Youngblood is an early Image Comics comic book written by Rob Liefeld, based on a team he had created at the start of his career and planned to do as part of Gary Carlson's anthology series Megaton in the late 1980s, but put on hold when he got job offers from both Marvel and DC at the same convention. When he revived the concept in the early 1990s, he mixed in some ideas he had for the Teen Titans but never got to use, about a superhero team funded by the government to do their work, while in their spare time they licence their image and brand to toy and clothing companies. Interestingly it was the first book published under the Image banner, but its first issue was completed in 1991 before Image was officially formed. It was later rebooted by Alan Moore in Youngblood: Judgment Day, which is generally regarded as an improvement.
While no individual Youngblood series has been particularly long-running (the longest lasted 22 issues), the property has never stayed dormant for long. There's been several relaunches, spinoffs and crossovers over the years as well as its characters making frequent appearances as part of the superhero community in other Image publications such as Invincible, and Image United. A 2008 relaunch written by Joe Casey elevated the series to levels of adequacy. Unfortunately, this only lasted nine issues.
A new relaunch of the series began in 2012, published by Image comics, along with Glory, Erik Larsen's run on Supreme, and Bloodstrike. None lasted very long, and only Glory made a lasting impact.
Another relaunch began in May 2017, to coincide with the 25th Anniversary of both Image and the original Youngblood #1. Written by Chad Bowers with art by Jim Towe, it has Shaft leading a new Youngblood team consisting of a new Vogue, Sentinel 2.0, Doc Rocket and Suprema. For tropes pertaining to that series, see here.
In 2018, the spinoff Bloodstrike was also revived, by Michel Fiffe of Copra fame.
Not to be confused with the 1986 movie of the same name, the musical The Young Blood Chronicles, or the webcomic Young Blood.
This comic book series provides examples of:
- Aborted Arc: The 08' series introduced a back-up feature drawn by Liefeld in issue 8, involving Barack Obama assembling up his own Youngblood team. For some reason, issue 9 then totally did away with the ongoing plot, the back up feature taking over entirely and ignoring everything from the last eight issues in favour of an entirely typical Youngblood series. No further issues of the run were made. Curiously, Shaft's narration does bother to explain why Badrock was back in action after suffering injuries earlier in the run. And nothing else.
- Adaptational Villainy: Don King is at one point brought in to promote the team, and is delighted by the idea of orchestrating a not-so-natural disaster for them to rescue people from.
- All Trolls Are Different: The team includes a short, scrappy member with Wolverine-inspired hair named Bartholomew J. Troll, or simply Troll, who is literally an ancient magical troll.
- Attractive Bent-Gender: When Photon switches genders from male to female in the 2012 relaunch', she has quite a few admirers, both male and female.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Badrock is a teenage boy in the body of a giant hulking rock monster, who thinks that being a famous superhero is totally awesome. His enthusiastic attitude about all the crazy action he gets involved in as a part of Youngblood basically makes him sound exactly like a big fan of Dark Age comics.
- Captain Fishman: Riptide is the water-based heroine. Despite some preview art in comic magazines of the late-80s, she only made her début in Youngblood (Vol. 1) #1, in the "B-Side" story. Her belated backstory was only revealed during Youngblood: Judgment Day: during a drowning accident, she was given powers by a Sea Witch. However, her backstory is an actual fabrication, inserted into a Reality-Altering Book by her father.
- Catchphrase: YABBA-DABBA-DOOM! by Bedrock, before he was renamed Badrock.
- Cat Folk: Cougar is a Half-Human Hybrid: his father was the king of an isolated African civilisation of cat people, and his mother is human.
- Celebrity Superhero: Liefeld claims he wanted to explore the concept that superheroes would be treated the same way as star athletes or actors. Of course, while Youngblood do endorsements and TV appearances, they also do black ops for the government (how many people in the Phoenix Program could you really call celebrities?).
- Comic-Book Time: The series started around the time of The Gulf War and reflected that. But in a more recent issue, longtime member Vogue mentioned admiring Pamela Anderson, Jenny McCarthy, and Paris Hilton as a child.
- Corporate-Sponsored Superhero: A sub-theme in the series was based on Liefeld's hypothesis that superheroes in real life would be treated just as celebrities and athletes are. Exactly who is sponsoring them depends on the run (as they started out as government sponsored before the events of Judgment Day led to their funding being pulled and the team gaining a private benefactor).
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Diehard has been a cyborg since the 40s, but in one of the later series he undergoes a series of upgrades to better perform his duties and comes out of the experience behaving much less human.
- Dark Age of Supernames: Typically regarded as one of the Trope Codifiers:
- Deathshot, Riptide, Badrock, Combat, Psi-Fire, Psylence (sometimes Psilence), Bloodwulf, Diehard, Wylder.
- Badrock was initially called a more mild name, "Bedrock," whose Catchphrase was "Yabba Dabba Doom!" Lawyers from a certain Stone Age town resulted in Liefeld and his studio renaming him Badrock, thus invoking this trope.
- Of course, some members' names are fairly muted in comparison: Chapel, Shaft, Cougar, Troll, Vogue, and Brahman, for instance.
- Double-Sided Book:
- The first issue of includes two stories, flipped 180 degrees from each other. One story featured Youngblood's "Home Team", which dealt with domestic threats, while the other featured the "Away Team", which dealt with international threats.
- After a long delay, Youngblood #5 eventually came out as the flip-side to the similarly-delayed Brigade #4.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Troll the troll.
- Eyes Always Shut: Everyone, though technically the eyes are "open", but black slits of shadow so they can't be seen, giving the impression they're clamped shut as tight as possible.
- The Faceless: Diehard was first seen unmasked on-panel ten years after his debut.
- Fad Super: Youngblood was, of course a team of Nineties Anti Heroes. But, a gimmick in the original run is that they were also celebrities, living in Herowood and having to deal with paparazzi and tabloid journalism, which was then transitioning from pseudoscience and conspiracy theories to lurid celebritymania.
- Facial Horror: Chapel got repaid for role in Al Simmons's death and transformation into Spawn (until it was retconned that Jessica Priest was the real killer) by Spawn ripping off the skin of his face where he wore his skull-themed facepaint.
- Gender Bender:
- In 1995, Image Comics decided to cash in on their "target demographic" by temporarily turning many of their heroes into heroines, a period known as "Extreme Babewatch". This event started in Youngblood, where Glory's nemesis Diablolique takes revenge on her enemy (and on men as a whole) by changing every man Glory had ever met into a woman. The event lasted only a month and didn't have much to carry on plot wise, but it occurred through much of image's then-current lines, dramatically raising the amount of fanservice. As was the point.
- In the 2012 relaunch, Photon, formerly a male character, becomes Lady Photon. Photon’s race apparently switches genders every seven years.
- Genre Deconstruction: The series tries to answer the question "What if superheroes were real?" The answer? They'd basically be reality TV stars. The series deals with similar themes found in Tiger & Bunny, such as the use of corporate sponsors and the pressures of stardom that a hero might encounter in the real world. A shocking number of the "heroes" are also shown to be outright assholes, especially in later volumes that tried to comment on the '90s Anti-Hero tropes that the title initially played straight.
- Groin Attack: Famously, Diehard's groin attacks YOU.
- HULK MASH!-Up: Badrock is an Expy of both The Hulk and The Thing—the two big men of Marvel. He is a massive behemoth made of a rock-like mineral with an exaggerated muscular physique and is by far the strongest member of the Youngblood team. In reality, he's a teenage boy who was given superpowers by mistake and still very much has the mentality of a teenager—a glory seeking, skirt-chasing Thrill Seeker. When he gets angry, he's pretty much a stone Hulk.
- Heroic Build: While bodybuilder builds are normal within superhero comics, Youngblood's original run pushed the boundaries of what constituted a heroic physique, with even "small" heroes having improbably large frames. In introducing the team, the narration also alludes to Power Levels in mostly direct proportion to size and stature.
- Invisible Bowstring: Actually justified for Shaft. His bow is based upon alien anti-gravity technology, therefore nullifying the need for a string. Presumably the point of this is making it easier to store and maintain.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo:
- An issue that was "dedicated to the memory of Joe Schuster" had Clark Kent and Lois Lane appear as reporters.
- In Youngblood Strikefile #8, Clark Kent opens his shirt, revealing a Superman logo.
- Youngblood: Bloodsport #1 opens with Seahawk and Battlestone getting blowjobs◊ from Wolverine and Cyclops.
- Legacy Character: Jeff Terrell was the original Shaft, but ended up being replaced by a government-appointed successor immediately after quitting the team. Jeff's former teammates take great pleasure in referring to the newbie as "Not-Shaft" in order to get under his skin.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Johnny Panic discovers his father is Darius Dax, the world's most prolific villain.
- According to Rob Liefeld, he almost had a deal for a cartoon on Fox Kids, which would've been created for the sole purpose of promoting an action figure line from Mattel. When Fox signed an exclusive deal with Marvel (thus killing Liefeld's cartoon in the cradle), Mattel dropped the idea for the toy line.
- In-universe. Shaft would have to meet with the toy company to go over his action figures planned for the year. Four variants for 1993, and Badrock's gonna collect em all!
- Military Rank Names: Colonel Bravo, father of Shaft.
- Mysterious Past: Showdown's past and identity are virtually unknown. The only known facts about her is that she was a former student of Bloodpool academy, and became friends with Brahama. She later on left and became an assassin.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed:
- The first issue feature the dictator Hassan Kussein (who's most definitely not Saddam Hussein) getting his head exploded.
- And then there's the character Kirby, who's essentially Jack Kirby's head planted on a roided-up Cable body.
- Overt Operative: Youngblood, the premiere super-team, does covert black ops for the US government and regularly reports to the Pentagon and the White House. Members also have their own toy lines, make talk show appearances, and do other "celebrity" things that make no sense for covert government agents.
- The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Played with in the relaunch. The heroes are briefly lead to believe that they won't be fighting crime any more. The government assures them that this won't be the case (though it's still not necessarily all real).
- Poorly-Disguised Pilot: The second and third issues gave one of the flip-sides to Shadowhawk and Supreme, respectively. The fourth issue featured a prelude to Pitt, but without the flip-book format.
- Plucky Comic Relief: Troll basically introduces himself as being the comic relief of the team. In-universe, it causes his popularity to skyrocket.
- Really 700 Years Old: Troll is thousands of years old, however much he'd like to keep it a secret.
- Remaster: For a hardcover release, Youngblood issues 1-5 were completely re-written (and we mean completely) by Joe Casey, with pages re-organized and plots completely overhauled to make it pass across as moderately coherent. Colors were also redone to remove the tackiness of Brian Murray's less thought out color schemes.
- Replacement Scrappy: In-universe, the second Shaft. His teammates call him "not-Shaft", refusing to accept him as a genuine replacement for the original.
- Shared Universe: Youngblood has ties to virtually every major Image title in some form or another. Chapel is the man who iced Al Simmons and sent him on the road to becoming Spawn. The team guest-starred in the original Wild C.A.T.s (WildStorm) miniseries. Doc Rocket and Johnny Panic both owe their existence entirely to Moore's Supreme - they didn't appear directly but are related to characters introduced therein. Diehard did appear in Supreme, as a member of the Golden Age Allies of Justice (along with Superpatriot from Savage Dragon). And Suprema and Twilight, the series' Supergirl and Robin stand-ins, were members of the team during Moore's run.
- Self-Mutilation Demonstration: A member once cut off his own arm when asked what powers he had.
- Ski-Resort Episode: The series has an issue where Badrock has to fight an enemy while on vacation in Aspen.
- Spock Speak: The Occupant from Alan Moore's run talks like this. It's even Lampshaded:Occupant (while in possession of Suprema): This must be perfect residence. None better. Has head-rays. Good for cleaning...Big Brother: "Cleaning" as in eradicating people, right? Whoa man, that's cold. Makes you sound real alien and inhuman...you Star Trek sounding mother***!
- The Straight and Arrow Path: Shaft, used a high-tech gravity-catapult longbow because he thought it looked cooler than a gun. In later series, he's not above using guns depending on the situation, but still strongly prefers the bow because he considers it to be irrevocably his "thing".
- Take That!: The first issue of Mark Millar's Youngblood: Bloodsport has two members of the titular superhero team receiving oral sex from gay cosplayers dressed as Wolverine and Cyclops.
- Technicolor Ninjas: The villainess Showdown wears a purple and green suit, along with a long flowing headband. Yet she is stealthy as she is deadly.
- Token Evil Teammate: Psi-Fire, easily the most amoral member of either team. In the first issue, he makes dictator Hassan Kussein's head explode and his teammates react with "Oh no, not again." Very soon into the Team Youngblood comic he makes an outright Face–Heel Turn.
- Trapped in TV Land: The Televillain goes on a rampage using the miracle of TiVo and ends up trapping a recent addition to the team on the set of Oprah. Shaft and Cougar go after her and briefly end up on a number of different shows, including a rerun of Seinfeld.
- Trick Arrow: Shaft plays with the trope. His arrows are the standard pointy variety, but he has a trick bow that doesn't require a string. (According to the tech manual, it uses focused artificial gravity to fire the arrows.) During Alan Moore's run, Golden Age hero Waxman tried to get Shaft to consider using trick arrows, giving examples of older archer heroes who used them. Not one of which had survived the experience.
- Twofer Token Minority: Big Brother from Alan Moore's run, a paraplegic black kid.
- Unbuilt Trope: Rob Liefeld comics often (always) involve Nineties Anti Heroes dropping down to an enemy base and getting into violent arguments with each other during the mission. Funny, then, that the first issue featured a "hero" doing just that - and accidentally killing his ally with a superpowered punch, before quickly turning heel to give the main characters someone to hunt down. If that had happened in a later issue, or in a parody, it'd have been a subversion.
- Weight Woe: As an example of Early-Installment Weirdness, Shaft apparently had an eating disorder during the team's first volume, and was very self conscious about his weight. The seventh issue included a Nightmare Sequence where he gorges himself and becomes obese. Strangely, this is one of the most original storylines created by Rob Liefeld, as it's virtually impossible to find comic books about male characters with eating disorders. This plot wasn't seen again in Shaft's later appearances.
- West Coast Team: The series had a "Home" team and an "Away" team. Their premiere issue infamously featured stories concerning both teams, but... how to put this... One story is upside-down relative to the other? The "Away" team's story is read by flipping the book over and reading from what would normally be the back cover.
- Wolverine Publicity: Badrock. He is an oddity in that his solo series was short-lived and he's much better known for Youngblood, but he was the star of the Marvel Team Up-like Badrock and Company and has had many crossover minis — including ones with Wolverine and Grifter!
- Wolverine Wannabe: Bartholomew J. Troll is one of the most obvious and blatant Wolverine expies, being a short, hairy man with wild spiky hair with animalistic agility and combat skills who is much older than he looks. In personality, however, he's a Comic Relief character and much more of a... well... troll, as opposed to Wolverine's somber attitude.
- Writing Around Trademarks: In the team's first appearance, Badrock's codename was "Bedrock". Liefeld decided to change the name to avoid confusion with the setting of The Flintstones (after a visit from Hanna-Barbera's lawyers.)
- Written Sound Effect: The series uses "eepBeep" for the sound of a beeping wrist communicator.
- Younger Than They Look: Badrock is a 12 foot tall rock monster. At the start of the original series he's in his very early teens.