Last week, Image Comics co-founder and "Youngblood" creator Rob Liefeld announced that he'd bring his government-run, media-darling team of superheroes to the Comics by comiXology iPhone application. The exclusive deal sees the remastered version of the original 1992 "Youngblood" comic with a script by Joe Casey immediately available for download with a host of other Liefeld properties including his biblical action epic "Armageddon Now!" soon to follow. And when CBR spoke with Liefeld about the deal as well as his May output from Image, the artist explained that taking his work onto the iPhone and other mobile devices is just the first step in a new era for his comics career.
"I have an iPhone. My wife has an iPhone. My kids have the iTouch – we are constantly downloading apps," Liefeld said of his draw to taking Shaft, Badrock and the rest of Youngblood to mobile screens. He added that the interface offered by the comiXology app was a selling point for him going exclusive with the service. "With comiXology's amazing 'guided views' the process that they direct the page and guide the eye, I see the pages infused with an all-new energy. The comiXology application adds to the entire experience."
Kick-starting with the "Maximum Youngblood" version of the team's original mini series was a no-brainer for Liefeld as "We set out to make the book more accessible, and I think we accomplished that. Looking back at the work I'm still astounded by the fact that the original Youngblood is the work of a hyperactive, 22-year-old kid slapping ink all over the page with crazy manic energy. And people responded to that energy and voted overwhelmingly with their support," the creator explained saying that once that intro volume has had some breathing room on comiXology "the 'Youngblood' volume with Joe Casey and Derec Donavan and myself will follow the remastered mini-series. Eventually as we remaster 'Youngblood Strikefile' [it will be on the site] and also 'Bloodsport' will be available as well. As for 'Armageddon,' I have gone through the book and segmented it into 4 chapters. I've seen GN's on comiXology broken up into segments and the offered for as low as four bucks. I'd like to see the same offered for 'Armageddon.' We also have several new Armageddon chapters that we will be debuting exclusively on comiXology."
In fact, the first "Armageddon Now!" graphic novel and the subsequent shorter stories set in that world themselves represent Liefeld playing with the standard comics release format. The artist and co-writer Pastor Phil Hotsenpiller's "Michael Bay meets the Book of Ezekiel" story centers on Lt. Col. John Corbin's fight against an ascending Anti-Christ and has been aimed at both comic fans and faith-based book markets. Moving that graphic novel online will bring with it more campaigning for new readers. "With 'Armageddon' we will have a slew of brand new material, never before seen chapters that expand the story and we will be work with comiXology and their group as well as our PR firm to get the word out. The material that we have developed and created at 12 Gates is action/adventure, no superheroes, and has more potential crossover appeal. We can reach so many more people online with 'Youngblood' as well as 'Armageddon.'"
Meanwhile, both properties continue in print with Image Comics. In April, "Youngblood" ongoing series hits issue #11 as written and drawn by Liefeld with additional material by collaborators Mark Poulton, Marat Mychaels and "Image United" scribe Robert Kirkman. That same month, "Armageddon Now!" sees its next major chapter debut with the 64-page "Anti-Christ" OGN with painter Mike Capprotti joining Liefeld on art. "'Anti-Christ' is the completion of the next chapter, not a 32-page comic, not a 110-page GN, but a return to the prestige format styled books of the past," the artist said. "The GN format is too expensive for this economy and the 32-page comic format doesn't fit the length of the material, so we compromised with the prestige format at a more affordable price point. And again, the digital applications open the distribution channels to an even wider audience and a variety of price points. We will go out on all platforms.
"Phil Hotsenpiller and I have really examined all the previous portrayals of the Anti-Christ in all media and we wanted to present a new vision of what a man who would unite the world would be like," he continued on the big draw of the new volume. "The Anti-Christ in Armageddon is someone who is as charismatic as Barrack Obama but he's also a genius inventor, a tech-wizard along the lines of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. He is a man with solutions, technological advances that will better civilization, a guy who would have no problem driving his agenda. The first Armageddon introduced the conflict and introduced our hero, Corbin. Anti-Christ builds up Sadju, our villain, we spend a lot of time getting inside his head.
"Corbin and Sadju, the Anti-Christ and [Corbin's former lover/villain] Jada, are moving towards conflict and their paths are destined to cross during the course of the series, Corbin continues to reluctantly embrace his destiny as the world around him collapses. Corbin is on the run, chasing Jada around the globe, looking for answers when another cataclysmic worldwide event occurs. At that point it shifts to a $300 million dollar disaster epic. We destroy everything in ways that Roland Emmerich never dreamed was possible. Following that devastating event, Sadju has yet another opening to expand the parameters of his control. Corbin begins to assemble an underground resistance and move towards a more aggressive position. Then all hell breaks loose!"
And for the superhero followers, Liefeld expects "Youngblood" to pick up as it ties in with the events of the action-heavy art-jam that is the "Image United" event. "Youngblood lost the White House and the President of the United States in the last issue. We open with Shaft temporarily suspended and changes to the Youngblood line up. Die-Hard is with Vogue following the attack in 'Image United' #2, Vogue isn't doing well, Overtkill is looking for vengeance. Good stuff."
Though, the creator did explain that despite a recent resurgence of some of his classic properties both at Image and at Marvel Comics, the next wave of Rob Liefeld comics will focus on covering new ground. "I have kept several new characters and new ideas in the drawer for the last 10 years. My plan and focus in the 2000's was to re-visit old haunts – characters and titles that I am strongly associated with. It was a pretty incredible tour: 'X-Force' 2004-05, Hawk and Dove in 'Teen Titans' 2005, 'Onslaught Reborn' 2006-07, 'Youngblood' and reuniting with Image in 2008, 'Image United' and the resurgence of Deadpool this past year. It's all been amazing, and it gave my career a huge shot in the arm. But I feel like its time to get some of these new characters out there. I need to get more 'new' out. I have a strategy in mind and it's definitely digitally centered. Some of it will be short stories, one shots and strips. The new stuff is a departure in that it's more all ages, Pixar-styled stuff. A digital roll out is part of the plan."
Until those ideas see the light of day, Liefeld will continue to mine his archives for the comiXology deal, and he's interested in what might be the dark horse picks from his archives. "There's so much material to choose from, I'd actually like to hear directly from that fans what works that they would most like to see from the Extreme catalogue. As you know, we have hundreds of issues, thousands of pages and characters to choose from."