Cinematic universes are all the rage these days, and it's a trend primarily driven by the popularity of comic books and superhero stories. Marvel Studios launched it all with Iron Man back in 2008, but now we've seen the model matched on the big screen by competitors at DC Comics and 20th Century Fox. Right now those are the top three in the game, but audiences will soon be introduced to a whole new franchise from a very different brand of comics, specifically the Extreme Cinematic Universe.
It was recently announced that Rob Liefeld's Image Comics-based imprint, Extreme Studios, has earned attention from Oscar-winning writer Akiva Goldsman and producer Graham King, and there are now plans in the works to bring that fictional world to the big screen for the first time. During the early 1990s, Extreme launched multiple successful titles, and the belief is that they can be adapted and made part of a cohesive universe brought to life in blockbuster format. It's source material with plenty of potential, but for those of you who are unfamiliar with some of the big titles and names involved, we've put together this handy guide to help you get a grip on what it's all going to be about and what to expect.
What Is Extreme Studios?
In 1992, a group of very notable comic book artists - including Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri, Jim Valentino, Whilce Portacio, Erik Larsen, and Rob Liefeld - made a big move. Rather than inventing characters for companies that would ultimately own the rights to everything created, they decided to found Image Comics: a publishing house dedicated to releasing creator-owned titles and material. Under this banner, the artists individually established their own special studios, with Extreme Studios being the company launched by Rob Liefeld (best known as the co-creator of Deadpool, Cable, and many other notable Marvel heroes and villains).
The first ever title to be released by Image Comics was Extreme's Youngblood - a superhero team comic that wound up being incredibly successful and the first independent release to be a number one best-seller. In 2009, Reliance Entertainment acquired the rights to this particular series, which explains why it wasn't mentioned in the initial announcement about the Extreme Cinematic Universe. That being said, there are still multiple titles from the same world that still remain open for adaptation - as you'll discover as you continue reading!
Part of the Youngblood team, Badrock was one of the earliest characters created by the young publishing company, and has an origin story that should very easily translate to the big screen. Before his transformation, Thomas John McCall was a slacker 16-year-old, living a normal life with his scientist father, Dr. Joseph McCall, and mother, Angela. As they do in comics, everything changes when Thomas ingests some genetic material in his dad's lab - and he winds up undergoing a pretty radical transformation. As pictured above, he remained humanoid, but turned gigantic and his skin is like rock.
Badrock wound up having a busy existence outside of the Youngblood series, getting not only his own series, but also a separate team-up series called Badrock And Company. Given how cinematic universes operate, there is a clear opportunity that exists in this from a franchise-building standpoint - especially given that a Badrock movie wouldn't be a bad place for everything to start from.
Just given the source material, the Extreme Cinematic Universe is set up to have a mix of projects that are solo hero movies as well as others that are more team oriented. Given the publication history, Bloodstrike is a title that somewhat straddles that line - as the eponymous series started out as a comic following a team, and then evolved into being pretty much all about one character... who was called Bloodstrike. Depending on how Akiva Goldsman, Rob Liefeld, and their team of writers want to play it within the franchise, there are multiple ways presented to tackle this potential big screen series.
When Bloodstrike was launched in 1993, it centered on a group of elite government agents who all had one very important thing in common: they had all died in action. A team of five - Cabbot Stone, Tag, Fourplay, Shogun, and Deadlock - they were all resurrected by military scientists who utilized them for dangerous/wet work missions, kept on a leash due to their dead-ness and need for certain chemicals to remain functional. As mentioned earlier, the "Bloodstrike" title eventually focused one specifically one character, Cabbot Stone, who wasn't actually revealed as the masked hero Bloodstrike until after the original series had ended. One significant part of his biography is that he is the brother of Battlestone, a member of the team known as...
When I got to speak with Rob Liefeld about the birth of the Extreme Cinematic Universe, he told me one element that he was legitimately excited for cinema to portray was the relationship between the aforementioned Bloodstrike and Battlestone... given that they don't exactly have the easiest relationship. In his own words:
This resurrection story, involving the same Project: Born Again that resurrected Bloodstrike, is easily an arc that can be established as a tentpole event as the braintrust builds out the plans for the Extreme Cinematic Universe's future.
Battlestone is obviously a significant figure in Brigade, given that he is the team leader, but we obviously can't ignore the heroes with whom he battles evil. Another spin-off of the popular Youngblood comics (Battlestone was an original team member), Brigade's protagonists included Kayo (a Japanese assassin), Boone (an infiltration expert) and Lethal (a mysterious masked killer who is quite handy with a sword).
Supreme is another title that could easily be adapted as part of the Extreme Cinematic Universe, given his Superman-level powers and history... but the big question would be in regard to which version of the character we would see on the big screen. Supreme was originally created by Rob Liefeld in 1992 as the reincarnated identity of Ethan Crane - a man subjected to experiments in prison following getting vengeance for the rape of a 15-year-old girl. He was established as an arrogant god-level character and the most powerful being in the established universe (not only gifted with super strength, speed and flight, but also able to adapt to any threat posed to him).
This all changed, however, when writer Alan Moore came on to the book and completely rewrote everything about him. Far less dark than his other titles like Watchmen, and Batman: The Killing Joke, Moore's version was more of a callback to bright Silver Age comics, and introduced Ethan Crane as a comic book artist who can transform into Supreme thanks to a childhood run-in with a reality-altering element known as Supremium.
Should we get a Supreme solo film, it's unclear which origin we would see play out - though perhaps the writers could find a way to meld the visions of Rob Liefeld and Alan Moore and create a special cinematic take on the hero.
If you're getting some Wonder Woman vibes off of the image of Glory you see above, it's with pretty good reason. Like the most popular heroine of DC Comics, Rob Liefeld's creation for Extreme Studios is also an Amazonian with a history tied in with fantastical mythology. She is the daughter of Lady Demeter, the Queen of the Amazonians, as well as Lord Silverfall, a demon from the underworld - and while she was raised in Amazonia, she also possesses an innate savagery from her father's side. This embedded deep feelings in her that she didn't belong in either of her parents' worlds, and eventually ventured into the world of man to fight along allied forces in World War II.
Like Supreme, Glory was another character who changed when Alan Moore started writing stories - but the alterations were far less extreme (she goes the Clark Kent route and takes on the identity of Gloria West to properly experience humanity). Given that we are about to see a big screen incarnation of Wonder Woman, the cinematic version of Glory may have to change again just as a way of appearing to be something new and different - but there's obvious potential to have her as a leading female hero in the Extreme Cinematic Universe.
In case you couldn't tell, there's a good amount of callback and connection to the Youngblood series that served as the foundation for Extreme Studio comics, and this is yet another one of them. Making the name quite appropriate, Bloodpool is essentially exists as a recruitment pool for the Youngblood roster, and is made up of young heroes who train and work to establish themselves until being called up to the big leagues. The titular comic series didn't start running until 1996, but was yet another creation of Rob Liefeld.
Like any good superhero team, the ensemble includes members who all have very different abilities that can prove useful. This includes a regenerating super-soldier (Task); a hero who can transmute and manipulate matter (Fusion); a telepath (Psilence); a genetically altered half-human/half-animal with blades in his arms (Wylder); a man of living stone (Rubble); and a woman who can conjure the spirits of dead warriors to give her enhanced strength in time of battle (Seoul).
Another character introduced in the 1992 Youngblood series (Issue #2), Prophet was originally imagined by Rob Liefeld as a character who could potentially fit into his work on Marvel Comic's X-Force, but wound up saving him for his own creator-owned material. This was how he finally wound up on the page in the Extreme Universe - getting his own series in the early 1990s and brought back in a revitalization in 2011.
Prophet's origin story begins with the tale of John Prophet - a homeless man during World War II who is convinced by a time-traveling scientist named Dr. Wells to be the subject of medical experiments. Thanks to enhancements to his DNA, Prophet becomes superhuman... but it's initially for a sinister purpose. He was meant to be created to serve an evil ruler named Phillip Omen, but Dr. Wells changes the programming and makes him have a strong belief in god and a hunger to fight Omen's disciples. He was then put into stasis, and after being found and awoken in the modern era by the Youngblood team, he goes on a journey of self-discovery.