Sunday, January 27, 2013

Blogathon 45: Joe Casey Youngblood Rewrite (Tim Callahan Guest Post)

A guest post by Tim Callahan

To fulfill my self-appointed role as Youngblood archeologist and once-and-future Rob Liefeld acolyte, I dug through my longboxes to find my original (First print! Collect-them-all!) issues of the 1992 series so when I sat down with the Joe Casey/Rob Liefeld Youngblood redux hardcover, I could do a fascinating side-by-side comparison.

And maybe I will do that. But I can imagine your exhaustion as you approach the end of this 24-hour blogathon. I’m writing this well in advance, so I don’t even know if this will ever go live, or if you’ll crack under the weight of responding to comic book punditry from all sides and cramming your brain with insights and allusions and analysis ranging from “Who is the best green-or-blue-colored superhero?” to “If Robert Kirkman traveled back in time to the middle ages, what comic book series would he launch and what distribution methods would he use?”

Were those actual topics in the blogathon? They should have been. I think your responses would have been amazing.

So keep your spirits up, Chad Nevett. The light-at-the-end-of-the-home-stretch-tunnel-is-barelling-toward-the-break-of-day. It’s almost over. You can rest soon enough.


Boy I’m curious to read what you have to say about this 2008 hardcover edition of Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood, as rewritten by Joe Casey. I’ll probably be asleep by now. Dreaming of Kirkman’s Battle of Hastings/Zombie Jesus mashup tapestry. But I’m still curious.

I’m guessing that you read the Youngblood hardcover with some interest, looking at how Joe Casey played with the superhero-as-celebrity motif that he has so often examined in his own comics work. And even with that beacon to guide you, it was difficult to make it to the end of the Youngblood volume. You lost interest soon after John Prophet was introduced, and the rest of the book slipped away even as it shouted at you from a distance. Oh, you finished reading the book, I’m sure, because you are a blogathon champion. But you read the last half of it with disinterest. Reminding you of why you’re so glad to walk away of this ridiculous not-really-a-job of writing about comics that you wouldn’t normally want to waste your time with.

Or maybe I’m projecting.

Because I know I found that Joe Casey revision of Youngblood pretty difficult to digest. I read every single page. But I don’t remember most of them. I remember it being self-referential, and defiantly aware that it’s a comic that was once ridiculed for its bad writing and so Joe Casey puts in a lot of “aha! Look at this ridiculous scenario and/or pose” dialogue to make light of the whole thing, while staying true to the originally-stated, if originally-not-quite-conveyed premise of Shaft and Badrock and friends becoming some of the first of the celebrity superhero breed. Casey hams up that angle, as he should, given the circumstances of the comic, and the pages that were in the Hank Kanalz/Rob Liefeld original first issue pop with verbal vibrations that they never had before.

But here’s a secret – and this is where my honorary Associate’s Degree in Youngbloodology comes in handy – the original issues are better.

You wouldn’t know that, I assume, because you likely ignored the original Youngblood series when it came out (you were too young, or your father had refined taste, or you just hated fun) and never dared to go back to the source. And it was safe to stay away. Sure. Common practice.

But since I went through all the trouble of digging out the first few original Youngblood issues, I took the next logical step and actually re-read them (after I had recently read the Joe Casey revision in the hardcover) and, yes, they are clumsily written and completely direct and without any kind of subtext, but they are amazingly, hideously-beautifully colored in their original habitat – something the hardcover strips away and replaces with Frank D’Armata-meets-Justin Ponsor computer stylings which are all the rage in the 21st century.

But Youngblood isn’t a 21st century comic. It’s a 1992 comic, born out of a diet of Legion of Super-Heroes issues and James Cameron and Joel Silver movies and pen and ink and the imagination and passion of the teenage Rob Liefeld. Sure, Liefeld was no longer a teenager by the time Youngblood #1 was released – and kicked off the entirety of Image Comics, let’s not forget – but the series was born out of teenage Rob’s mind, and if there’s one thing Rob Liefeld has been able to do in all the years he’s been working in comics, it’s his ability to tap into his teenage psyche.

The “Awesome” appellation was never a pose. It’s an essence.

So the 1992 comic, which lacks the self-awareness and meta-sophistication of the Joe Casey rewrite, is a knuckleheaded comic. But it’s a comic meant to punch you in the teeth with a barrage of images and characters and motion lines so dynamic that they often shatter the very panel borders designed to contain them. It’s five fists of superhero science, coming straight at you from twenty-plus years in the past. Rob Liefeld. To take you home.

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