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Cover to Youngblood #1. Art by Rob Liefeld.
|First appearance||First appearance Megaton: Explosion (1987) #1 (April 1992)|
|Created by||Rob Liefeld|
Youngblood is a superhero team that starred in their self-titled comic book, created by writer/artist Rob Liefeld. The team made its debut as a backup feature in the 1987 one-shot Megaton: Explosion before later appearing in 1992 in its own ongoing series as the flagship publication for Image Comics. Youngblood was originally published by Image Comics, and later by Awesome Entertainment. Upon Rob Liefeld's return to Image Comics, it was revived in 2008 and again in 2012.
Youngblood was a high-profile superteam sanctioned and overseen by the United States government. Youngblood's members include Shaft, a former FBI agent whose archer's bow uses magnets to propel arrows instead of a bow string; Badrock, a teenager transformed into a living block of stone; Vogue, a Russian fashion model with purple-and-chalk-white skin; and Chapel, a government assassin.
Origins of the Series
In interviews, Liefeld has explained that Youngblood was based partially on his 1991 plan for a new Teen Titans series for DC Comics, possibly titled "Teen Titans", to be co-written with Marv Wolfman. Wolfman has denied, on numerous occasions, any involvement with Liefeld on any project. Liefeld and managing editor Dick Giordano "couldn't make the numbers work," however, and Liefeld shifted his Teen Titans ideas into a new creator-owned project: Youngblood. It was published by the newly founded Image Comics. According to Liefeld: "Shaft was intended to be Speedy. Vogue was a new Harlequin design, Combat was a Kh'undian warrior circa the Legion of Super-Heroes, ditto for Photon and Die Hard was a Star Labs android. I forgot who Chapel was supposed to be, but I'm sure it would have rocked".
Youngblood was based on Liefeld's idea that if superheroes really did exist, they would be treated much the same way as movie stars and athletes. Throughout the series, there are numerous references to endorsement deals, TV show appearances, agents, managers and the perceived pressures of celebrity life.
Image Comics debut
With his opportunity to do Teen Titans with DC looking bleak, and a growing strained relationship with Marvel Comics over his X-Force royalties, Liefeld joined other Marvel artists to form Image Comics. Youngblood #1 was the first Image Comics publication. At the time of its release, Youngblood #1 was the highest selling independent comic book ever published despite receiving poor reviews from critics. The negative criticism led Liefeld to fire the book's co-writer. Throughout its run at Image, Youngblood was attacked by critics for what was perceived to be poor writing and inconsistent art, but mostly for being late. In the mid-1990s, Liefeld had a falling out with his Image partners, forcing him to leave the company and take Youngblood with him.
In 1993, Liefeld solicited writer Kurt Busiek for Youngblood stories. Busiek wrote detailed plots for three issues and ideas for a fourth, under the proposed title: Youngblood: Year One. This was never produced, but the plot lines were revived amid controversy years later.
In 1997, Liefeld hired Alan Moore to relaunch and revamp Youngblood. Moore's run on the title began with a miniseries entitled Judgment Day which revolved around the mysterious murder of Youngblood member Riptide, the subsequent "super-trial" of teammate Knightsabre and the all-powerful Book of All Stories which dictates the order of the universe.
Moore created a new, teenage Youngblood group that was financed independently by millionaire Waxey Doyle, formerly the WWII superhero Waxman. The team was led by Shaft and was augmented by new members Big Brother, Doc Rocket, Twilight, Suprema and Johnny Panic. Moore said he wanted Youngblood to be a "less sprawling, more dynamic team" and that: "if you have more characters than [six], the action gets cluttered and it becomes increasingly difficult to establish each character as a real and solid person in their own right". All of the new team members, and most of the villains featured in this series including Jack-A-Dandy, were Moore's creations.
However, despite Moore's plans for at least twelve issues of his new Youngblood, only three issues were ever printed, and the third issue was published in another book called Awesome Adventures. The team also appeared in a short story in the Awesome Christmas Special where Shaft's journal provides the narration as the new team comes together.
Moore's rough outline for the series was published in Alan Moore's Awesome Handbook and included a budding relationship between Big Brother and Suprema, a giant planet-devouring entity called "The Goat", Shaft's fruitless crush on Twilight, and the revelation that Johnny Panic was the biological son of Supreme villain Darius Dax. In the Handbook, Moore also reveals that he intentionally chose the team members for their connections to various points, and significant characters, in the Awesome Universe's superhero history (ex. Supreme), noting this as the case in the 1980s launch of The New Teen Titans.
In 2000, Liefeld began soliciting orders for Youngblood: Genesis, using Kurt Busiek's unused "Year One" plots. Busiek asked that he only be credited with providing the plots for this new series. He was listed as plotter on the comic book itself when it came out years later, but when Liefeld advertised the comic through Diamond Previews "as written by Kurt Busiek", Busiek accused him of not honoring their agreement, and eventually asked that his fans not buy the series.
Youngblood: Genesis officially ended after two issues, as the third and fourth issues would have used Image Comics characters for which Liefeld did not have the appropriate permissions. According to Liefeld: "I have the original issues #3 and #4 that Kurt wrote, [but] they can't be produced as is simply from the standpoint that they heavily feature prominent supporting cast members from Spawn and Wildcats, as well as Lynch from Gen¹³ and Team 7".
A number of projects were announced in 2003 including reprinting older material and providing the art for two Youngblood series. The two new comic books involved Mark Millar writing new issues of Youngblood: Bloodsport and Youngblood: Genesis written by Brandon Thomas. However, only one issue of the Youngblood: Bloodsport was published but in June 2008 Liefeld announced that issue #2 would appear in September.
In 2004, Robert Kirkman began writing a new series, Youngblood: Imperial, with artist Marat Mychaels but left after one issue due to his busy schedule. Fabian Nicieza was slated to take over, but so far issues #2–3 have yet to appear.
In 2005, Liefeld announced that Joe Casey would be re-assembling and re-scripting the original Youngblood miniseries into a more coherent and sophisticated story, to be titled Maximum Youngblood. On July 12, 2007, it was announced  that Liefeld would return to Image Comics to publish a collected "definitive version" of Maximum Youngblood with a new ending written by Joe Casey, illustrated by Liefeld himself. This was followed in January 2008 by a new ongoing series (Youngblood Volume 4) written by Casey and illustrated by Derec Donovan, with covers by Liefeld. Liefeld was slated to begin writing and art duties on Youngblood beginning in May 2009. No new issues have come out since then, with Youngblood Volume 4 ending with only nine issues.
In late 2011 it was announced that screenwriter John McLaughlin would write a revival of Youngblood with artist Jon Malin and series creator Rob Liefeld for May 2012 release, starting with Youngblood #71, as the series reverts to its original legacy numbering.
Reaction and impact
As Youngblood #1 is the comic book that introduced Image Comics, it is ranked #19 on Comic Book Resources's 2008 chronological list of the 20 Most Significant Comics. According to CBR's Steven Grant, this status is derived not so much from the comic's content, but for triggering both the 1990s speculator boom and bust, and the trend towards the creation of superhero universes among various publishers. The series, and the formation of Image itself, is credited with discouraging publishers' emphasis on their creative talent in their marketing decisions.
A number of the comic books have been collected into trade paperbacks:
- Youngblood TPB (collects Youngblood Volume 1, #1–4; 96 pages; 1993 Previews Exclusive Edition)
- Youngblood: Baptism of Fire TPB (collects Youngblood Volume 1, #6–8 and 10, Team Youngblood #9–11, and the Troll story from Image Comics Zero; Image Comics; 1996)
- Youngblood, Volume 1 (collects Youngblood Volume 1, #0–10; remastered as Maximum Edition, 168 pages, Image Comics, hardcover, December 2008, ISBN 1-58240-858-0)
- Youngblood, Volume 1: Focus Tested (collects Youngblood Volume 4, #1–4; includes introduction by Robert Kirkman, plus interviews with Joe Casey and Rob Liefeld; 104 pages, Image Comics, September 2008, ISBN 1-58240-945-5)
- Youngblood, Volume 2: Voted Off the Island (collects Youngblood Volume 4, #5–9; 128 pages, Image Comics, November 2008, ISBN 1-60706-003-5)
In other media
A half-hour Youngblood animated series was planned for the 1995–96 season on Fox as part of an hour block with a proposed Cyberforce series. The series was being developed by Roustabout Productions, a newly formed animation company. According to Nick Dubois, creative director and co-founder of Roustabout, the series would take a lighthearted approach with tongue-in-cheek humor. A clip was created but the series was never produced. The clip aired in commercials for Youngblood action figures.
- "New Blood: Joe Casey talks "Youngblood" – Comic Book Resources". Comicbookresources.com. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
- "Rob Liefeld Talks "Youngblood: Bloodsport" – Comic Book Resources". Comicbookresources.com. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
- "Gimmick or Good? – Youngblood #1". Goodcomics.com. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
- Upon Youngblood's debut, the character's name was originally "Bedrock". Liefeld would later change the character's name to "Badrock" to avoid confusion and legal threats from Hanna-Barbera, who owned the copyright to The Flintstones, which is set in the fictional town of Bedrock.
- Cronin, Brian (June 9, 2005). "Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #2!". Comic Book Resources.
- Helvie, Forrest. "Sharpening The Image: Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood, the Man and the Comic that Started It All (Part 4)". Sequart. Retrieved August 28, 2015.
- Callahan, Tim. "The Great Alan Moore Reread: Judgment Day". Tor. Retrieved August 28, 2015.
- McLauchlin, Jim (August 1997). "'Y2' Relaunches Youngblood". Wizard (72). p. 25.
- "Savant Magazine's analysis of the Busiek/Liefeld controversy". Archived from the original on 2001-02-15.
- "Kirkman & Liefeld on the Return of Youngblood". Newsarama. June 29, 2004. Archived from the original on February 1, 2009.
- "Maximum Rob – Liefeld Talks 'Old' & New Projects". Newsarama. July 11, 2005. Archived from the original on February 1, 2009.
- "Youngblood-A-Trois I: Rob Liefeld". Newsarama. July 2, 2003. Archived from the original on February 1, 2009.
- "Youngblood-A-Trois II: Mark Millar". Newsarama. July 3, 2003. Archived from the original on February 1, 2009.
- "Youngblood-A-Trois III: Brandon Thomas". Newsarama. July 4, 2003. Archived from the original on February 1, 2009.
- "Rob Liefeld Talks 'Youngblood: Bloodsport'". Comic Book Resources. June 19, 2008.
- "Liefeld: Kirkman off of Youngblood Imperial, Nicieza on". Newsarama. October 1, 2004. Archived from the original on February 1, 2009.
- "Liefeld/Image Reunite for Youngblood HC/New Series". Newsarama. July 7, 2007. Archived from the original on February 1, 2009.
- "Rob Liefeld Talks Youngblood's Return to Image". Newsarama. August 1, 2007. Archived from the original on February 1, 2009.
- "Joe Casey: Youngblood's New Blood". Newsarama. August 2, 2007. Archived from the original on February 1, 2009.
- "New Blood: Joe Casey talks Youngblood". Comic Book Resources. December 6, 2007.
- "Rob Liefeld Talks Youngblood – Comic Book Resources". Comicbookresources.com. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
- Grant, Steven (October 22, 2008). "Permanent Damage – The 20 Most Significant Comics". Comic Book Resources.
- "To the Extreme: A Conversation with Rob Liefeld". Comic Book Resources. July 30, 2001.
- "Youngblood Animated Series in the Works for Late '94". Electronic Gaming Monthly (54) (EGM Media, LLC). January 1994. p. 292.
- "Brett Ratner boards 'Youngblood'". Variety. February 8, 2009.
- Youngblood at the Comic Book DB
- Beginning of the Busiek/Liefeld controversy in response to a Previews solicitation. Rec.arts.comics.misc. August 2000.
- Discussion between Busiek and Liefeld, among others. Rec.arts.comics.misc. August 2000.
- Critical review of Youngblood #1 Heroescon 2015.