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Trading Card Set of the Week (Special Rob Liefeld Crosshatching Edition) – Youngblood (Comic Images, 1992)

May 22, 2013

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There are times when a bad property and a bad brand come together to create something truly putrid, the exact opposite of, say, the first set Marvel Masterpieces. The 1992 Youngblood trading cards from Comic Images are just such a vortex of suck, somehow managing to take a person that loves comics and cards and turn them into a devout hater of both. You can add this to the indictment list for that beleaguered whipping boy of all things wrong with the late-20th century comics, Rob Liefeld. Another triumph!  

Comic Images issued a number of low-budget sets during the early 1990s trading card boom, licensing individual characters from Marvel and independents and in general leaving company-wide, multi-hero/villain/team sets for the bigger boys like Impel. Their selling point, if you could call it that, was that they had little to no original artwork amongst the cards, instead reproducing panels from comic books. Though lazy, this sounds like a halfway decent idea. The execution, however, left much to be desired. Panels that seemed lush and action-packed on a page with their pals became cramped and indecipherable when imprisoned in a single cardboard rectangle.

Put it this way: One of the sets they produced (which will one day be featured here, I’m sure) was a 30th anniversary Spider-Man set, and amongst the artwork was some of the classic Steve Ditko material. It wound up looking odd and foreign when put on cardboard. Underwhelming in the extreme.

Now just imagine what it does to Mr. Liefeld’s work. Or don’t just imagine it. Let me show you. YOU’RE WELCOME.

Youngblood, you’ll of course recall, was a book about a highly paid team of celebrity superheroes, one of the first wave from the game-changing, then-new, creator-owned Image Comics. YB launched with great fanfare, and fizzled out faster than any of its contemporaries, both due to the poor quality of the storytelling and the congenital inability of anyone in that publishing confederation to meet a regular deadline. But the launch hype was enough to sustain interest in a trading card set, so that’s what we got.

We’ve delayed long enough. Take your medicine, eyeballs.

Here’s a “portrait,” if you will, of Shaft (Richard Roundtree — and Isaac Hayes, for that matter — should have pummeled Liefeld for this), the bow-wielding leader of the Youngblood team. Someone not acquainted with the team, the character, or comics in general might look at this and ask Is that a face? A baboon’s inflamed ass? Is that hair or flame? Are the eyes closed? Open? Welcome to the head-numbing world of Liefeld’s art:

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You want a giant, unnecessary gun, with phallic undercurrents that even us non-Freuds can decipher? There are plenty of those on display. Here’s one in the hands of the notorious killer of Al “Spawn” Simmons, Chapel:

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The card backs are a light blue with some text that tries in vain to drum up interest in the Youngblood universe. Here’s the back from card #1:

youngblood1back

MY GOSH WHERE DO I SIGN UP.

There are, natch, chase cards. The de rigueur chase style for Comic Images was distracting, eye-straining refractor cards, which turned the pic on the front into a holographic shattered mirror. There are six in this set. They’re all unfathomably unattractive:

youngbloodchase

Plus side: If you put these chase cards in your bicycle spokes, then VOILA, no need for reflectors.

I’ve said before on this site that I have no great problem with Liefeld. He did what he did and people bought it — that’s called market economics. Also on the plus side for him, he’s always had some perspective about his style and its place in comic book history, not to mention a sense of humor about his limitations, both as artist and publisher. He seems like a nice enough guy — no personal knowledge of this, but from a distance at least. I saw something recently where he’s trying to get a Kickstarter campaign going to relaunch Brigade. Good luck to him — though I expect more people would rather donate to a new Brigade comic not being produced.

Youngblood was a mess, though. A high-selling mess. And the cards that went along with it weren’t much better. They sure haven’t aged well, and now serve as little more than fodder for a simple blog feature. Sad, really.

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