iFanboy vs. iFanboy: Rob Liefeld

While normally iFanboy is a bastion of harmony and light, there are times when we just can’t get agree. As we’re men of words, we bring our debate to you, to help add civility and a broader scope to our discussion. We bring you the first of our discourses, asking a pressing question: what is the deal with this Liefeld guy?
from: Josh Flanagan
to: Ron Richards
date: Dec 30, 2007 5:33 AM
subject: Liefeld?

I decided to pick up the relaunched Youngblood #1, mostly out of curiosity, and because I like Joe Casey’s work. I got to the store, and saw that it had a Rob Liefeld cover. It’s important to note that, had Liefeld drawn the interior, I would not have considered buying the book. I don’t like his work, and never have. Granted, I missed the period when he was popular, but I’ve never understood what people liked about his work. It just holds no appeal to me at all. So anyway, it’s got this Liefeld cover, which instantly makes me recoil. I don’t want to buy this. And I thought that about the art before it occurred to me who drew it. So I figured that if any book was likely to have an alternate cover it would be this one, and scanning through the stacks and I found a cover by series artist Derec Donocan which was much more to my liking. So, I’ve heard you speak up for Rob Liefeld. Are you a fan?

from: Ron Richards
to: Josh Flanagan
date: Dec 30, 2007 5:33 AM
subject: RE: Liefeld?

Why am I not surprised that you recoiled at the Liefeld cover? Liefeld’s name has been dragged through the mud and the immediate thoughts when someone like you, who missed the time when his name had some positive value, are immediate dismissal, which I think is kind of sad. You ask if I’m a fan of his. I guess I have to admit that I am. Say what you will about his recent work, but when he broke in the late 80s, his style really stuck a chord. The sharp, jagged lines and portrayal of action in New Mutants was completely mind blowing at the time. Then when Youngblood launched, it really was a beautiful book and fun to read. Sure it’s easy to dimiss Liefeld art by pointing out the skinny ankles, perspective problems, millions of pouches and big guns. But when he was on his game, it was a sight to see. That said, I think he’s lost his relevance, similar to John Byrne. The recent work he’s produced (Onslaught Return for Marvel and a couple of Teen Titans issues for DC) were completely forgettable. So am I a fan? I was. And I totally respect Liefeld for the time period where he was relevant.

from: Josh Flanagan
to: Ron Richards
date: Dec 30, 2007 5:33 AM
subject: RE: Liefeld?

I should reiterate that I didn’t know it was him until after I’d negatively reacted to the image, so my judgment wasn’t based on the name as much as the work. But either way, is it only nostalgia that keeps this guy working? I do feel like a lot of people jump on the bandwagon of hating him, but then they go and buy his work. Similarly, the folks sticking up for Liefeld shout them down, and add the relative merits of his character to the argument, and then it just spirals off into bickering. But really, was he that revolutionary or were readers just bored at the time? Or did he do one thing kind of good that excited people, and then got all the leeway in the world to go on doing work for years that has no lasting resonance? His work reminds me of nostalgia for old cartoons where the memory is a lot better than the reality. I’m not going to enjoy an episode of Thundercats today in any way like I did when I was nine. Comic book readers have grown up, and I can’t understand why they’re still buying his product. His comic art just lacks the skill and depth I look for today, not to mention the fact that stuff still doesn’t come out on a regular schedule. John Byrne isn’t really an analog to the situation, because I can easily see that his work was good. It was even great. His later work seems to suffer for whatever reason, but I’ve never seen Liefeld work from any time period that made me say, “Oh I see now. This guy was great.” I begin to doubt that it exists in reality, but more in nostalgiac perceptions of people who view the past with fuzzy blinders.

from: Ron Richards
to: Josh Flanagan
date: Dec 30, 2007 5:33 AM
subject: RE: Liefeld?

So you didn’t instantly know it was him after looking at the cover of Youngblood #1? Wow – I would have thought that his style and art would be instantly recognizable (BTW – I bought his cover as opposed to the other.) I was thinking about the questions you raised and the idea of what made him so successful and why do so many people love to hate on him. I was reminded of hearing the stories about an artist in the silver age who had had both wild success and tons of criticism. People attacked his anatomy and little details, like his large, square-ish fingers. People accused him of being lazy because all his faces looked the same. That artist was Jack Kirby. He also defined the look for a time in comics and then built his career off of that. It’s funny because you accuse Liefeld’s art of lacking skill and depth. I don’t know that I’m technically able to criticize that. I don’t think the argument is whether or not he can draw. He obviously can, just not in a way or style that you like. I’m not going to touch the lateness aspect, because I think you know how I feel about that. Ultimately though I think that the moment in time where Liefeld “mattered” is what’s important. Like Kirby before him, and Neal Adams, John Byrne, Todd MacFarlane (the list could go on and on), the fact that his art was present at that moment in time is what’s important. Do people still buy his stuff out of nostalgia? Probably. I can’t say I’m not guilty of buying a lot of artists work out of nostalgia. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.

from: Josh Flanagan
to: Ron Richards
date: Dec 30, 2007 5:33 AM
subject: RE: Liefeld?

Oh, sweet lord. Did you just place Rob Liefeld in the pantheon of artists including Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, and John Byrne? Seriously? Okay, I’ll give you that artists, in their time, are often criticized for breaking the norms, but go ten or fifteen years down the road, and people usually come to recognize greatness. Well, it’s been more than that with Liefeld, and I’d hardly consider his work to be in the same realm as those guys. Listen, I recognize that at the time he debuted, people were so bored with comic art that his work struck some sort of primal chord, and that there was energy on the page. I’ll even go so far as to say that he had a knack at the time, or designing characters that made people happy. But in retrospect, that work is not timeless. It resides there, in the past, like a New Kids on the Block song. Jack Kirby, on the other hand, designed a slew of characters who are still wearing the same basic costumes 40+ years later. Captain America looks exactly the same! When you look at the work of the guys you mentioned, there’s no nostalgia there, just pure, timeless skill.

from: Ron Richards
to: Josh Flanagan
date: Dec 30, 2007 5:33 AM
subject: RE: Liefeld?

Of course I put Liefeld with those other artists mainly in terms of artists that represented a time. Can you name me ANY other artists from the 1990-1992 other than Liefeld, McFarlane and Jim Lee? I can’t. While I acknowledge the strength of Kirby’s designs, are they really timeless? Have you really looked at some of the character designs? They’re very much of the time, early-mid 1960s. While we revere them as great, they’re hardly timeless. While Captain America’s design is classic, those wings are hardly in vogue these days, if anything nostalgia is what’s kept them on there for so long. Look at the fervor when Liefeld took them away. That was pure nostalgia. But I’m distracted now. Essentially what it boils down to is that I think its a bit of an easy out to criticize Liefeld’s art and his work while overlooking the actual importance of his art, which if anything should be respected. As for saying Liefeld lacks any skill, I’ve never studied art so its beyond me to criticize, but I know for a fact that he draws better than I can. And if he is indeed skill-less, he’s sold a ton of book in his career, so he must be doing something right.

from: Josh Flanagan
to: Ron Richards
date: Dec 30, 2007 5:33 AM
subject: RE: Liefeld?

Well, I suppose we’re at an impasse. Where I certainly do understand that some things from the past are indeed relevant, I can’t go where you’re going. I actually can’t name any artists from 1990-1992 that I like, because I wasn’t reading comics then. Furthermore, in all the years I’ve been reading comics since, I haven’t heard much of a call to go back and read stuff from that time period. There must be a reason. And while I can’t claim that much artistic skill of my own, I’ve got eyes, and I know what’s what. That stuff might have excited people at one time, but I imagine it’s a little like bringing McDonalds to a starving man. Anything is going to taste pretty good if you’re hungry, but that doesn’t make it a good meal. But, like I said, I wasn’t around then, so I can only speak for now, and much like I don’t understand how Leif Garrett, Hansen, or disco got to be popular, I guess I’ll never understand this.

from: Ron Richards
to: Josh Flanagan
date: Dec 30, 2007 5:33 AM
subject: RE: Liefeld?

Ultimately it definitely comes down to taste. I can’t really speculate that had I been as old as I am now when Liefeld debuted, that I would have liked it as much as I did when I was 12. But you hit the nail on the head, there must be a reason. It certain “je ne sais quoi” to his art that even to this day that even I can’t put my finger on. But when he does put pencil to paper, I look. I can’t stop myself, it attracts me. While you claim to know what’s what, I still think that it’s an easy bandwagon to get on to bash his art, that I feel is undeserved. As for your starving man/McDonald’s metaphor. I don’t know if it applies, it’s a bit melodramatic, even for my tastes. But regardless of your opinion, you do seem to be intrigued, as I am I, about how polarizing this topic can be. And if he stops getting work, then what would we argue over? I guess there’s always Fables


  1. I agree with Josh in that I don’t like Liefeld’s style. I was reading in the 90’s and in fact Image was the beginning of the end for my comic reading in the 90’s since it apitimized the style over substance of that era.

    But I also think Josh was right and defeated his own arguement as to why people like Liefeld when he compared him to Disco. Disco was huge, people still like disco, dance music came directly from disco. Liefeld was huge, people still like Liefeld, and like him or not he helped comics move to a new level. It might not have been a good new level and I personally might have hated this new level but where would comics be without the 90’s?

    Without the 90’s we would never have had the backlash that has brought quality back to comics today. So in a way Liefeld saved comics by first helping comercialise them at Image then by annoying people with the big gun toting anti-heroes so that we could have the resurgence of comics we have had since.

    Thank you Rob Leifeld; You are a true comic book hero. Now please never draw a comic again.

  2. Hmmm…. to be completely honest, I really do like the style of art on that cover at the start of this post. But that being said, I can’t stand Rob Liefields art, it looks like a watered down sketchy version of mix between Mark Silvestri and Michael Turner’s work.

    God. His most ‘recent’;to my knowledge, art done on the ‘Onslaught: Reborn’ story was so…… BLARHG! crap, I, the words fail me, I just didn’t like it.

    His angles are all wonky, bodies distorted, seems very rushed…. nothing like that Youngblood #1 cover up top which again, I like. Sometimes he has a nice picture or two, but on the whole most of his characters seem too disproportionate, and so, SO many lines everywhere!

  3. PS: Fables owns. Period.

  4. Josh said: “I recognize that at the time he debuted, people were so bored with comic art that his work struck some sort of primal chord, and that there was energy on the page.”

    Uh… What? In ’88-’90 no one was BORED with comic books or their art! Sales figures were still climbing, climbing, climbing. New Mutants’ sales figures BEFORE Liefeld got on were higher than ANY comic book coming out in 2008.

    You guys really overlooked an important fact: LIEFELD’S STYLE BROUGHT IN *NEW* READERS. He made casual comic-buyers suckers for new issues every month. You guys really have to evaluate Liefeld in terms of what 10-16 year old boys who grew up on He-Man, G.I. Joe, and TMNT would have thought of X-Force #1 in 1991. It seems obvious that they’d love it. Guns, muscles, “mysterious” characters, mutants, violence, and women with breasts like torpedoes. What is so hard to understand about why he was popular?

    Liefeld doesn’t appeal to the comparatively few comic readers today, who are more discerning about storytelling. Of course, to take a stereotype, a 40-year-old guy who waxes poetic about DC continuity is going to berate Liefeld. But his art wasn’t for that person. But his art brought in literally hundreds of thousands of young, indiscriminate, goofy little brats 18 years ago or so. When I was 12, Cable and Deadpool were cool. But now that I’m over double that age, there’s no way I’m rereading early X-Force.

    Also you guys REALLY need to read his issues of Supreme that Alan Moore wrote. Actually, read Alan Moore’s whole run on Supreme–but Liefeld did a few issues in there.

    P.S. It’s going to be really interesting to hear the podcast once the Liefeld-penciled issues of Fables come out this summer.

  5. I dont know how you can call Kirby’s art dated. Much of his later work is still well beyond the capabilities of 99% of the artists at work now. If you look at his later Marvel work like Eternals, and Captain America you can see that it would easily stand up in todays world, and many many artists still steal his poses and style, whether they do it intentionally or not.

    Liefeld is definitely dated though, and has never evolved past 1993. You can look at his Onslaught book that just came out and see that nothing has changed. I’ll give him credit for New Mutants, and X-Force but even his work at Image didnt evolve beyond that point. Meanwhile dozens, if not hundreds of artists who appeared on the scene at that time took the medium to whole new levels and left him behind.

    Oh and I can name dozens of artists from that era who’s names and works I admired as much or more. How about Linsner, Ross, Tucci, Turner, Balent, Kieth, Quesada, the list goes on and on.

  6. I wish my wife had a chest like the Cap in Leifeld’s pic there. Hubba hubba!


    Ron, you don’t have a foot to stand on, much like Leifeld’s drawings.

    Thank you, thank you. Don’t forget to tip your waitresses.

    I was never a Liefeld fan, but have bought a few of his comics over the years. His art, for me, is serviceable at best – for the most part, you can tell who a character is and what is happening in the scene. His rendering – ehhh, not my style. I can see the criticism people have, but I can also see the merits of his own style in there as well. If I’m interested enough in a story or the writer, I’ll pick up a Liefeld book, but he’s not an instant must-buy when I see his name.

    Can you name me ANY other artists from the 1990-1992 other than Liefeld, MacFarlane and Jim Lee?

    You’re opening a huge can of worms there, Mr. Richards. HUGE. (Although I think you were more trying to bait Josh because you knew he wasn’t reading comics then and those were arguably the “big three” artists from the time and the most talked about today.)

    In addition to Footsore’s list, there’s Lapham at Valiant, the Kubert brothers, Kelley Jones, P. Craig Russell – all of whom were turning out career-defining work at the time. Just because an artist didn’t join Image doesn’t mean they weren’t relevant.

  7. It’s with disgracefully smug arrogance I look back on the dawn of the Image era and recall having nothing but scoff for the whole thing.
    Looking back on a time when I had little affinity for any of those names, it was probably Liefeld that undermined the others.

    Like Ron, I tend to think it’s undeniable that the guy is at least at a level where he has a reason to think he can work professionally in comics. There are a lot of blemishes on his pages, but fundamentally he draws with enough skill to cast the necessary illusions.

    I also think, like others, he’s been eclipsed by time and the development of much more focused art movements typically leaning toward either more specific pseudo-realism, or cartooning.
    Some credit obviously also goes to the renewed power of the writer, and the tendency to tell more grounded stories (without the need for seven full page spreads per issue).

    When Liefeld’s good, I think he deserves credit.
    The superhero genre inherently welcomes the over-the-top hyper-realism he presents. When chests aren’t bending around themselves, he can really put a lot of energy into an image.

    That said, I suppose on the whole, that’s all undermined by a lot of sloppy, disjointed sequentials; and a penchant for ‘homages’ that have earned him a lot of the fans’ ire.

    Going back to scoffing early Image, the thing that was a sticking point for me was probably his design sense, as much as his actual pencils.
    I think the comics medium, being so visually inclined, will come to adopt certain iconic standards as time goes by: caped heroes post Superman is a broad example; goggled characters post-Blue Beetle, or seamed suits post-Ultimates being more contemporary equivalents.
    Liefeld may or may not have recognised this about character designs, but maybe because his pencils are lively but ultimately simple, his characters tended to look like knock-offs.

    When you’ve got a bunch of guys running around looking like Wolverine, Spider-man, or any other number of well known characters… It’s hard to really admire or appreciate anything about those characters. That probably extends to a lot of his concepts, too, not forgetting his ‘writer’s hat’.

    Always an interesting guy to examine, but I think I’d be content with a solid working stiff like Paul Ryan any day of the week, over Rob Liefeld.

  8. P.S. It’s going to be really interesting to hear the podcast once the Liefeld-penciled issues of Fables come out this summer.

    And a Liefeld-drawn Bigby maybe wouldn’t be that bad. I’d buy it for a dollar.

  9. Great exchange guys. I’d have to say I’m in the RR camp myself… there’s a time and place for everything.

  10. I think Ron hit on the key note here: taste is pretty much everything, and taste is pretty much subjective (I am the only person I know who likes canned spinach, but I grew up eating it and now I really enjoy it the twice a year I get it). I’m in the super small minority, but I tend to hate the early art of Jack Kirby. It is just blocky, bulky, and unrealistic to me. But 10 million people like it, so I say, great for them. When I was a teen, Liefeld’s stuff was so new and awesome, and now when I look back I can laugh at all the pouches, etc. But I know the first time someone showed me a book with Cable on the cover I thought, “That is awesome!,” and I actually tried to get my wife to name our second son Cable–she said no. We named both of our sons after football players instead, so that isn’t weird at all.

    Its funny, the most thoughtful guy at my LCS tells me all the time that he just can’t in to certain characters becuase he ‘missed’ the time when it was popular. He actually said Sanke Eyes has no appeal to him. But he is like Mr. Silver Age, and will even say, yes, this art isn’t that good by today’s standards, but it is what I grew up with.

    So, Mom and Dad, please don’t fight like this in front of us, it makes the rest of us kids insecure…

    Just kidding–about the mom and dad part.

  11. You know, it recently occurred to me that I had found a comfortable seat on the bandwagon without having really read more than one or two full issues of Liefeld’s work. Over the years, I have seen web sites devoted to displaying the worst panels of his career, but I have seen almost none of those panels in the context of his average or even laudable output.

    I missed the peak of his career. I had mostly given up on comics when I was in a bookstore one day and saw the last issue of New Mutants; I didn’t recognize anyone on the cover, so I bought it to see what had happened to the book I had once enjoyed. That may be the only Liefeld I own. I wonder how many of his ardent critics might have a similar confession to make.

    I think if you look back on the nineties with a cool head, you may find that people are too hard on Liefeld and not nearly hard enough on McFarlane.

  12. I mostly agree with Ron, I loved Liefeld and X-Force and the original Youngblood when they were coming out. I must also admit that I enjoy reading people pick apart how awful certain aspects of his art are. His current art is much worse than his older stuff, too. It almost always looks really rushed.

    I have to disagree with Ron in putting Liefeld in any kind of category that includes Kirby, while I understand the point being made, I don’t they’re anywhere near the same level.

  13. I will admit to being an ardent lover of McFarlane era Amazing Spider-Man.

    I recognize the faults of that particular style, but honestly, if he was going to draw an issue of Avengers, I’d grab it happily.

  14. sometimes an artist just doesn’t do it for you and it can stop you from wanting to pick up the book. the heroes reborn art just looks terrible. All you have to do is look at the Captain America at the top of this page. Where is that chest coming from?
    The artist I can’t stand is John Romita Jr. I hate the boxy headed people he draws and the constant use of rain for dramatic effect. I understand that he is held up as one of the best but i really can’t buy any of the stuff he does. That’s why I didn’t buy that wolverine public enemy story

  15. When I think back to the early 1990s art, specifically liefeld’s, one thing comes to mind: orange. Well, actually orange, red, and yellow. It seems like those were the only three colors used to make the “Big” comics back then. Image was the worst, for some reason. Even though Savage Dragon is one of my favorite complete runs, the first year or so is swamped with orange and yellow tints. Why? I don’t know. I guess this doesn’t really pertain to the criticism in this thread, but it’s what comes to mind when I think of Liefeld’s art (look at that Youngblood cover, though). So much orange.

  16. McFarlane is great. They have a somewhat similar style, but really, McFarlane blows Liefeld out of the water.

  17. The artist I can’t stand is John Romita Jr. I hate the boxy headed people he draws and the constant use of rain for dramatic effect. I understand that he is held up as one of the best but i really can’t buy any of the stuff he does. That’s why I didn’t buy that wolverine public enemy story

    I used to dislike Romita Jr.’s work for the same reason, but over the years, I’ve really come to like it. But I certainly understand that.

  18. P.S. It’s going to be really interesting to hear the podcast once the Liefeld-penciled issues of Fables come out this summer.

    Ha! Good joke….right?

  19. yes, that Cap up top with the deflicted chest is supremely awful.

    I tend to care more for story than art, so will read someting if it is a book I follow, not matter the artist. Case in point, I own all the Mighty Avengers, even though I’m not at all a Cho guy. I am very much a Bagley guy and wish they had gotten him to do it forever, but so long to that…

  20. Josh, I think you nailed it with the “energy on the page” comment. Liefeld’s art, at the time, was exciting. When New Mutants became X-Force, I was all over it. I’m a fan of McFarlane-era Spider-Man, too (The Assassin-Nation Plot FTW!), and it did have it’s flaws (men’s faces could be kinda freakish, for example). But Liefeld is McFarlane on amphetamine-laced steroids and it’s too much. I was able to enjoy it at the time, when I was young (and all I knew about art was that everyone on Excalibur who wasn’t Alan Davis was killing my soul), but it’s mostly too painful to look at now.

    Kind of like the first episode of Robotech. I couldn’t stand looking at that after I’d seen Akira.

  21. NERD FIGHT!!!!!

  22. I agree with Ron that Rob Liefield is a man who defines the era he drew for, but the difference between him and Jack Kirby is that Jack Kirby is mentioned as a comic book pioneer of sorts. He is responsible for the goodness we read today. We look back and say “Oh, the silver age. What a good time for comics”. We look at Liefield and say “God. This must be from the 90’s.” Whether you dislike it or not, there is no love of the 90’s. They were undeniably not comics best time.

    Also, I’m not sure I can agree that Rob Liefield is a good artist, in any respect. I know plenty of people who have studied art, and I know plenty of people who draw. Hiding feet behind inappropriate objects and drawing arms out of places where a belly button goes are not just “part of his style”, they are a lack of technical ability. When it comes to his pouches, bulging muscles and small feet I will stand up for him. That is style. It’s exaggerated. Whether youl ike it or not, that’s style. Had that been his thing I would have shrugged him off as not my thing, but obviously talented. Unfortunately, there still are those inappropriate arms coming from nowhere. At which point, I can’t stand up for him anymore.

    for the record, that Cap picture is referenced everytime there is hate for Liefield. Including from me. I recently read through the “Marvel Vault” and noticed that a lot of old Cap pictures are in fact drawn with the huge manchest. The fact that Rob also has the wings on his head there tells me he’s just trying to throwback to that period in time, not just suck at art.

  23. I will say this: I didn’t like Romita Jr. when I was a kid (every nose and every eye looked the same) but over the years I have grown to love his work. This is due in part to the fact that he has stretched as an artist and continued to take his craft to the next level. He has strengths and weaknesses, but he seems to show a concerted effort to improve over the years. Liefeld, in contrast, could have done Onslaught Reborn in 1990 and it would look the same. All the things that were wrong with his work 15 years ago still are.

    I mean… if it were you, at some point wouldn’t you take a hard look in the mirror and say, “Okay, dammit: this summer is devoted to studying the human foot. Get me a sketchpad and boil some coffee. I’m footing it up until I get this right”?

  24. I’m not one to hate comic artists, after all, making a comic is really really hard and just to “make it” on the industry as big as liefeld did, despite the lack of technique (skinny Ankles) or lack of taste (huge man boobs) shows talent, a kind of talent anyway.

    That said.

    There’s a huge gap between popularity and historic relevance. Reality Shows are popular today, does that make the historically relevant? Will they define our era or will they be regarded as the byproduct of a lazy society submerging into cultural decadence. Only time will tell.

    Rob Liefeld was popular and helped define an era… A terrible era for comics. So, if he’s the poster boy of a terrible era, does that make him a terrible yet popular comic artist?

    I try not to think very much about it. Except, You cannot put Liefeld on Kirby’s and Neal Adams league, that’s just blasphemous.

    Has anyone witnessed the Liefeld vs. Rags morales online debate, that’s just wrong also.

    Sure it’s easy to dimiss Liefeld art by pointing out the skinny ankles, perspective problems, millions of pouches and big guns.

    You forgot beady eyes and gumless teeth.

  25. I find myself so put off by Rob Liefeld’s work that struggle to understand how he got in the door at Marvel, much less shot to success. I can’t ignore what other commenters have posted; that Liefeld did bring in new readers.

    Left to draw my own conclusions, I think it’s less about the quality of the work and more of the design language Liefeld and his peers employed. The prevalent comic art style of the mid 80`s was mostly faithful to form and proportion, and the artists adept at drawing characters to fit the narrative, not just action poses and still profiles. Artists like McFarlane and Liefeld introduced the age of pin-up covers; where the story inside the book didn’t necessarily dictate the cover, the ‘cool pose’ did

    Compare Liefeld’s style with, say, early New Mutants artist Sal Buscema. Sal could deliver perfectly serviceable covers and content that complimented the story, while none of it was particularly dynamic. If you’re already a comic fan, this kind of inoffensive work may suit you but won’t sell to the non-comic reader walking past the spinner rack. Covers that feature Spider -Man swinging in a yoga-challenging pose on hyper-rendered webs, or colorful Liefeld-ian characters standing in cliche poses with giant guns, countless sharp implements and biceps twice the diameter of their waists, like it or not, you’re going to notice.

    I just can’t wrap myself around the editorial logic that looked at this kid’s portfolio and thought he was ready for prime time. We all knew the kid who decorated his spiral notebook covers with his renditions of popular comic book characters, the kid who could mostly draw one or two poses but was weak on the anatomy. I can’t imagine young Rob handing over a Trapper Keeper full of these poses, with cropped feet, ubiquitous spidering hair and dynamic radiating lines in place of backgrounds to a discerning Marvel editor.

    I guess regardless of how Liefeld got in the door, he eventually ingratiated himself to the casual comic fan or kid who would have otherwise skateboarded right by the comic book shop. He could recycle popular character archetypes into his own knockoffs, because most of these kids probably didn’t know the original characters well enough to spot blatant rip-offs. It galls long-time readers like me who have our own preconceived notions about what makes a quality comic, and who resent the idea that hack work garners success. I’d like to think that the majority of readers who jumped on because of a Brigade cover in the `90s have come to appreciate the medium on a broader basis. With the style-over-substance movement of the early `90s just about dead, I think Liefeld’s time has come and gone.

  26. I dont think theres really any comparison with Liefeld and McFarlane. Todd may very well have been the best artist the business ever saw. He very well still could be. His work on his Spider-Man (the book) will never be matched by any other artist, and I’m not just talking about the splashes and covers and pin-up stuff but the full interiors, particularly the way he designed panels, no one else will ever come close. The only problem with Todd was he worked too hard. But he worked to be the absolute best at everything he did.

  27. From listening to several interviews, I can agree that Todd McFarlane is absolutely the best at talking about how awesome Todd McFarlane is.

    Somewhere, right now, Neal Adams and John Byrne are sensing a great disturbance.

  28. “There’s a huge gap between popularity and historic relevance. Reality Shows are popular today, does that make the historically relevant? Will they define our era or will they be regarded as the byproduct of a lazy society submerging into cultural decadence. Only time will tell.”

    I disagee. I think the two things you mentioned are one and the same. If we come to be defined as a ‘lazy society” (which we arguably are, but that’s another topic for another thread) then reality television is a part of that. When we define a period of time we define it based on the things within it. We don’t define the things within it based on the era.

    Also, I hate MacFarlane as a person. As much or more than I hate Liefield. That is all.

  29. Well the thing about Liefeld is he fit the era. When I first saw his early X-Men work I isntantly go back to the X-Men TV show of the early 90’s. His look for them was definitive yet relevant to the time. He has a very grizzly look to his characters and they’re all “Hardcore badasses” in the vein of the 90’s (when I think 90’s comics, I think of him). He did define a generation, but the guy never really tried to better himself as an artist. As someone up earlier in the thread said (internal rhyme) he never really progressed past 1993 and when he got successful, he got lazy. The guy took how long to finish Onslaught Reborn #5? Nine months to do a 22 page comic? That’s less than three pages a month, and that’s just pathetic.

    I understand why people loved him in the 90’s, but that guy wouldn’t even make it past first round submissions nowadays.

    To me? You’d have to pay me to read a Liefeld comic.

  30. ESO, you’re right…what I meant to say (and didn’t transcribe well) was that sometimes popularity doesn’t represent the cultural peak of an era. Like, there are so many things under the radar that speak best of cultural achievements that only get noticed later in time… As someone said previously, Jack Kirby’s work made way for some of the things we enjoy today as comic readers.


  31. Theres another non-comparison factor with Kirby. Its almost scary how many pages of work Kirby was turning out per month. He wasn’t just doing a page per day, it was 3 or more for many years. Who the heck can put out 3-5 books per month as an artist AND writer these days? Heck even 1 is a challenge most of these guys cant handle. Not only that the guy was creating characters that have not just persisted, but are key figures in both Marvel and DC current continuity even 40 years later.

    Kirby is a God, Liefeld is a footnote.

  32. I remember reading Liefeld’s run on X-force a long time ago. This was before I even knew who Liefeld was. I enjoyed it. But I was a lot younger now. I don’t know if I would have enjoyed it now that I’ve been reading alot of good comics and really liking the cartoony look over hyper realistic. Too me this is like when I was a brat I enjoyed Home Alone, now if I try to watch it, I would rather turn it off.

  33. i’m with josh. people wore mulits during the same time frame that Liefeld was popular. i’m just sayin. just because everybody’s doing it, don’t make it right.

  34. Great post guys. That was one of the most honest and fair discussions of Liefeld on the entire ‘net.

    I loved Rob Liefeld’s work at the time. It was definetly kinetic and on-edge, which is exactly the look you want when your books are about either an underground mutant strike force or an elite government assault team.

    Liefeld can draw feet, but I get the impression that he usually doesn’t in order to save time.

    Honestly, it’s really too late to criticize the guy, because he already dominated the industry in his time. It’s like trying to belittle Mike Tyson today, when the record books speak for themselves. So many people have become his detractors (the pile-on effect), but the reality is most of us bought his work in his prime.

    The man also used to have really great ideas. Cable is an awesome character who suffered in the hands of other writers. X-Force had a very vibrant and distinct cast, when they could have taken the easy out and just added Wolverine to the team. The original Youngblood characters were far more interesting than the lineups in WildCats and Cyberforce, and sold more 1st issues as well.

    Did Rob lose the magic? Sort of. He was one of the first Image guys to really push having a separate studio (which most of the other founders did as well). I’m guessing he ran into business issues that took up all his time and eventually almost ran him into the ground. I think the business side killed his creativity and his talent. I could say the same for some of the other founders as well.

    Which brings up another point. Without Liefeld there would be no Image. He led that movement and he led those creators to change the comic publishing landscape and comics history itself. Not bad for a guy with a Levi’s Jeans commercial.

    So yeah, I don’t buy Liefeld work anymore But when I did, I loved it. Like many creators, he had his moment and he definetly made the most of it.

    If Kirby had a book out now, I wouldn’t buy it. I don’t buy John Byrne books either. For the most part, I no longer buy books from any of the Image founders or their studios. I still love their work from when I was orignally into it, but my current interest is in other creators. That’s just the way entertainment works.

    And I think you can compare Liefeld to Kirby, just like you can compare Tyson to Ali. Of course, it would be stupid to do a direct comparison because they existed in different eras, and the earliest person will usually have the edge in the “influence” category.

    Kirby was a pioneer, but Liefeld was very influential as well, in his time. His influence just hasn’t lasted as long. But I ask you, who’s still heavily influenced directly by Kirby? Oh yeah, that’s right: Rob Liefeld.

    The majority of internet fanboys can rant on Liefeld all they want, but these guys don’t have the most positive reputation themselves. When so many whine and complain about everything, it’s hard to take their Liefeld criticisms seriously.

    In the end, it’s all mostly subjective, but I’ll take Liefeld TODAY over Bachalo, Ramos, Young, and a host of other artists. But that just my taste. I won’t be an ass and try to say who’s better than who or say that the other guys aren’t any good.

    And on a side note: As much as I love Alan Moore. He killed Youngblood in my opinion. Moore tried to apply his magic fantasy trappings to Youngblood and forced the property to become something that it’s not: a witty, charming, and oddly British flavored American super-team. The post Alan Moore Youngblood seemed to me to almost disrespect the original property rather than revitalize it. Moore’s work is often fantastic, but he really didn’t do Youngblood justice. Here’s hoping Casey can repair and renew Image’s original flagship title.

  35. Oh c’mon Liefeld was influential for what, two years? Kirby was the driving force in comics for nearly 60 years, and only got better until the day he died.

    Oh, and Ali would have made Tyson cry like a little girl.

  36. Kirby’s artwork has aged like a fine wine. Liefeld’s artwork has aged like a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon that has been left open in the sun. No comparison. But then, it was Liefeld’s art that drove me away from comics in the 90’s, so perhaps I’m biased…

  37. When it comes to Liefeld, there is no debate… just blind, seething hate…

    Hey, that rhymed!

  38. “I’d like to think that the majority of readers who jumped on because of a Brigade cover in the `90s have come to appreciate the medium on a broader basis.”

    I was sort of trying to get at that in my post. While I was already sort of into comics before the Lee-Liefeld-McFarlane hype exploded, I would definitely say that those guys (Liefeld included) fueled my overall excitement about comics, period. I’m sure in some way that excitement made me curious enough to search out more comics, different comics, better comics.

    I still don’t understand why people insist on evaluating Liefeld comics the same way they evaluate more serious reading material. Liefeld happened, overall what he did was dynamic, exciting, stupid and fun–THE END. We should all just move on. Do adults who like to watch movies walk around ranting about how stupid Care Bears movies might have been? No. Do people who watch tv dramas berate the dramatic aspects of Power Rangers? No. So why should grown comic readers want to evaluate Liefeld’s work as if he were supposed to be doing Eisner-quality stuff?

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t be critical in our judgment of all art, but it seems there’s a lot of unwarranted resentment when it comes to Liefeld (and McFarlane). Those comics were never meant to be taken that serious. They were part of the speculation boom, but (as someone else stated) they also helped found Image and thereby allow for more high-end independent publishing.

  39. So where does all of the Liefeld hate come from? Seriously, what book is he ruining for anyone? Would you like a different creator on X-Force: Shatterstar or Heroes Reborn Revisited?

    For example, I can’t stand Chris Bachalo’s art, but that’s because I feel he’s been ruining X-Men comics for me for the better part of 10 years. Same with the writing of JMS, who I feel disrespected Spider-Man for 6 years. Those are about the only 2 creators I would consider “hating”, and even then, I try not to go “there”.

    On the flip side, I don’t like Sam Keith’s art either, but he hasn’t ever worked on a book I’ve been interested in, so I actually don’t have any feelings about him as a creator other than the little bit of art I’ve seen.

    My point is, I can list a huge number of creators that I think are terrible, but most of them haven’t worked considerably on titles I would otherwise have enjoyed. Liefeld mostly works on Liefeld-driven projects, the kind you have to seek out in order to be exposed to.

    So again, why do so many people hate him?

  40. It probably has something to do with the fact that his really, really bad art pretty much exemplified the better part of one of the worst times for comic books, and that he made literally millions of dollars off of it in the process. Take time to consider that as good as say, John Cassaday is, he’ll have to work a good bit of his life toiling away doing what he does just to have a normal retirement like anyone else. Liefeld made enough money to buy a lot of expensive shit and never have to work again if he had managed everything right, all from not even being able to draw fucking ankles on people and adding pouches to goddamn everything. Basically, he proves that there is no god… (how’s that for fucking melodramatic!?!)

  41. I think people hating him because he made money with art they think is poor only makes the haters themselves look bad.

    The big 2 publishers have pretty much exploited quite a few creators for their timeless characters, and yet the fans still love Marvel and DC. So many creators live poorly or died poor, and yet fans rant about Liefeld because he made money doing his own thing.

    Will Eisner included racist depictions of Blacks in his work, like Ebony White in The Spirit, and never really apologized for it. Yet he’s still hailed as one of the greatest of all time. And before anyone says that’s what everyone else was doing, Jack Kirby didn’t. I’m just giving this as an example of how there are things to hate about many creators, but most get a pass.

    Everyone seems to hate early 90’s comics, but most of us were still buying them at the time. I think the hatred for those books is misplaced. I still love my books from those days. Youngblood, Spawn, X-Men, Death of Superman, Knight Fall, etc. I could do without the foil covers, but I was fine with everything else because that’s the way the industry was. People still love Deadpool and Cable, yet hate Liefeld. WTF?

    The speculators are really the ones to hate, and these guys are still around. These are the assholes who today buy up any items of limited supply to sell them at extortive prices.

    And feet appear in comics far less than people think. When feet do appear, they’re always in spandex boots without soles. When is the last time anyone drew an actual foot with toes?

    If we’re going to knock Liefeld for often, but not always, skipping feet, then we need to compliment his strength in a similar ridiculous category: teeth. Not only do many creators rarely draw teeth, but when they do, most can’t draw them as well as Rob Liefeld.

  42. One thing the guy can do is a grimacing face.

  43. By the way:

    iFanboy vs. iFanboy is a great idea for a recurring blog

  44. Oh yeah, definitely look for more in the future.

  45. But how will you ever find anything that you disagree on for a topic?

  46. I was going to repost, but looking over the thread I dont see anything missing.

  47. Yeah, we managed to save the comments from this thread only.

  48. Not a big RL fan myself, but as Ron said, he does hold a certain place in superhero comic history, for better or worse. At the time of Image I didn’t mind his stuff, and considered it to be far more dynamic and exciting that the ‘old guard’ of the time, e.g. people like Jim Aparro, who if felt at the time spoiled some potentially excellent Batman comics with his dull style. However 15 years on as a more mature person I hold more nostalgia for the likes of Aparro than the over stylizations of Liefeld.

  49. I’ll admit I got caught up in the Liefeld craze when he hit the scene, but I equate that today with my immaturity at the time, and willingness to except style over substance.

    I got really annoyed when someone posted panels “drawn” by Liefeld next to the panels and poses that he blatantly STOLE from other artists.

    THAT is something I find to be inexcusable, as an artist.

    As I’ve grown, I’ve learned to appreciate artists that don’t have much FLASH, but are just strong storytellers with a working knowledge of anatomy and perspective, a la the aforementioned Jim Aparo or the amazing Alan Davis.

    I don’t HATE the guy, and don’t wish him any ill, lord knows, but I wouldn’t miss him if he never picked up a pencil ever again.