Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Comic Book Ramblings: Rob Liefeld's Extreme Studios Returns to Image Comics

Today's comic books readers may not remember, but there was a time in the late 1980s & early 1990s that artist ROB LIEFELD was one of the hottest comic book artist around due to his success with MARVEL COMICS' NEW MUTANTS, then X-FORCE.

In 1992 LIEFELD did the unthinkable. He along with other MARVEL COMICS top talents (TODD McFARLANE, JIM LEE, JIM VALENTINO, ERIK LARSEN, MARC SILVESTRI, & WHILCE PORTACIO) left each others top selling books to form their own independent publishing venture they called IMAGE COMICS (the name & logo design thought up by LIEFELD himself). LIEFELD's own creator-owned series YOUNGBLOOD from his newly formed EXTREME STUDIOS would be IMAGE COMICS' debut title.

Based on a 1991 TEEN TITANS proposal for DC that went nowhere, LIEFELD decided to transform it into what became YOUNGBLOOD. 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 & DIEHARD was a STAR Labs andriod. I forgot who CHAPEL was supposed to be". Adding additional inspiration on how superheroes would be treated in real life, like Movie Stars & famous Pro-Athletes with big endorsement deals, TV show appearances, agents, mangers, and the pressures of celebrity life added to the mix.

YOUNGBLOOD #1 broke independent publishing records with over 1 Million copies sold and putting IMAGE COMICS on the comic book map.

But by 1996 LIEFELD's relationship with IMAGE started to sour as he & fellow IMAGE co-founder JIM LEE returned to MARVEL COMICS to work on "HEROES REBORN".

But it was when another of his IMAGE partners MARC SILVESTRI accused him of trying to steal talent from his TOP COW PRODUCTIONS (rumored to be artist MIKE TURNER) causing SILVESTRI leave IMAGE altogether. 3 months later with tensions at an all time high, the remaining IMAGE founders call a meeting in which they would vote on removing LIEFELD from the company he help found, with SILVESTRI now back in attendance. LIEFELD choose to just resign instead minutes before a second meeting to vote him out was held.

LIEFELD went on to form AWESOME COMICS in 1997  with writer-producer JEPH LOED and SCOTT MITCHELL ROSENBERG, founder of MALIBU COMICS, IMAGE COMICS' original distributor (which ROSENBERG sold to MARVEL COMICS in 1994), here LIEFELD's previous IMAGE titles would be published.

LIEFELD hired highly acclaimed comic book writer ALAN MOORE to help revitalize his characters, transforming SUPREME into a MORT WEISINGER-era SUPERMAN tribute and one of comics best reads at the time.

But the Comics Boom of the late 1990s was coming to an end and comic book readers were becoming smarter in what they bought. Coupled with internal disputes, various lawsuits, & investors leaving LIEFELD was forced to close the doors on AWESOME & EXTREME STUDIOS in 2000.

LIEFELD's art style being not as popular as if was before with criticisms over the years of being a heavy swipe artist, LEIFELD did sporadic work such as a 2-issue stint on DC's TEEN TITANS #27-28 in 2005.

Then with DC announcing this past summer it's NEW 52 line up, the book that got the most eyebrows raised was the announcement that ROB LIEFELD would return on one of DC's NEW 52 titles, HAWK & DOVE, a title LIEFELD worked on when he was first starting out way back in 1988.

Not satisfied with just that LIEFELD announced at this year's NEW YORK COMIC-CON that after 12 years he'll be reopening his EXTREME STUDIOS under the IMAGE COMICS label. This was right after the WEATHER NETWORK reported that Hell did indeed froze over and Pigs had just gotten their pilots license.

LIEFELD says he's been in talks with IMAGE COMICS's ERIC STEPHENSON for awhile about bring back EXTREME to IMAGE. Rumors floated after IMAGE brought back in July 2011 an on-going AVENGELYNE series by MARK POULTON & OWEN GIENI, a character co-created by LIEFELD in 1995  with former VAMPIRELLA model CATHY CHRISTIAN, who's likeness the character was based on.

While EXTREME is being "relaunched", it isn't being "reboot" with all new #1s. All titles will continue with their previous numbers.

Titles announced for the EXTREME relaunch include:

YOUNGBLOOD, written by BLACK SWAN movie screenwriter JOHN McLAUGHLIN and art by JOHN MALIN. The comic centers around  a high profile US government superhero team lead by an ex-FBI agent & archer named SHAFT.

BLOODSTRIKE, written by TIM SEELEY (HACK/SLASH) and art by FRANCHESCO GASTON. This features previously dead assassins in crazed mercenary action set in vein of MARVEL's DEADPOOL series.

GLORY, written by JOE KEATINGE (POPGUN) and art by ROSS CAMPBELL. EXTREME STUDIO's take on the whole "Amazon Warrior Princess" arch-type.


Tells the story of super soldier JOHN PROPHET awakening from cryo-sleep into a post-apocalyptic world.

SUPREME, with art by LIEFELD's IMAGE Co-Founder ERIK LARSEN (SAVAGE DRAGON) & CORY HAMSCHER, working off the final script of the great ALAN MOORE. This is the one I can wait for to be released, story of an the older SUPERMAN arch-type superhero. I wonder if LARSEN will go off of artist ALEX ROSS's SUPREME redesigns later on as the series goes, cause those were cool looking.

~ Rajadevilman74

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