If you publish comic books for long enough, you’re bound to produce a couple stinkers. That’s just the nature of the beast. Marvel and DC have been around over half a century, and they have tons of storylines that are problematic and embarrassing. Image Comics has been publishing books for 25 years, and boy, they definitely have a few issues they’d like to sweep under the rug and pretend never happened. So, why not take a moment to dig through the old dollar bins and remind everyone of some of the publisher's most questionable (yet still entertaining) moves?
Now, this isn’t a list where we just pick on Image Comics and point out how bad some storylines are. Of course we will point out some stories that just didn’t work for one reason or another. However, in this list, you’re also going to find stories that were the result of behind-the-scenes drama. Some storylines were forgettable because of dreaded scheduling difficulties that derailed everything. And like all superhero universes, there are those horrible crossovers that just don't work. With that in mind, let's take a look at 15 storylines that Image Comics really wants you to forget.
15 IMAGE UNITED
Image United was going to be the biggest Image Comics crossover in company history. This storyline was going to take all the original Image creators and put them all in one story to revisit the characters that put the company on the map. You had McFarlane, Larsen, Liefeld, Silvestri, Valentino, and Portacio all doing art in the same book, each drawing their respective creations.
When the first issue (of six planned issues) was released, excitement was brought down a peg or two because the story wasn’t that great. But hey! It was awesome to see the artists all collaborating. Then the second issue came out, still sold out and went for additional printings. Then there was a nine-month wait between #2 and #3. Then nothing. The last half of the series was never published. As Rob Liefeld said on Twitter, “It goes without saying that Image United is a massive embarrassment.”
14 SPITTIN’ IMAGE
Back in 1992, Image Comics made a big splash, selling millions of copies of comics about new superheroes, without the backing of Marvel or DC. Comprised of the biggest artists in the industry, Image was now the cool place to go for quality comic books. Eclipse Comics saw this and decided it was ripe for parody. The publisher released a one-shot comic, Spittin’ Image, that lampooned Image comics and the artists involved.
The premise is pretty funny. A hero from the “Marble Universe” notices that he’s drawn worse than normal. He teams up with some other Marble heroes to find out where the good artists have gone. They find that the artists all went to the Spittin’ Image Universe. The comic then pokes fun at a lot of the popular Image heroes, including Savage Drag-On, the drag version of Savage Dragon. It’s great satire, and all in good fun, but the fine folks at Image would probably rather people forget it exists.
13 YOUNGBLOOD: GENESIS
Debuting in 1992, as part of the initial Image Comics launch, Youngblood was a massive financial success for creator Rob Liefeld. Not too shabby for a series that was based on some unused Teen Titans work. The next year, Liefeld hired writer Kurt Busiek to come up with some Youngblood stories. Busiek wrote plots for three issues and an idea for a fourth, but they were never published.
Fast forward to 2000, and Liefeld starting soliciting a comic series called Youngblood: Genesis, using Kurt Busiek’s stories and listing Busiek as a writer. Busiek was upset that Liefeld would try to capitalize on his name, and asked his fans to not buy the comics. Luckily for Busiek, only two issues were produced because the third and fourth issues would have used characters that Liefeld didn’t have permission to use. All in all, Genesis turned out to be a cash grab, with little thought of creators involved and fans suckered into buying it.
According to those in the know, Deathmate became a reality because Valiant Executive Steve Massarsky and Image c0-founder Jim Lee were friends and wanted to do a crossover. What sounded like a no-brainer, and a guaranteed massive success, turned out to become one of the worst things to happen to both companies. The storyline for this crossover is fine, especially for the ‘90s, but that was the least of their concerns.
As a joint-company crossover, Valiant was tasked with publishing half the issues, while Image would publish the other half. Valiant got its issues out in time, but Image couldn’t handle it. The scheduling problems for this series are legendary, with the Epilogue issue actually shipping before one of the middle issues. According to then-Valiant Editor-in-Chief Bob Layton, the series was an “unmitigated disaster.”
ShadowHawk was always a character that had a definitive end in sight. As a character with AIDS, it was bound to happen that Image would kill off one of its biggest heroes. And that’s exactly what they did. Then Image decided to bring ShadowHawk back with a series called ShadowHunt. The premise is absolutely bananas.
ShadowHawk is actually the Spirit of Justice, and that spirit possesses people, imbuing them with powers. During ShadowHunt, the Spirit inhabits a robot. Yes, a robot. And without human emotions, or morals, this Robot ShadowHawk goes on a killing spree and must be destroyed. The storyline is not good at all, and the robot “Justice,” is basically everything wrong with ‘90s comics, with Wolverine claws, ridiculous muscles, and way too much armor. This was not a great way to relaunch one of the most interesting and unique characters in the Image Comics universe.
10 BATTLE CHASERS
Sadly, ‘90s-era Image is full of stories of big artists coming over to work on their own creations, only to experience massive delays. Perhaps none is more memorable than Battle Chasers. Joe Madureira was the biggest artist in comics when he left Marvel to write and draw Battle Chasers. The series was a big seller, but is one of the worst examples of comic book scheduling ever seen.
Each issue had an average delay of about six months. There was actually a 16-month delay between issues six and seven. To top it all off, the series was never finished, with the solicited 10th issue never released. Worst of all, the comic just isn't very good. It's cheesy and full of fantasy cliches. If you’re one of the fans from that era still hoping to get your Battle Chasers fix, don’t worry! Madureira just released the first Battle Chasers video game. No plans on finishing the 10th issue, however.
9 DARKER IMAGE
Darker Image was supposed to be an anthology title that would help introduce some of the more grim and gritty characters to the Image universe. The issue was published at a time when anything from Image was a huge seller, and the series came with all the bells and whistles a speculator at the time wanted, including a foil cover.
At its launch, the series was going to run for four issues. Unfortunately, like most Image comic books at the time, the series never was completed and only one issue was ever released. The issue itself isn’t great either, with just three short stories that have no conclusion and only hint at what’s to come in their respective series. With all the hype Darker Image had when it was released, ultimately, it was another huge letdown for comic book fans.
8 TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
The ‘90s was a bad era for some comic book characters. It was a time when everything had to be excessive. Characters had to become new and hip for the ‘90s generation. That’s why it’s so tragic what Image Comics did to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the late-‘90s.
The series was known by TMNT fans as a very different take on the Turtles. It was action-packed and fast paced, and featured some incredibly weird, completely off-beat moments with the characters. At one point, Donatello was a cyborg, Splinter was a Bat, Leo lost a hand and Raphael became Shredder. They even crossed over with Savage Dragon. It was a strange time for the beloved Turtles. Thankfully, it’s not canon, since co-creator Peter Laird wasn’t involved and didn’t approve of the stories. Like many Image comics, the series was never finished.
7 SONIC SUPER SPECIAL
If you read the plot for Sonic Super Special #7, you might just assume that the creators involved were on some sort of drugs at the time. Why else would this comic exist? It’s a completely ham-fisted way to have a crossover between B-list Image characters, Sonic the Hedgehog and the X-Files. Yes, even though it’s not promoted as such, the X-Files plays a large part in this issue.
Agents Scolder and Mully (Get it? Ugh.) are investigating someone named Particle. Then, because comics, we are treated to a story where Particle travels through dimensions, steals an emerald and returns to the Image universe. Then Sonic and pals use their own interdimensional powers to come to our Earth and... You know what? It’s too stupid to even summarize. Suffice it to say, the writing and art left many fans feeling cold, but not as much as the treatment of some of their favorite characters. This was not Image's best moment.
6 GRIFTER AND THE MASK
And now it’s time for us to talk about the team-up that no one cared about or wanted – Grifter and The Mask. Where else can we tackle the issues of gun reform than in a comic book that combines the silly, slapstick Mask with the ultra-kewl, gun-toting epitome of the ‘90s, Grifter? Penned by acclaimed writer Steven Seagle, the series featured two characters that really just didn’t belong together.
Now, when you think of The Mask, you think of Jim Carrey as Stanley Ipkiss in the mega-popular ‘90s movie. Well, guess what? This team-up didn’t have Ipkiss in it. Instead of the silly, cartoony Ipkiss, we get a kinda-serious Paul Newman with the Mask. Newman and Grifter converge on a firearms convention where one wants to put an end to guns and the other want to steal a gun. Hilarity ensues. Not really, though. Actually, a crossover that’s ultimately forgettable ensues.
Remember, in 2001, when everyone was super excited for Frank Miller’s sequel to The Dark Knight Returns? The Dark Knight Strikes Again was going to be the first time Miller tackled his dark alternate Batman universe since 1986. Well, that’s not actually true. The first time he went back to that universe was when he wrote the Spawn/Batman crossover comic, with art by none other than Todd McFarlane.
What was supposed to be a monumental crossover between DC’s biggest hero and Image’s biggest hero turned out to be a dud. Making matters worse, this is somehow in continuity for both Spawn and The Dark Knight Returns. It’s amazing that two of the comics industry’s biggest names could collaborate on such a lackluster story about two heroes who hate each other, fight and then ultimately team up to beat a villain. Yawn. At least the art looked decent.
4 MARS ATTACKS IMAGE
Major company-wide crossovers are supposed to have lasting effects that are felt throughout all the core titles. Apparently, Image Comics didn’t get that memo when it released Mars Attacks Image. The premise is simple, the Mars Attacks Martians are invading the Image Universe. Savage Dragon and the rest all gather to beat the invaders and protect their planet.
Ultimately, the crossover comes and goes without any real lasting effects. The only comic to reference the Martian attack is Savage Dragon, but the rest of the characters that show up in the event apparently don’t remember it at all. This was published at the height of Mars Attacks and Image Comics popularity, but it seems to benefit one party, Topps Comics, which published Mars Attacks. This crossover is one of many Image Comics crossovers that led to nothing and fell flat.
3 WILDC.A.T.S. #8
If you want to collect all the trade paperbacks of Jim Lee’s WildC.A.T.S., you might wonder why you’re missing an issue. You can get collected editions featuring every issue of every volume of the comic series, except one issue -- #8. Why would Jim Lee and the fine people at Image want readers to forget issue eight?
The issue covers two stories, but the problematic one is called “Down Time.” The story features a couple of action sequences that lead to a scene on a cruise ship. Two WildC.A.T.S. characters are fooling around on the cruise ship, but hidden in the background are some special guests. Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Beavis and Butthead all show up. The real kicker is an appearance by an unnamed redhead and a guy with ruby quartz sunglasses, as seen in the image above. The issue is a complete throwaway, with some fun cameos, but for some reason, Image really doesn’t want you to read it.
2 YOUNGBLOOD #1
If you compare Youngblood #1 with what appears in the most recent hardcover, you will notice some major differences to the writing. That’s because years after the release of Youngblood, Rob Liefeld hired Joe Casey to go back over those early issues to re-dialogue them for the eventual hardcover release. If you listen to Rob Liefeld, he will tell you that he feels the dialogue ruined that first issue of Youngblood, and he wanted to go back and “fix” it.
The real truth is that writer Hank Kanalz was one of the co-creators of Youngblood back in the early developmental stages of the comic. Kanalz then wrote that first issue of the comic. Liefeld wanted to remove every bit of Kanalz from the issue, thus making Liefeld sole-creator of the series. Enter Joe Casey to re-write. So, if you have that first issue of Youngblood, you are holding a comic that Liefeld really wishes you didn’t read.
1 ALTERED IMAGE
Altered Image is a bunch of bad ideas all rolled up into one dumb story. Wizard Magazine did a contest where readers could submit their mash-ups of Image characters. Think Amalgam Comics, but with just Image characters. Then, based on those submissions, Image published a series called Altered Image, which would highlight some of these characters just for fun.
Literally, the purpose of the three-issue series is to show us Image characters… but altered. Get it? What happens when you combine Majestic and Witchblade? A Superman-esque character wearing almost nothing, with a hairy butt. Funny, right? Right? Guys? It was a cheesy non-event. Image tried to wrap it up with a little heart-felt moment with a young girl in a coma, but by that point, the series had gone off the rails completely. Altered Image is the epitome of the gimmick event, with zero lasting effects.
Can you think of any other instances Image would want you to forget? Let us know in the comments!