What was ‘90s comics really about? The star of the show was certainly the revolution that Image initiated. At a time when the commonly-held belief was that authorial independence would come at a great price in readership, the seven Image founders proved this absolutely untrue with sales figures in the millions per issue.
But a deeper and more profound change came at the level of storytelling itself. What we saw was an entirely new kind of comics—bulked-up heroes, heroes who were more superpowered humans, hyper-detailed drawing styles and of course, the kind of action-oriented storytelling that read like an evolution of Jack Kirby.
When you read Grifter, one of the mainstay heroes to come of of Image cofounder Jim Lee’s Wildstorm Studios, the joy should lie in the wonder of seeing the character paired with Rob Liefeld, another Image cofounder. But this time it’s not.
This time the real joy lies in measuring the evolution of the artist, and the enormous scope of Cole Cash as a character. Rob Liefeld when he entered into popular recognition, entered as an artist. To see him write The Grifter, is to witness a kineticism take precedence in the character. This is not at all unlike the revolution in writing that was ushered in by Marvel at the dawn of the Silver Age of Comics. But to read the kinetic storytelling of Liefeld in Grifter is also to read an evolution of the character. Who would have thought that Cole Cash could be subject to such enduring reinterpretations.
23 years ago, and earlier, the fears were always around longevity. Could artists who broke away from the then-stifling corporate model ensure a large enough audience to sustain themselves? Would the characters and settings and stories they create continue to last as the characters from the explosion of superheroes during the Golden Age did? Decades after the founding of Image, the answer to both questions is still a resounding yes.
And reading Grifter as part of the New 52, is reading this story of unmitigated success, play out over and over again.
Please enjoy your exclusive preview of Grifter #11, which releases this Wednesday 7/11.