Obama and Chapel.  Really just sensitive artists, perpretrating like they are the hardest.
Obama and Chapel. Really just sensitive artists, perpretrating like they are the hardest.

If you’ve listened to our most recent episode of Funnybooks with Aron and Paulie, “Thor Up-Skirts” (and if you haven’t listen now!), you undoubtedly shook your head in disgust as my secret, horrifying mission was revealed….

I’m an Extreme Studios fan.

Yes folks, I love that 1992 and on Rob Liefeld run comic studio, and have feverishly been attempting to fill in the holes in my Extreme Studios collection with Christmas/New Years sales.

Everyone pretty much points to the Extreme Studios output as one of the reasons everyone is ashamed of admiting that they read comics back in the 90’s, and a perfect examples of why 90’s comics are the suck.  Still, reading the recent Image United, I was shocked at how these artists, the founders of Image Comics mind you, were putting out a comic that looked so damn bad.  I mean, isn’t Image known for great art and crappy stories?

Oddly, picking up all of these Extreme Studios titles and re-reading them revealed something quite the opposite.

Now I have to admit – reading the original Youngblood miniseries pretty much solidified the thinking that, really, Image was all about art and not so much on story back then.  However, one thing I noticed about Image United was the bad art, and it got me thinking – “have these guys really aged this poorly?”  Looking back at these 90’s stories though, I discovered that, really, the art (at least by today’s standards) was never really that hot.  Not just in Youngblood, but in the majority of Image books, you get awkward poses that are anatomically impossible, characters with their heads twisted in odd ways just so you can look at their pecs/boobs/butt, lots and lots of grimaces instead of actual facial expression … it’s a shocker to me that, at the time, we thought of these books as having the cream of the crop in Image talent.

The entire Bloodstrike team was killed in one of the company's major crossovers.
The entire Bloodstrike team was killed in one of the company's major crossovers.

I will say though, that the art that has aged the best, at least as far as Extreme Studios is concerned, comes from Rob Liefeld and Dan Fraga.  Still, there are a ton of very talented artists who also put out Extreme books – Jeff Matsuda, Marat Mychaels, Stephen Platt, Dan Panosian, Todd Nauck, Art Thibert, and more.  To this day, I actually enjoy art from most of these artists, and it’s kind of shocking to see how far they’ve all come and developed their own styles.  Of course, not a damn one of them can draw a foot to save their lives, but as far as dynamic, interesting action, Extreme was it!

The most shocking thing I’ve discovered, though, as I read these titles, is that I’m actually enjoying the stories.  I mean, sure, there are some groaners in the bunch, but most of the stuff is much better written than I remember.  And why wouldn’t it be?  You’ve got talent like Joe Kelly, Jeph Loeb, and Alan Moore writing this stuff.  And it’s surprisingly hard to find a chronology of when all of these comics came out, and with an incomplete collection, trying to read them in the order they were released (by following the ads in the back as a guide of what was released that month) is definitely tricky.  Still, starting with Youngblood (which got stronger as it went on), and moving on to titles like Brigade, Bloodstrike, Prophet, Supreme and Newmen, I find I’m enjoying my time in this universe more and more.

It reminds me of a time when comics were more fun – these are great, fun superhero tales and, trying to read them years later takes away the burden of late releases, so I get to enjoy the stories as they were intended.  Maybe it’s the nostalgia talking, but I find that the way all of the stories connect, and the soap opera elements that were what made the X-Men so popular back in the 90’s, are clearly evident in these books – Brigade and Bloodstrike are tied closely together because the team leaders are brothers.  Newmen is kind of the young heroes titles, but it’s also kind of the backbone to all of the major linewide crossovers.   Half of the characters either looked like Cable or Wolverine and, in the end, if you can get past the bad rep these books have, you might find some comics that’ll remind you of the fun you had reading comics in the first place.

Of course, we’re talking about a guy who liked Maximum Carnage and The Clone Saga, so keep that in mind if you’re gonna give them a try 🙂

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