The “Image” of My Youth

Most times when I talk about my childhood, I usually refer to my childhood dream being that one day I would be patrolling centerfield for my New York Mets.

For the most part that’s true, well at least partly. As a kid that never was allowed to play organized sports, for various reasons that aren’t worth going into here, it wasn’t long before I figured my long shot of a dream was most likely never going to happen.

As I entered middle school, however, I began to reintroduce myself to comic books. As a much younger child I had been obsessed with superheroes. This was mostly based around cartoons and toys, but comic books played a role too, as they were cheap entertainment for me that my parents could grab where they picked up their newspaper and cigarettes. This time, however, the huge success of the very first Batman film in 1989, and the fact that many people were looking at comics as an investment much like they had been doing with baseball cards, suddenly made collecting comics cool again.

To top it off, one of my favorite hobbies was drawing, and, if I do say so myself, I was pretty good at it. Once I realized I had a better chance at becoming the next John Romita than the next Nolan Ryan, I was hooked. Comics were still cheap, available almost everywhere, and offered hours and hours of entertainment, since I would try to duplicate some of my favorite artists work in my own sketchbook after reading. It came much more naturally to me, and to my parents’ delight, with fewer broken windows than mimicking my favorite ball players.

This time around, however, my love for comic books was as much about the artists as it was about the superheroes. Guys like Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, and Erik Larson were as important to me as the characters they drew. All of those guys were my favorites at one time or another, especially Liefeld, as his ending run on The New Mutants was what attracted me to Marvel after my Batman craze quickly wore off.

In 1990, Marvel introduced a new Spider-Man series. It began with issue number one, and it came complete with about 4,637 variant covers (an industry staple at the time). The artwork was amazing, and from that point on, I reignited a love for Spider-Man that I hadn’t had since my Underoos days, and an admiration for the art of Todd McFarlane that I hadn’t felt since Darryl Strawberry bolted Queens for LA.

Soon after this, my favorite Marvel artists, McFarlane included, left to form their own company, Image comics. As a fan, I followed, buying as many Image books as I could afford on a 13 year-old’s allowance. I especially loved Spawn, and made sure that I collected every issue. I soon stopped drawing other people’s superheroes, and began to create my own, complete with pretty awful storylines, much like my Image co-founding heroes.

All of this was brought back to me as I watched a five-part docu-series about Image comics. After seeing a retweet by Todd McFarlane about the “Oral History of Image Comics” on SYFYwire.com, I immediately had to see what this was about. To my delight, it was all that I could have hoped for.

The docu-series, executive produced and hosted by Mike Avila, is split into five parts that run roughly 15 minutes each, and can be found on the aforementioned SYFYwrie.com as well as YouTube, and contains interviews and anecdotes from all of the “Image Boys”. Having the image story chronicled by the legends who started it leaves you wanting more. Avila’s affection for the subject matter is ever-present, and it’s greatly appreciated by this fan. This is a terrific trip down memory lane and a must watch for anyone who loves comics, or read them during the boom of the early 1990’s.

From 6th-10th grade, comic books, and the artists I idolized, ruled my life. They stayed with me through thick and thin, until the girls that I stared at while doodling the Savage Dragon in my notebook began to notice me back. As a guy who left home, entered the real world, and became a father right after high school (coincidentally right as the comic industry was crashing), this docu-series is a nice look back at the last simple years of my youth, and the last real idols I ever had.

 

 

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