Rob Liefeld Goes Back to the Future with Youngblood HC

Youngblood Volume 1 Hardcover

Youngblood Volume 1 Hardcover, pg. 5
Youngblood Volume 1 Hardcover, pg. 5
Youngblood Hardcover, pg. 5

This week comic book readers will get a second chance …. or a first chance … or a 'rechance' to check out one of the titles that defined an era… the early-mid 1990's Image Comics era to be exact. Creator Rob Liefeld has reworked his original million-copy selling Youngblood series into a new hardcover volume, which presents a different version of issues that Liefeld originally published.

In addition to the 'remastered' pages fans have come to expect out of contemporary hardcover collections of pages from previous eras, Liefeld has also recruited writer Joe Casey to 'rescript' and 'reimagine' the original issues, as well as (along with Liefeld) create a new ending to the story.

Why should fans give Youngblood another shot? Or a first shot? Why does the story need the reworking in the first place? We chatted with Liefeld about that and much, much more…

Newsarama: Rob, we’ve spoken to both you and Joe Casey about this book previously, but it's been a while so let’s just start fresh and take this from the top.

Get yourself inside the head of [forgive me] Joe the Comic Book Reader. What sort of reaction are you hoping fans have when they see this book in their local comic shop or see it on their online retailer’s site? Why give Youngblood another chance, or a first chance now 15-ish years after its original publication?

Youngblood Hardcover Volume 1, pg. 46
Youngblood Hardcover Volume 1, pg. 46
Youngblood Hardcover, pg. 46

Rob Liefeld: The first Youngblood comics, along with the later New Mutant and early X-Force work remain some of my most exciting work. The stuff is absolutely turbo-charged, it's wall-to-wall explosion of ideas and artwork. The original issues are still the most frequent comics I sign when I'm out on the convention circuit. I mean they sold millions of copies and the fans of that period and from that time have multiple copies and hold that work and that period in high regard so it makes sense I see the original Youngblood series all the time.

Those books connected with an audience and a generation of fans adores Youngblood. But until now, the original series, the series that launched Image comics has never, ever been collected in a trade or a hardcover. If you loved that stuff and as I established, so many fans do seriously dig that work, they've never been able to put it on their bookshelves. That's pretty amazing for a series as successful as Youngblood was, especially considering that all the other original series by the Image founders have been collected and re-assembled multiple times. So for a very specific group, this is a huge treat for them. I know this because they've asked me for years when or if I was going to collect them.

Youngblood Hardcover Volume 1, pg. 47
Youngblood Hardcover Volume 1, pg. 47
Youngblood Hardcover, pg. 47

Then there's the uninitiated or the unfamiliar, and this collection has been completely re-mastered in that the entire layout of the mini-series has been re-arranged as well as re-scripted by Joe Casey. This reads as an original graphic novel more than a re-printing of existing work. Seriously, I can't express how much Joe tweaked things in terms of layout and script.

For instance, the new hardcover begins with the opening of Youngblood #2 which [Joe] uses as a prologue for the entire tale-and it works effortlessly, setting the table better than could have been imagined. He re-paced the story, mixing sequences and drawing them together. Shaft has a much stronger narrative throughout the story, his reluctance with the program and his role in it, which was hinted at in the original mini-series is much more prominent.

Casey does the same for Die-Hard and several others. And then there's Joe's script and his great dialogue, it's really a fun read and plays as more satisfying introduction to these characters than anything I've done before. The script was a big weakness the first time out, now that has been eliminated completely. Despite the cracklin' layouts and bold figures and the barely contained excitement, the writing was unfocused and the coloring was groundbreaking for its time but is seriously dated in retrospect. Now both elements - script and color are state of the art.

Youngblood Hardcover Volume 1, pg. 57
Youngblood Hardcover Volume 1, pg. 57
Youngblood Hardcover, pg. 57

I think the book stands up to every super-team book available today. It's big, bold, powerful, and colorful. I was in the zone on these books. The Youngblood Hardcover looks like the books Marvel does best with right now, the old school Image-styled books like Hulk by Ed McGuinness or Ultimatum by [David] Finch filled with big splashy images as well as tons of cool character stuff. This has cross-over appeal all over again.

NRAMA: In preparation for this interview, I checked out the solicitation for the book on the Image Comics website. The copy is brief and sort of assumes potential readers have a working knowledge of what Youngblood is? Does this reflect an assumption about who might be checking this out?

R: The Youngblood Hardcover plays like the perfect introduction to the characters and the concept. Five issues, 120 pages of story and art featuring an exciting cast of characters and villains.

NRAMA: Okay, well on that note, you want to give potential new readers a little more info then?

RL" Youngblood is about a government sponsored team of superheroes who have become both a weapon in the United States arsenal as well as a media sensation. The cast of characters features an eclectic cast of heroes, some reluctant, other who embrace their status. They unite against a common foe and make new alliances along the way.

Youngblood Hardcover Volume 1, pg. 69
Youngblood Hardcover Volume 1, pg. 69
Youngblood Hardcover, pg. 69

Prophet was introduced in the pages of Youngblood #2 and he has a prominent role in the story. The Four, Strongarm, Gage, Deadlock, Showdown, The Disciples, Darkthornn, The Berzerkers, Cross, Psi-Storm, Wildmane, Greylore, and Kirby all make their debut in these pages alongside the original Youngblood home and away teams featuring Shaft, Die-Hard, Vogue, Badrock, Chapel, Cougar, Combat, Sentinel, Psi-Fire, Riptide, and Brahma. It's chock full of fun. Those who try it will not regret it. I highly recommend giving it to younger fans as well, they will dig it.

NRAMA: Rob, you've been pretty upfront in regards to your admissions about the original’s shortcomings from a storytelling standpoint. Now with a lifetime of distance between then and now, can you give fans some insight into your thinking back during its original release?

RL: First and foremost, as I looked over the collection, the thing that hits me is that this was the work of a hyper-active 22 year old. Twenty-two years old!. Crap, I was a prolific little s**t. I mean between X-Force, Cable, Deadpool, Youngblood ...what was I drinking, y'know? The stylistic stuff, the skinny ankles, the cross-hatching, none of that gets in the way, it's all part of the evolution.

Back then, I was thinking I need to make the most kick-ass high octane in your face comic books. Period. That's what transformed New Mutants from a sissy book that sold 100,000 copies to the last three issues which all approached and then achieved one million sales. New Mutants sold 1 million copies, four printings, no damn gimmicks, opening the way for X-Force and later Youngblood. So I was locked into a style of comics that has served and continues to serve me well years later.

NRAMA: I guess what I'm trying to get at is - was the twenty-two year old Rob Liefeld happy/satisfied with the quality of the work you turned out originally, or did you have private reservations even back then?

Youngblood Hardcover Volume 1, pg. 105
Youngblood Hardcover Volume 1, pg. 105
Youngblood Hardcover, pg. 105

RL:I loved the pages, the art, the layouts, the pacing but I knew I dropped the ball with the script on issue #1 as soon as I sent it to the printer. By then I had already screwed up the schedule so bad that I had to get it out. But that really kicked my ass. Up until that point, from Hawk & Dove to New Mutants and then X-Force, I was known as everything from a "young prodigy" to a "genius" with all the success I had carved out. Overnight I became an idiot in the eyes of many. With Youngblood #1 I gave dissenters a voice and I have only myself to blame. That's the day haters revealed themselves and I've enjoyed their presence ever since. Thankfully it didn't dent sales over the next three years as everything from Team Youngblood to Youngblood Strikefile launched at a million copies each.

NRAMA: That all said, if you had to do it all over again, is there anything you’d do differently, either in regards to the release of the original series or the early Image Comics days?

RL: Produce more comics that I drew, less comics that I didn't draw. People thought I was drawing everything when it was my young interns who were clearly identified and credited, but to retailers and new fans, it was a Liefeld book from Image and the expectations were greater than anticipated. People wanted books drawn by me, I should have obliged and pulled back a little on the other titles. The stuff I drew suceeded, the other stuff performed well but was saddled with disappointment because it should have been me. No knock on Marat Mychaels and Brian Murray in any way but they were fresh newbies being fed into a machine that was more formidable than we anticipated and people wanted the real deal. I mean when Brigade and Supreme were ordered at one million copies, I was a little staggered. We had created unrealistic expectations.

Youngblood Hardcover Volume 1, pg. 109
Youngblood Hardcover Volume 1, pg. 109
Youngblood Hardcover, pg. 109

NRAMA: What has Joe Casey done the best job of in terms of updating or fixing the original, whichever term you feel is appropriate?

RL: It all sounds and feels relevant. It isn't dated in the least and in fact matches up with everything he's doing on the six issues of the new series thus far.

NRAMA: Can you say definitely that this is the last time you’ll want to update Youngblood, or do you have a little George Lucas in you, always seeing something new you’d like to change or tweak?

RL: Careful, there's still the five un-used pages from issue #1 that show the actual fight in the streets between the Four and Youngblood. It will eventually see the light of day. Maybe the trade or the Absolute Edition that collects the first 10 issues. Also, there's the Youngblood Strikefile artwork I just pulled out of the drawer that's dying to be re-colored! Not a joke.

NRAMA: Switching gears, given the success of comic book movies in Hollywood, are there any thoughts on your part as to Youngblood having another life on the big screen or on TV? Has there been interest or are you anticipating any?

RL: When I can announce the deals and their progression I will call you first. Right now, I'm on gag order.

Youngblood Hardcover Volume 1, pg. 129
Youngblood Hardcover Volume 1, pg. 129
Youngblood Hardcover, pg. 129

NRAMA: Finally Rob, can you give you fans an update on what other work you have coming up in the foreseeable future, and maybe some hints or ideas as to things you want to do in the next few years?

RL: I'm going to jump on the Youngblood series with Casey for an upcoming arc. Armageddon Now: World War 3 ships in a few weeks from Image and Killraven is waiting at Marvel.

And there's that massive game-changing event we call Image United … look out, seriously … you just saw what two Image founders achieved together with Spawn #185 … just wait until you see the pages all six of us are producing!

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