15 October 2011

STARTING ALL OVER AGAIN

One of Image's big announcements yesterday at New York Comic Con was that we're reviving some of Rob Liefeld's old series – Youngblood, Supreme, Prophet, Glory and Bloodstrike – next year with all-new creative teams.

We've been working on all of this for a while, since late last year, actually, and reviving these series is something I've wanted to do for a long time. They're Rob Liefeld's characters, but I worked on them, too, and what can I say? I have something of an emotional attachment to them.

Sometimes, it's strange to think of these characters as being 20 years old. It has indeed been 20 years since Image started, though, and since Rob first launched Youngblood.

Casting my mind back to when I first encountered Rob's work, on an issue of Marvel's New Mutants, in what I'm guessing would have been late 1990, the first thing I was struck by was the energy in his drawing. There are a lot of people who get annoyed when Rob is compared to Jack Kirby, but honestly, that was my first touchstone when I saw his comics. Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying Rob drew like Kirby. There was something about how his characters moved, though, and the dynamism of his layouts, that just made think, "This Liefeld guy's doing kind of an updated version of what Kirby used to do."

I kept buying the book. Cable seemed to be a new character and I was intrigued by him. Turned out he was a Liefeld character. A few issues later, more new characters were introduced: Domino, Shatterstar, Deadpool, Gideon... I was impressed by the forward momentum the book seemed to have, and for some reason, even more impressed when New Mutants ended with #100 to become X-Force. With 20 years of experience in comics under my belt, I could argue that was merely expert marketing, but back then, I thought it took guts to cancel a red hot book that had just reached its 100th issue and start over.

And brilliant marketing or not, it did take guts. Sure, X-Force was going to launch with big numbers, but there was no real guarantee they would hold up after that. Relaunching comcis wasn't as common then as it is now, and for Rob or Marvel knew, the book could have faded fast after the first few issues.

What happened instead was that Rob Liefeld joined forces with Todd McFarlane, Erik Larsen, Jim Valentino, Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri and Whilce Portacio to form Image Comics.

By the time that happened, I had become friendly with Jim Valentino and within a short amount of time, I actually met Rob. He was my age and upon first meeting it was clear that the energy in his comics came pouring directly out of him. He loved comics. He loved reading comics, he loved talking about comics, he loved making comics, and that seemingly endless enthusiasm for his chosen medium made him an infectious personality. I wound up spending a lot of time around the nascent Extreme Studios, and one day, after explaining to Rob why I was disappointed with Youngblood #1, I was offered a job there.

From 1992-1998, Extreme Studios was more or less my life. Youngblood, Supreme, Brigade, Bloodstrike, Team Youngblood, New Men, Prophet, Youngblood: Strikefile, Bloodpool, Glory... We put out a lot of comics, and for the most part everyone involved was incredibly young. Rob and I were amongst the oldest at 25. So many of the artists involved in various aspects of production were just out of their teens, and that made the work as frustrating as it was fun. But looking back, the main thing I remember about that time is Rob wanted to share his success with people who loved comics and wanted to make a living in the business as much as he had.

Despite what anyone else may think of the characters Rob created at Extreme back in the '90s, I think he had some good ideas. In fact, the reason I wound up explaining to Rob that day back in May 1992, why I didn't like Youngblood #1, was that after reading so many of his interviews promoting the series, I was let down by how few of his genuinely exciting ideas made it into the finished comic. But I thought Youngblood was a great concept. Ditto Supreme. And Bloodstrike. And Prophet. And so on.

And you know what? I still do.

So, it's a real pleasure to be helping Rob out with these books again, to be bringing these characters back as Image celebrates its 20th anniversary next year. We've assembled some really great talent: Brandon Graham and Simon Roy are doing Prophet. Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell are the Glory team. Erik Larsen is working with finisher Cory Hamscher to provide art for the final Alan Moore-scripted issue of Supreme before taking over the writing chores himself. Tim Seeley is writing Bloodstrike and it's being illustrated by Fracesco Gaston. Youngblood, the comic that begat all these concepts, and lest we forget, the very first Image Comic, is being written by screenwriter John McLaughlin, with art by Jon Malin and Rob Liefeld.

Not everything is going to be what's expected from these books. They're all different, all the product of unique sensibilities.

It's going to be fun reintroducing these guys to the world again.