Yes, I Am a Fan of Rob Liefeld

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08/15/10Yes, I Am a Fan of Rob Liefeld(Blog) (Forum)Rob Liefeld(Back) (Next)
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I wrote a blog yesterday, titled "Seven Comic Writers That Inspire Me," and this was number seven:

7) Rob Liefeld - This probably comes as a shock to most, because Liefeld is probably the most popular whipping boy in comics, but he truly is one of my favorite writers in comics. NOT because I necessarily think he's a great writer, but because of the sheer amount of books and characters he has put out. I ran across an interview with Crazy Cat Com Comics, posted on Comic Vine, where Liefeld said, "About twenty years ago, it's like my head exploded," and all of these characters came out. Entire teams - Youngblood (in two or three versions of the team), Bloodstrike, New Men, and Brigade - as well as solid solo characters Supreme and Glory. Nevermind stuff he did at Maximum, like Avengelyne. And lest we forget, he created Cable and Deadpool for Marvel - characters that, love 'em or hate 'em - have carried at least five titles each.
I don't care about "tiny feet" and whatever else might be said about his art. As I have trouble drawing better than a twelve year old, I think his art is teriffic. The thing with Liefeld is that he seems to have trouble getting books out on time, if at all. Still, when Marvel tried to sue him over Agent America, he managed to get the rights to Fighting American, effectively thumbing his nose at Marvel, and with a nice bit of historical symmetry. If you don't admire him for that, you have no soul.

Of course, I got this as a response:

"Liefield is good at creating characters because he rips other's creation off. Ha ha ha. But you have to respect the man. He put himself out there helped build an entire comic company from the ground up... and then robbed it blind but who's cares about that right?"

Honestly, I had avoided the topic of Liefeld's time as Image treasurer, so here I was forced to give it some thought along with the comment about ripping off others' creations. To my surprise, my response was more positive towards Liefeld than I expected:

I try to live by "Don't take up an offense for another." Whatever Liefeld may have done during his first run at Image, that seems to have been worked out, as he's back there now, so no, I don't think his previous offenses matter. As for ripping off other's creations, it could be argued that many creator-owned properties are derivative of stuff at the Big Two. Offhand though, other than derivatives of Cable and Deadpool, which Liefeld created for Marvel, I cannot think of characters that Liefeld has ripped off. Troll's hair made him look like Wolverine in the face. Liefeld wanted to use reworks of his Captain America art on his own Agent America, but I don't consider that any more derivative than Mighty Man to Captain Marvel, Invincible to Superboy, or the way Valentino creates villains that are direct derivatives of DC heroes (Blackjak/Superman; Nocturn/Batman). Glory is a twisted derivative of Wonder Woman, but Supreme wasn't really a Superman derivative until Alan Moore came along. Before that, the only way Supreme paralleled Superman was that he had a cape and was obviously the most powerful being in Liefeld's universe of characters.
I mean, really, are Supreme and Glory more of a ripoff than Apollo (Superman) and Midnighter (Batman), Promethea (Wonder Woman), Tom Strong (early Superman), Pitt (Hulk) or Miracleman (direct derivative of DC's Captain Marvel)? And just how broad do you want to define "ripoff" or "derivative?" It could be argued that Deathblow is derivative of the Punisher (as was New Universe's Merc). In fact, the Big Two are copying each other all the time - Superman/Sentry, JLA/Squadron Supreme, Legion of Super-Heroes/ Imperial Guard, Green Arrow/ Hawkeye, Shang-Chi/ Richard Dragon, etc.
Liefeld hasn't really done anything that wasn't being done in the industry all along. I really think to accuse him of ripping off other creations - any more than other creators have done - just goes back to using Liefeld as the favorite whipping boy.
Don't get me wrong, Liefeld has his weaknesses. Chief among them seems to be promoting the heck out of a new idea, and then taking forever to get the book out, if it comes out at all. He's been in the business for twenty-plus years, and has convinced people like Alan Moore and Robert Kirkman to work with him, as well as convincing the holders of the Fighting American rights to let him use the character. His follow through is weak though, and he apparently had to pay Alan Moore by signing over Glory to him. Liefeld's mistakes have been more obvious (or perhaps more reported on) but he's managed to correct those things in one way or another. I honestly don't consider myself a big Liefeld fan, but I can look at both sides of things where he's concerned, and I do find the sheer number of characters he's created inspiring.

So, now that I've said all that, I think I have to reevaluate my position on whether I'm a fan of Liefeld, and say that yes, I am a fan of Rob Liefeld. Really, the most negative thing I could say about him here is that he doesn't get books out on time, and it's not like he's the only person in the industry to do that. Marvel and DC even put out late books now. In fact, late books have become an industry norm.

My chief admiration of Rob Liefeld is his prodigious amount of characters. Beyond that, everything I hear about the guy personally says that he's a genuinely personable guy. If you need proof of that, look at the huge names in comics that he has convinced to work with him, or do a search on "yellow hat guy," and see if you can come up with the video of the tittering Rob-hater that thought it was cool to slip Liefeld a copy of How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, and run off. Liefeld's reaction was professional and polite, under the circumstances. Later reports on Liefeld's Twitter posts showed that it was really a non-issue for him.

So beyond "tiny feet" and late books, where does the hate for Rob Liefeld come from? Is it just a case of jumping on the bandwagon - everyone else hates the guy, so I will too? Considering that his flaws are rampant throughout the industry, it doesn't seem right to single out Liefeld as the whipping boy for them. So I'm gonna route for the underdog here, and say again that yes, I am a fan of Rob Liefeld.


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