The pop culture landscape is in the middle of a full-on multimedia 90s resurrection, between the return of Liquid Television online and bands like Bush dropping new records. And, of course, comics aren’t immune to current trends. Announced today at New York Comic Con, Image Comics announced that Rob Liefeld is returning Extreme Studios to active status!
The former home of books like “Youngblood,” “Glory” and “Supreme,” Extreme originated as the Image founder’s personal imprint, but soon morphed into its own endeavor when he split from his partners in 1996. During it’s first run, Extreme published fan-favorite titles like Alan Moore’s “Youngblood” and Moore’s extensive and beloved run on “Supreme.”
Liefeld has re-teamed with Image’s Eric Stephenson, who led the editorial team for Extreme back in the day, to oversee the return of these characters, and in many cases the series themselves, to the world of comics. CBR News spoke with Liefeld about the Awesome characters joining the recently relaunched “Avengelyne” as well as why each creator made so much sense for their specific project.
CBR News: Rob, earlier this year you oversaw the relaunch of “Avengelyne,” and now we’re hearing about the return of the whole line of Extreme Studios — why is “today” the right time for this?
Rob Liefeld: The timing has everything to do with the right talent coming together at the right time. With “Avengelyne,” Mark Poulton dropped a fantastic pitch in my lap accompanied with outstanding art by Owen Gieni. Similarly, the Extreme catalogue of characters has been patiently standing on the sidelines waiting for creators of this caliber to emerge and make great comics with them.
How did you decide to bring the Extreme books back to Image Comics?
Eric Stephenson huddled with me almost two years ago to secure this entire project. To be honest, there were several publishers that had aggressively courted this catalogue, but in the end, my ties with Eric were too strong to sever. For those unfamiliar with Extreme Studios, Eric Stephenson ran editorial for me for six years. His smarts and enthusiasm and instincts are best suited for this line of books. Eric, myself and Matt Hawkins, who went on to run Top Cow, were the publishing team for all the Extreme books. Those were great times and we created books that grabbed the attention of a rabid and loyal fan base. Those same fans have been requesting a re-launch of these characters for a dozen years. But without the proper talent, there was no purpose in pursuing it. I was content to let the titles sit until the right window presented itself.
Eric presented an aggressive publishing plan, we went back and forth and by early 2012, we had commissioned all the various teams to begin work on the Extreme launch. Seriously, this could not have worked out better and we have a great combination of established superstars and up and coming talent that are shaping these new books. Eric has maintained a firm hand as far as deadlines go and we are ready to rock the comic racks with this first wave of new titles! It’s been a long time coming. I’m confident we have the right teams.
Will you be continuing the numbering from previous volumes or start with brand new #1s?
Prepare for “Youngblood” #71, “Supreme” #57 and so on. There will be some Giant-Sized #1s later on. I love annuals! But we are going against the grain here, we are definitely extending the runs of each title. In some cases we are compiling the body of work from each run, including miniseries’ and including them as far as numbering goes. When we release many of these digitally, we will factor some of the miniseries’ and such as part of the new numbering. So a Youngblood mini becomes issues 30-45 instead of 1-15.
Let’s run down the list of titles, what it was about each series that made you want to bring it back and how you chose the creators.
On “Prophet,” you’ve got Brandon Graham writing and Simon Roy on art. What stood out for you in their pitch?
I was a fan of Brandon Graham and his work on “King City,” and his outline for “Prophet” was fantastic. “Prophet” from the outset will appear to be the biggest departure from the original look and feel of the “Prophet” that myself and Stephen Platt made popular, but it’s no less amazing. The storytelling of Graham and Simon Roy is staggering. You can read the book without any word balloons and follow the story effortlessly. The look of the book is reminiscent of Moebius and Geoff Darrow — it’s a gorgeous, European-style graphic novel. Don’t sleep on this book. In the original “Prophet” series, John Prophet was awakened from cryo-sleep in a sarcophagus and had to deal with the reality of a brave new world. This new series finds John Prophet awakened from cryo-sleep in a brave new world where he has to deal with a much harsher reality than anything he faced in the original series. There are some massive spoilers and twists that I can’t reveal, but these guys have attacked this series and it’s easily my favorite of the bunch!
Extreme’s resident female powerhouse, Glory, will have her own book once more, this time featuring a story by Joe Keatinge and artwork by Ross Campbell — how did you decide on that team?
Joe Keatinge left Image as its longtime PR director to pursue a full time writing career. Many folks know him from the acclaimed “Popgun” anthology, and he brings his great taste and talent to “Glory” along with the amazing art of Ross Campbell. Joe slightly tweaks Glory’s original origin, making it more visceral and raising the stakes considerably. Glory ventures out into our universe in order to live the adventure that her life as royalty inside The Slip has failed to provide her. She is robust and ridiculously, unapologetically powerful. The splash page with Glory punching a tank says it all. Joe and Ross are unbelievable together, the opening arc is the best Glory that anyone has done. “Glory” is going to wow people. “Glory” is easily my favorite of this new launch!
One of the more interesting creative line-ups to be announced is a “Supreme” story written by Alan Moore and drawn by Erik Larsen and Cory Hamscher, how did that come about?
“Supreme” is by far and away the number one requested title from the Extreme library. It is the book with the most requests and the most rabid fans. Over the past decade, no single character from my library is more requested than Supreme. We have had Alan Moore’s final script for years, but we needed a prominent creator to take the reins and complete the vision. Erik Larsen kind of popped off the top of his head what he would do with Supreme, and myself, Robert Kirkman and Eric Stephenson hounded him for months to commit to doing it. He had to figure out his schedule, but he finally committed and Supreme fans will be ecstatic. Not only does Supreme have a massive fan base, but it is a fan base split down the middle between those that prefer the original, arrogant, short-tempered Supreme and Alan Moore’s retro-vision. Following Alan Moore’s final script, Erik puts himself smack dab in the middle of that discourse and his solution is a compelling vision that should satisfy everyone. Cory Hamscher is one of the best inkers/finishers in the business, and he’s an accomplished penciler as well.He’s been a charter member of my Liefeld message boards for the last ten years, constantly wowing us all with his illustrations, he’s so talented. He’s finishing Erik’s rough pencils so Erik can keep “Savage Dragon” on schedule.
I cannot emphasize enough what a big deal it is to get Erik to do “Supreme.” He has been adamant about keeping all his energy for “Savage Dragon,” and this marks the first time in a decade that he has added an additional project to his work load. As a huge Larsen fan, this is a huge win for all of us. When Erik would do pencil roughs for “Image United,” he would draw them on the 11×17 boards in about 24 hours. He is incredibly fast so it’s great that he is writing and drawing with Cory Hamscher. This book is easily my favorite of the new launch!
Alan Moore also wrote some “Youngblood” books when he was working for Extreme. Are there other scripts of his around?
We have a great number of his scripts including several “Youngblood” issues that we will produce in the next year. Alan was in his peak form back then. “Supreme” fueled his comic book come back and many of his Extreme ideas became the basis of the former ABC line. We will showcase the best that Alan did at that period of his career.
The members of Bloodstrike — a group of previously dead assassins — will get a new life thanks to Tim Seeley and Franchesco Gaston.
As I mentioned before, Tim Seeley has been pitching me Youngblood and Bloodstrike ideas for ten years. He loves these characters. His Bloodstrike pitch was compelling, very exciting. He brought Francheco with him and the results are spectacular. Bloodstrike will be 20 years old this spring. It was very much in the vein of the X-Force and Deadpool work I had done at Marvel. We launched “Bloodstrike” years before Deadpool had his own title, and I believe there is a shared fanbase between the characters. Fans who have fallen away from the moronic depiction of Deadpool that has been presented of late will find Bloodstrike more their liking. This is modern, rogue, mercenary action-adventure. Tons of great concepts, as well. Tim Seeley put his Grant Morrison hat on and has some great big ideas. I’m drawing an issue of the title, I’m so excited by it. Again, easily my favorite of the new Extreme line.
Aside from “Supreme,” Extreme Studios is probably best known for “Youngblood” which was one of the very first comic launched by Image Comics in 1992. Why hand the reins over to John McLaughlin and Jon Malin?
John McLaughlin is a revelation. True story: as I was walking out of a screening of “Black Swan” last fall, Eric Stephenson emailed me and told me the writer of “Black Swan” wanted to do Youngblood! I freaked out, Eric sent me his proposal and his series outline was a breath of fresh sir. Big ideas but true to the classic feel of “Youngblood.” We had given a more humorous, satirical approach to Youngblood a try with our last go round and fans let me know that they did not prefer it, they wanted a less hammy team and John has returned the team to form. It’s not without humor but the tone is more serious, less Giffen “Justice League.” It’s a wild ride. John was introduced to Eric through Scott Lobdell, who has written movies with John. We are proud to have John on board, launching Youngblood into the future. There are obvious line-up changes, his ideas will be front and center from the jump when people discover what has happened with Photon you will realize this guy has some twisted stuff up his sleeve.
Like I mentioned before, I travel the country doing shows and spend plenty of time online talking to Youngblood fans. They have told me what they want and this is the book for them. I’ll be dropping in on the art, similar to how Alex Ross drops in on his Kirby line and paints a page here and there, but the majority of the art chores go to Jon Malin. I gave Jon a shot with a book called “NitroGEN” a few years back, and he was scooped up by Marvel and went on to do “Cable/Deadpool” and “New Warriors.” His style is perfect for “Youngblood.” He draws great detail, hot babes, his work has great punch and his work improves with every page! He’s on his third issue now — he’s really digging John’s stories and it shows. We are building to a massive, gigantic 75th Youngblood anniversary issue that will feature all sorts of surprises and excitement. It’s going to be huge. “Youngblood” launched the Image revolution in April 1992, we were out in front by months before “Spawn” and the rest arrived. We are going to celebrate Youngblood big time! This book is far and away my favorite of the launch so far!
Extreme Studios relaunches in January with Prophet #21