Youngblood at Heart

Seven years after leaving the industry that made him a star, former comic book wunderkind Rob Liefeld is ready for his heroes to be reborn

Liefeld quit drawing altogether between 2000 and 2003, then made headlines earlier this year when he announced he'd be returning to Image with all of his characters.

"It's good to have Rob and his characters under the Image banner again," said Image Executive Director Eric Stephenson, in the official press release. "Obviously, a lot of time has passed, but at the end of the day, the most important consideration in all of this is whether it's good for Image—and from Rob's perspective, whether it's good for him. We seem to be in agreement that this is a good thing for all involved."

Added founding member and current Image partner and Publisher Erik Larsen (Savage Dragon), "Youngbloodstarted at Image and kicked off the company in high gear. I really wouldn't want to see it continue anywhere else, and I'm sure fans will join me in enthusiastically welcoming Rob Liefeld and Youngbloodback to the fold. 'Nuff said."

The continuity that was rewritten after Liefeld left will not likely be changed—originally, Liefeld's Chapel character was the one who killed Spawn, but McFarlane rewrote the tale after Liefeld left the first time, implying that had only been a "false memory." Liefeld says fans still say to him Chapel killed Spawn, a declaration similar to that of Star Wars fans over Han Solo shooting Greedo first. The biggest difference for Liefeld this time is that he's not on the inside, but rather he's just another creator making a publishing deal. "I know the structure that I left behind and how good it is, and I'm glad to be able to take advantage of that. And I think the reaction to it was shocking to me, the reaction to going back with them—and not just from the point of view of my fans being excited, but of people being excited from the Image side." Soon Badrock and the gang will be making their way into Wal-Marts once again, as part of Marvel Toys' Legendary Comic Book Heroes Line.

But what about all those movie projects he sold back in the day? They're not dead, he insists, just slowly going through the development process . . . so slowly, in fact, that many of the people involved with them at the start have gone on to bigger and better things. The first Badrock script was written by the Weitz brothers, who went on to make the American Pie movies and this December's fantasy epic The Golden Compass; though their version of Badrock was dubbed prohibitively expensive in the early '90s, CGI advances make it more attainable today. Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris, writers of the upcoming Russell Crowe adventure flick about the sheriff of Nottingham, were the original scribes for Liefeld's Prophet movie.

As for The Mark, originally set to reteam Will Smith with Independence Day director Roland Emmerich, it's still in Smith's hands, but it has had to undergo some retooling, ever since Smith invited Liefeld to a premiere of The Matrix and he had a Flintstones flashback. "I remember sitting there, sinking in my seat!" he recalls. "Because the whole 'You are the one' and all the savior aspects of The Matrix, the sort of messianic structure of Neo's rise as a hero and being surrounded by a group of disciples—it's The Mark. And I remember [thinking] this is really bad for The Mark. So then there was an attempt to make it more like Raiders of the Lost Ark. We took it back in time to 1945 so it would take place during World War II, which was always sort of an aspect of it. It's in a good place now, but I have no control over that stuff at all." He has faith that he'll be seeing his creations onscreen eventually. "Stan Lee didn't walk down the red carpet for almost 40-some years after [Spider-Man] launched. And I said, 'Honey, you'd better get your walker ready.' You know, we'll be walkin' down the red carpet."

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For some creative types, becoming afamily man means toning down the more extreme aspects of your persona. So is there any chance the guy who founded Extreme Studios might ease up on all the violence? Some of his extended family have suggested he should, but Liefeld has a ready-made answer: "I got a killer, giant-size book when I was 7 years old of paintings from the Bible, and you had Samson standing on top of a pile of a hundred guys with a bloody jawbone, and he'd just beaten 'em all to death. There was a page with David lifting up Goliath's head that he just severed from his body, killing him. The Bible is extremely violent: We give it to our kids; we have 'em read it. My kids go to Sunday school, and if they're preached the Bible in its truest form, that is the most violent book on the market—it's got violence, rape, incest, all sorts of bloody crucifixions. I think that's why The Passion of the Christ was so great. Mel [Gibson] just said, 'I'm gonna show how this looked, and I'm not gonna apologize for it.'"

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