Gather ye 'round, children, and I'll share with you the tale of the absolute worst comic book ever to be produced by those hacks down at Image Comics. This was pretty early in Image's run, when everyone was mad for 'em, when they could do no wrong, when they knew they could print page after page of pure crap and comics readers would plaster their California-tanned butts with cash no matter how bad it was. Well, almost. "Bloodmaster Scarlet" proved that even comics fanboys have some taste.

"Bloodmaster Scarlet" was created by Claude Bravo, a comics fan who had a talent for kissing up to comics professionals. He was not much of an artist, but luckily, the only things he could draw well -- big muscles and big breasts -- were exactly what kids in the early- to mid-1990s wanted to see. His writing skill, however, was almost entirely nonexistent. Of course, at the time, the bigwigs at Image didn't believe you needed good writing to make comics -- as long as the art looked good, that was all that mattered. Bravo got along great with Image co-founder Rob Liefeld, who agreed to let him create and publish a comic book with the company. The result was "Bloodmaster Scarlet".

The Bloodmaster Scarlet character was big -- he looked about eight feet tall and seven feet wide, with muscles stacked on top of his muscles. He had long black hair, worn in a ponytail, he perpetually scowled, his eyes glowed red, and he always wore black leather, because blood looked more dramatic on black leather than on anything else.

And Bloodmaster Scarlet was nearly always drenched in blood -- always other people's, always extracted very violently. He worked in some unspecified capacity for the government -- basically, anytime there was a crisis, some twelve-star general shouted "Get me Bloodmaster Scarlet!" and Bloodmaster Scarlet would go out and hurt people. Though he was probably immensely strong, he preferred to hurt people using his Extremely Large Knife and his Extremely Large Gun.

It also seems that no one was allowed to call him anything but "Bloodmaster Scarlet" -- almost no nicknames were permitted. It's hard to describe how tedious this got.

His partner/assistant/lust interest was a woman named Chastity Mangle, a redheaded vixen who was apparently smuggling watermelons under her blouse. She also carried Extremely Large Guns and could kick as much ass as Bloodmaster Scarlet could, but she specialized more in getting captured and rescued. Hey, Image was selling to teenage boys -- kickass females were great, but bondage was what really paid the bills.

In Issue #1, terrorists kidnapped the President. Bloodmaster Scarlet was called out, and he killed the terrorists with his Extremely Large Gun and Extremely Large Knife. Chastity came along for the ride; she killed a few terrorists, then got captured by the terrorist leader. Despite the fact that she could carry twin 50-pound plasma rifles around with ease, she couldn't manage to overpower one badly-drawn Arabic stereotype, and Bloodmaster Scarlet had to save her. The readers were then treated to two full pages of Bloodmaster Scarlet shooting the terrorist leader with Extremely Large Guns, leaving no more than a stain on the Oval Office carpet by the time he was finished. However, at no time in the comic did we ever see the guy who was supposed to be the President. Whether he actually got rescued is a mystery that was never explained.

In Issue #2, terrorists take all the students at an elementary school hostage. Bloodmaster Scarlet and Chastity Mangle are again called out. They annihilate the terrorists, except for the leader, who is apparently the exact same guy who got slaughtered in the first issue. As far as I can tell, Bravo didn't want to have to draw a new character and figured no one would notice. The terrorist leader captures Chastity, of course, and Bloodmaster Scarlet has to rescue her and the kids. He walks into the room where they're all being held and growls at the kids to get out of the building as he pulls the pin on a hand grenade and stuffs it down the terrorist leader's throat. The resulting explosion completely levels the school. Bloodmaster Scarlet and Chastity are, of course, entirely unharmed, but I doubt the children had time to even get out of the room before the super-grenade blew everything to hell.

In Issue #3, the previously taciturn Bloodmaster Scarlet inexplicably gets talky. In the process of massacring more terrorists (it's never specified what they've been up to), Bloodmaster gets off brilliant lines like "You cannot defeat me, terrorist skum! For I am Bloodmaster Scarlet and my heart is pure!", "Was that supposed to hurt, you rat bastard pussy? Forsooth!", and "No force on Earth can stop Bloodmaster Scarlet! Prepare to eat bullets!", prompting Chastity to reply, "Oooh, Bloodmaster Scarlet! You're so sexy when you're killing people!"

In Issue #4, the United States government decided they were tired of Satan spreading evil all over the earth, so on the first page, they order Bloodmaster Scarlet to visit Hell and put an end to all that wickedness forever. I guess he had a map, 'cause the next page features Bloodmaster Scarlet and Chastity running through a very poorly drawn underworld carving demons up left and right. This goes on for almost 20 pages, broken only to allow Bloodmaster Scarlet to shout, "I hate evil!" and "Yeah! This gets me so pumped!" and "Give up now and I will only kill you only quickly with my hands!" At last, they meet the Devil, who's a fairly stereotypical horned, mustachioed, goat-legged demon. The Devil sneers and says, "So we meet at last, Bloodmaster Scarlet! You have foyled too many of my evil plots and for that, you must be DESTROYED! HAHAHAHAHAAA!" Eagerly rising to the challenge, Bloodmaster Scarlet shouted, "Kiss your pants goodbye, Evil One!" Clearly, this was a cliffhanger, or what passed for a cliffhanger with the Image boys. Dedicated fans (HAH!) could look forward to more bloodletting in the second part of the story...

There was, however, no Issue #5.

The Image guys don't tend to talk about "Bloodmaster Scarlet" or Claude Bravo much. Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, Mark Silvestri, and Jim Valentino absolutely refuse to answer questions about him, Erik Larsen always describes him as "King Fuckwad" before immediately adding, "Can we talk about something worth talking about now?", and Todd McFarlane has to get pretty damn drunk on good Canadian beer before he'll unleash an impressive stream of profanity about Bravo.

On the rare occasions when Bravo has been able to score an interview with a comics mag, he tends to talk a lot about what a genius he is, about how he was mistreated by Image, about how he's about to bring Bloodmaster Scarlet back any day now. I hear he had an audition at Archie Comics, but got shown the door after he drew Betty and Veronica a bit too much like Cherry Poptart (he said it was time Archie "moved into the '90s"). Last I heard, Bravo was working for a comic store in San Diego...

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