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In the early 1990s, there was something of a shake up in the comic industry, a new company was formed with talent that some say was stolen from Marvel and DC. The fact is that Image Comics presented these folks with a creative outlet that didn't leave then feeling like someone else was profiting from their hard work and inspiration.
While the cover for Image Comics' Youngblood number one greatly resembles the cover of Marvel Comics' New Mutants number 87 (the first appearance of Cable) even I have to admit that Rob Leifeld's Youngblood is a visually stunning series, and with Todd McFarlane's Spawn as well as such series as Stormwatch and Wetworks.
There will likely always be some controvercy attached to the Image label due to hard feelings generated in the course of several years worth of fragmentation which have given us Top Cow Productions, Cliffhanger Comics and Wildstorm Comics. Some of this was to be expected from people who had a vast wealth of talent in the field of comic book writing and artwork, but seemingly little experience in business.
Nevertheless, Image Comics made an enterance onto the comic market, and into the comic industry, that created a lasting impression for many comic book collectors. While there is some debate that the prices of Image comic back issues may have been artifically inflated it must be pointed out that an items value is at least partially determined by what people are willing to pay for it.
Personally, I don't much care for Image comics, but even I will have to admit the merit of a series like Spawn which has stood the test of time and even managed to spin off a couple of successful companion series. There can be no doubt that Image comics present a visual style that many find appealing, and the introduction of digital colorization only enhanced the artwork of these talented people.
All the collectors I've spoken with seem to agree that when Image Comics stole the best and brightest talents from Marvel and DC the quality of those giants' products suffered. In more recent times cooperation between the upstart Image crew and the comic Industry's big two has yeilded some wonderful fruits, and I honestly look forward to future such endevors.
Overall, Image Comics produced industry wide changes which have produced a wide varity of new characters and even redefined many of our old favorites. While I will likely never be Image's biggest fan even I have to give grudging respect to people who stick with their dreams and despite adversity manage to keep producing some of the best looking comics in the industry today.
You might say that the founders thought the comic industry needed a facelift, or at the very least a new Image.