Jabroniville is back to his Image deep dive, and he is STILL on the Rob Liefeld train! I mean, the guy only created like ten different books for Image, so it makes sense. For more on this series, see Jab’s previous articles or go to the Image tag in the menu on the right!
Let’s get back to Liefeld!
Okay, RIPTIDE? Riptide actually works! Maybe it’s because she’s the most plainly designed character on this nutjob team, but Riptide is the only Youngblood character who looks like she could fit into a team from any era- as skimpy as the swimsuit outfit she’s wearing can be, there’s nothing on her that wouldn’t fit in on, say, the 1970s Legion of Super-Heroes, 1980s Teen Titans, 1990s X-Men or even most teams in the post-2000 era! And she even has a unique, rarely-used power-set! Riptide ACTUALLY WORKS. I mean, if Rob was capable of drawing water that didn’t look like she was riding a river of cum, but otherwise, yeah.
So Riptide is part of Rob’s old-school Youngblood pitch, and is the ever-rare Water Controller archetype, and arguably the most prominent superhero with that concept (as Marvel’s Hydro-Man is easily the most famous super-powered example overall). She got her powers from an “undersea accident” that resulted in a Sea Witch empoweroing her. She joined Youngblood to make some quick money, but soon became an important part of the team. She became one of very few super-heroines to pose nude in-universe, as she was in “Pussicat Magazine”, something that got her booted from Youngblood. But after Battlestone became the new team leader, she was asked to rejoin.
However, in Alan Moore’s run on Youngblood , she was the victim in a big “Murder Mystery” arc in which Knightsabre went on trial for killing her. Eventually, the truth was revealed- her father’s old magical storybook had been stolen years ago, and she discovered that her teammate Sentinel had taken it. Langston was startled when she caught him, and the two fought, Sentinel killing her in cold blood. He tried to frame their partner Knightsabre for the slaying. He was eventually found out and imprisoned.
Sentinel was a member of the “Away Team” in Youngblood’s debut, and was pretty much a recolor of Rob’s X-Force character, G.W. Bridge, but with a Power Armor gimmick. It’s said that the government didn’t want to risk the life of a test pilot, and he wanted to impress his pretty co-worker Elizabeth, so Marcus Langston donned the “Sentinel” armor and proved gifted enough that they let him keep the suit, so long as he developed more. He and Elizabeth soon married, and he became leader of the Away Team- Shaft’s counterpart.
Alan Moore would introduce a retcon- his father had been a thief who stole Storybook Smith’s magical book that allowed anyone to view their own story. Marcus discovered that he would become a thief as well, and be killed while robbing a liquor store. Using the book, Marcus rewrote his life to have a better outcome. When Smith’s daughter, his teammate Riptide, discovered the book and stole it back, he attacked her and murdered her in cold blood. Framing their teammate KnightSabre for the crime, he nearly got away with it, but was uncovered and was arrested. He attempted to use the book to write an explosion from which he would be the only survivor, but the book was taken from him and he was caught. He later resurfaced leading the villain team Badblood. This is, um, DECIDEDLY weird for an Image book (well, except for the “Badblood” part), and the book was toast soon after anyways- it’s just this odd mix of Silver Age stuff and modern meta-textual nonsense.
There is… just literally nothing interesting about this guy’s design. He’s just big and in purple, with headgear that looks like a bunch of grey turds. Dutch is a cybernetic member of the “Team Youngblood” incarnation, and was made to kill his CIA partner, Battlestone, but had his memory wiped. He retired and settled to life in a cabin, but was recruited by Sentinel for Youngblood, fighting his old boss (and the man who ordered Battlestone’s death), Giger. He remained with the team thereafter.
Cougar, sadly missing out on the humorous term for predatory older women by several years, is our natural “Wolverine Rip-Off”, with bits and pieces of “Stranger in a Strange Land” and “Tragic Half-Breed”. But really, he’s mostly the “Wolverine” of our early bunch, being a clawed guy named after an animal that has super-healing. I mean, it’s so obvious and broad a knock-off that you barely have to think about why he’s on this team, you know? Rob is clearly going, like, “I want one, too”. Though this actually extends back to the 1980s origin of Youngblood, as Cougar was even more clearly a rip-off of Timber Wolf of the Legion of Super-Heroes, copying even his color scheme and partially-white hair!
Having stupendously bad anatomy even for a Rob Liefeld character, Troll is bizarre because he’s not only clearly a dwarf, but because Rob inexplicably gave him Wolverine’s exact haircut. Given that Logan has by far the most famous hair in comic books- something so recognizable that every fan could call it out immediately, WHY IN THE HELL WOULD YOU JUST COMPLETELY APE IT? Though his concept is more “Comic Relieif”, in that he’s presumably a gambling addict who is usually his own worst enemy. It seems like Image wanted him to be a thing pretty hard, as he got a one-shot Troll comic in 1993, and Troll II came out in 1994, but the character largely stopped appearing when Rob cracked up. Of course, his real name is a reference to Bart J. Simpson himself.
Troll is a literal troll, though his species are technically called “Kobolds” in-universe, and is a thousand years old thereabouts. His backstory includes he and his entire people being enslaved by an evil Warlock after he loses a game of cards, and winning his freedom back by discovering a book that can change real-world events by writing things in it. He himself lost the book to Merlin… also in a game of cards. When the “Winter Knight” gained possession of it, Troll tried to steal it from him, and got imprisoned in a frozen waterfall for 300 years. When he’s finally freed, he joins Youngblood as a reserve member, shaving his furry body to look more human-like. Apparently he betrayed the team at some point, all to rescue Chapel.
Hahahahahahaaha Jesus Christ, this guy’s outfit. How uncreative can you get? That’s literally just “Generic Superhero Uniform When You Have No Design Concept” 101, right there. It’s so generic it was the “Jim Lee’s X-Men Team Uniform” AND Changeling’s baseline outfit in Teen Titans (since a shape-changer doesn’t need cool clothes). It’s just… like almost the exact same thing Changeling had- all it’s missing is the torso color going down the sides of the arms to meet the gloves, because this version is even lazier, making the gloves just a different color. Another aspect of laziness was the psionics- back in 1987 when Rob created this guy for the early “Youngblood” concept, it was common for every X-team to have the “Token Psionic”, and this continued into the early ’90s, when all these characters finally made paper. So Psi-Fire seems like the most obvious X-Men reference of the early cast.
Psi-Fire was a member of Youngblood’s “Away Team”, and controversially used his powers to kill the Middle Eastern dictator Hassan Kussein (gee, I wonder who he was referencing?), which is oddly close to stuff that various comics fans wrote as “What-Ifs” back in the day- for my “Something Unique” writing community, I actually had my evil “Pretend Superheroes” team prove their worth to the U.S. by killing Saddam in a gory manner on live television. In this case, Psi-Fire was censured for committing a murder against orders during a mission, and was forced to use a power-inhibitor. He was allowed to take it off once he chased off the forces of the villain Darkthornn. This left Psi-Fire comatose, so he mentally transferred his mind to a female medical staff worker and attacked Youngblood- he went wild until using his powers against Masada: her powers came from several souls, so it overwhelmed his psionics.
Brahma is easily the most generic character on Youngblood , being nothing more complicated than “The Strong Guy”- he has no design quirks, nor interesting costume choices- his sole visual distinction his his Guile-like flat-top hairstyle! Though I’ll give Rob this- “Brahma” isn’t actually a bad name for a powerhouse character at all. His origin is pretty dumb- he was supposed to be born triplets, but the “triplet cells never split”, so he is basically three men in one (well, that’s just science). He was recruited onto Youngblood’s “Away Team”, but he eventually quit the team to please his father, and joined The Four along with his friend Showdown. But later, both realized that the Four’s leader Neverman had cheated them- they quit the team and Brahma returned to Youngblood.
Masada is an Israeli crimefighter who gained size-changing powers thanks to the souls of the Jewish warriors who died at Masada (a famous real-life siege in which the Jewish population of the fortress city committed suicide rather than be taken prisoner by the Roman army- “We have won a rock” the commander is said to have uttered). So she of course wore a belly-shirt and metal panties and joined Youngblood.
KnightSabre is a weirdo nutjob who got added to Youngblood after basic training, despite an enmity with Diehard. His power is to absorb the anger and aggression of nearby foes into energy blasts, typically from his titanium battle-staff, as well as enhanced his physical abilities. This leaves him aggressive, fighty, and crazy, to the point where he was the “obvious” choice to be the killer of Riptide during Alan Moore’s run on Youngblood – this was a clear Red Herring, leading to Sentinel’s conviction, as he’d framed the hot-head. And he’s very, very, very, very clearly a rip-off of Gambit.
Whew. So much young blood.
Join us next time when we move on to Rob’s OTHER other Image team: Brigade!