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Rob Liefeld’s Titans Series

Rob Liefeld is a big Titans fan and belonged to a Titans Amateur Press Association called TTalk. Liefeld pitched a Titans Series to DC Comics which featured an Arsenal-led team sponsored by the government, and under media scrutiny. Sound familiar? Rob’s idea morphed into the YOUNGBLOOD series – you can see Shaft ‘subbing’ for Speedy/Arsenal.

Rob Liefeld Titans

Wolfman isn’t content with the two Titans books-he’s planning a mini-series starring one of the most popular team members. “Nightwing could certainly carry a full series, but why try to get one out every month? His stuff is very complicated. The storyline is going to cross three generations: Batman, Nightwing and Robin.”

Additionally, there may be a third Titans title involving a hot young talent currently working on a Marvel Comics bestseller. “They’ve been talking about a mini-series with Rob Liefeld,” Wolfman says, “but I don’t know what the final thing is.”

[From Comic Scene #24, February 1991]

Liefeld’s Titans Go Awry

Writer Mary Wolfman (in CS #24) reported that Liefeld had been talking to DC Comics about doing a possible Titans mini-series. Negotiations have since fallen through, however, and Liefeld offers both his side of the story and its relationship to Youngblood.

“I love controversy,” he laughs. “My favorite characters as a kid were the X-Men and the Teen Titans. I work in the X-Men office now, but I don’t work on the X-Men. The New Mutants was my way of doing my own version of the X-Men, and XForce is kind of that now. “At the time, I was looking to do another project. Youn~hlood was already being talked about with Malibu and Dave Olbrich, but I really wanted to do something with the Titans. I always loved that series, and it was like, ‘Wow, if I could do the Titans and the X-Men at the same time, I could die a happy man.’

“[My idea] was something called Team Titans or Titans Force, whatever. It was just me, at this point, pursuing a fan boy’s dream, and I was really into it. I talked to the Titans editor [Jonathan Peterson] about doing this for DC, entered negotiations and sent some drawings and character designs.”

Liefeld went into the negotiations with a set creative team for the book, but unfortunately, things didn’t work out the way he planned. “[DC said] ‘We don’t want to do this. We want to do this. We want to use your characters and your concepts, but we want it to be done this way.’ My attitude was, ‘Look, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.’ It just got ridiculous. Negotiations fell off, and I said, ‘OK. Well, what I’ve got here is some real strong stuff,’ so I just bounced it into Youngblood. So, yes, many of the characters you’ll see in Youngblood were to be part of a new Teen Titans team that I would have created from the ground up. It would have just tied in to the Titans universe. Some of these characters would have fit perfectly into the DC universe, but unfortunately, that’s not the way it goes.”

[From Comic Scene #25, February 1992]

Liefeld’s Titans/Youngblood Connection

RAMA: And for fans who may not know, in the early ‘90s you were in negotiations with DC about doing a Titans limited series with Arsenal and Speedy which eventually morphed into…

RL: I proposed a new Titans book in 1991, Team Titans was the proposal, Jon Peterson who edited the book approved it, Marv Wolfman signed on to co-write it and then I couldn’t make the deal with Dick Giordano. God bless him, we just couldn’t make the numbers work. So I took my proposal and merged it with an existing indie project I had called Youngblood. Next thing you know, POOF…Image comics was born.

NRAMA: Can you tell us about the circumstances surrounding that time and that project?

RL: Shaft was intended to be Speedy. Vogue was a new Harlequin design, Combat was a Kh’undian warrior circa the Legion of Super Heroes, ditto for Photon and Die Hard was a Star Labs android. I forgot who Chapel was supposed to be. So there you have it, the secret origin of Youngblood.

[From, April 2005]

Titans Editor Jonathan Peterson on Liefeld’s Titans Plans

TTC: At one point, Rob Liefeld was developing a Titans West mini-series. It had Speedy as leader of a government sponsored Titans team called Titans Force. What became of that?

JP: That was me! Yeah, I called Rob up, and he was working for Marvel at that time. I even gave Rob some of his first work. He drew Checkmate # 3 for me. I was always friendly with Rob, and there was some sort of falling out over X-Force, as I recall. I remember talking with him on the phone about doing a Titans book at that time. There was initially some concern with DC over money and matching what he got for New Mutants, or whatever. I remember I really wanted to do it, and he really wanted to do it. Rob was actually really pumped about it. I never have anything bad to say about Rob.

TTC: Was there ever a lineup created for it?

JP: I’m trying to remember. I do remember it eventually became Youngblood. If you look at the character of Shaft, that was what Speedy’s design looked like at one point. This all happened right before Image Comics formed, so then Rob eventually used some of those ideas there.

[from The Titans Companion, 2005]

The Youngblood Concept:

According to Liefeld, much of the concept behind Youngblood evolved as a result of growing up in “the MTV-generation music videos in front of your face all the time, all those commercials and fast images, 24-hour news networks. One day, I started thinking, ‘If superheroes really did exist in the world, how would they affect us?’ Not who would fight them or what crimes would they solve, but how would it affect us? The media would certainly latch onto them. If there were superheroes, they would be the trendsetters, the guys who impact how people think, and they would be watched 24 hours a day.

“If there really was a guy who could fly and hurl buildings at people, this guy would be incredibly pursued,” he continues. “And in today’s marketplace, he would just be hit from everything. I’m sure he would get corporate sponsors asking, ‘Would you sell my product?’ ‘Would you be the spokesman?’

“In the Youngblood universe, the nuclear power race isn’t the big race anymore. It’s still a super-powers race, but it’s now very literal. From genetic engineering to technological advances, the first few seeds of what became extraordinary individuals have now blown into a race to see who can create the better supermen. And the elite of these, in America at least, are part of a government team called Youngblood.”

Despite the singular name, Youngblood is actually broken up into two teams, with each group consisting of six members. “One team serves as an FBI function, and the other as a CIA function,” Liefeld explains. “I refer to them as the home team and the away team, because just as the CIA functions outside America and the FBI functions inside, that’s how these two operate.”

Speedy/Shaft: Similar Backgrounds

Leading the Youngblood home team is Shaft, whom Liefeld describes as “an excellent marksman with bows, arrows, crossbows – he’s real adept with weapons. He was originally an FBI agent, but they just snagged him out of there and told him, ‘Look, we need you. Here’s who you’re going to be. Here’s your code-name. This is your new job and this is how you function.’ He didn’t have anything to say about it. Although he’s a natural to lead the team, it’s the last thing he wanted to do. He was happier just being in his suit and tie, not fighting crime in spandex. “When we open the first issue, we find out that Shaft is about a week into that job,” he adds. “The previous guy who held it – a guy named Battlestone – was tired of the government’s bull****. He left and formed a group called Brigade. The government isn’t very happy about it, and we find that out in the mini-series.”


End of transmission. About this author:  Bill Walko is an author and artist and the man behind He's been reading and drawing comics since he was 5 years old and hasn't stopped since. Read more from this author