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My Life in Comics: Image is everything part 4

Six of the seven Image founders were pencilled on the big selling franchises of Marvel, X-Men and Spider-Man. The outlier was Jim Valentino.

A lot of titles saw their launch in 1990-1991, titles that included New Warriors, Namor, Darkhawk, Deathlok and Ghost Rider, Marvel taking chances with reboot characters and lesser known properties. A very new teams/new ideas approach. One of those was the Guardians of the Galaxy. I could take about the Guardians at length, in fact I did in a separate dedicated blog.

But this was the place that I first saw Valentino’s work. It was eye-catching as well as having a clean style that suited the series and it is to date my favourite version of these characters, even to this extent.

My right arm

Two years into the series he joined the exodus and launched his first character Shadowhawk.

This was a collection of mini-series, rather than the ongoings that most of Image were doing. Shadowhawk was a gritty urban vigilante who delivered non-lethal, but brutal justice. The interesting thing about this title was it was narrated in the second person. Instead of I am Shadowhawk, or the traditional he is Shadowhawk, it was You are Shadowhawk. This allowed the character’s

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My Life in Comics – Image is everything part 1

A good way to feel old is when round number anniversaries come up, one that took me by surprise is that it’s 30 years since Image Comics started up. It puts the length of my collecting into perspective as the long time it has been. Whilst away, I had some thoughts on Image and its place in comics history and here they are.

In the late 1980’s/early 1990’s the art of Marvel’s superstar pencillers, X-title pencillers Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee along with Spider-Man artist Todd McFarlane, had just done on 3 issue 1s a total in excess of 15,000,000 in sales for 3 comics. This was a big win for Marvel and this meant those 3 guys, plus other rising stars Whilce Portacio and Erik Larsen as well as more experienced hands like Jim Valentino and Mark Silvestri were the stars of the day and could do no wrong. Marvel had pretty much given them the keys to the car already. Jim Lee was now the driving creative force in the X- Men helping end Chris Claremont’s 17 year genre defining run, just after and Rob Liefeld had seen off Louise Simonson from New Mutants either by throwing her off, or helping her jump, now giving Liefeld plotting duties on the comic as well. There’s a lot of he said/she said in these tales. Whilst I am more a writer fan than an art fan, it’s a visual medium and you have to go where the money is and in that 1988-1991 period, the art was the selling point. Marvel followed the money and gave more power to the artists. Whether it was right or not, isn’t the point, it is what happened. I was there as a fan for some of this, seeing art pushed over word, style stressed over substance, but the artists were the ones making the money and then one day, they were gone.

 Imagine that, 7 of the biggest names in your industry leaving the place that made their names? Pick your all-time favourite sports team line up, now take a 3rd of them away and what does that look like? Imagine the cast of the MCU, then take away all the most recognisable …… okay, that’s a bad example.

 Now I am not really going to go into the history of this industry changing event, why the 7 left or any of that. That was told in the documentary The Image Revolution, which is available on Amazon Prime Video, or at least that’s where I saw it. But what I did want to do is check out that first batch of titles from the founding members of Image Comics. What were they? What was going on? If anything what is that IP doing now?

First amongst that group was Rob Liefeld and Youngblood.

Youngblood #1 was released April 17, 1992 from Rob’s Extreme Studios.

Someone had to go first and it was always going to be Rob Liefeld. He was the youngest of the group and had an energetic quality that 30 years later is still very much present. I have vacillated wildly in regards to my opinion of Liefeld. Starting from a negative viewpoint, but time has a way of changing your perceptions and I realise now that much of his brash and cheeky mentality as shown is a mix of media distortion and age, think about yourself in your early 20’s, do you have it together? Or you the best version of yourself? But on the positive side, he was a character idea factory and he had an energy and style that was unlike any of his peers. Yes you could argue a lack of artistic skill, the man couldn’t really draw eyes, or feet, or backgrounds most of the time, but here’s the thing as an artist in the comic industry he had to make his product fun, accessible to as wide an audience as possible and to an extent disposable.

Consider it like a blockbuster movie on the printed page and you get the idea. In that regard he’s the Michael Bay of comics. You may feel it lacks artistic merit, but you can’t deny their popularity or the associated success. X-Force #1 sold in excess of 5,000,000 and lets be honest, most of us bought one.

But, I imagine you ask, what about the comic?

Youngblood is a government sponsored super-team that has official merchandise and licensing deals. Rather than the urban vigilante with a secret identity, these characters are more like movie stars and top-level athletes in their popularity and profile. This is red carpet super-heroes long before Robert Downey Jnr told the movie going world “I am Iron Man.” Structurally Youngblood comprises of a home and an away team, the home team doing super-hero stuff on US soil and the away team being used as a quasi-military team sent across the world. The home team consisting of team leader Shaft and comprised of Chapel, Vogue, Combat, Die Hard and Bedrock. The away team being team leader Sentinel joined by Cougar, Brahma, Riptide, Photon and Psifire.

As well as the celebrity angle, this was a more militarised super team, all grim faces and guns, many of those mentioned were armed to one extent or another. It’s fast paced, full of energy and new concept ideas. It’s not Citizen Kane, but it was different to what the big two comic companies were doing. Another difference was the flip book format. Issue 1 was split into a action packed tale of the away team in a thinly veiled Iraq analogue being invaded by the team and on the flip side was the home team gathering to face the returning threat of the Four. The away side is light on characterisation, but chock-full of action, but the home team story was the opposite, being more about the heroes being summoned from their lives and having little action.

So is it good?

Well it’s okay and that carried along for this first run of Youngblood comics. Full of energy, new characters and well not much else really. This was really good foundation that never really got fleshed out enough for there to be any longevity.

What happened after?

Well after the initial run petered out, there were several restarts in different creator owned imprints like Maximum and Awesome and little else, but the series came back a few years ago to Image comics and it was a really fun little series with a new generation of Youngblood characters trying to redeem the name and concept. If this IP made a proper comeback, or moved to a new medium, I think it could really have something to say about celebrity culture and accountability. Like many of Rob Liefeld’s ideas, it’s a great idea waiting to be fully realised.

That’s pretty much all I have at that point. I wonder what everyone else’s memories and thoughts about Youngblood are.

Next time: The man behind the 3,000,000 selling Spider-Man #1 takes us into the hell-born world of Spawn.

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Reaching towards

I have let the blog slide. Whilst everyone else was stuck at home, I have only ever been working harder in the hours I have and when I get home, I can either open my laptop, or spend time with my family, so that’s the reason.

I don’t think that has helped me though, with the constant onslaught of work and the lack of other stuff going on, I can feel things getting on top of me again. There’s been family stuff as well (extended family, not the munkeyhouse so it’s not my story to tell) and it’s left us all tired and beaten down and this is after a year of lockdown.

So what do I do about it? I don’t know, but I am going to start writing again, putting stuff on here and maybe working on the story I have been not writing for a year and get back to stuff that I want to do for me.

I am reaching towards the light again, because right now all around is darkness, but I have been here before and I got back out of it. So, I will get out of it again. I have an appointment for a Covid jab coming and it looks like ComicCons are happening again this year.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel and this year, I don’t think it’s the train this time.

Take care of yourselves internet people, better days are coming.

I will be back.

In the meantime, the trailer for Shang Chi was released and that looks kind of fun.

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My Marvel Life Presents : Fabulous First Issue – X-Factor 1

I think I did the wrong thing here, but here’s another Fabulous First Issue

My Marvel Life

Why I picked this comic:

It’s another one in the history of the X-titles and it was either this or the New Mutants OGN I think this was a better choice. This was the return of the original batch of X-Men who were my introduction to the team, so I will always have a place in my heart for them.

The Comic Itself:

X-Factor 1: November 1985

Third Genesis was written and inked by Bob Layton, pencilled and inked by Jackson Guice Wein with more inks by Josef Rubenstein.

It opens in Anchorage, Alaska with retired X-Man Scott ‘Cyclops’ Summers struggling to adapt to life as husband and father to his wife Madeline Pryor-Summers and their son Nathan Christopher. It’s not going well.

In Colarado Warren ‘Angel’ Worthington III is saying goodbye to his houseguests and fellow ex-X-Men Dr Hank ‘Beast’ McCoy and Bobby ‘Iceman’ Drake who are leaving the…

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My Marvel Life Presents: Fabulous First Issue – Hawkeye 1

Getting back to doing this, it’s Fabulous First Issue

My Marvel Life

Why I picked this comic:

I was given the remit of finding something different from the last issue we looked at. With the silver age melodrama involving a team of super-powered teenagers battling a villain, the furthest from that without going outside of genre was the Matt Fraction/David Aja run on this title.

It’s also really good.

The Comic Itself:

Hawkeye 1: August 2012

Lucky was written by Matt Fraction with art by David Aja with colours by Matt Hollingsworth.

The long-time superhero Clint ‘Hawkeye’ Barton is involved in a battle with his team, the Avengers. He falls from a roof and onto a car. On a team featuring men in tank suits, super-soldiers, mythical gods and others of that ilk, this fall brings into sharp focus how he is just a man, an extremely skilled one, but just a man. Six weeks later, he is out of hospital and…

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Pilot Era: In which we learn that I am done

And with that Pilot Era is done and dusted.

Pilot Era

I think we are done here.

I enjoyed putting the blog together, watching the shows and the conversations that came from it, but priorities change and I have had less and less time for this blog as it went along. It’s time to draw a line under it and move on. Thanks to anyone who read any of this. It was a lot of fun, but it’s time to call it a day.

Ttfn people, look after each other.

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Well that was a little worrying.

Well it’s been a week internet people.

After a pretty good weekend, full of lounging around, cuddles and laughter, I started the working week. I managed to get to 9:14 before I regretted it. Tuesday wasn’t much better, with all this furlough pay business making my day more than a little problematic before I stopped being able to process reports around 2:45pm. I spent Wednesday morning sorting that out and went home for lunch. I had french toast (bread dipped in whisked egg with a little mustard and black pepper)  and despite the back pain, which is a lovely new addition to my day, made it back to the office.

Then s**t got weird.

I had some kind of allergic reaction. It started with intense indigestion, then every inch of my body was itching, my throat closed up, I couldn’t swallow. My body produced more mucus in that hour, than it had all year. I spent the best part of an hour lying fetal, spluttering. After some off the shelf anti-histamines and water, my reaction calmed down.

I don’t know why I reacted like that, I am not allergic to eggs, mustard or black pepper, so it was a mystery. It was also a terrifying moment in the midst of a terrifying time.

Still I handled it and all returned to ‘normal’ but that was something of a scare.

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My Marvel Life Presents -Fabulous First Issue: X-Men 1

It’s another Fabulous First Issue

My Marvel Life

Why I picked this comic:

It was the first comic I remember reading. It was the first property that I got into when I got into collecting back in 1991 and it’s the franchise that I go back to when my I go back into buying new monthly comics, when the MIGHTY Rosie put the idea for this blog forward, I knew that no matter what, the X-Men would have a place in it and why the hell not start right at the very beginning.

Shoud I have done this?

The Comic Itself:

X-Men 1: September 1963

X-Men was written by Stan Lee and pencilled by Jack Kirby with inks by Chic Stone.

In a private school in Westchester, New York Professor Charles Xavier summons the four students he has, that are training to be super heroes. In  walks Slim ‘Cyclops’ Summers, Hank ‘Beast’ McCoy and Bobby ‘Iceman’ Drake. Flying…

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