Chad Bowers and Jim Towe's Youngblood has been reinventing some of the core characters and concepts created by Rob Liefeld, Alan Moore, and others over the years in the Extreme Universe, and in last week's Youngblood #4 they debuted new versions of both Supreme and Youngblood.
They join an already startling new era for Youngblood featuring Diehard as the President of the United States and Shaft once again on the run.
With Youngblood #4 on stands a week now and #5 due out September 20, Newsarama talked with Bowers and Towe about the events of the most recent issue and what's to come down the line.
Newsarama: Chad, there were several returns in last week’s Youngblood #4 - or rather, returns of old names, but new faces: Supreme and Chapel. Let's talk about Supreme first. Can you fill us in on the backstory of Suprema before we get into the events of this issue?
Chad Bowers: Absolutely! So Suprema - or rather, the hero formerly known as - is the kid sister of the Extreme Universe’s most powerful man, Supreme. Like him, she gained superhuman abilities at a young age, including flight, super strength, speed, and invulnerability after being exposed to a strange meteor made of Supremium. She spent her adolescence saving the world, until she was abducted by a living galaxy, who kept her locked away for some forty years. Supreme eventually remembered he had a sister (it's complicated), rescued her, and brought her home, where soon after, she joined the second iteration of Youngblood!
Fast forward a few years to the present, and the problem is she's the only one that remembers any of that stuff, and even she's not 100% if it’s real. What she does know, however, is that she no longer answers to the name “Suprema”… now she's Supreme.
In Youngblood #4, we reveal she's been doing her best to keep a low profile in her hometown of Littlehaven, but she can't help but stand out. Hearing of her exploits through the superhero grapevine, Vogue reaches out to Supreme, and offers her a spot on the new team as its resident powerhouse. She accepts, believing Youngblood’s mission to find a missing person overlaps with her own goals of finding some answers about her past.
Nrama: Jim, let's bring you in here. Any sneak peeks or things you can say about your plans for a new costume for this new Supreme?
Jim Towe: Since her outfit got wrecked in Youngblood #2, she's been running around in old, oversized Youngblood handy-me-down gear. I found the costumes to be a perfect place to inject a little bit of realism into our story. Superhero comics have a weird habit of rarely changing their heroes' looks. I'd find it hard to believe that anyone in our cast has a closet full of duplicate outfits! There's actually a handful of Supreme designs sketched out already - expect to see multiple cool looks for her in the future!
Nrama: This issue hints that Suprema saw a vision of the original Supreme, and he bequeathed the mantle of Supreme to her. Where is the original Supreme in all this?
Bowers: Supreme’s predecessor has been erased from existence along with every other iteration of Supreme since or before him.
Nrama: It also mentions the Supremacy, an old Alan Moore concept of a pantheon of Supremes from other dimensions. Is this one and the same?
Bowers: What we showed you in Youngblood #4 has a lot in common with Moore's Supremacy, but I'm not sure I'd call it “one and the same.” Not anymore.
But the Supremacy is maybe Moore’s greatest contribution to the Extreme U. An otherworldly retirement community for Supremes who've been replaced with newer, more era appropriate revisions of themselves - it's genuinely one of the best ideas in comics! I think what I love most about the Supremacy is that's it's not populated but sad old Supremes who've lost their powers, but rather those who acknowledge they've outlived their effectiveness, and realize it's time to move on. Supreme’s never been just one man, but instead, it's this living, breathing concept, ever changing and evolving, to better stand against whatever’s threatening reality. The universe always knows what kind of Supreme it needs, and this time it’s a woman.
Nrama: Seeing Supreme glide down in this town, I couldn't help but be reminded also of Joe Keatinge and Sophie Campbell's Glory run. Is that just me?
Bowers: That's a huge compliment. Jim and I are both fans of Sophie and Joe’s Glory, and while I don't think either of us meant Supreme’s big moment as an intentional nod, I'll absolutely take it!
Nrama: Also here at the end we have the return of Chapel - this time as a name for a duo. What can you tell us about them?
Bowers: They're cool as hell, right? Jim did such an amazing job on these ladies. So yeah, we’ve got one name, and two characters. Like the new Vogue, Chapel have pinched the name of an OG Youngblood, and are working it to their own weird purposes. Beyond that, I can say you'll be seeing more the girls next issue, in Youngblood #5, but I don't want to give too much away of what they're up to. On the surface, they're guns for hire, but they both have a connection to and an unhealthy obsession with the original Youngblood team, and they'll play a big role in the life of at least one of our cast members down the road. Maybe more.
Nrama: Jim, can you tell us how you came up with their look from that final page?
Towe: The whole Chapel thing started off as a random doodle in between pages last year. I was playing around with the idea of modernizing Chapel - for instance, swapping out the skull face paint for a mask/visor thing. One of the staples in Rob's characters is that "commando" look everyone has, which was exactly what I wanted to capture in the Chapel redesign. Chad loved the look, and there was a perfect spot to put this new Chapel into our first arc, so we went for it!
Nrama: The original Chapel was tied in deep with the original Spawn, Al Simmons. But where is he now?
Bowers: The Youngblood series before ours ended on a cliffhanger with Chapel in a pretty dark place. Rob wrote those issues, and was really diving deep into some of the stuff related to Chapel’s history and his connections to Hell, which I thought was pretty interesting. But that was Rob’s, and John McLaughlin’s story to finish, not mine. That's one of the reasons our Youngblood takes a little leap forward in time. We felt like it was kind of the only way to get new readers and fans of the classic series on equal footing, and I think it's worked out, for the most part. And while we definitely have plans to explore some of the things that happened off panel during those missing years, there's still more than enough room for a lot of untold tales to take place in that gap if Rob wants to wrap up Chapel’s story one day.
Nrama: OK, for those that may have not read the first issues of this series, can you give us a rundown of what's going on - especially President Diehard?
Bowers: Our story takes place a few years after Youngblood is attacked, and its worst secrets exposed by a hacktivist group called the Bloodstream. The team’s disbanded, and its members forced into retirement with strict orders to stay out of the limelight. The United States wants the world to forget about Youngblood, a sentiment shared by the newly elected President Diehard - a former Youngblood member who couldn’t stay out of the limelight if he tried, and who overcame the nation’s distrust with nearly a century of service to his country.
In the absence of Youngblood, a self-protection app called HELP! has taken the world by storm! Heroes who might’ve been on deck to join Youngblood just years before, now have an even better outlet for their exploits thanks to HELP!.
In our first issue, a popular young HELP! user vanishes, and after his friend’s efforts to find him result in a dead end, she decides to use the world’s sort of morbid fascination with Youngblood to her advantage, and forms her own team to get some attention for her missing friend. Unfortunately, not everybody is happy about her plan, and it’s not long before the new Youngblood find themselves dealing with some of the old team’s leftovers.
Nrama: Big picture, what are you two’s goals for this series?
Bowers: Jim and I want this book to be the best Youngblood’s ever been. I’m a firm believer that stories need to have change and consequences, and when it’s over, characters need to be in a different place from where they started. With Youngblood, we have this incredible opportunity here to tell the kind of epics we’d never be allowed to do in some other pre-existing superhero books, so we’re leaning into that notion hard!
Towe: It's been great! Youngblood's been a perfect mix of the creative freedom you have with a creator-owned book, while also having a great toy chest of existing characters to play with and explore. That's a very rare thing in comics. On top of that, Chad's been a fantastic writer to collaborate with - couldn't be luckier!
Nrama: And what can readers look forward to next with Youngblood #5?
Bowers: With #5, all the cards are on the table! Everything we’ve been building to comes to a head. When it’s over, you’ll know who’s behind the missing HELP!ers, and you’ll have an answer to the question, “Hey, who would win in a fight between Diehard and Shaft?”