After the critically acclaimed return of Glory and Prophet earlier this year, creator Rob Liefeld is looking to bring back his biggest creator-owned creation yet: Youngblood. In keeping with the spirit of the title’s name , Rob Liefeld has enlisted movie screenwriter and comics newcomer John McLaughlin (Black Swan) to redefine Shaft and his team for the modern age. And bucking the trend of re-launching with a new #1, it all begins in May as they resume the title’s long-running numbering with Youngblood #71.Mixing super-heroics with the celebrity phenomenon, Youngblood has been a captivating read (with its fair share of critics) in its twenty year legacy. Writer John McLaughlin follows a daunting who’s who of writers who’ve worked on the book in the past including everyone from Alan Moore to Robert Kirkman and Mark Millar, but the Hollywood writer has an outside-the-box approach to rejuvenate the title without losing what’s made the book unique.
Newsarama spoke with McLaughlin about this high stakes assignment, covering everything from Shaft and Badrock to talk of Bertrand Russell and The Hustler. Read on to see how it all fits together.
Newsarama: Let’s get right to it, John. What do you have planned for Youngblood?
John McLaughlin: I'm trying to slide the loyal readers back into the Youngblood world while making it accessible for first time readers. I've tried to capture the feeling of the original Youngblood launch where every issue brought us into a new world or introduced a new threat. I hope it's exciting.Nrama: Youngblood is known for its wide-ranging cast of characters, but who did you narrow it down to for this first story and how?
McLaughlin: I wanted to start small with a team of five--Cougar, Vogue, Die Hard, Photon and Shaft. And Badrock is also featured but having his own troubles. I tried to include some new characters, too, which will help us back into the world by being there to say, "Hey, can someone tell me what the hell is going on?"
Nrama: I’ve read that you came to meet Rob Liefeld through your mutual friend, Scott Lobdell. How’d that initial conversation go, if you can remember?
McLaughlin: I've only ever had phone conversations with Rob, but he's a great guy and an outstanding talent. His energy is fantastic, and I don't want to do anything that will hurt his amazing vision of this world. Scott is an old friend with whom I've worked many times on a number of different projects. He was actually going to do this series, but he had other work and drafted me to take his place. He told me it would be easy. It is hard. Scott Lobdell is a liar!Nrama: But you’re still here, so you must be enjoying it!
You’re writing Youngblood and attempting to revive it for a modern audience, while at the same time working alongside its creator Rob Liefeld who is both drawing and supervising the book. How’s your working relationship with Rob work for this?
McLaughlin: Rob has been amazing, supportive and very patient. As you may or may not know-- I don't know what I'm doing, but Rob has guided the hell out of me.
Nrama: Your work on Black Swan has showed us how you can handle both nuance and some threatening imagery, so what do you think Youngblood has going for it that will grab people with the first issue?
McLaughlin: I'm hoping the characters and the way they not only deal with being superheroes, but being famous will resonate with modern readers. We live in a time when so many people become so famous so quickly – there's a YouTube clip, about eight seconds, I've watched a hundred times of a kid running straight into a wall and falling down. Why should that kid be more famous than, say, Bertrand Russell? I don't know, but that kid running into the wall sure is funny. What have you ever done for me lately, Bertrand Russell? Hmm?Nrama: This is a big time debut for anyone in comics, so can you tell us your background in comics both in reading and thoughts about doing it before?
McLaughlin: I never read comics as a kid. I don't like to touch paper. Scott used to give me comics all the time. I didn't read them. I don't like to touch paper. But I did go back and read all the Youngblood issuess, so I'd be familiar with the world. Perhaps it will be a good thing that I haven't been swayed by the history of comics. Perhaps it will be very, very bad... which should at least please the angriest and snarkiest readers!
Nrama: Let’s see what the comics readers have to say on that one.Without a comics background, it makes your inclusion in this all the more interesting. Your career really kicked into overdrive once Black Swan came out; you’ve got two movies in production, as well as a TV series. What’s it like for you being so busy and jumping into comics at the same time?
McLaughlin: It's pretty difficult with all the stuff I'm doing – I feel like I'm losing my mind sometimes. I'm very experienced at writing a movie script, but writing a comic is a whole different animal. I'm reminded of the scene in The Hustler where Eddie goes to play the southern gentleman and gets to his house and it's a billiard table, not a pool table. It should be the same game, but it's different-- and he spends all night trying to catch up. That's how I feel – except Eddie finally figures it out and cleans the guy out – I don't really feel like I've reached that point yet. I'm still shooting pool on a billiard table.