25 years ago Youngblood changed the world of comics forever.
Although their fortunes have waxed and waned since that debut issue in the summer of 1992 heroes like Badrock, Shaft, Vogue and Diehard have remained part of the language and landscape of comics since then.
After a few years in the wilderness Youngblood is back in time for the Image Comics Silver Jubilee brought to you by Chad (X Men 92, Deadpool Bad Blood, SwordQuest) Bowers and Jim Towe.
We spoke to Chad about working with Liefeld, his love of the EXTREME Universe and his plan to bring Youngblood into the 21st Century.
AC: You’ve got the Youngblood relaunch and the Deadpool OGN: Bad Blood landing in comic book stores in the next couple of weeks. Good timing or just coincidence?
CHAD: Can it be both?
AC: Which project came first Youngblood or Deadpool?
CHAD: Deadpool: Bad Blood – the OGN I’m doing with Rob Liefeld and my X-Men ’92 co-writer Chris Sims – definitely came first. Obviously, X-Men ’92 was our big love letter to the 90s, and while Chris and I were working on the book, I made my love for all things Liefeld well known. Which ended up being a very good thing, because Marvel came to us just a few month later and asked if we’d like to work with Rob on a Deadpool book.
Rob and I ended up talking quite a bit over the next couple months, and I feel like he noticed right away how passionate I was about the Extreme Universe and Youngblood in particular. He called me up one day, and asked if I wanted to read his script for what would’ve been the Youngblood feature film, and of course I said YES! That got us talking, and Rob asked me what I’d do with Youngblood if I ever had the chance, and I guess I said something right because here we are!
AC: I believe this is your first writing project without your partner in crime and tag team co-champion Chris Sims, is that correct?
CHAD: My first without Chris in a few years, yeah. Like most of us, I started out writing comics as a solo act way back when. I did a few self-published things, and some small press work before partnering with Chris on our first collaboration, The Hard Ones!
AC: Does your approach to writing change when working solo as opposed to working collaboratively?
CHAD: Most definitely. With Chris, my first drafts of anything are usually written to him, and built around the idea of him picking up where I leave off and running with the story. And the finished script of things we write together are always much tighter than what I write on my own, because we’re writing for an editor and a team of people.
With Youngblood, though, I tend to write pretty loose, and give Jim plenty of room to show off what he can do. I think both of us enjoy ad-libbing anyway, and as long as we’re heading in the same direction by the end of the issue, I feel like we’re pretty happy to let the other explore the story more fluidly. It’s a very different working experience, but no less collaborative.
AC: How did Jim come to be the artist on the project?
CHAD: Jim’s been working in and around comics for a few years now, primarily doing his own stuff, including a really impressive webcomic called Silver Plague. As sort of an artistic exercise, Jim did these really awesome modern redesigns of the classic Youngblood team and tagged Rob in a post on Twitter. That ended up being all it took! Rob immediately fell in love with his work, and recruited him to be part of the new Youngblood team. And it’s a thrill having Jim as my partner on this book, no doubt. He’s fantastic, and the level of energy and excitement he brings to the page is just unreal! Jim’s a superstar talent in the making, and I feel extraordinarily lucky to be working with him on Youngblood!
AC: The last relaunch of the Liefeld Universe back in 2012 brought us such great books as Brandon Graham’s Prophet, Supreme: Blue Rose from Warren Ellis and Tula Lotay and Glory by Joe Keatinge and Sophie Campbell. How do you hope yours and Jim Towe’s take on Youngblood will compare to those books?
CHAD: I hope readers enjoy what we do as much as I love those titles! And you missed Tim Seeley and Francesco Gaston’s Bloodstrike, and Erik Larsen and Cory Hamscher’s Supreme – those two titles rounded out the 2012 Extreme relaunch. And I think those get looked over occasionally because they didn’t quite stray as far from the original premise as Prophet and Glory, but I’d be lying if I didn’t give credit to those books for also inspiring some of things I’m trying to do with Youngblood.
AC: I think this is the 5th or 6th Youngblood ongoing title, not counting the mini series and spin offs. Did you do a lot of research while preparing for your take on these characters?
CHAD: I did, yeah. I raided every dollar box I could, and read through about every Extreme-related property from 1992 to present. From the very first issue of Youngblood to the last issue of Prophet: Earth War. And I did it less for the character stuff, as I already had a pretty good feel for who these guys were and are, having grown up with them, but more to experience the interconnectivity of the Extreme U, and just to get a better feel for how it’s changed and grown over the last 25 years.
AC: How do you take a group of characters so intrinsically linked to the Extreme era of the 90s (pun intended) and make them fresh and relevant in 2017?
CHAD: The great thing about Youngblood never having really gone away (at least not for too long), is that plenty of other gifted creators have had a hand in keeping these guys relevant long before I stepped up to the plate. So it’s not like Shaft and Badrock haven’t been seen for twenty five years. It’s not so much a case of the characters needing an update as it is an updating of the audience’s expectations of the property, maybe? Like most comics franchises, Youngblood has had its share of downs, so working against those preconceived notions is a lot harder than making the book a good read.
AC: From what we’ve seen the cast for this book will include Shaft, Vogue, Suprema, Badrock, Diehard, Doc Rocket and Sentinel. Did you get to pick that team or did Rob pick the lineup for you?
CHAD: We came up with the team. And you’ll notice, it’s basically the same cast (plus Badrock) seen in the now famous Jim Towe Twitter post that landed him the gig. It’s weird how things work out. Before Jim and I ever talked, or I’d even seen his work, I was working on a team almost identical to the guys he’d redesigned. Mine had a few new characters (which you’ll be seeing down the road), but the only core Youngblood member we swapped out was Twilight, the Girl Marvel. Doc Rocket just ended up being an all-around better fit for what we wanted to do. Plus, Rob killed Twilight over in Bloodstrike, which made the decision even easier.
AC: Will your series carry over any of the continuity of the previous incarnations of the team or is this a full on reboot?
CHAD: Everything that’s come before counts! This isn’t a reboot, but the latest chapter in the ongoing saga of Youngblood!
AC: How hands on has Rob Liefeld been with you and Jim?
CHAD: Outside of putting the team together, and coordinating with Image, Rob’s totally hands off. One of this first things he told me when we started this project, was “I let you do your thing; I let writers right, and artists draw”, and that’s been the way of things since the very beginning.
AC: Which character(s) have been your favourite to write so far?
CHAD: I go back and forth between Diehard and Vogue. The dichotomy of those two is very much the heart of the story, I think. Diehard literally embodies the old school superhero aesthetic, while Vogue is the spirited face of the newbies, and writing them certainly requires me to stretch all kind of different muscles when they’re on the page, but they’re a joy to write and I can’t wait to have them face off!
Youngblood 2017 is a Day One Sellout! If you can’t find a copy at your LCS you can still check it out digitally or wait until the second printing hits the stands. If that’s still not enough you can follow Chad and Jim on Twitter for plenty of Extreme Updates.