In the beginning there was MARVEL. Well, to be more accurate, there were these guys that worked for Marvel. These guys were rock stars with pencil and pen. And as rock stars are prone, they wanted to play by their own rules. And, with vigor, and with flourish worthy of Steve Martin at his ‘Jerk’iest, these fellows struck off to start their own, better universe. Or should I say “Universes.”
Well, let’s be honest here, people; this is exactly where my expertise stops. You see, while Liefeld, Silvestri, Lee and all were inventing Image, I didn’t care. You couldn’t have paid me to care. My pubescent self was a DC devotee all the way, being a huge Batman fan and all. At first, I couldn’t even be bothered by Marvel. I mean, what were the chances that Batman was going to run into Spider-Man, I mean, really? Eventually, I came around on Marvel, being introduced to Daredevil by one, Joel Deitz (thanks, wherever you are, man), but still, I never got into Image.
So, a few weeks ago, I sat down with Barry Tetz and a bottle of Scotch to discuss Image and all that it meant to him. You see, in addition to being my buddy and business associate, Barry was a devout Image Comics fan, cutting his comic teeth on their grim-n-gritty fodder. And, it was into that memory and experience I looked, to filter out many of the questions that had sprung from my own reading of the three books I will be addressing in this series.
When Image got its start, you see, there was not a single guiding force – no sole creative impulse to direct the animus that the founders brought together. Rather, there were several lampposts, each beaming from the mind of one of the rock stars, and each prepared to illuminate a separate if parallel path. Around and about these lights were formed the various Image studios: Silvestri’s Top Cow, Todd McFarlane Productions, or Jim Lee’s Wildstorm among them (yeah, there were six studios in the beginning, but just how long do you want this to be?).
Image has had nothing, if not a bizarre and bent path, continuity-wise. Having six North Star’s will do that. This was, of course, exasperated by the various splittings and pairings that inevitably accompanied comings and goings of creators and studios. And, it is this factor that plays into the reason I am looking at three books over the next few weeks, as I meander upon my point to focus upon WildStorm and upon Gen13.
Now, I would be remiss if I did not not take a paragraph to explain a little about what, and who, I have learned Gen13 was. Between the intrepid Mr. Tetz and Wikipedia, I learned that the super teens were the children of the historic Cold War era super-spy-group, Team 7. Now, that is an interesting tidbit for me, because “legacy” is one of my favourite themes in literature and comics. It is a part of why I love Roy Thomas and the Justice Society of America. Anyroad, the Gen13 kids lived in a world where super-humans had been extant for centuries, and where the culture and religion of all people had been influenced by various interferences by various warring aliens. To manage all this meta-human and trans-planetary action, the US began IO, an intelligence agency focused on keeping track of the metas. It is from these threats that the kids of Gen13 find themselves trained by John Lynch, a friend of all their fathers, and a former member of Team 7. But, I knew none of that in 1997.
By that time, I’d developed an interest in Marvel and had discovered Generation X, which I would casually follow on the spinner-rack, though I was still using my money to follow Batman and Nightwing. I’d seen the Gen13 kids in Wizard Magazine, and seeing the Gen13*Generation X: Generation Gap on the shelves of our local collectibles shop, I figured $1.95 was worth the risk. Maybe I’d get a great introduction to this new world of WildStorm and Image. I was wrong.
Written by Brandon Choi with art by Art Adams and Alex Gardner, Generation Gap is full of ham-fisted dialogue and fraught with the frustrating assumption that the reader already knows the characters – what they can do, and who they are. This is especially true of the Gen13 kids. Choi does spend some time introducing the Marvel half, the first part of the tale beginning while Banshee is a rookie INTERPOL agent hiding his mutant powers, and while Lynch is a operative for International Operations (more on them later). Nevertheless, the characters mainly come through as cyphers. The art is spot-on in that late-’90’s-glossy-paper sort of way, and Choi was able to use villains from both universes, but the story also suffers from “over-villainy,” much like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. Over all, it kind of left me with a “What just happened?” sort of feeling.
This comic was my only real exposure to Image and WildStorm for years, and it failed to leave any positive impact on me. Over the course of time, WildStorm was bought by DC Comics, and remained there for a spell. We will talk more about that next week, I suppose, but for now, like Choi, I must end this with perhaps too much abruptness.