Going to EXTREME Part 2: Influences and Changes

Going to EXTREME Part 2: Influences

Click here for part one of our interview with the new Extreme line-up of writers!

Glory #23

Our three-part interview with new Extreme Studios writers Brandon Graham (Prophet), Joe Keatinge (Glory) and Tim Seeley (Bloodstrike) continues today. In this installment, the creators talk about how they’re reinventing these Rob Liefeld concepts for a new era, and wax nostalgic for the best and worst of the 1990s.

Newsarama: What type of audience are you looking at for these, then – all ages, teenagers, mature readers, what?

Joe Keatinge: This sounds selfish, but I want me at that age. I want that 10-to-13-year-old male or female who is just stoked for comics. I know that’s harder to reach these days, but whatever. That’s what I’m going for.

Tim Seeley: Yeah, I think 15-year-olds are the ideal goal for this stuff.

Keatinge: I was just thinking too, like there were guys who were reading the Extreme stuff when they were 15, and when it went away, they hadn’t found comics that excited them since. So maybe we can bring those guys back. 

 

Nrama
: But that is an audience that went away pretty much en masse, and while there’ve been efforts by DC, most notably, to recapture that audience, do you really feel there’s a case where if you were reading Youngblood when you were 13 and got out of it, and now you’re in your early 30s or what have you, you’re someone who could be lured back?

Brandon Graham: I don’t know. I don’t have any interest in those readers personally. But there is a huge readership that isn’t reading comics. There are tons of readers who are reading manga who aren’t reading comic shop comics. And my thought is maybe those people could enjoy this stuff too.

Keatinge: I’m pretty open, but I’d rather have a new reader than someone who doesn’t want to read comics, if that makes sense.

Graham: There’s sort of a trading-card aspect to 1990s comics that I don’t really want back. 

Glory #23 Interior

Nrama
: Do you mean like Warriors of Plasm, where the comic was literally trading cards you had to put in a binder to read the story? I just saw a complete set at a local comic show for $10.

Seeley: Yeah, I had that. (laughs) Didn’t David Lapham have like a breakdown after he did Warriors of Plasm? That’s why he did Stray Bullets. He just completely decided to quit work-for-hire comics and do a crime book, because he was so tired of getting screwed.

Graham: There was so much speculation. I was in a comic shop the other day and the phone rang and the owner picked it up, and then afterward he said to another guy , “Hey, there was someone on the phone who thinks comics are actually worth something!”

Nrama: It’s weird, because you did have that period where everything was trying to be collectible. Everything had a new #1, a chrome cover or a foil cover or a glow-in-the-dark cover, or my favorite, the Colorforms covers DC did a few times…

Graham: I remember those. They were Superman, right? 

Glory #23 Interior

Keatinge
: I loved those.

Graham: I was playing with one of those like a week ago.

Nrama: But you have polybags and new #1s and those attempts to create that sense of hype again.

Keatinge: Yeah. You know, I have to say, even at that age, that was the one aspect of comics I never got into. I never got into buying them to try to sell them later. There was one time I went into this store called Graffiti Comics in Santa Monica, and this guy had grabbed an entire stack of Cable comics. And I remember just being disgusted – why would someone do that?

But yeah, I’ve always been a “buy ‘em to read ‘em” guy. I’m not going to invest in them.

Graham: And things raising in price makes them frustrating in that they’re harder to get – Moebius books are more expensive, for example. I just wish they were things that were everywhere.

Nrama: Everything’s reprinted now, which is great, but it’s so weird when I think back to getting into comic in the late 1980s, where you had to go through back issue bins to read older stories, and most reprints were in these hardcovers you had to pay through the nose to buy.

Glory #23 Interior

Graham
: A lot of my favorite stuff still isn’t reprinted. I’ll spend my days digging through quarter bins trying to find weird indy stuff from the 1980s. Like, my favorite book is one called Zooniverse – Joe, did you read that?

Keatinge: I did, because you made me.

Graham: That stuff’s not going to get collected by Fantagraphics or whoever, and I literally wouldn’t be in comics if it wasn’t for stuff like that. It’s an Australian comic that Eclipse put out in the 1980s, and was done by a guy who did character designs for Extreme Ghostbusters and Captain N: The Game Master, a bunch of stuff in animation. Stuff like that, like early Fantagraphics when they did science fiction like Matt Howarth's Particle dreams.

Keatinge: For me, I have copies of Mickey Mouse Meets the Air Pirates #1 and 2, signed.

Graham: You just got that because it was a sex comic, right?

Keatinge: Yeah. (laughs) Our friend Justin pushes them as the most important indy comics ever made and I definitely agreed, so I felt like I had to own them.

 

Seeley
: I was just looking up that Zooniverse comic. That’s weird as s***, Brandon, I don’t know what the hell you’re thinking. That’s weird-looking stuff. (laughs) I have tons of treasured comics myself, which is why I keep making them, even when it gets frustrating.

Graham: Tim, I was curious about how you’re going to relaunch Bloodstrike, because I was reading up on your interviews and the character – it’s a bunch of guys sewn together to make one new guy, right?

Seeley: Yeah, the thing with Bloodstrike is that it’s kind of messed up – and Eric (Stephenson) and Rob (Liefeld) will be the first to tell you that it’s kind of messed up. That book went through like a bunch of iterations, and didn’t get a reboot like the others did with Alan Moore on Supereme, so what was happening toward the end got pretty confusing.

I basically just took the best ideas, which were Cabot and that they were a government black ops dead superhero team, and the best stuff, which was they fought terrorists and blew stuff up and got arms blown off all the time. (laughs) I just tried to make it as clear and accessible as possible, but still acknowledging the history that I could.

Keatinge: How are you acknowledging the “Images of Tomorrow” thing where they flashed ahead to issue #25?

Seeley: (laughs) Basically, that whole thing revealed that Cabot was actually turned from a team to one guy, and then they had to go back and explain that, and then it became a book called Bloodstrike: Assassin, but that never had an ending, and then it became a book called Bloodhunter, which also didn’t have an ending. That was the Rick Veitch one.

Nrama: I remember that being announced, but I never saw it.

Seeley: One issue came out, that I know of. I looked and looked, but never found any other ones.

Graham: Did he draw it too?

 

Seeley
: Nah. He did one cover, I think. He was doing all the non-modern sequences in Supreme at that time. But anyway, instead of trying to figure out all the history until that point, it basically starts at an indeterminate point after issue #25, and kind of goes back to a previous, simple status quo that I can move forward from.

Cabot as I’m writing him is sort of like Deadpool. Rob told me as much, that Cabot, once he became Bloodstrike: Assassin, was sort of what Deadpool would have been if he’d carried him over to Image. So that’s the idea, and me coming at it kind of makes it different.

Graham: So you’re introducing like four new characters to replace the old ones, right?

Seeley: Yeah.

Graham: So let me ask: How do they find a guy with four arms?

Seeley: Oh, there’s no four-armed character. There is a character called Fourplay, but she doesn’t have four arms.

Graham: Dammit!

Seeley: Ross was kind of mad about that too, but I couldn’t wrap my head around that.

Glory #24

Keatinge
: Okay Brandon, let me ask you – are you going to acknowledge the old Prophet stuff, since your book’s set so far in the future? How’s that going to work out?

Graham: It doesn’t come into play in the first year at all, because it’s so far in the future. There’s a lot of stuff, like the Biblical stuff, because at this point humanity has basically forgotten the Bible. Humanity, for all intents and purposes, is kind of extinct, so it’ll take a while before we can get back to all that end times stuff. (laughs)

Keatinge: So how far into the future is your Prophet book from the other Extreme stuff?

Graham: I would guess ten thousand years. Maybe more.

Nrama: But it’s the same John Prophet?

Graham: No. It’s…sort of, but the guy at the beginning isn’t the same guy.

Nrama: That would explain why his hair is better.

Graham: Don’t worry, it’ll get worse. It’s kind of hard to talk about, because a lot of the big ideas that kind of encompass the whole point of what’s going on in the series don’t really come into play until like five issues into the run that I’m doing, and the first couple of issues are kind of like self-contained Conan stories to help me build up this entire line.

Nrama: The impression the previews gave me were like a New Wave SF story with a human wandering through a weird landscape, and us learning about it through the action and interaction.

Graham: Yeah, that’s definitely where I’m coming from. Because that’s what I was into as a teenager right there. A lot of what excited me and got me into comic books was like reading Heavy Metal magazine, it’s definitely that type of stuff.

Nrama: Joe, you’re doing Glory with Ross Campbell, which sounds like it has a little Heavy Metal itself, a kind of epic action fantasy thing. Ross is a great artist, but he’s better-known for doing darker, more Gothic stories. What made him right for this?

Keatinge: Yeah. Well, Ross might not be the first person people think of for a book like this, but I think he’s the perfect person for the direction we want to take it in. Even before he came on board, I wanted to make Glory look more like someone who was raised to be a weapon, who was raised to be an instrument of destruction. I don’t think if you were raised to do this over the course of 900 years, you’d look like a supermodel. I think you’d look like the way she does now.

Since Ross came on board, which was Brandon’s suggestion, everything’s just clicked on the book. And it’s really gone from what it was before into what it is now. He really realized what I was going for with Glory.

It has its influences in the early Extreme stuff as well, but when I was putting this together, I wanted to create this almost sort of fantasy epic, but filtered through superheroes, you know? So there’s a lot of influences from Lord of the Rings to Heavy Metal/Metal Hurlant stuff. Moebius is a huge influence on everything I do.

 I don’t think anyone will see it, but Hugo Pratt is in there, especially in the first issue. I like the idea of Corto Maltese and world-spanning adventures, and this is sort of where that and the Extreme book meet in the middle.

Glory #25

Graham
: Speaking of Ross and his stuff, he’s going through this period where he’s reassessing his work, really looking at how he’s approaching women. He’s actively trying not to be sexist in his own work, and talking about that a lot.

His being given this character is almost a chance to make right how DC f***ed themselves up on their relaunch and how they were really s***ty to their female readers. Ross is coming in and being able to actually be thinking about them, because he comes off as one of the creators most aware of the female reader and how female characters are being depicted in comics.

Keatinge: That’s definitely a big part of it too. I mean, character comes first before any big political statement, but I want a female lead who can break Supreme in half, because why not? That’s definitely what we’re going for here.

My goal is to make her and one of the characters in the book who I won’t name, but who appears in the first issue, into two of the biggest bad asses in comics. Their gender doesn’t really come into it for me. I don’t see why it should. It’s just about who they are.

Graham: It doesn’t hurt to point out they’re characters a teenaged girl could read about and not feel embarrassed.

Keatinge: Exactly! I wanted this to be a book that I could show to a girlfriend or my parents, and not be ashamed. I want a 13, 18, 20 year-old-girl to read this and not be embarrassed because Catwoman’s f***ing Batman or whatever. I want this to be something where it can be enjoyed by them just as much by a 13, 18, 20-year-old boy, whatever.

Next: our Extreme interview with Graham, Keatinge and Seeley concludes as they discuss the artists on their books, the new version of Bloodstrike, and ways in which this won’t be like the old Extreme.

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