Published on July 3rd, 2015 | by Holly Ringsell0
Are Image Better Than Marvel And DC?
Saga. Rat Queens. Sex Criminals. Deadly Class. Copperhead. Rasputin. Rumble. Chew. The Wicked And The Divine. The Walking Dead.
These are just a handful of Image Comics’ extensive line of comic books. No doubt you’ve read one or two yourself, or have at least heard of the excitable buzz around the titles. They’re a staple in every comic book shop, and top recommend lists weekly. Fans worldwide are turning away from behemoths like Marvel and DC, and towards the smaller publisher, Image. Why is that? Lets examine a few reasons.
Freedom With Stories
Alien love stories, super powered sex, space westerns, supernatural mad monks, children fighting zombies and demons… Whatever you want, Image cover it, and it’s without restriction. Their comic books can be filled with adult content and dark themes, without having to worry about catering to a younger audience. They’re able to explore things that Marvel and DC simply can’t, and it results in better stories, stories that you’re emotionally invested in. They can shock you with twists and turns you’d never expect, leave you reeling for days after reading and overall, deliver a comic book experience unparalleled by anyone else.
Freedom With Characters
They’re also completely free to create and develop unique characters. Unfortunately with the likes of the big two, they’re limited to what they’re able to do with established characters. DC apparently won’t allow any of their heroes to marry. Marvel still haven’t admitted that Captain America is bisexual, despite the fact it’s COMPLETELY OBVIOUS. (C’MON!) I’d love DC to release a Batman story which is something different, but other than a handful of greatness, most of DC’s Batman tales are the same old thing rehashed… And thats not the fault of the creative teams. DC and Marvel are stuck in their ways, and any wild change to characters is unlikely to happen, (at least with the current management teams). With Image, the creators are free not only to develop characters, but take them on unexpected journeys. It results in deeper characters, some relatable, but all interesting. We connect more to them, because they’re flawed and so much more human, (even the ones with wings and horns.) They make the same mistakes we do, even if theirs are occurring in a fantastical, magical world. There’s no template, cookie-cutter characters here.
We all want diversity, of all types. Thankfully, it’s becoming more common in our comic books… But that’s not to say DC and Marvel’s attempts aren’t a little heavy-handed. Steve Rogers was zapped of his super serum, so he would age and pass the shield onto Falcon. Thor was unceremoniously made unworthy, to give way to a female Thor. Midnighter’s new first issue featured several page spreads of gay make out sessions (hey, I’m not complaining!) and Batwoman is only as gay as DC will let her be (note: They refused to allow her to marry her fiancé.) It’s all good, and some of those new stories are bloody brilliant, I love Midnighter #1, I’m a huge fan of female Thor and Batwoman, but it’s certainly a little sloppy in its approach. Not to mention, it’s still pretty crappy odds.
Looking at the wall of comics in my store right now, 18 prominently feature women, 3 prominently feature people of colour and 5 prominently feature an lgbt character. Thats out of 81 titles currently on the shelf, and from a person who is super conscious of this stuff, and thus orders more diverse titles. Not so great, huh? Thankfully, Image are paving the way for diversity, and it’s utterly effortless. In Rat Queens, Braga is trans and Betty is gay, multiple characters in Morning Glories are POC or gay. Chew features a few bisexual and gay characters. Pretty much everyone in Saga appears to be sexually fluid. Michonne from The Walking Dead has mental health issues. Bitch Planet is packed with people of colour and strong women. Suzie from Sex Criminals is bisexual, and Jon is mentioned as sleeping with a man. The Wicked & The Divine features myriad POC. The important thing is that they’re just characters, not a series of carefully constructed publicity stunts. They’re not written with the intention of causing a stir, or even as a rough attempt at shoving diversity in for diversity’s sake… They’re just characters, and they’re varied — which is precisely how it should be.
Comics are an expensive hobby. Costs soon rack up when you’re picking up single issues AND graphic novels, not to mention all the other merchandise we love so much. A first trade of a Marvel Now or DC New 52 story will set you back anywhere between £10.99 and £19.99. A first trade of an Image title is a mere £7.50. There’s the occasional exception, but even then, the cost only seems to rise to £10.99. It’s fantastic for new readers, as well as the perceived ‘risk’ in starting something you haven’t heard of — everyone knows what they’re getting from a Batman book, but Deadly Class? Well, they’ve never heard of Deadly Class… But for £7.50, how can you go wrong!? A tonne of content for super cheap, not to mention the start of an undeniable Image Comics addiction!
I love Marvel. I love DC. I’m over the moon that we have a young, Muslim Ms Marvel, a deaf Hawkeye, a gay Midnighter and an awesome, young Batgirl. But why didn’t we get a Falcon comic book, instead of ‘he’s now Captain America’? Where’s our Agent Carter comic, riding on the success of the TV show? When will Marvel mention that Star Lord is pansexual? When is John Stewart going to get his own post-New 52 title, especially given his popularity in the cartoons? Are DC ever going to publish anything that isn’t related to fucking Batman? I’m sure plenty of you don’t consider the sexuality of your superheroes, or the gender, or the skin colour, but plenty of us do. Those of us living in those under-represented demographics want to see people like us in comic books. We want kick-ass women and men, gay, straight, trans, everything in between. Where are the new characters, created with backstories and personalities, that range in gender, sexuality and skin colour? It should be effortless, a series of new characters brought in to blend flawlessly with DC and Marvel’s existing titles, that expand the universes.
Marvel are at least trying. We have Ms. Marvel. We have Captain Marvel And The Carol Corps, A-Force, Silk, Spider-Gwen, All New Captain America, Thor, Black Panther, All New Ghost Rider, Miles Morales is soon to become their new Spider-Man.
DC are stuck in their ways. We have Midnighter and Cyborg. We have creative teams desperately trying to push forth stories and characters that are, for the first time in many years, unique. Gail Simone’s Secret Six features the bisexual (and gorgeous) Catman. My beloved Team Batgirl are putting out books that are different, aimed at forgotten demographics, with the likes of Batgirl and Gotham Academy… But they’re fighting an uphill battle. DC’s roster is laden with Batman bollocks, title after title centering around the caped crusader, and forcing other characters to come into contact with his storylines. It’s ham-fisted and lazy, and it makes them utterly boring. Even their new line of ‘DC You,’ (DCU? Terrible.) is full of second-hand characters like Dr Fate and Martian Manhunter. Would it kill them to try something new? Y’know, like Brenden Fletcher is doing!?
Marvel and DC will always dominate the shelves. They’re accessible, they’re (sometimes) kid-friendly, and they’re the characters that are pushed in front of our eyes at every given moment. TV shows, movies, merchandise, we’re drowning in it. But Image are coming up strong, releasing consistently brilliant material. Head down to your local comic shop, ask them about Image titles — I guarantee their eyes will light up.