Vids I Dig 069: Cartoonist Kayfabe: Image Comics ‘Grand Design’, The Pitch Proposal

The Cartoonist Kayfabe guys (Ed Piskor & Jim Rugg) discuss what the Grand Design treatment could look like for the original Image Comics titles.

Comic Review: The Maxx (Original 35 Issue Run)

Published: March, 1993 – August, 1998
Written by: Sam Keith, Alan Moore, Bill Messner-Loebs
Art by: Sam Keith, Chance Wolf, Tony Kelly, Kell-O-Graphics

Image Comics, 840 Pages

Review:

I used to love The Maxx when I was a teenager. I never fully understood it, as I was young and it was a batshit crazy comic book at times but it always captivated me. I became an even bigger fan of the comic book after the animated TV series and because it was being put out by Image, which had my undying allegiance, at least in the first half of the ’90s.

What always drew me in was Sam Keith’s art. He has a style all his own and it was unlike anything I had seen before it. Sure, lots of people have come and gone and mimicked Keith’s style but no one has quite hit the mark for me in the same way.

Reading this now, I’m not as captivated by it but I still enjoyed it and it was like a trip down memory lane for me. It brought me back to where I was at 14 years-old when I first picked it up.

I think what initially made me fall in love with the comic was how dark it could be. I hadn’t experienced that in comics, really. But moving on from standard superhero books like the ones from Marvel, DC and the earliest titles from Image, The Maxx was where I came to understand that comics can be so much more than that.

This deals with some tough subject matter but it does so in an interesting and satisfying way.

I don’t think that Keith’s style will resonate with everyone that picks The Maxx up but for long time comic readers that haven’t given it a shot, it’s definitely worth a look.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’90s indie comics that were a bit out there like MadmanBoneScud, etc.

Comic Review: The Savage Dragon Vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Published: June 30th, 1993
Written by: Erik Larsen
Art by: Erik Larsen, Rob Haynes

Image Comics, 28 Pages

Review:

This was the first real crossover to feature Dragon but sadly, this was just a one-off issue and not a larger story arc. Also, the Dragon and TMNT battle and then team up only really takes up half of this single issue, as the second half deals with another character entirely.

This story was quick and not all that important to the big scheme of things other than having a reason to throw two hot comic book titles together in the most gimmicky, cash cow way possible.

I don’t fault Erik Larsen for throwing the Turtles aimlessly into this book, as Dragon was already in New York City but it just felt kind of random and soulless.

Granted, it was cool seeing five green badasses on the same page together, even if there didn’t seem to be much of a point to any of it. And at the time, crossovers like this weren’t as common, so it was really cool in the early ’90s when I first read this book. I was also in 8th grade.

I don’t want to call this a total waste, as it probably contributed to crossovers becoming more common. Image Comics would go on to do that big crossover with Valiant Comics called Deathmate, which was also kind of cool when I was fourteen.

Still, this was fun to revisit, even if it was an extremely quick read and not much happened.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Other comics starring the Savage Dragon or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, especially the really old school stuff.

Comic Review: Invincible, Vol. 2: Eight is Enough

Published: May 10th, 2004
Written by: Robert Kirkman
Art by: Cory Walker

Image Comics, 128 Pages

Review:

I’ve only read the volume before this one, so my knowledge of the broader Invincible universe isn’t very deep.

So far, I like what I’ve read, including this volume, which covers the second story arc in the series. Where the first volume is essentially the origin and backstory of the character and his family, this one serves to kill off the already established heroes of the main characters’ universe, leaving a gap for new heroes to grow up and enter the fray.

The old heroes, who we barely meet before they are murdered, are parodies of Justice League characters. They’re not too imaginative or exciting but I guess it was to symbolize a killing off of old heroes (in this case, a shot across the bow at DC Comics), in an effort to establish younger and more hip characters (a.k.a. Image Comics new breed of superhero titles that were coming out at the time). There is even a few shots thrown at Marvel, most notably in the form of the ridiculous villain Bi-Plane, who is a parody of the Spider-Man villain Vulture.

I do love the lightheartedness of this series. It is reminiscent of classic Spider-Man in the best way possible and also has a sort of charm similar to classic Superman. I talked about the similarities to both those long running series in the last review though.

This chapter also sees the disbanding of the teen superhero team that Invincible got pulled into in the previous story arc. It may feel too early in the series’ existence to start changing some things but I feel like it is in a state of flux with this chapter, as Robert Kirkman was still trying to find the proper footing for the series and was refining the details a bit.

Not a whole lot happens, other than the changes I’ve discussed already. But we do get to see cameos from the Savage Dragon, Super Patriot and Shadowhawk, who have all been a part of Image Comics since it launched in 1992.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The Invincible collected editions that follow this one.

Comic Review: The Savage Dragon, Vol. 1: Baptism of Fire

Published: May 6th, 2002
Written by: Erik Larsen
Art by: Erik Larsen

Image Comics, 160 Pages

Review:

I recently watched a documentary about the formation of Image Comics in the early 1990s. It was a company that I immediately aligned myself with as a fan, as every artist that I loved at Marvel left and went independent in an effort to buck the system and make more money, all while having the creative freedom to do whatever the hell they wanted.

Erik Larsen left his cushy job at Marvel, working hard on the top Spider-Man titles, and brought his creation The Savage Dragon to Image. In fact, this series was so huge and successful upon its debut that it has had a long lasting effect, being only one of two of Image’s launch titles that continued to be published from its 1992 debut all the way into the 2010s. The other title was Todd McFarlane’s Spawn.

I actually haven’t read The Savage Dragon since the ’90s but I stuck with it for several years until later high school social responsibilities monopolized my schedule. Plus, I got burnt out on comics for awhile, even though I was once an aspiring comic book artist. I think I just picked up on how bad a lot of the ’90s comic book tropes were and when I did read comics, I was more driven to check out all the older classics that were readily available in my comic shop or in trade paperbacks in bookstores.

While The Savage Dragon is still cool, it does fall victim to some of these unavoidable tropes, just as the other Image Comics titles did. It has clunky, uninspiring writing, bad dialogue and some pretty awful character designs, especially where the villains are concerned. I think a lot of artists, whether they realized it or not, were taking creative cues from comic book wunderkind Rob Liefeld in how he loved big odd-looking guns, cyber body parts, metal masked villains with huge capes and well… just about everything that became synonymous with ’90s comics. In this first chapter of The Savage Dragon saga, I don’t know if Larsen even knew where he was going or if this was just more about experimentation.

Dragon is a cool hero and I’m happy that Larsen didn’t try to answer the mysteries of his past too soon. This collection covers his original four issue miniseries before he would go on to have an ongoing series. Enough is established here to get you interested in the characters and situations but there really isn’t much of a traditional story arc in this limited series’ narrative structure. It serves as a four-part origin story with just enough origin to get things rolling but certainly not the whole backstory of how Dragon came to be Dragon.

While I did like my experience in revisiting the earliest Dragon story arc, I’ll have to get back into the longer running series in order to get a real feel for the character and Larsen’s larger vision.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Other early Image Comics releases: SpawnYoungblood, WildC.A.T.S., etc.