Back in 1992, some of the biggest artists in comic book history left Marvel Comics, having created and/or redefined some of their most iconic characters, and started their own company. Image Comics was founded by Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Marc Silvestri, Erik Larsen, Whilce Portacio and Jim Valentino, where the creators had complete control over their comics, and the lion's share of the profits, unlike Marvel, which retained complete control over their creations and paid them a small fraction of the money made from their appearances. In the years that followed, comics like Spawn, Wildcats, Youngblood, Cyberforce, The Savage Dragon, Wetworks and Shadowhawk took the industry by storm. Although many of these creators have since returned to Marvel and/or DC at one time or another, their impact on the industry was phenomenal. Now, a screenplay has been written about their mass exodus, and it's been written by Rob Liefeld himself.
Dream Movie Cast has picked up exclusive pages from Icons, Liefeld's screenplay, and posted them online. These pages chronicle Liefeld's introduction to Todd McFarlane, the formation of the idea, their fateful meeting with Tom DeFalco and Terry Stewart at Marvel, and – curiously – the time Liefeld met rapper Easy-E and was rather astounded by the automatic weapons he carried in the trunk of his car.
The idea for a movie about Image Comics is, frankly, a really good one. Like The Social Network and Moneyball before it, it would include a cast of interesting real-life characters attempting to break the accepted mold, strike out on their own, and either reap the benefits or suffer the consequences. With comics now a firmly established tentpole of Hollywood's output, a serious drama about one of the most interesting chapters in superhero comic book history would make for a potentially exciting breakout motion picture.
Having read these pages though, we're pretty sure this isn't the way to do it. We've only read the 12 1/8 pages available online, but the pacing is shoddy, the dramatic presentation is blunt, and the dialogue is often laughable. "I'd never met anyone like Todd," Liefeld explains in a romance novel-esque voice-over. "He had a fire in him, a passion that burned deep." Liefeld appears to be the main character, and gives himself such self-congratulatory dialogue as, "I got so many ideas, I'll never run out." McFarlane himself comes across like an entitled bully who adds "bud" to the end of every other sentence, gives a long and silly speech about why so many of Marvel's artists have names that begin with "L," and speaks entirely in melodrama, overextending the metaphor of Marvel as a plantation until it comes across as ridiculously self-righteous. Ironically, DeFalco and Stewart come across as very reasonable guys, but the Easy-E sequence plays like a random name-dropping cameo, unless somehow Easy-E becomes a central figure in the story.
The Image Comics story has been told before, in a 1993 two-issue mini-series by Don Simpson (Megaton Man). The series, calling Splitting Image, told in a parodic What The-?! style, told a similar tale complete with satirical versions of Image Comics creations. It was a silly book, but also written more interestingly and without self-congratulation than Icons appears to be. The script is reportedly 100 pages long, and near as we can tell, has yet to be picked up, although Liefeld has recently been heavily involved in the movie business with adaptations of Bloodstrike and The Godyssey currently in the works.
Dream Movie Cast has, fittingly, also posted Liefeld's dream cast for Icons, which includes Christian Bale as Todd McFarlane (a casting choice referenced in the script), Chris Pine as Rob Liefeld, John Cho as Jim Lee, Rob Corddry as Erik Larsen, Joe Manganiello as Marc Silvestri and Dabney Coleman as Terry Stewart. For his complete casting choices, and to read the 12+ pages of Icons for yourself, head on over to their website.