A little over 25 years ago the comic book world was turned upside down. The heroes we were raised on were beginning to don leather with spikes, have a hundred belts and
pouches, and carry guns that were larger than man sized. Rob Liefeld was at the front of this new wave of super heroics with his work on New Mutants. New Mutants gave way to X-Force. Then with his new found fame, he left Marvel to begin Image comics with other like minded artists. His first offering from Image was a comic he began work on in 1985, Youngblood, and comics were never the same again.
Others at Marvel Comics at the time (before they left) definitely gave tried and true heroes a modern face lift but they had their comic history in place as well. Jim Lee and Todd McFarland’s work on titles like X-Men and Spider-Man gave these heroes the burst of great art and colorful splashes that they deserved without using the EXTREME marketing that was all the rage in the late ’80s / early’90s. Those changes came much later as Marvel and DC both tried to play catch up with the new kids on the block, Image Comics.
When everyone jumped ship to start Image Comics in 1992 I was amped like most fans at the time. These were the top shelf talent of the big two and they were now making the rules up for the whole comic industry. Things were extreme, they were cool, and they were late month after month. As a fan, the writing was on the wall that maybe these powerhouse artists and creators were a bit over their heads. The biggest example of that was Liefeld (and Lee but he has pretty art and is a super nice guy, so it’s okay), who sadly is still consistently late.
Things got better over time and now we have a whole new comic industry that have taken the things from the past that work and scuttled the rest. Jim Lee now pretty much runs DC Comics, Todd McFarland has built an empire off of Spawn and Toys, and Rob Liefeld is still coasting on Deadpool, a character he created with Fabian Nicieza for New Mutants in 1991. When Deadpool began he was defiantly the “Merc with a Mouth”, but he was no where near the beloved comic character he is today. Those changes that have stuck for his fans happened over time and under the eyes of dozens of artists and writers. Yet, it’s Liefeld that draws all the accolades for it recently with Deadpool’s catapult into the Hollywood limelight.
In honor of 25 years of YOUNGBLOOD, Liefeld is sharing a script he wrote for a Youngblood movie. Since I will NOT sign up for his newsletter I cannot report on how the script is, which is a small blessing because that means I don’t have to read it and be reminded of my mistake every time I get an email newsletter.
So in honor of Mr. Liefeld’s landmark anniversary for YOUNGBLOOD I bring to you highlights from the YOUNGBLOOD trading card series from 1992. With the focus always being on his “art”, I will focus on his words so we can get an idea what the script looks like and the “genius” that is Rob Liefeld.
On his Style…
…much of the concept behind Youngblood evolved as a result of growing-up in the “MTV generation. Music videos in front of your face all the time, all those commercials and fast images – 24-hour news networks.” (What?!?)
Early in his career, Rob’s influences were George Perez and John Byrne. (I’m sure they are so proud to know that)
“I have always liked the independent market place. It gives you a chance to own your own work. There are certain confines to anyone else’s universe. When you do something by yourself it is your own big playground and you get to set the rules and break them.” (Break them? like release dates, gun design, and human anatomy)
When penciling, Rob breaks-up his lines creating his own stylized look to his art. (By adding even more lines?)
Rob enjoys plotting the stories he illustrates, but has someone else put in the dialogue. (Liefeld sounds perfect to write a Hollywood script for Youngblood then.)
Books that are “good” to Rob, have a “personal formula” that is the artist’s work. Rob believes that artists should have a “signature” to their art. (Is being un-proportionate and having age lines for days your signature style? Oh, and pouches and horrible feet and hands and crappy large guns and…)
What makes a comic book “good”? “Effort” is the most important ingredient to Rob. Extra “effort” put into the time and care spent on the story and art (That’s why he’s always late with his books, all that “effort”. And why do they keep putting quotations around the word effort?
During his childhood, Rob’s dad would throw away his comics. (Sounds like that age old question of “If you could go back in time and kill Hitler as a baby…” His dad saw the writing on the wall.)
Tracing comics was some of Rob’s first art training. (Go look online, he’s still doing it today. Go on look, I’ll wait here…)
Rob attended high school art classes and then life drawing at a junior college. (Life drawing? That’s shocking but they never say if he passed or not.)
When Rob first wanted to get into comics, he was afraid to go to the two larger companies. (Gee, wonder why. But he did end up working for both so who’s the bigger fool?)
“To me pages that excite me have something that draws my eye to what I call an anchor…an anchor could be a large eye or a big nose.” (Or a small head , or a large gun, or misshapen hands and feet, or unnatural barrel chests…)
After calling in response to a television ad, Rob was featured in a Spike Lee jeans commercial. (Button-fly jeans, like Liefeld went the way of the Dodo.)
When creating a new character, Rob first comes up with a name. After thinking of a good name, Rob visualizes what he/she looks like in his mind. Then the fun begins. (Fun for him, torture to us. And this brings up so many questions about why characters have such shitty names.)
When drawing a new character, Rob pencils in the body. Rob feels that equipment or accessories are important in creating a new character. (Is that why the dude made of rock has armor on?)
Facts about the Team…
The Youngblood team has public relations keeping them looking good to the public and the media. Any trouble bounces right off them.
This government -owned group has costume designers, speech writers, public relations people, etc… (To bad that means Liefeld is their costume designer)
The Youngblood team members are government employees that collect incredibly big paychecks. (Like Mailmen.)
On the state of America…
“The press is much more powerful in this country than people even realize. There are lots of people who let the media do their thinking for them…and the media realize this. That’s a crucial aspect to Youngblood.” (Damn. Truth-Bomb, Son!)
Facts about Shaft…
Shaft is a weapons expert and F.B.I. agent. The government yanked him out of the F.B.I. and inserted Shaft into the program. He has no super powers, but is very athletic and agile. He can turn any object into a lethal weapon. (Yanked and inserted Shaft…LOL)
Facts about Bedrock…
Another member of the “home” team is Bedrock. He is a 16 year old kid named Billy (on card 22) In the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland, Thomas John McCall is eating lunch with his mom. Bedrock has a … (card 24) (Damn, can’t even keep it straight in his trading cards. Or is Billy short for Thomas now.)
Tom McCall’s lunch is cut short as his beeper goes off. (Guess were sticking to Thomas then?)
Facts about Diehard…
A mystery man of the Youngblood team is Diehard who is an “extra-soldier” type experiment. He is the government’s first and foremost genetic experiment gone good. (OK, how many times did they try before they got the one that went good?)
Facts about Chapel…
Chapel is the dark, brooding character in Youngblood. He has no super-powers but is a former soldier-of-fortune/mercenary. (I love how Liefeld sees dark and brooding as a hero archetype.)
In the past, Chapel has worked for the government in different capacities. He has been very effective in assassinating third world dictators. (Sounds just like a Super Hero to me.)
Facts about Vogue…
The Russians want her back, but Vogue, a dark and mysterious Russian agent who defected to the United States has joined Youngblood. (Black Widow?!?)
No matter what pose a villain strikes, this beautiful martial arts expert will knock them out. (Really?!? A Madonna pull?!?)
Facts about Photon and Combat…
“The government wasn’t and can’t be sure that one of these aliens, Photon or Combat, was a prisoner on the ship while the other was the pilot.” (Can’t someone just ask them?)
“When the alien ship crash-landed with Photon and Combat aboard, things were in such disarray that they were not quite sure who was who. Combat told them ‘Look, I am a wanted man, and so is he. We will trade you technology for refuge on this planet.'” (That seems to clear up the above statement.)
To Combat war is just a game with toy soldiers. (What a badass!)
Combat not only beats Kussein’s armored soldiers, he wants to “kill” them. (Again with the quotations ! Also the armored soldier’s armor looks like everyone else’s armor, so confusing)
Facts about Cougar…
These is a race of these cat people living in the jungles of Africa and Cougar is one of them. These people are Lycanthropes types, Cat-Wolves. (What do you mean “These People”.)
Cougar’s mother was found unconscious by an expedition and taken into their care. She mated with one of them, and the result was Cougar. (Ah, How romantic.)
Facts about Brahma…
Brahma, whose real name is Jeff, came from a triplet cell that never split. Due to his huge size, his mother died while giving birth to him. (Ok, wow. I guess the doctors never heard of a C-Section.)
“I figure that he is the ultimate Rob Liefeld character because everyone says that I draw big, wide, pin headed character.” (He almost seems proud of it. Poor guy just don’t get it.)
Facts about Psi-Fire…
Possibly the most dangerous member of Youngblood is Psi-Fire, a real loose cannon who follows nobody’s rules. (With so many badasses on the team, how do they get anything accomplished?)
Considered a serial killer, Psi-Fire was paroled by the government due to being a triple-kinetic, a pyrokinetic, a telepath, and telekinetic. (hero)
He is part of the “away” team so the United States press can not report on this paroled criminal’s heinous international activities. (Hero)
Finding great pleasure in killing, Psi-Fire would do it for free. (HERO)
Facts about Prophet…
A mysterious character, Prophet is heavily armored and is out to spread the word on Youngblood. (Hey that’s funny, Me too.)
Wow, what a thrill ride that was. My brain is mush and I’m so disappointed in myself for flocking like everyone else to Liefeld in the early ’90s. The first time I knew of him was when penciled “What If…Wolverine was in S.H.I.E.L.D, and at 12 or 13 anyone who drew Wolverine was awesome. Oh, memories…
NOTE: Sorry I didn’t pack this full of pictures…but one man can only take so much