Something catastrophic is happening within "Image United." Various heroes including Savage Dragon, Shadowhawk, Spawn, Witchblade and the many members of Youngblood have found themselves swarmed by super-villains working under the employ of a shadowy nemesis known as the Omega Spawn, a seemingly resurrected Al Simmons with a newfound thirst for global domination. As "Image United" #2 drew to a close, Omega Spawn was well on his way towards achieving his goals by sending an army of villains to cripple the heroes inside of Youngblood's headquarters. It was a cliffhanger of epic proportion - and one that remains unresolved six months later.
"Image United," the six-issue miniseries written by Robert Kirkman and illustrated by Image Comics founders Erik Larsen, Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, Whilce Portacio, Marc Silvestri and Jim Valentino, has suffered numerous delays, with fans left to wonder why the series hasn't seen a new release since the second issue hit stands in December 2009. Some of the creators involved with the project have spoken about the delays, with Liefeld saying in April: "It goes without saying that Image United is a massive embarrassment. Damn shame the enthusiasm for the book not shared by all." But since then, other participants have said that the miniseries is getting back on track, though no official ship dates or reasons for delay have been announced as of yet.
Last week, CBR News caught up with one of the project's many collaborators, Todd McFarlane. When asked about the status of "Image United," the "Spawn" creator said that he's currently illustrating his portion of the series, as well as finishing up work on "Spawn" #198, #199 and "Haunt" #8. Additionally, he shouldered the blame for the current delays on "Image United."
"It's completely my fault and nobody else's," he told CBR News when asked about the current status of "Image United." McFarlane cited his busy schedule and "complicated life" as major factors in the delays, saying: "I warned everybody in advance that I've got a complicated life, so be careful what you're wishing for!"
The currently in-progress third issue picks up where "Image United" #2 left off, with thousands upon thousands of villains converging on Youngblood's headquarters and only a handful of heroes left to thwart the impending assault. In December, Robert Kirkman described the set up of "Image United" #3: "It's been set up that most of the different teams we've seen across the country are heading back to Youngblood HQ for various reasons, so you get the sense that - and this might be a shocker - there might be a very big extended fight scene in the next issue."
McFarlane confirmed that "Image United" #3 is not only a particularly action-packed issue, but it's also one that prominently features Omega Spawn and several other characters created by McFarlane. "A lot of [the issue] is sort of Todd pages, too. I'm like, 'What? Come on, Robert! You're always bitching at me that we're behind and then you keep putting shit in there that makes me draw more,'" he laughed. "Talk about wanting this book to come out, you'd figure out how to do stuff where Spawn gets unconscious instead of going that the bad guy is an Anti-Spawn. Oh, who gets to draw that page? I guess that would be me again!"
One of the biggest game changers to come out of "Image United" involved the revelation that Al Simmons had returned to Earth as Hell's newest ruler, with his sights set on expanding his dominion over mankind. Omega Spawn, at least in terms of design, drew a fair amount of praise from the various "Image United" creative minds, including Liefeld, who told us back when the first issue hit stands: "Today, when all of the 'Image United' books came in and I was looking at Jim Lee's cover and looking at the splash page, I was like, 'Um, I would totally be up for drawing "Omega Spawn" the series.' That guy is so bitching looking! This series can't be the only time we see this guy. He's just awesome."
It remains to be seen whether or not Omega Spawn has legs beyond "Image United," but if there's one thing that fans can count on, it's this: Omega Spawn is not Al Simmons - or, not exactly Al, according to McFarlane. "In my mind, this is not the Al Simmons. Let's just be clear about that," he told us. "There's a back story there that's deeper than it's just Al, that we'll get to either in that or in the segment that Robert is going to write for 'Spawn' #200. There's going to be a little bit of clarity there. I've never been a fan of it just being, you know, all of the sudden how convenient now there's a bad guy there. That's just too easy for me. I told that to Robert when we first started. 'Okay, we'll do it. Just as long as you don't get cemented that it is the exact guy and the exact sort of persona and everything is exactly the same.' I've got some ways to put it in a bit of a different direction to take us where we want."
But even if Omega Spawn and Al Simmons aren't exactly the same entity, McFarlane warned fans not to get too optimistic about a full-fledged return for Al in the pages of "Spawn." Although he's open to the idea of returning to the character, McFarlane doesn't want to bring Al back in "a heavy-handed [way]" after his apparent suicide in "Spawn" #185.
"Again, just to repeat, I never liked to feel that I got cheated as a reader. I'm going, 'Al is dead.' So in my mind, he's dead," said McFarlane. "I know that Robert threw a little bit of a wrench in that. I know that when he created the character [of Omega Spawn], I don't believe he said to me out loud that it also was Al. I think that came as sort of a secondary piece. I went, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa - Al's dead!' So now I have to figure out how to make it feel like I'm not cheating it."
Stay tuned to CBR News for more information on "Image United" as it develops, and be on the look out for more news from McFarlane on "Spawn," "Haunt" and more!