The comics industry has been no stranger to close calls over the years. The inception of some of the world’s most famous fictional icons has come down to a knife-edge more times than not, and the same goes for their ownership too; you only have to look at the many, many legal disputes that have arisen between Superman’s creators and DC for confirmation of that.
And it’s not just a case of changes off the page having a profound effect on the medium either – quite the opposite. Creative decisions that have gone on to define entire comic book universes very nearly didn’t happen, and some of the world’s most famous comic book storylines could have – in many respects – looked drastically different than the finished product.
We all love a good alternate history or two, and no medium more-so than the comics one has set about exploring them so emphatically. With that in mind, it’s probably a good idea to turn the tables, at least to consider, for a second at least, how different it all could’ve been.
9. Marvel’s Talent Doesn’t Leave For Image
As far as comics are concerned, the nineties was a pretty dreadful decade. Bizarre creative decisions, Clone Sagas, edgy and dated character designs – all found a home at both DC and Marvel during those years. And, while the industry looked like it was on the rise (in the same way Wall Street did shortly before October 1929), the numbers didn’t do justice to the various internal calamities that were then engulfing the Big Two.
Marvel was suffering the most, and their top talent sensed the worst. Todd McFarlane, who had quickly established himself as one of the biggest artists in the industry, owing to his stint on Spider-Man, was growing increasingly frustrated in regards to editorial interference on his title. Compounding these worries further were Marvel’s apparent unwillingness to pay substantial royalties to staff who’d created characters for the company, and so, in 1991, they left.
McFarlane led the charge along with Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Marc Silvestri, Whilce Portacio and Jim Valentino, a group who’d later go on to become the founders of Image Comics. Image today stands as being one of the key publishers in the biz, offering writers and artists the ability to own their own material in an environment unburdened by events and editorial interference. Spawn-mania gripped the rest of the decade, and yeah, the rest is history.
Had McFarlane et al. chosen to stay at Marvel, however, then things would’ve worked out a whole lot differently. Although tension had been brewing for some time, there’s every chance that, had Marvel backed off and made McFarlane an offer, the ‘X’-odus of ’91 would never have occurred, meaning that the Image we all know and love may never have come to pass, and that the Indie scene itself would never be the same.