Rob Liefeld Kickstarts "Brigade" Into the Future

Rob Liefeld has jumped into the crowdfunding pool. Inspired by Top Cow's "Cyber Force" experiment, the Image Comics co-founder decided to head to Kickstarter to fund a new take on "Brigade," and with just over a week to go, Liefeld has surpassed his $17,500 goal and is working towards various stretch goals, including the ability to offer more than just the first two issues as 100% free comics to his fans.

The second series launched by Liefeld after "Youngblood" kicked off the Image publishing slate in 1992, "Brigade" spun out of its predecessor while also building some of the history of the then-brand new universe by focusing on veteran hero Battlestone. The latest incarnation of the series has a somewhat different focus, this time featuring a team dedicated to saving the past, future and present from immense threats like the time-tampering Imperator.

Refreshing concepts from his large stable of characters is nothing new for Liefeld. In 2011, he opened up his toy box, sharing its contents with a variety of different writers and artists. The result was a group of critically acclaimed comics, including the Brandon Graham-written "Prophet," Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell's "Glory," fellow Image founder Erik Larsen tackling "Supreme" and an all new "Youngblood" series Liefeld written by "Black Swan" screenwriter John McLaughlin.

Now, Liefeld's looking to focus most of his upcoming creative efforts on "Brigade" in an effort to rejuvenate his characters his own way. CBR News spoke with the often-controversial creator about his brand-new "Brigade" concept, the importance of free comics and why he opted to take the crowdfunding route for his new comic.

CBR News: How did the idea to take "Brigade" to Kickstarter first come about?

Rob Liefeld: Last summer, following Top Cow's successful "Cyber Force" campaign, I thought that I could utilize the same measure for the new "Brigade." I wanted to put some distance between the two campaigns -- nine months, to be exact. Utilizing the energy and financing possibilities of crowdfunding tempts everyone I speak to. It's a new model for publishing and it provides a great platform for a project like this one.

Did you talk to Marc Silvestri about his experience with Kickstarter before moving ahead with "Brigade?"

Other than listening to Marc give his mesmerizing Kickstarter/PBS speech at the Image panel we shared, no, I did not speak to him directly. I read all of Matt Hawkins' comments and experiences through the various social media networks that he broadcasts with. They ran a hell of a campaign. 

One of the questions many readers have whenever a prominent comic creator goes the Kickstarter route is, "Why don't they just publish it like all their other books?" How do you respond to that question?

Kickstarter was explained to me in-depth by a number of other creators and retailers as a pre-order/pre-buy network. I think that's very correct. Someone like Jimmy Palmiotti is printing close to order, matching supply with demand on Kickstarter with extras in reserve. It's a pre-order measure, and with "Brigade" it's providing countless free copies for others in the process. In response to the multiple reward platforms, someone is pledging anywhere from 10 to 500 free copies of "Brigade." I really watched and studied the model before participating in it. Rather than do the work, solicit it and wait to see if you will be able to balance the production costs with the printing costs, most of these Kickstarters finish with the creators knowing just what their demand is and how much they have to spend to produce it. As far as I can see, It's flipped the business on its head.

How did the new concept revolving around John "Battlestone" Stone commanding a varied group of characters to keep time and space safe come about?

John Stone is one of the most important characters in the Extreme Universe and he has connections to all the major programs from Operation: Born Again to Youngblood and beyond. I wanted a bigger concept than just another crime fighting unit, we get that every month in multiple titles, there had to be a new mission, a new directive. John Stone commands a diverse brigade of operatives that are our counter-measure to a pervasive threat that is attempting to re-shape reality as we know it. The timestream is under constant attack in an effort to shape reality to the will of another. Stone and his team have to keep pace with the menace and keep it at bay.

Will previous Extreme continuity come into play in this new version of "Brigade," including the 2010 revival you began with artist Marat Mychaels?

Yes! Everything that came before happened, this is not a reboot. It gives Battlestone the proper respect and authority to recruit as many new Brigade members as possible. Seahawk and Coldsnap are with Roman and Coral in Neuport. Everyone is accounted for; this is a continuation of everything that came before.

Does bringing so many of these characters from your past make you want to reprint or collect their original appearances or books?

Yes, absolutely -- reprinting "Brigade" in trade collections is coming! In fact, a limited trade will be added as a stretch goal in the Kickstarter campaign! The entire catalogue is subject to reprints. I'm asked regularly to re-package the '90s runs!

If the art you've released to promote this is any indication, you plan to use "Brigade" as a place to rejuvenate some of your other characters, like Kaboom and Knightmare. Has it been fun working with those characters again?

Great fun, both characters deserve a bigger spotlight and they are getting it here in an ensemble that let's them shine! 

What can you tell us about The Imperator and the threat he holds for Battlestone and his crew?

The Imperator is a familiar foe to John Stone and his crew, but they can't quite determine why or how they know him because he has already affected reality and is fighting to maintain his hold on the future. Stone and Brigade serve in their present. If it sounds complicated, but it's not. Everything is tracked and monitored as the ripples of the Imperator are felt retroactively. What Brigade is fighting to prevent is the ultimate threat of a future dominated by Imperator. They'll accept variations along the way as long as they deny the ultimate demise Imperator has in store for them.

As you mentioned in your Kickstarter video, one of the ideas behind this project is to get free comics to people who will hopefully come back for more and read comics in whatever form. Do you have plans to get these issues out to an audience that might not know as much about comics right now?

Free comics trumps everything. They are irresistible and the best possible way to reach young people. That's why I'm asking others to jump on board and support this initiative. Help me reach the largest audience possible. I'd love to give away over 100,000 free copies of "Brigade" -- or even more. I'm at 50,000 copies right now ,and I'm so thankful to all the pledges that have made it possible.

My biggest and most satisfying success of the past 10 years was distributing "Youngblood: Bloodsport" in 2003. I dreamed of selling comics direct to market, and we sold over 60,000 copies of "Youngblood" to every major comic book chain. That book re-launched my career, and I spent a decade revisiting my most popular works. I did a sequel to my "X-Force" work with Fabian [Nicieza], I did a sequel to Heroes Reborn, I reunited with Image Comics and continued "Youngblood," I re-visited Deadpool. Here, I'm taking that experience with "Bloodsport" and subtracting the cost of "Brigade" #1 -- and hopefully "Brigade" #2 -- in hopes of reaching the maximum number of new readers.

"Brigade" is not a sequel; I've never produced story and art for "Brigade." This is my new flagship. In order to incentivize the new launch, I'm offering 30 reward platforms. I'm trying to make this an interactive process with the fans. The direct line that Kickstarter offers is the best aspect of the initiative. It's been great to talk to each backer, hear their feedback and tailor rewards and content towards them.

Do you have a certain number of issues in mind for this incarnation of Brigade?

"Brigade" is ongoing and will continue going forward. This is where I am parking it, this is where you find me and my characters.

Finally, what's the projected schedule from when the Kickstarter wraps up and the first issue getting to people?

My plan is to get copies into consumers hands by August. There are some great opportunities and possibilities as far as publishers and distribution on the table. This is a brand new chapter for this catalogue!

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