Some thoughts while trying to read CYBERFORCE...

As with all Image comics, there were various iterations of the series (Image liked #1 issues) but apparently the longest running stretch went to about number 32.

Image was founded by fan favorite artists who felt they had not been treated well by management at Marvel and/or DC.   These artists' major gripes were the following:

* They were given no shares or ownership in characters they felt they had created or contributed significantly to the creation of, and which were very profitable and successful.   The most well known examples of this were Rob Liefeld with Cable, and Todd McFarlane with Venom, but it was a common grievance among the Image founders, and those who joined them quickly thereafter.

* The writer was illogically and unreasonably glorified ahead of the artist.  Comics are a visual medium and as a general rule, more fans would buy comics because they liked the art than would buy comics because they liked the script.  The Image founders were sick to death of some stupid writer's name coming before theirs in the credits.  Also, they were sick to death of some stupid writer who did not care about vital issues like exactly how much a page of original art would be worth, dictating what they would draw each issue.

So, they wanted ownership and control of the characters they created, and they wanted to be able to dictate exactly what went on each page of artwork they drew, so that they could make sure that each page of artwork would sell for maximum rate.

So what ended up happening with Image Comics was, the artists 'created' the characters -- this is in quotes because very few Image characters showed even the slightest hint of creativity, much less originality -- and controlled the characters and retained all rights to the characters.  They also drew all the comics before any 'scripter' or 'writer' ever had any kind of input into the creative process at all, guaranteeing themselves absolute control over the resale value of each original page.

Some of them didn't mind making up the words that went into the little boxes and balloons themselves.  Others found that too tedious and grabbed some buddy they'd gone to school with, or whoever was sweeping up the building that night, and had them do it for them.    But the page content was dictated, not by characterization or the needs of the story or anything like that, but simply by how much eye candy could be shoved into every panel.  The formula for top selling pages is, lots of people in costume, lots of violence, and at least a few scantily clad hotties here and there.   That's what idiot fans would pay top dollar for.   That's what Image gave them.

So, if you were one of these poor schmucks who got tapped to 'write' an Image comic in the early days, what you got handed to you was twenty or so pages of hugely veined and corded men with a few strippers thrown in, all wearing ridiculously poorly designed costumes, all punching, kicking, swording, shooting, and/or blasting each other.  Sometimes the artist may or may not have drawn in some sequences where an inventive author could insert some expository dialogue explaining WHY all this violence was going on, but more often, it was just, as The Mad Maple once memorably put it, Two Mutants Beating The Tar Out Of Each Other, except, you know, at Image it was generally Seventeen or Eighteen Mutants With Cybernetic Implants And Half Alien DNA Beating The Tar Out of Each Other, endlessly, on and on, world without end, amen, amen.

Which is not to say there wasn't some semblance of a plot in many Image comics, at least, to the extent that Rob Liefeld defines such... " there’s a story going along, and the characters are wrapped up in it, battle one large villain character, and it was resolved.”  But what stories were told were... well, to use phrases like 'cliche' and 'trite' and 'unoriginal' is to insult decades of cliche, trite, unoriginal stories done to at least professional standards of quality on books like MARVEL TEAM UP.  These were stories created by artists who did not understand characterization, or storytelling (visual or otherwise) or pacing, or plot, or atmosphere, or nuance.  Artists who not only did not understand these things, but who bitterly resented the idea that such things existed or that anyone out there with money in their pockets might ever remotely give a shit about them.

CYBERFORCE is, I will admit, better than anything Rob Liefeld ever published, and it's about as good as anything Todd McFarlane ever published.    But these comics are not what I would call 'written'.  They are drawn by idiots who do not know how to write and who do not think that knowing how to write is at all important to producing, not so much 'good' comics, as comics that will sell well and generate a ton of money for them at every market penetration point.

Now, I will note, Todd McFarlane's character, SPAWN, was probably, out of every Image character, the one that came closest to being creative, original, or even 'good'.  Spawn's powers are, essentially, that he can do anything Todd McFarlane wants to draw him doing at any given time, and his origin is a hopeless morass of Image's typical brain dead 90s military fetishism with a lot of Satanic occult crap thrown in to the mix, but still... Todd McFarlane can DRAW.   This is probably why SPAWN, out of all those horrible awful characters, is reasonably well remembered and I think still has an ongoing comic to this day.

But Cyberforce, as originally conceived, were mutants who had been cybernetically enhanced!  Good fucking God.  Alan Moore once wrote a SWAMP THING story with a memorable tag line regarding "the sound of the hammers".     If you were a writer at Image with any respect for the art form, or even yourself, then this tag line could easily be adapted to the entire experience:  "The sound of the writer's head hammering against his desk must never stop."

So if you wonder what that irregular thudding sound you hear coming from the direction of Kentucky over the next few weeks is -- that's me.  Trying to read CYBERFORCE.


Popular Posts