Flush with success in their first year, Image Comics’ line exploded with new titles spinning out of the popular launch titles of Youngblood, WildC.A.T.S., Spawn, Cyberforce and Savage Dragon. The first out of the gate was Rob Liefeld’s Brigade, which showed a grizzled veteran named Battlestone who had ties with Youngblood but turned down a chance at leading them. Haunted by the deaths of teammates but driven by need to do what’s right, Battlestone formed Brigade.
After over thirty issues both at Image and Liefeld’s own Maximum Press label, the title laid dormant for years. But now, as a renaissance of the Image founders is underway with Image United, Liefeld is bringing back Brigade with a refocused story and modern approach.
Joining Liefeld on this resurrection of Brigade is the series’ original artist, Marat Mychaels. Mychaels, who had been Liefeld’s art assistant on New Mutants and Youngblood, debuted on his own with Brigade back in 1992. After over twenty issues on the series, he spread his wings with his own title, Demonslayer, as well as running his own design company. In recent years he did the four-issue X-Force: Shatterstar series for Marvel, but this return to Brigade shows his career coming full circle.
Together, Liefeld and Mychaels are taking steps to redefine Brigade in what Liefeld himself describes as the “Ultimate” version of the team and concept.
Newsarama: Rob, how would you describe this new Brigade series - for both the hardcore fan and someone who's never read the book before?
Rob Liefeld: Brigade is a team book concept, more dysfunctional family than dedicated super-protectors. They are a group that has historically chosen to come together to protect their personal agenda's, rather than fulfill someone else's decree. They are not government agents although some of their pasts connect them to government programs such as Youngblood. They are rebels,
Nrama: The solicitation describes this as "a complete re-imagining" of the original series. Can you tell us about that decision to reboot it?
Liefeld: Despite the fact that Brigade was as popular as Youngblood in the 90's, and reached millions of readers, and it was much more available in terms of actually shipping regularly, a large segment of today's audience may not be familiar with the title or the characters. I decided a fresh approach, re-introducing the book and the cast was necessary. We are able to build on everything that we did that we thought was on the right track as well as course correct concepts that could use a face lift. This Brigade is similar to the original Ultimate reboots that launched the Ultimate line.
Marat Mychaels: Rob and I originally started discussing doing a Brigade book in the Early 2000's to celebrate the 10 year anniversary, we actually started on the project a few times, but, something always came up or the landscape of the industry would change and it never was quite the right time to produce the book. However Rob and I have worked on numerous comic books and movie projects together over the last few years plus with Rob's renewed relationship with Image Comics this project just fell into place perfectly. Now is the right time and Image is the right place!
Nrama: Brigade is now repurposed to be an alien defense initiative. Can you tell us more about this threat they're trained to deal with?
Liefeld: The original Brigade team was now fueled by the alien technology and genetic advancements discovered onboard a recovered spacecraft that was sent to warn Earth of an impending invasion by a race named the D'Vor. Battlestone, who was already in service to the government as part of a covert ops squad called ‘Knightstrike’ was given the advancements, as was his brothers and a pair of females. They were designed as an alien defense initiative. Then the invasion turned, the ships that reached the moon, turned away and the threat never materialized. Attempts to turn Brigade into a crime fighting arm of the government failed terribly, causing civilian casualties and the team was dispersed.
25 years later, the D'Vor return, this time with a vengeful prince, Genocide, leading the charge, unencumbered from his father's will and ability to restrain him. Genocide wants to bring earth to destruction and send a powerful message to the rest of the galaxy that the D'Vor are a force to be reckoned with. Brigade is re-united, absent some original members, replaced by sons and daughters, descendants of the fallen original team. Some come to honor the program and others come with resentment and revenge in mind. They are a dysfunctional unit and must manage their personal vendettas while working together to defeat Genocide and his armada.
Mychaels: In 1992 we had great ideas for Brigade but I think a lot of them never quite made it to the printed book. There where so many great little story nuances that we never got across and so many things I wasn't capable of pulling of visually as far as scope and scale so early in my career. This time around we are focusing on a lot of character development and what motivates every individual including the heroes, villains and supporting cast, don't get me wrong this is a cool action-oriented superhero comic but the characters will now have a lot of depth that we didn't get into in the original mini-series. And the story we wanted to tell will finally see print.
Nrama: The line-up of the team - it seems like the original line-up, plus a few late additions like Lethal. With many issues to choose from to select the team, why did you go with whom you did for the cast?
Liefeld: Well, Battlestone may be the most important character in the Extreme Universe, his ties to Youngblood, Knightstrike and Brigade give him a breadth that no other character has. His refusal to lead Youngblood defined the direction of that team and led to Knightstrike and then Brigade. He is essential to any Brigade title re-launch.
Kayo, Lethal, Coldsnap, Seahawk, Stasis and Thermal are unique characters in my corner of the comic book universe although we have changed some of their back-stories. Thermal's story was always a powerful one, she was hired to infiltrate the program, become a candidate for Brigade and expose the government’s agenda from within. She was writing an expose and the twist now is that she fell in love with Battlestone but was later rejected by him upon learning of her betrayal. She turned to the arms of his brother, the original Seahawk and they started a family and had 2 sons, who would later become Seahawk II and Coldsnap, biological recipients of the alien genome that were injected into their parents.
Seahawk retired, as did Thermal and they became famous undersea explorers. When their father died in an undersea accident, the 2 sons continued their father's tradition of deep sea exploration. They discover a link to the coming invasion but are hesitant to involve their uncle, Battlestone, who declined any relationship with his brother and his family. To say that their relationship is strained and toxic is a severe understatement. When the D'Vor attack, they are all united, as uncomfortable as it seems.
Nrama: Returning with you to this is the original Brigade artist and long-time collaborator of yours, Marat Mychaels. What brought it all back to together - and what's it like to work with Marat again on this after some eighteen years?
Well, first off Marat IS Brigade. He always has been the most consistent member of the creative team; he was the bread and butter of the title. He contributed to 20 issues of the book as artist, plot, and layouts. Had he not asked to leave the book to explore other challenges, I would have never replaced him on the title. Through all my travels the past 10 years, everyone always asks about 2 things, Brigade and Marat. When Marat attends shows with me, the fans have stacks of Brigade for him to sign. Both he and the book are forever connected. When people think of Brigade they think of his versions of those characters. We've been working towards putting this new Brigade together since 2004.
Nrama: Marat -- what brought you back, some eighteen years later, to work on Brigade again with Rob?
Marat Mychaels: Well, I was given an incredible opportunity to be Image Comics' first rookie by Rob Liefeld. A chance to draw Brigade when I was just 18 years old. He took a tremendous chance on me; I was as green as a rookie could be. Now I have a chance to go back and show people that I've grown as an artist and that was something I couldn't pass up. Plus I love the characters and they really hit a cord with the fans. Over the years I have had hundreds of people tell me Brigade was their first comic or their favorite book from that era, it's always surprising and very flattering to hear that so I feel like doing this book is a way to pay them back for all those years of support.
Nrama: How do you think your art style and sense of storytelling has evolved since your original run on Brigade so many years ago?
Mychaels: I would like to believe I'm a much better illustrator at this point in my career, but that's for the fans to decide. I understand pacing, lighting, the human figure and perspective a lot more then I did back in 1992. Most artists get their feet wet on a small Indy book or a back up story and have their first published work seen by very few people, mine was seen by millions! Every mistake I made was scrutinized more then the average artists. I hope people see my growth as an artist ... this is kind off a chance for some "artistic" redemption I guess.
Nrama: A recent addition to your informal crew has been painter Mike Capprotti, who will be helping with covers. I just saw a painted version of an old Brigade cover from years ago. Tell us about his involvement, and the idea of doing painted versions of earlier art.
Liefeld: Mike Capprotti is an amazing talent, he's been working with me the last 3 years, most notably on our Armageddon series as well as Deadpool and Cable covers. I threw the old covers his way and asked him to apply his beautiful painting talent to them, the results are always spectacular. He's ridiculously talented. He'll be doing the variant covers on Brigade as well as covers to Deadpool Corps with me.
Nrama: Rob, you've got a new issue of Youngblood solicited, Bloodstrike returned in Image United #2 with more on the way, and now Brigade. Can you tell us what prompted you to revisit some of your classic creations in recent months?
Liefeld: I'm trying to slowly but surely re-visit all the Extreme characters. We started 2 years ago and since then we've gotten a handsome re-mastered Youngblood hardcover collecting the original mini, 10 issues of a new Youngblood series, a couple trade paperbacks, Kaboom hardcover and Image United. It's all part of a much more contained, smaller but deliberate re-launch of these very popular characters.