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Awesome Comics
IndustryPublishing
GenreSuperhero's
PredecessorExtreme Studios
Founded1997
FounderRob Liefeld (founder)
Jeph Loeb (publisher)
Defunct2000
Area served
Worldwide
Key people
Rob Liefeld
ProductsComics

Awesome Comics or Awesome Entertainment (also known as Awesome-Hyperwerks when they were briefly joined with Hyperwerks Entertainment) was an American comic book studio formed in 1997 by Image Comics co-founder Rob Liefeld. The company closed in 2000. Netflix was in talks to adapt the characters for a series of films in 2018[1] but the deal collapsed.[2]

Pre-Awesome

Main article: Image Comics

Extreme Studios and Maximum Press

In 1992, seven high-profile comics artists left Marvel Comics to form their own publisher, where comics creators could publish creator-owned material without having to give up copyright-control to their characters. The seven artists (bar Whilce Portacio, who opted not to become a full partner) formed a partnership between their individual studios, and published their comics under the over-arcing Image Comics banner. Image's early titles were distributed by Malibu Comics (a company chosen for its good marketing and distribution practices), while Image established itself independently.[3] The studios were: Todd McFarlane's Todd McFarlane Productions, Marc Silvestri's Top Cow Productions, Jim Lee's Wildstorm Productions, Erik Larsen's Highbrow Entertainment, Jim Valentino's ShadowLine, and Rob Liefeld's Extreme Studios.

Extreme Studios's Youngblood became the first comic released under the Image banner, and became the first independent (non-Marvel/DC) title to be a number-one best-seller.[3] Other Extreme titles published through Image included: Badrock, Bloodstrike, Brigade, Team Youngblood, Youngblood Strikefile, Glory, Prophet, Supreme, Troll and New Men.

Titles thought not to fit with the Image brand were self-published under Liefeld's separate imprint: Maximum Press. These titles included Avengelyne, Warchild, Law and Order, Black Flag, Risk, and even licensed properties such as the classic sci-fi TV show Battlestar Galactica (based on the original 1978–1979 TV series). After Liefeld's departure from Image in 1996, Maximum Press began publishing some of Liefeld's Extreme` titles (including Glory and Supreme), before Awesome Entertainment came into being.[citation needed]

Leaving Image, launching Awesome Entertainment

After acrimonious disputes with the other founding partners (not least over allegations of irregularities surrounding Liefeld's separate imprint Maximum Press), Liefeld and Extreme Studios broke from Image Comics in 1996, and became Awesome Comics. Shortly thereafter, Liefeld found a new publisher — writer-producer Jeph Loeb[4] — and additional financing from both John Hyde (Film Roman CEO) and Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, newly Chairman of Platinum Studios. Platinum Studios continues to play an integral part in Liefeld's comics work. (Liefeld had previously worked with Rosenberg, the founder of Malibu Comics, Image's original distributor, which (post-Image) had been sold to Marvel, in 1994.)[3]

Awesome Comics continued many of the popular Extreme series', as well as launching new titles, including The Coven and Lionheart by Loeb and artist Ian Churchill. Perhaps Liefeld's best move, and the one for which Awesome's output is best known, was the decision to hire acclaimed comics writer Alan Moore to breathe new life into several of Extreme/Awesome's comics and characters. Although Moore's first output for Liefeld came when Extreme was still publishing under the Image banner, the majority of his work was done under Awesome, with several issues (of Supreme) also being published by Maximum in-between the two imprints.[citation needed]

Alan Moore

Supreme

Main article: Supreme (comics)

Moore's most lauded work for Awesome Comics was for Supreme.[5] Taking over initially with #41 (#49 was the first to bear the "Awesome" imprint), Moore deconstructed and reconstructed the core character (and his supporting cast) from a relatively generic superhero, into a glowing tribute to the Mort Weisinger-era of Superman. Featuring both comics and social commentary and both general and specific tributes to aspects of comics history, Supreme received much critical praise, with Entertainment Weekly, for example, calling a Supreme collection a "graphic novel you really oughta get your hands on".[3]

Judgment Day

Main article: Judgment Day (Awesome Comics)

Following Supreme, Liefeld asked Moore to write a limited series crossover featuring almost the entire cast of the Awesome Comics universe, as part of a planned move for Moore to have free rein to redesign and overhaul the entire Awesome Universe. Given the title Judgment Day, Moore, according to one writer, took exception to the by-then hackneyed idea of an apocalyptic crossover, and instead "chose to frame the story around a trial, which would provide the impetus for the title. ...[A]s super-heroes testified while a member of Youngblood was tried for murder, flashback sequences would redefine the entire company's universe".[6]

However, the overhaul faltered from the start. The three Judgment Day issues were each labeled as individual number "#1"s, and only differentiated through slightly-confusing subtitles: Alpha, Omega, and Final Judgment. In addition to the sales-boost issues labelled "#1" regularly achieve, the three issues were longer than normal though priced conventionally. However, the confusing labelling and severe publishing delays (particularly by the third issue) caused sales to falter.[6]

In December 1997, Moore wrote a follow-up issue, the Awesome Holiday Special which featured his new Youngblood team. He followed this the next month with Judgment Day: Aftermath, featuring artwork by the renowned Gil Kane (who also appeared in the story as a character), which cleared the stage for the intended revised and revamped Awesome Universe, plotted by Moore.[citation needed]

Youngblood and Glory

Main articles: Youngblood (comics) and Glory (comics) § Alan Moore's Glory

The first title to be relaunched was Youngblood, the first Image title, and core title in Liefeld's various — and subsequent — imprints. Issue #1, written by Moore with art by Steve Skroce was released around the same time as Judgment Day: Aftermath in early 1998. Despite Moore reportedly having the first 12 issues outlined and part-written prior to its launch, the title was delayed considerably, with the second issue not seeing print until six months after the first. The second issue also proved to be the final issue, although the title was subsequently retitled and relaunched a year later as Awesome Adventures, featuring a foreshortened story from Moore's script and notes. This followed the publication of a Glory Preview issue (#0) by Moore for a series that would not see print from Awesome. (Ultimately, and also plagued by similar delays, a couple of issues of Moore's Glory finally saw print from Avatar Press in 2001/2002).[7]

Non-Moore Awesome publications

Awesome's initial releases also included entirely new properties which were generally received more favorably than either the Extreme or Maximum lines had been. These included Kaboom, created by artist Jeff Matsuda (and written by Loeb), which dealt with main character Geof Sunrise, who on his sixteenth birthday is given "access to the Kaboom Power Cycle, the mystic source of all power", and subsequently hunted by "the Nine, a group of demons".[8] Artist Ian Churchill created two series—Coven and Lionheart (both also written by Loeb). Coven (which followed a fairly regular bi-monthly publishing schedule between August 1997 and July 1998 for its first 6-issue series) was a supernatural, "Heaven vs. Hell" title, featuring the titular group. "The Coven" was made up of "Fantom (half-human vampiress); Spellcaster (white witch with owl familiar); Scratch (Catholic priest possessed by a demon); Blackmass (leader, descendant of Cain); and Phenomena (can tell when trouble's a-brewing)", and featured "a healthy mix of lightheartedness and horror".[9] Lionheart's two issues told the story of Karen Quinn, an archaeologist accidentally transformed into Lionheart, a warrior "infused with a divine power tracing back to the Garden of Eden and the expulsion of Adam and Eve."[10]

The Fighting American

Another of Awesome's bigger releases was the revival of the classic patriotic comic book character Fighting American, originally created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in 1954. Liefeld acquired the rights to this character in confusing circumstances, allegedly due in large part to a lawsuit between himself and Marvel Comics over "his" character Agent: America, which drew litigation for the characters' extreme similarities to Marvel's Captain America, which had also been created by Simon and Kirby. During the early stages of the legal action, Liefeld bought the rights to Simon and Kirby's own Captain America-esque character: The Fighting American. Merging the Fighting American with Agent: America managed to confuse and defuse much of the lawsuit. Despite the derivative Agent: America having seen publication before Liefeld purchased the rights to the Fighting American, the ultimately melded creation managed to avoid the brunt of Marvel's suit, and both sides walked away reasonably confident of their "victory" in the case. As part of the ruling, Liefeld's Fighting American was allowed to have a shield, but not to throw it like Captain America.[11]

Awesome's collapse

Awesome eventually collapsed for a number of reasons, in which "cause" and "effect" appear muddled and linked. Its launch and success occurred towards the tail-end of the 90s comics boom, in which speculation forced sales up artificially and unreasonably. The speculator boom was fueled in no small part by the trend for multiple variant covers — something which the artist-led Image had a hand in, and a trend which was followed to extremes by Awesome. Youngblood featured at least eleven variant covers on its debut issue (see below). Concurrently, internal disputes among its partners and the abrupt departure of its primary investor hamstrung the company, while the erratic content of some comics (sometimes not including the solicited content, featuring multiple artists, etc.) and unpredictable publishing schedule hurt sales.[citation needed]

Post-Awesome

Alan Moore

Moore moved on from the collapse of Awesome to almost immediately start his own America's Best Comics imprint for Jim Lee's Wildstorm (later, and controversially from Moore's perspective, sold to DC), creating and writing its entire output in much the same way he been planning that of the Awesome Universe. Indeed, Liefeld has subsequently suggested that Moore's ABC work owed a significant amount to his work for Awesome, suggesting on Mark Millar's MillarWorld forum[12] that:

"...much of the ABC line is made up of poorly masked Awesome characters and story outlines he prepared for us... I believe I could draw direct connections to many of the ABC characters and their origins coming from pages of Awesome work we commissioned from him. In short order, Tom Strong is Supreme mixed with his Prophet proposal. Promethea is Glory and the rest I honestly don't pay much attention to. Don't have the time or interest. Simply put, there is no ABC without Supreme and the Awesome re-launch."[13]

Loeb, Churchill, Matsuda, and McGuinness

Jeph Loeb has continued his post-Awesome success-story with a great deal of writing for both DC and Marvel. Notably, in 2003, he and artist Jim Lee produced the year-long Batman: Hush, one of DC's biggest selling titles. In 2004, he launched the Superman/Batman title, continuing as writer until issues #25 and #26. He has also written for the TV series Smallville, and is a writer/producer on Lost. In 2007, Loeb signed a Marvel-exclusive contract that saw him become an integral architect of the Ultimate Universe (writing Ultimates 3 and Ultimatum along with several specials) as well launching a new Hulk book with Ed McGuiness.[citation needed]

Loeb and Churchill were reunited for an issue of Superman/Batman, from which they spun off 2005's solo Supergirl series. Churchill returned briefly to Marvel, working on several X-Men titles in 2000/2001 (most notably a relaunch of Uncanny X-Men with writer Joe Casey that ran alongside Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's more memorable New X-Men), but most of his subsequent work has been for DC, for whom he remains under an exclusive contract, which has seen him produce work for four issues of Countdown (October 2007).[citation needed]

Jeff Matsuda moved more towards animation and videogames and is best known now for having created the character designs for the television animations Jackie Chan Adventures (2000) and The Batman (2004), as well as working on 2007's animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film: TMNT.[citation needed]

Ed McGuinness has produced a considerable amount of work for DC, most notably on their flagship Superman title, and Superman/Batman (both with Jeph Loeb). In 2006 he signed a one-year exclusivity deal with Marvel and, in 2007 launched a new Hulk series with writer Jeph Loeb, spinning out of the 2007 World War Hulk crossover series.[citation needed]

Rob Liefeld

Liefeld has occasionally solicited and sometimes published various comics under his new Arcade Comics imprint, including several attempts to relaunch Youngblood. These have included a single issue of Youngblood: Bloodsport (Jul 2003), an unfinished projected mini-series with art by Liefeld, and written by current Marvel star Mark Millar; two issues of a semi-ongoing series entitled Youngblood: Genesis (July 2003, March 2004) by Kurt Busiek and Brandon Thomas (art by Chad and Eric Walker, who had previously worked on Awesome's Prophet (2000) and a single issue of Youngblood: Imperial by rising star Robert Kirkman (art by Marat Mychaels). Liefeld briefly returned to work for both DC (on two issues of Teen Titans in 2005) and Marvel (Onslaught Reborn mini-series with Jeph Loeb).[citation needed]

Awesome Comics bibliography

Due to the vast number of alternative covers, varied publication history, etc., the below list should not be considered fully exhaustive.

Extreme Studios


1997

Supreme

Supreme #1–42 were published by Image Comics; Supreme: The New Adventures #43–48 by Maximum Press; and Supreme #49–56 and Supreme: The Return #1–6 by Awesome Comics.

Judgment Day

1998

Youngblood

1999

Supreme: The Return

Supreme #1–42 were published by Image Comics; Supreme: The New Adventures #43–48 by Maximum Press; and Supreme #49–56 and Supreme: The Return #1–6 by Awesome Comics.

2000

References

  1. ^ "'Deadpool's Rob Liefeld Takes His Extreme Universe To Netflix In Splashy Deal". Deadline. 2018-03-08. Retrieved 2019-01-27.
  2. ^ Zachary, Brandon (January 25, 2019). "Rob Liefeld's Extreme Universe Won't Be Made With Netflix After All". CBR.com.
  3. ^ a b c d Platinum Studios: Awesome Comics. Retrieved 2008-02-03. Archived November 1, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Jeph Loeb Biography Archived 2008-05-17 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2008-02-03.
  5. ^ Klock, Geoff (2002). How to Read Superhero Comics and Why. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8264-1418-4.
  6. ^ a b Darius, Julian. "The Continuity Pages: Youngblood". Sequart.com. Archived from the original on October 25, 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-03.
  7. ^ Glory (Avatar) at the Comic Book DB (archived from the original). Retrieved 2008-02-03.
  8. ^ "Kaboom!". Atomic Avenue. Retrieved 2008-02-03.
  9. ^ "Coven". Atomic Avenue. Retrieved 2008-02-03.
  10. ^ "Lionheart". Atomic Avenue. Retrieved 2008-02-03.
  11. ^ "Agent: America and Litigation". Archived from the original on 2008-08-04. Retrieved 2008-02-03.
  12. ^ MillarWorld Forum Archived February 2, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Naso, Markisan. "All the Rage". ComicsBulletin. Archived from the original on May 23, 2011. Retrieved 2008-02-03.