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In 1992, as the creator-owned publisher Image Comics was launching, its superstar artist founders were all preparing the first issues of their respective new series, but only one could be the very first Image book. That book was Youngblood #1, writer and artist Rob Liefeld's government-sanctioned superhero team. Now, nearly three decades later, Liefeld is sadly walking away from his creations.
In a lengthy post to his official Facebook page, Liefeld explained why his fans haven't heard anything from Youngblood, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2017 with the launch of a new volume of stories, in a while. Apparently it all boils down to a tricky exchange of rights to the characters that began more than 20 years ago, when Liefeld left Image to form a new studio, Awesome Entertainment.
Liefeld took his characters with him when Awesome began, but he needed some financial backing to make the venture work, and partnered with Scott Rosenberg of Malibu Comics to make that happen in a "temporary" capacity. When Liefeld found another financier, John Hyde, friction apparently kicked up between him and Rosenberg, and ultimately Awesome Comics ended in 2000.
That split created a unique situation in which Liefeld, Hyde, and Rosenberg divided up media rights to Liefeld's creations, while Liefeld himself retained publishing control over them in the comics world. In that division, Rosenberg ended up with Youngblood, and Liefeld continued publishing new Youngblood stories, including revivals in 2008, 2012, and most recently 2017 under writer Chad Bowers and artist Jim Towe.
Fast-forward to San Diego Comic-Con 2018. At that point, Liefeld — who'd come close to two different movie deals for Youngblood in the intervening years — claims that Rosenberg approached him to tell him he'd "sold or partnered" with a third party for "Youngblood comics and toys." That third party was a man Liefeld describes as "unknown" to him, and whom he names as Andrew Rev. According to Liefeld's Facebook post, Rev apparently approached him and "informed me a number of times over the past year that he could make me a big success in comics, the next Todd McFarlane even, and told me I could audition for producing Youngblood comics. You can imagine how well that went over."
As a result of Rev's supposed intervention in the Youngblood property, Liefeld ceased publication of the ongoing Youngblood story that began in 2017, and has declared that Youngblood "will no longer be published by Image Comics or with my involvement at this time," a parting of ways that'll be heartbreaking for fans who've followed the characters for 27 years as they've kept bouncing back.
"I share this with you now following an unexpected conversation with the Andrew Rev guy about publishing," Liefeld wrote. "In short it was very disrespectful and I had to put distance between me, these people and my creations which were now in a foreign domain. I had to convincingly wash my hands of this corner of my imagination. I have a pretty fertile mind and many new projects yet to advance, many making the media rounds that will be known soon enough. This was a much needed update and hopefully explains the current situation."
"Youngblood represented some of my finest work," he added. "I’m proud of all the work that was produced. Sadly, film companies will be reluctant to invest the time and money in a venture without the support and blessing of its creator."
Elsewhere in the same post, Liefeld assured fans that he maintains a productive relationship with his other Awesome Comics partner, John Hyde, and that the two of them are still moving forward with a feature film based on Prophet, as well as pursuing Glory in "all media."
"2/3 of my catalogue receive[d] my involvement and participation," Liefeld noted.
And with that, a major chapter in creator-owned comics has apparently ended, at least for now. As Liefeld said, he has plenty of ideas and properties to draw from, but it'll be interesting to see what happens to Youngblood now that it's in other hands.