‘Blood Syndicate,’ the ‘bastard child of comics,’ is reborn

Blood Syndicate is back, and Milestone Comics’ grittiest and sometimes most controversial series leaves nothing to be desired in its updated revival of a group of gang members who gain various superpowers and form an edgy alliance to protect their neighborhood from criminals.

“Blood Syndicate has always been the bastard child of comics. People were always afraid to touch that book,” said ChrisCross, an artist at Blood Syndicate and one of the company’s founders during Milestone’s heyday in the ’90s.

“People like Static and Icon, but Blood Syndicate is its own thing – you can’t avoid it. It’s basically like looking at some black hip hop artists that people are trying to get away from, but they keep popping up with even better hits. It’s like, ‘I want to deal with this guy, but he’s just so gross. Just the tone of his voice.’”

Cross and writer Geoffrey Thorne set out to write a book born amid the gang culture of the ’90s. It was a gritty story set in a gritty neighborhood in Dakota, and the original cover proudly read, “America Eats Its Boys.” The characters were steeped in violence, and there were often more internal strife than villains to fight. Blood Syndicate aren’t a Justice League or Avengers, and their turf is Paris Island. Although they often don’t get along, they ruthlessly protect it from intruders and troublemakers.

“The Parisian island. It’s the ‘f—-around-and-find-out’ island. Whether you’re a good guy or a bad guy, you don’t want any of that. That’s the only warning you get,” Thorne said. “We solve problems permanently on the Paris island. We’re not trying to put the Joker in jail.”

Both Cross and Thorne were unsure if the book would ever come back. Even as Reginald Hudlin and Denys Cowan talked about a Milestone brand relaunch for years, the current Blood Syndicate team didn’t know if the group would be accepted in this new superhero-heavy society.

“Remember the time they had the Comics Code Authority? You had to constantly take it out of this book. It just didn’t work. They kept trying to make a PG version of Blood Syndicate. There is no PG version of Blood Syndicate. Come on. I drew Wise Son peeing on someone. Tastefully. And in that book, people died like crazy.”

The gang culture in the original book may have changed since Blood Syndicate first debuted, but Thorne, who says he was heavily influenced by the book and told everyone he met (“I was John the Baptist of the bloody Blood Syndicate!’), understands that it was always ‘more complex than just turning everyone into a bloodthirsty, drug-dealing, murderous thug’.

“Of course it’s part of this type of crime and I’m not here to shy away from it. But I’m not advocating gang culture as a legitimate answer to oppression, because it’s not. This is a story about several powerful people figuring out what their reaction will be and if maintaining their allegiance is in fact the best way forward.”

The second issue of Blood Syndicate will be out next week. It’s still early days, but the creative team has no plans to take it easy on the new pages. The Milestone book, which is supported and distributed by DC Comics, could offer a darker look at urban life than most of the products on the stands that are being released by mainstream publishers. But Thorne is ready for the tough stories to come.

“Walking in a straight line in this world is nowhere near easy. They’re definitely superhumans. But not everyone is or needs to be a hero. Life is much more complicated than black and white.”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2022-06-10/blood-syndicate-the-bastard-child-of-comics-is-reborn ‘Blood Syndicate,’ the ‘bastard child of comics,’ is reborn

Sarah Ridley

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