read the end of that one), Body Bags, The Gray Area, WildC.A.T.S. The first Wildstar miniseries. Alley Cat (when’s the movie coming out? lol).
There’s still too damn many on my to-read list that I haven’t got to yet.
And I’m really digging new series Shinku so far.

Oh, and it really sucks that George Perez never finished Crimson Plague.

Age of Bronze. Really, nothing else even comes close. Image has many great books but Age of Bronze is in a class of its own.

I haven’t read many of those, but Chew and Fell were good enough that I think I should pick some of the others up. Walking Dead is good, but at this point it is so relentlessly depressing, I don’t know if I I want to keep going with it. The tv show seems to be going in the same direction at a faster clip.

1963 and what about Tug & Buster, I think that had a couple of Image issues.

Oh, man, this is tough. So many good series, and a few that kind of toe the line (due to publishing industry shenanigans, as a few commenters have already mentioned). I don’t think “Bone” really counts as an Image series, but if it does, that’s probably my #1. It’s not just one of the best comics I’ve ever read, it’s one of the best ANYTHINGs I’ve ever read. So epic and so intimate at the same time, and a huge influence on me as a writer and as a cartoonist.

“Sleeper” is a favorite (as you can tell from my gushing comment about it on this week’s Legends Revealed), though I’m not sure if that was after the DC-shift or not.

The first fifty-issue anthology of “The Walking Dead” was the thing that convinced me that, even in a time when way too much zombie stuff is coming out, it’s still possible to make something great and relevant within the genre.

Even though it came out during Image’s original super-’90’s period, I think “WildCATS” was really good for a straight-up superhero comic, and when Alan Moore took over it became something truly great. I haven’t had a chance to check any of Joe Casey’s run, but I hear nothing but good things.

I think Image sometimes gets unfairly written off as a by-product of the “extreme” ’90’s. Yeah, they were some of the worst offenders at that time (“Shattered Image”? God, that was bad.), but they did a lot of good stuff during that time, too. And now they’ve emerged as a place for really unique and ballsy creator-owned series. I’m sure I could mention a bunch more, but this comment is already edging into TL,DR territory.

“Sleeper” is a favorite (as you can tell from my gushing comment about it on this week’s Legends Revealed), though I’m not sure if that was after the DC-shift or not.

It was after. And yeah, I’ll admit that stuff like Bone are tricky to me, as well. I tend to think that they shouldn’t count. Only if the majority of a series was done by Image, I think (unless the only parts that you specifically like were done by Image, like Ellis’ Stormwatch).

Does Mage:The Hero Defined count?

(If not, 1963.)

King City. I probably like King City better than everything else I’ve read from Image combined.

So many amazing comics, none of which were actually by Image’s ‘founders’. If I had to narrow it down to a top five:

Casanova,
1963,
Phonogram,
Invincible,
and
The Maxx

are amongst my favourite comics of all time. Dynamo 5 and Alan Moore’s issues of WildC.A.T.S. were great too.

My favorite Image title is Invincible, which has been one of the 3-5 best superhero comics on the stands for years now. A weak issue of Invincible is still better than more than half of Marvel and DC’s entire output. No other superhero comic deals with the emotional and physical cost of violence this frankly. Character development actually happens, the heroes and villains aren’t emotionally stuck in amber. Most characters have motivations so well defined that when you have a superhero conflict, you understand where both times are coming from. Invincible is so much better than most big 2 comics that DC actually tried to ape it, but it was a clumsy attempt that didn’t last long (it was called “Blue Beetle” and it’s vastly overrated).

I also like Fell, Powers, and The Walking Dead (though it sometimes drags on). I dig Savage Dragon but somehow it always feels like a remix of something else.

Savage Dragon is definitely my favorite of the original bunch. Stormwatch was always interesting, as was its DC/Wildstorm spin-off Stormwatch PHD (not to mention other, more popular, successors). Nowadays Chew is excellent. I also enjoyed Hunter-Killer despite Silvestri’s constant delays.

I dug Shadowhawk most out of the early batch.

Fell is a fave.

And a lot of people mentioned a whole bunch of others.

But what’s astonishing is HOW good Image has turned out from starting as, essentially, an artist vanity publishing house. I think credit goes to the guy that was the “lowest key” of the founders, Jim Valentino. Without his finger in things, I doubt the company would have lasted past the early years, and the founders eventually leaving (Liefeld and Silvestri came back, Lee left for the big time). I’m guessing Valentino was instrumental in getting Larry Marder involved, and when he got in there, he instituted some discipline in the founders. Also Valentino started himself as more an indie guy, and brought in a lot of indie books, if even only for a short time.

Can’t think of when Image really shifted from the founders superhero type stuff to more of the indie minis, but it’s amazing that Image took things in the direction they did and survived and thrived.

I’m pleasantly surprised by the lack of Walking Dead mentions. It’s an entertaining enough series, just not anything I consider outstanding.

My favourite series of all-time is Hester and Huddleston’s Deep Sleeper; if I had to choose an ongoing series, Casanova.

Savage Dragon & Freak Force, and Wildstar. Larsen’s output in the early days was fantastic. And Powers was great too.

Phonogram: The Singles Club, King City or Jack Staff.

I second all the people that mentioned The Maxx, and Powers was great too. I did enjoy Bone and Astro City while they were at Image. And of course Ellis’s Stormwatch.

I think the original WildCATS series doesn’t get enough credit. After handling the first 9 issues mostly himself (in what was reasonably competent and fun super-hero stuff), Jim Lee then gave the next 25 issues to a revolving door of great writers– Chris Claremont did a 4 issue stretch, then an Erik Larsen issue, then 6 James Robinson issues (during his Starman prime), followed by 14 really good Alan Moore issues.

And I have to say, Spawn #s 8-11 (The Superstar guest writer issues) had a profound impact on me as a kid, and forever altered the way I read and collected comics. When I got into comics as a 10-year old in 1992, all I was buying for the first year were x-titles and Image stuff. Then McFarlane outsourced Spawn for 4 issues to 4 guys I’d never heard of: Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Dave SIm, and Frank Miller. When I read Spawn #8, I immediately felt like it was better than anything I’d ever read. Spawn 9 had the same effect. So I asked my LCS dealer who those guys were, along with who Miller and Sim were. I left the comic shop that day with cheap back issue copies of Daredevil 181, Swamp Thing 22-24 (he didn’t have a copy of #21), and Death: The High Cost of Living 1-3 (my LCS dealer advised against me trying Cerebus, because he said I wouldn’t like it. Considering I was 11 at the time, I’m okay with his opinion there). And really, that was The Great Leap in my comic reading. How many 11 year olds got to discover Moore’s Swamp Thing and Miller’s Daredevil in the same week? I was lucky on 3 fronts: 1) That McFarlane made me curious about those guys, 2) that the local shop guy knew enough to persuade me to try out some of the greatest back issues ever, and 3) that the back issue selection at the local shop was good enough that those issues were on hand. It was the perfect storm, and that was the week I became a lifelong comic book fan. By 13, I was reading Watchmen, Dark Knight, V For Vendetta, Batman:Year One, Sandman, and a lot more.

In 1996, Wizard published their 5-year anniversary issue, and it had a list of what they thought were the 100 greatest back issues of the modern era (Burgas did a post on this issue/article). I was 14 at the time, and I’d already read almost 2/3 of the list. And honestly, I have Todd McFarlane to indirectly thank for that. If not for those 4 issues of Spawn, I have no idea when, or if, I would have discovered really great comic books.

So yeah, I wouldn’t say I’m a big Spawn fan or anything (I think 8-11 are probably the only issues I own anymore), but it might get my vote for favorite Image series simply because of what it meant to me in comic reading experiences.

Cool story, Third Man (you’re a few years younger than I am). But a retailer selling an 11 year old Swamp Thing and Death? Wow… (Ah, it probably didn’t screw ya up too much!)

Yeah, Cerebus at that time…in the middle of Mothers and Daughters/Women…yeah, that probably wouldn’t have gotten you into it.

Heeeyyyyyy, I just noticed that Brian put a ringer in! Codename Stryke Force…yeah, that was popular!

Savage Dragon has kept me in comic books. I’ve left several times, but it’s always SD that brings me back. Past that I’d say Planetary.

The two most artistically ambitious and aesthetically pleasing comics I ever read from Image were Kabuki: Metamorphosis & Cassanova. Both books have opened my eyes to just what can be accomplished in comics. My other favorites include The Maxx, Phonogram, Chew, and Walking Dead. I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch.

Godland.

Godland, Jack Staff, and Elephantmen

Forgot to mention Jae Lee’s 2nd Hellshock series, which, for the 3 issues that actually made it to the stands, was truly outstanding.

Walking Dead.

I have to agree with Travis. When it comes to Image, Valentino does seem to get overlooked but he is the driving force that has put Image in its current direction.

So many good to great books that Image has had a hand in…..

G-Man, Dynamo 5, Noble Causes, Shadowhawk, WildC.A.T.S., Chew, Nightly News, Savage Dragon, and others…. Hell for a time I liked CyberForce and Brigade… It truly has something for everyone

Savage Dragon is the most consistent comic on the shelves today….

No question: it is Savage Dragon, a fun, entertaining, unpredictable labor of love on the part of creator Erik Larsen. I have every single issue, and it is one of the few ongoing titles I still follow each & every month.

Third Man,

Yes! Hellshock vol. 2 represented a huge leap in Jae Lee’s art, introduced me to Jose Villarubia’s beautiful coloring, and its restraint and sensitivity were refreshing. I still haven’t bought the hardcover that included the new final story, but I plan to.

1. Chew
2. Jack Staff
3. Invincible
4. The Maxx
5. Shaman’s Tears
6. Elephantmen
7. Aria
8. Powers
9. Hack/Slash
10. Hawaiian Dick

1963 and Walking Dead for me

Third Man: Glad to see someone else repping O.G. “WildCATS”. I’ve always been of the opinion that not everything good has to be completely groundbreaking. Sometimes you can just do something that’s already been established, but do it really well.

Also, I absolutely agree with you on those “Spawn” guest-written issues. They were my first intro to those creators as well. I get the feeling that you and I are pretty close in age. The main difference in our upbringing being that your comics-mentor was “comic book shop guy”, and mine was “nerdy older brother”.

Jonathon Riddle

January 17, 2014 at 2:00 am

Kabuki by David Mack

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