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One of the big pieces of news that came out of the New York Comic-Con earlier this month was that the long-dormant Extreme line of titles are coming back to life at Image with a host of modern creators. Liefeld has brought back a number of his titles in the past few years on an individual basis, but this full-scale resuscitation is striking not just because they’re back, but because Liefeld and Image are bringing them back with modern creators whose styles are different from the kind of work most people would expect from the imprint. But there’s also something else out there — the back catalog of comics and scripts Liefeld has commissioned over the years, some of which have never been seen before.
A little history lesson: Extreme Studios was Liefeld’s imprint in the founding of Image Comics back in 1992, and the inaugural Image/Extreme title Youngblood #1 was a bestseller for the company. Liefeld went on to expand this Image imprint quickly with titles like Bloodstrike, Brigade and Supreme . Although the titles failed to stick to a monthly schedule, the sheer amount of new ideas coming out of Liefeld’s camp led Image to turn down some of them, so Liefeld began a separate side company called Maximum Press to harbor those. After Liefeld departed Image over a dispute with his co-founders, he merged his Image line (Extreme) with his non-Image company (Maximum) in what later became a completely independent entity, Awesome Entertainment.
Extreme, Maximum, Awesome. Get it? Good.
Liefeld became an early eye for talent, pulling future Image publisher Eric Stephenson out of fandom to work with him, and also bringing in a movie screenwriter named Jeph Loeb to become publisher of Awesome. Liefeld’s company expanded quickly, not only publishing his ideas but books from Ian Churchill, Loeb and Jeff Matsuda, as well as doing licensing comics like Battlestar Galactica at a time when licensed comics were considered bad taste in the industry. One of Liefeld’s most surprising and popular choices was bringing in writer Alan Moore, who had fled Marvel and DC Comics over issues with them.
Moore’s time at Awesome Entertainment redefined the publishing line, mixing the recognizable art of Liefeld and his associates with Moore’s assured writing when the writer was bar-none the top writer in comics. Moore was given the keys to reboot the entire universe and did just that with the miniseries Judgment Day, and went on to write the line’s flagship book Youngblood as well as Supreme. Moore had a prodigious output, with a number of his scripts and story ideas remaining unpublished to this day — hence the announced Supreme book by Moore, Erik Larsen and Cory Hamscher.
In the late 90s, Awesome Entertainment folded as the collector’s boom ground to a halt and much of what was published at that time remained out of print for the past decade. The real gems that the revitalized Extreme imprint at Image could take advantage of is Alan Moore’s body of work for the publisher, as well as Liefeld’s work on Youngblood and his reinvention of Fighting American, Stephen Platt’s Prophet and Keron Grant’s Century. It’ll be interesting to see how much time Liefeld spends on moving Extreme forward with new work as well as taking advantage of the immense catalog of work by top stars.