This week marks the release of the second issue of the six-part Image United miniseries (Click here for our exclusive preview), which brings back six of the Image Comics’ founders to tell an epic story featuring the characters that made the publisher what it is today. These superhero characters are brought back together when one of their own turns bad, as Todd McFarlane’s original incarnation of Spawn – Al Simmons – returns from the dead as the power-corrupted Omega Spawn. The first issue received considerable buzz for the reunion of these six creators – Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Marc Silvestri, Erik Larsen, Jim Valentino and Whilce Portacio – while also keeping an eye on the future with the inclusion of newly minted Image partner Robert Kirkman, who has become a key writer with his creator-owned books Invincible and Walking Dead.
In this second issue of Image United, the story goes more in-depth on the action seen in the first, with more on the return of original Spawn, as well as a over-arching view at things happening across the Image U with some unlikely appearances. The unique assemblage of each creator drawing their characters in an overlapping design brings together six dynamic and distinctive styles, all tied together with the cohesive writing of Kirkman.
Besides the lead feature, a component of each issue of Image United is a unique back-up feature. In each of these issues, the Image founders take turns not only drawing the story but also contributing a back-up story. Issue #1 saw a preview of Todd McFarlane and Robert Kirkman’s Haunt, And now in Image United #2, Image hosts the return of a team from it’s past: Bloodstrike. Created by Rob Liefeld, it was a spin-off of his popular Youngblood title and featured a black ops team comprised of re-animated, resurrected heroes and villains.
It was Liefeld that in many ways heralded the future of Image back in 1992, as his comic Youngblood was the publisher’s first title out of the gate. It was a continuation, stylistically, of the star-making work Liefeld had been doing at Marvel with the New Mutants and X-Force titles, with exaggerated anatomy and kinetic poses. Although Liefeld left Image several years later on bad terms with his fellow founders, he rejoined the group in 2007 and brought back Youngblood.
Newsarama talked to Liefeld about Image United, as well as the return of the resurrected heroes of Bloodstrike.
Newsarama: Let’s start with an easy one, Rob. What’s on your drawing board today?
Rob Liefeld: I'm currently working on a combination of Deadpool pages and Image United pages.Nrama: How far are you ahead on drawing your portion of Image United?
Liefeld: I'm in the middle of my batch of 10 pages from Image United #3. Specifically I'm inking some Valentino Shadowhawk figures and drawing members of Youngblood battling a legion of villains.Nrama: In the today-released second issue of Image United, we see further development on the Youngblood side – including a budding romance between Die-Hard and Vogue. As two original members of the team, has this been in the works – or in your mind, at least – for awhile?
Liefeld: Yes, it's a return to an older storyline that reveals that the romance between Die-Hard and Vogue has never died. It's another example of this, the biggest company cross-over Image has ever produced, affecting the continuity of existing titles.Nrama: I must have missed those Youngblood back issues where it was originally teased. Speaking of other developments, also in this issue is the return of Chapel, who shares a deep connection with the now evil Al Simmons – Omega Spawn; he was the one who killed him, way back when.. That original connection was one of the earliest big crossovers from different creators’ books back in the old Image days. Does that connection they share play into Chapel’s return?
Liefeld: Yes it will have an affect in both the pages of Image United as well as Youngblood going forward. Lots of old connections being rekindled.Nrama: Robert Kirkman’s listed as the writer of Image United, but you’ve done a lot – and these are your characters. What kind of input did you have with the story of Image United?
Liefeld: I had no input other than answering some of Robert Kirkman's inquiries as to the status of the different Youngblood characters. As we all know, Kirkman is accomplished and so knowledgeable of Image continuity that we gave him free reign with the story. He's produced an energetic little yarn with Image United. Lots of good excitement and buzz following that first issue!
Nrama: And you know a lot about buzz, Rob. Moving forward, I’m excited to see the news of you bringing back Bloodstrike as a back-up of Image United #2. You’ve got a lot of characters in your history – why’d you pick Bloodstrike?
Liefeld: Well, first off, I'd been developing a new take on Bloodstrike over the last year and when the script came in for issue #2 and Robert had Bloodstrike in Image United blasting at Tremor, I was like, yep, this is the time and the place. Given that each Image founder is provided a back up feature, I thought it appropriate to run the back up in the same issue that Bloodstrike reappears in the feature story for the first time in over a decade.Nrama Flipping through the issue, I see a shift in the line-up. Last we saw Bloodstrike it had gone from a team to a solo book with Cabbot Stone becoming the titular character. What led to this shake-up in the group?
Liefeld: As I mentioned, I wanted to jump start Bloodstrike so I gave a short story to Marat Mychaels, my long time collaborator on all things Extreme Studios, and a superb penciller, and he illustrated it. I wanted to combine both the team and the assassin concept, you'll see we address the concept of two Cabbot's early on. I wanted to expand the ranks of Bloodstrike's membership to include other cast-off's from Extreme's history to include Youngblood members Troll and Combat as well as former New Men, Byrd and Kodiak and Lethal from Brigade alongside Bloodstrike regulars Deadlock and Fourplay. The core of assassins and soldiers in service to Bloodstrike will continue to expand and grow. After the pencil art was turned in, I looped in our fantastic digital painter from our Armageddon series, Mike Capprotti and he did a fantastic job fully painting and rendering over Marat's pencils.Nrama: Yes, you’ve assembled quite a roster of talent on your books from past and present. Talking more about the core tenants of this book, I have to ask about Project: Born Again. Project: Born Again, which brought back Youngblood’s Die-Hard, has always been a big part of Bloodstrike – at one point resurrecting all the original team more than once. Does that still play a big role here?
Liefeld: Definitely yes, Project: Born Again is the back bone of Bloodstrike and it goes beyond resurrecting soldiers as you'll see in the short story. A forced, zombie-ish immortality is part and parcel of Bloodtsrike's existence.Nrama: Just like there’s new members of the comic team, there’s also new members of the creative team – you’ve got Mark Pouton scripting and art from Marat Mychaels, Jeremy Roberts & Mike Capprotti. How’s you get this team together – you told us a bit, but I want to know more?
Liefeld: Yes, I wrote the story, handed it to Marat and started scripting the story, got overwhelmed in deadlines and called Mark Poulton who is a long tenured member of my message boards and has showcased his work for Arcana the last 5 years on books as diverse as Koni Waves and Velvet Rope. He has a great passion for the Extreme Library as well, he was a natural choice and he did a great job polishing and completing the assignment.Nrama: Before I let you off the hook, one more question: any more appearances for Bloodstrike planned– in future back-ups, or in their own series?
Liefled: Yes, I am huddled with Karl Alstaetter ,the long-running artist on Bloodstrike; he really made the book his own, and we are planning a new mini-series that brings the characters back to the fore.