Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Post-Marvel Years of Jim Shooter and Rob Liefeld

This 1993 ad for the opening of a Mile High Comics "mega-store" in Anaheim, CA was a page I quickly flipped through at the time, since it was in the middle of a story I was reading and I'm far from California--but it offers an interesting exercise in connect-the-dots for each of these distinguished gentlemen:

"Defiant"? "Extreme Studios"? I really wasn't up on what these two men were involved with after they left Marvel, so I was curious to follow their career paths.  We start at the same place and relatively same time for both of them--the exodus of Shooter and Liefeld (along with a number of prominent artists) from Marvel Comics during the 1989-1992 period. Let's follow Liefeld's paper trail first:

  • Liefeld and the other artists head over to Image Comics in '92, where they all form their own sub-studios under the Image umbrella. Liefeld's studio would be named Extreme Studios.
  • Liefeld (and his "studio") would leave Image in 1996 (three years after his appearance at the Mile High store opening), and Extreme would be renamed Awesome Comics.
  • Awesome Comics would fold in 2000 when one of its investors departs.
  • Liefeld returns to working on Marvel titles during 2000-2006 on various X-books. In 2004 he forms Arcade Comics. Three years later, he would return to Image to collaborate on the Youngblood series.
  • At the end of the decade, Liefeld spends a year working on books and stories featuring Deadpool.
  • Liefeld also worked on projects at DC in 2011-2012, but eventually made his way back to oversee his Image properties.

As for Mr. Shooter, he also dipped his toes into other comics-based ventures:

  • Following his departure from Marvel (after failing with other investors to acquire the company), Shooter is part of the formation of Valiant Comics in 1989. As with the new studios at Image, Valiant also boasted a collection of high-profile former Marvel talent.
  • Shooter departs Valiant in 1992 and is joined by some of Valiant's writers and artists in forming Defiant Comics in 1993.
  • Marvel initiates a lawsuit against Defiant in '93, claiming Defiant's first title, "Plasm," violated a trademark for their own Marvel UK book and character, "Plasmer."
  • Valiant becomes Acclaim Comics in 1994 after its investor sells the company. Acclaim would file for bankruptcy in 2004 due to poor business ventures with video games.
  • Defiant changes its "Plasm" title name, but Marvel continues litigation. Defiant eventually prevails in court, but folds in mid-1995 from having to pay over $300,000 in legal fees.
  • Valiant Entertainment is formed in 2005 and acquires rights to the former company's library from Acclaim. After a brief stint at DC, Shooter steps back aboard Valiant briefly to write new stories to accompany hardcover reprints during part of 2008-09.
  • Shooter begins doing work at Dark Horse Comics in 2009, writing new stories based on classic Gold Key characters he previously handled for Valiant. Valiant initiates a lawsuit on the matter, which was abandoned in 2010.

That's most of it in a nutshell, I think. It's funny the twists and turns a career in comics will take--true enough for writers, artists, and other creative talents moving from job to job and company to company, but particularly interesting for these two who have certainly been through the mill in their own respective fashion, each taking the reins of different companies and the risks and burdens associated therewith. Many people have had many things to say about both their choices and their methods--but in certain respects, I feel obliged to offer a respectful nod to them for navigating the miasma of corporate and personal acrimony in the pursuit of creativity.  I clearly haven't been in the trenches that they have, and I dare say twenty years in the industry probably saw a good deal of shooting from the hip.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One of the things that came out of going through my comics over Christmas was finding all of my old Wizard magazines. Mostly from the 90s. To reread all the happenings and thrilling events that marked what some call The Unspoken Decade. Big jackets, big guns and ponytails. I've said it before and I'll say it again...Good times, good times.

The Prowler (sporting the clipper cut, on a three, all the way around).