Jab’s Image Deep Dive: Marc Silvestri & CyberForce part 1

Marc Silvestri is probably #5 of the Image founders in terms of fame, which is a bit sad since he came first, and more or less popularized the style that would come to be known as the “Image Style”- taking Arthur Adams’s cross-hatched, detailed style and making characters into this slender, menacing, sexy figures with assloads of detail, fine lines, and metallic bands all over them. He was the penciller on The Uncanny X-Men from 1987-1990, around when they leapt ahead of all competition and became the unquestioned #1 book in the industry, and followed by penciling Wolverine for two years after that. While he created fairly few characters (his big contribution is Jubilee, who was a MAJOR part of the ’90s- the rest is essentially The Reavers & Elsie-Dee), he put his stamp on the series, and led the way for Jim Lee and others.

His art… largely still holds up, though comes off as VERY dated. Everything’s shaded like crazy, but everyone has very complex costumes (Impact has complicated shoulderpads, hands, and limbs, for example) instead of the “Liefeld Bodystocking Deluxe”, and you can tell he really wants these characters to come off well, as there’s a bit of focus on everyone except some random band of Mutant Mercenaries halfway through the opening Limited Series. Though he isn’t very good at drawing feet, and tends to obscure them behind smoke and piles of bodies (just read Cyberforce #1 and you’ll see several examples of both), he’s practically a foot fetishist compared to Liefeld. They’re easily the thing that has the least effort put into them, though.

He quit Marvel in 1992 for Image Comics, immediately creating Cyberforce , possibly the most bald-faced of the knockoffs Image created. He also swapped in another team book called Stryke Force . However, after these embarrassments, the man actually proved to be the most capable of the late-90s Image creators, popping out a REALLY popular product in Witchblade (a titty-book featuring a naked lady with a symbiote), spinning off The Darkness , and discovering one Michael Turner in the process. His “Top Cow Studios” was arguably the most popular of the Image lines at this time. His own works after the fact have been more minor- his style is extremely dated these days- that Jim Lee exists, and is the “better version” of Marc himself, probably hurts his own style- the Zhou Yu to Jim’s Zhuge Liang (seriously kids- read a book!).

Oh, man. Dear God. While Image Comics was full of a lot of writers doing modifications of their work for Marvel, but with “ORIGINAL CHARACTERS DO NOT STEAL” characters that they owned the rights to, there is no single team book on the face of the Earth that reeked more of plaigiarism than CYBERFORCE . Created by former X-Men artist Marc Silvestri, this book was absolutely embarrassing in the shameless way it would trot out rip-off after rip-off in its edgelord-y characters- one of the first heroes seen is a bad-ass guy with claws named “Ripclaw”. We get a guy with cybernetic limbs on one side of his body and a ton of guns on his person. There’s a big metal guy covered in banded steel-looking plates. And HOLY SHIT CYBLADE.

Cyberforce is now by far the most notorious for being a knock-off book, to the point where I find it borderline unethical. I mean, Jim Lee at least CREATED Gambit and the redesign for Psylocke, so him making knockoffs in Grifter & Zealot isn’t quite so bad- it’s more thumbing your nose at your old bosses and taking your idea elsewhere (do we shit on Peter David for bringing Supergirl into Dark Angel ? I mean, I do because it’s weird, but other’s don’t! And MICKEY MOUSE of all characters was created because Walt had Oswald the Lucky Rabbit taken from him!). But Marc Silvestri DIDN’T- he’s just tracing over what’s popular and copying it. I can see ripping off “Claw Guy” or “Strong Guy” or whatever, since many books had those. But… everyone at once? A team of Cable, Wolverine, Cyclops, Colossus & Psylocke? This is just snapping up another company’s characters and doing your own thing.

Cyberforce #1 came out in October 1992, and I actually bought the first issue- the only one of the Image line I ever purchased. A while later, I sold it to a friend of mine, Robbie, who actually SHUDDERED when he say that it wasn’t protected- ” Cyberforce #1 without a BAG…” he went, horrified at me leaving this ageless classic unprotected. So I traded it for an Excalibur one-shot where Meggan did a weird naked dance and turned into a sexy Female Nightcrawler and I felt I got the better end of that deal :). In any case, I can’t even pretend I thought this excessive, edgelord-y garbage was lame because I immediately thought Impact was the greatest name of all time and named my own “Strong Guy” hero the same thing, and I found Stryker’s “three metal arms on one side” thing to be so awesome that I immediately created an ORIGINAL CHARACTER DO NOT STEAL who had the same gimmick, but with FIVE arms.


So Marc Silvestri created them for what he called “Top Cow Studios”, and… well, I already said he ripped off the X-Men. But like… they’re a team of MUTANTS. They actually use that term repeatedly (even Rob Liefeld of all people invented legally-distinct not-Mutants). And they’re all dealing with prejudice and scary stuff and whatever. But unlike the X-Men , it’s just a backdrop to fight scenes and isn’t developed at all (a guy named Bluestone is running for mayor, but only appears in one of the three issues I have). Also, the team are cyborgs- like Cable in the popular X-Force was. The gimmick was that they were all Cyborg Mutants who were captured and modified by an evil corporation called “Cyberdata”, which was now chasing them now that they’d escaped. Cyberdata of course wants to rule the world, which and then a side-group shows up featuring a blue nudist and a deer-man named “Warbuk”.

Re-reading it while doing these builds, they’re drawn fairly well, and are certainly more lucid and immersive than Youngblood , and less wordy than WildC.A.T.s , but it’s still pretty convoluted. You have Cyberforce and Cyberdata, but both groups are split up constantly so you never see the whole group at once- there’s a band of mutant mercenaries halfway through that barely matter, a fight with Pitt that lasts only a couple of pages (he punches Impact and Ripclaw then explains things- Pitt replies “it’s an honest mistake”), and a bunch of different inner factions and people with hidden agendas, like they just want to pile on more “mystery”- this costs the book a lot of readability and coherence. The writing is pedestrian and a bit pretentious at times, as Erik Silvestri (Marc’s brother was writing) pops in a faux-mystical poem by Riplcaw doing his best “Noble Savage” stuff, plus a scene where Impact notes that Ripclaw & Cyblade’s sparring is “it’s almost like a dance”. “Yes”, replies Not-Cyclops, “A dance of DEATH”. That’s what you’re getting, here.

Hilariously, Velocity meets up with the entire team of Cyberforce exactly once, and immediately thinks this disparate group of weirdos and freaks is “like a family” and desperately wants to be a part of them. But then in the very next scene she’s kidnapped by a SEPARATE group of bad guys, so the next issue is Cyberforce fighting THEM. This group is so haphazard that it’s just a Fire Chick, a Strong Guy and a Nazi & Upper-Class Twit who are joined at the waist, and their fight scene is barely a couple pages long.

The pacing is so bad that team member Heatwave, the LEADER of the group, is seen giving orders exactly once and is taken out quickly in almost every fight, and numerous important characters aren’t even given time for motivation or snark. Megawatt & Psychotron of Cyberdata get less characterization than the three mutant mooks who are supposed to be throwaways. Like… every villain has an assistant or two, and nothing is really explained. Mother May I is a “Mutant Queen of Crime” who is also working with Cyberdata, but not really with them and has her own agenda, which never becomes clear. Her aide, Saburo, is also called Kimata a bunch (ComicVine has his name as “Kimata Saburo”), and talks to a guy who’s in shadows.

The Roster Issue:
Like nearly all of the Image Comics, Cyberforce has a major issue with a cast that’s just INCREDIBLY huge. It’s the weirdest thing, as some of these guys are total throwaways and not interesting to draw, but… the Silvestris don’t seem to know how to rein it in. In a FOUR-ISSUE LIMITED SERIES, we have…

1-6) CYBERFORCE: Heatwave, Ripclaw, Velocity, Impact, Cyblade, Stryker
7-10) BASE COMMAND: Chip (helper/robot builder kid), TIMMIE (android boy), C.C. (android cat with one line, but TIMMIE mourns him being damaged later on), Dr. Corben (the guy who formed Cyberforce and freed them from Cyberdata’s control- he appears in ONE PANEL, by the way, and is never explained- they just act like he was always there)
11-15) CYBERDATA: Ballistic, Buzzcut, Psychotron, Killjoy, Megawatt
16-18) MOTHER MAY I’S GROUP: Mother May I, Warbuk (minion; gets shot once), Kimata Saburo (aide/contact with Zadrok; appears to go by two names alternately)
19) DOMIN ZADROK: Mysterious guy in shadow who is manipulating things from behind the scenes.
20-22) MUTANTS: Slam, Wyldfyre, Splitzkrieg (there to steal something and then get chased off).
23) BLUESTONE: Would-be mayor of NYC… gets shot at and doesn’t appear again.
24) GUEST STAR: Pitt.
25-26) GUYS WHO GIVE STRYKER HIS MISSION: It’s not clear who these guys are or who they’re with- Stryker just takes the job. I guess they’re the government?

This cast is COMPLETELY INSANE, and overloads the book with way too much stuff. Warbuk’s only contribution is to get shot once, and all the exposition and scheming is done by this “Kimata” guy who looks like a generic nobody. The two guys who hire Stryker are not seen doing anything else (but are in a background scene later), there’s way too many guys sitting around Cyberforce’s base, and more. Never mind how confusing the backstory is (Mother May I is a mutant terrorist/crimeboss who wants to black out New York and make a mutant paradise, but also convince people she’s their mother and sleep with Stryker, but works with Cyberdata even though she’s not one of them, and she’s also the mother of Ballistic & Velocity I guess).

The Book’s Run:

Cyberforce ran for a four-issue limited series, then a single volume lasting 35 issues from 1994-1997, making it a semi-decent success by Image standards. Silvestri had a LOT more success with a titty-book you might have heard of. It was renewed by Ron Marz in 2006 for a six-issue limited series, and six years later, another short run came out. Most of these were only short runs.

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