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Comic Book / Youngblood

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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 kill indiscriminately and have no obvious sense of morals. 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 or The Youngblood Chronicles.


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 injuuries 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.
  • Animal-Themed Superbeing: Cougar and to a lesser extent, 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.
  • Badass Normal: Shaft.
  • BFG: It is to be expected, being an early 90s Image comic made by Liefeld.
  • Captain Ersatz: Most of the characters Liefeld created:
    • Shaft was clearly Green Arrow's sidekick Speedy from the Teen Titans.
    • There were MULTIPLE Wolverines, like Cougar and Troll.
    • Bedrock/Badrock was a mixture of The Thing and Hanna-Barbera's The Thing (being stuck in rock form like the former, but a teenager like the latter).
      • He was also based on Blok from the Legion of Superheroes.
    • Diehard was Captain America with a bit of Deathstroke thrown in.
    • Vogue was Harlequin (The "Joker's Daughter" Version) visually with Black Widow's background.
    • Sentinel was Iron Man or possibly War Machine.
    • Riptide was Namora.
    • Knightsabre was Gambit.
    • Combat was, in a roundabout way, Worf. (Liefeld's original idea was to make a Khund warrior, but since Khunds are the DC version of the Klingons, a good Khund expy was obviously going to end as Worf.)
      • Amusingly, Combat's backstory involves him being trained by an Admiral Kh'rk
    • Battlestone, Youngblood's original leader who became Brigade's leader, was Cable. His brother Cabbot, who led Bloodstrike, was also Cable. As was Lt. Colonel Bravo introduced in Issue #6.
    • A recurring villain, Warwolf, was Sabretooth, blatantly so even by Liefeld standards.
    • Darkthornn is one for Darkseid, with his homeworld of D'Khay being a stand-in for Apokolips.
    • In fact, the team was spawned from a failed Teen Titans relaunch Liefeld wanted to do with many of the aforementioned DC characters involved.
    • Doc Rocket is a gender-flipped Wally West and Suprema is Supergirl.
    • The Alan Moore run introduced numerous blatant copies, as part of Moore’s attempt at metatextual analysis, like the Conquerors of the Uncanny and Bram the Berserker.
  • Catchphrase: YABBA-DABBA-DOOM! by Bedrock, before he was renamed Badrock.
  • 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?).
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Johnny Panic, "the world's first post-modern superhero" (though he would later insist he's now post post modern).
  • Comic-Book Time: Played straight. 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: ...sort of. 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.
  • The Dark Age of Comic Books: Generally considered one of the faces of the era. The 2008 and 2012 series both make a point of lampshading the fact that Youngblood is almost anachronistic these days.
  • Dark Age of Supernames: Typically regarded as one of the Trope Codifiers, with the original team featuring Diehard, Badrock, Combat, Riptide, and Psi-Fire; a healthy chunk of its 13-man roster, all told.
  • Darker and Edgier: Naturally.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Youngblood is, infamously, one of the least stable teams in comic history. Badrock and Troll once got into a deadly battle over who got to be on a cereal box.
  • Evil All Along: Sentinel was retconned in Judgment Day into being the one who was responsible for the vast majority of heroes being so dark, violent, and borderline insane, having rewritten the world with Hermes' book to match his ideas of what superheroes were supposed to be like. To that end, he kills Riptide and frames Knightsabre to get the book back and resume his control.
  • Evil vs. Evil: From a cynical perspective, you could easily look at all of Youngblood's fights as this, or at the very least Black and Gray Morality, especially in the early issues.
  • Expy: Rob Liefeld's admitted that the team was simply a rejected Teen Titans pitch, right down to the redheaded archer Shaft being Speedy/Arsenal and Diehard being a S.T.A.R. Labs android.
    • As if Captain Ersatzing a lot of characters wasn't enough... a lot of the related super-teams who crossed over with Youngblood, such as Brigade, the Berzerkers and Bloodstrike, featured characters that were the same as Youngblood's members save for a quick costume change.
  • 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. Linkara refers to this as Youngblood's disease for a reason.
  • The Faceless: Diehard was first seen unmasked on-panel ten years after his debut
  • 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.
  • Flying Brick: Suprema, a Captain Ersatz of Supergirl.
  • Gender Bender: As of the relaunched series, Photon- who was a male in the original- is now Lady Photon. Apparently his/her species 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.
  • Invisible Bowstring: Shaft's bow. Justified in that his bow is based upon alien anti-gravity technology, therefore nullifying the need for a string.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Clark Kent and Lois Lane appear in one issue.
  • Legacy Character: Doc Rocket, the daughter of the original Doc. There was also a Redeeming Replacement for Sentinel in the 2008 series, Sentinel 2.0. The 2012 relaunch also has Shaft quitting the team and getting replaced by a government-appointed successor.
  • Lighter and Softer: Alan Moore's run.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: More like, "Loads And Loads And Loads And Loads And Loads And Loads And Loads And Loads And Loads And Loads And Loads Of Characters", and many of them blatant ripoffs of other characters, Wolverine in particular.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Johnny Panic discovers his father is Darius Dax, the world's most prolific villain.
  • Merchandise-Driven:
    • 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.
  • Most Common Superpower
  • '90s Anti-Hero
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The first issue feature a dictator (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. "Respectfully dedicated to the memory of Jack Kirby".
  • One-Man Army: Shaft and Chapel. Interestingly, they're the only two unpowered members of the original team.
  • 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.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Combat being a Worf rip-off has this going for him.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Troll is thousands of years old, however much he'd like to keep it a secret.
    Diehard: I may be new to this office, Keever, but I'm old enough to have seen my share of executive mistakes. Let's not ruin my first one hundred days by arresting a handful of millennials playing dress-up.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Petra, the new Vogue gives Shaft a short but succinct one when he refuses to listen why she reformed Youngblood.
    Vogue: You don't want to know what's going on here, do you? You fucked up, and it's so much easier to bury your head than remember what Youngblood was supposed to be.
  • 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 CA Ts 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.
  • Shoulders of Doom
  • Self-Mutilation Demonstration: A member once cut off his own arm when asked what powers he had.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Averted in Moore's brief run, where the team was split evenly between the sexes; three boys, three girls.
  • 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 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".
  • Stripperiffic
  • 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.
  • Token Evil Teammate: The first issue of Youngblood has Psi-Fire explode an unarmed dictator's head... after telling him he admires what he's accomplished.
    • Then again, since the reactions of the rest of the team to this horrific, bloody murder range from indifference to resignation and mild annoyance, it's probably unfair to call him the only evil guy on the team
  • Too Many Belts
  • 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.
  • 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: "Home" and "Away" teams. Later "Youngblood" and "Team Youngblood".
  • Who Would Want to Watch Us?: Invoked in the most recent revival, where the team was reformed and given a reality TV show.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • Your Head Asplode: A Saddam Hussein analogue suffers this fate in the first issue.


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