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January 14, 2007

Comments

Sean

That cover is far too cluttered, and the floating arm and face is probably one of the most confusing things I've ever seen.

I want to nominate Punisher #57. It has two covers, one a wanted poster, but the inside cover is really the bad one. It's a photo of a very hairy shirtless man with his face covered up by bandages (at this time The Punisher was recovering from...being black...). Add in some florencant blue and pink on a dark background and you have what I consider to be the worst cover in my collection.

Here's a picture:

http://www.thepunishercomics.com/comics/v2/v2_051-060/v2_057_2.jpg

Mark Engblom

Hi Sean! Oh, my.....that is a horrid cover. I've never been fond of photo covers (in fact, I plan on doing a Cover to Cover column on it some time in 2007), but the Punisher cover is exceptionally lousy. Thanks for the heads up....I think.

A

You forgot to ask: who's the moronic editor(s) who gave Rob his big break?!

Mark Engblom

No idea. There's so many lousy editors (then and now) that it's hard to know which genius is responsible for unleashing the lad on the comics biz.

A

Ooh, how about Kelly Jones? Some of the best Sandman stories by Gaiman were drawn by this guy. A very poor man's Wrightson. While on the subject of poor drawing skills, what always kills me is getting a rejection form letter from the editors of the larger comic companies which always suggests looking up anatomy books to improve one's drawing skills yet they hire hacks like Liefeld & K.Jones!

Mark Engblom

I'm not fond of Jones, either. His radical re-interpretations of characters are just too jarring for my tastes...chief among them his skeletal "Deadman" character.

He's really got a thing for drawing immense, highly detailed rib cages on characters for some reason. It appears his characters have ten or twelve additional ribs, making them look more immaciated than muscle-bound.

Even Wrightson, in my opinion, is drastically over-rated. His inking back in the day was second to none, but I've picked up a few of his pencilled projects, and the figure work isn't very impressive at all. To me, it doesn't matter how great the inking or painting is...if the underlying drawing isn't there, I'm not interested. You can't fake or cover up lousy drawing with ink or paint.

A

Have to agree with your Wrightson comment. His art after the Frankenstein illos just declined starting with that Spiderman "Hookey" GN. You mind if I add a few more names? Sam Kieth, Mike W. Turner, Jim Valentino,Todd McFarlane, Angel Medina, Dan Miki, Jim Lee, Tim Truman, and a few more names I can't remember. Thanks for allowing me to vent.

Van Doom

Holy crap, that's terrible. I always love seeing further proof that the decade I quit reading comics was the worst decade the industry has ever seen.

Eric TF Bat

I figured out the secret of Rob Liefeld's artistic "style", and it's one of those perfect explanations: very simple, and yet completely right. Once you hear it you know it's true.

The secret is just two words: action figures.

Other artists use models or anatomy books or (if they work for Image) Playboy centrefolds to get their idea of anatomy. Liefeld doesn't. He's different. He has a complete set of poseable action figures, probably the Star Wars ones from a McDonalds Happy Meal circa 1983, and he uses them as his models. All of the impossible poses, the ridiculous proportions, the groins that appear causally unrelated to their respective thighs -- it's all action figures.

You know it makes sense.

This leaves some questions unanswered, though. Why did he base the famous "big t*ts Captain America" image on the Jabba the Hutt doll? Why does he always use the limited edition Super Constipation Face Luke Skywalker figure for all the faces, male and female? Was there an accident with some superglue that led to his unique attitude to hairstyles? We can't know. But the explanation holds up. Tell your friends!

Renee L.

This is a deliciously awful cover. I love looking at it. And your comments are dead-on and made me laugh. But....

But, if you're gonna do a nasty blog about somebody, you've got to get your facts right -- right? Otherwise, it just looks like you're being mean.

Liefeld didn't burst onto the scene with X-FACTOR. According to Wikipedia, he burst onto the scene with HAWK & DOVE.

He wasn't bounced off CAPTAIN AMERICA. According to Jeph Loeb (his co-writer), Marvel went broke and used the opportunity to try to lower Liefeld royalties...and he walked instead of agreeing to lesser terms.

YOUNGBLOOD wasn't a laughingstock on publication. According to Wikipedia (again), it became the largest selling independent comic book ever at the time of its release. Look at the old reviews and you'll see it wasn't critically loved but it wasn't hated. Liefeld consistently ranked in Wizard's Top Ten Artists during that time.

I'm not sayin' that Liefeld is an artistic master or even knows the basics of the human body. But he wasn't a joke in the 1980s or '90s -- and that's what you've tried to suggest.

The cover is just as wonderfully bad with the truth behind it. Not reason to color the past and destroy the guy unless you've got some other beef with him.


Renee L.

Hmmm...I see that you didn't even mention YOUNGBLOOD in your post. Looks like I need to do a better job defending the guy.

The truth is, I don't know what the reviews were for CAPTAIN AMERICA. Sales were good but, like you said, hype would have sold thousands of issues, anyway.

Mark Engblom

Renee-

I'd forgotten about the Hawk and Dove book, so I've added it to the post. As for the other stuff, I'm standing by my characterization that Marvel "pulled the plug" on Liefeld's Cap run (didn't say anything about them "bouncing" him). Getting stingy with the cash is definitely one way to get rid of Liefeld without formally bouncing him. I didn't mention Youngblood because I didn't think it was important to the ultimate point of the post. Remember, the post wasn't intended to be a comprehensive overview of Liefeld's career, but rather just enough of it to set up the context for his late 90's bellyflop at Marvel.

As for Liefeld not being a joke in the 80's and 90's: I think the younger kids loved his stuff, but by that time, I was in my early to mid 20's, and wasn't the slightest bit impressed with his work...a sentiment echoed by more than a few fans at the time. I think it's more accurate to say that, at the very least, Liefeld's been a pretty poloarizing figure througout his long, often controversial career.

I'm certainly not trying to "destroy" the guy....certainly not more than he's already done to himself through his shoddy art and questionable professionalism.

Mark Engblom

Renee-

I'd forgotten about the Hawk and Dove book, so I've added it to the post. As for the other stuff, I'm standing by my characterization that Marvel "pulled the plug" on Liefeld's Cap run (didn't say anything about them "bouncing" him). Getting stingy with the cash is definitely one way to get rid of Liefeld without formally bouncing him. I didn't mention Youngblood because I didn't think it was important to the ultimate point of the post. Remember, the post wasn't intended to be a comprehensive overview of Liefeld's career, but rather just enough of it to set up the context for his late 90's bellyflop at Marvel.

As for Liefeld not being a joke in the 80's and 90's: I think the younger kids loved his stuff, but by that time, I was in my early to mid 20's, and wasn't the slightest bit impressed with his work...a sentiment echoed by more than a few fans at the time. I think it's more accurate to say that, at the very least, Liefeld's been a pretty poloarizing figure througout his long, often controversial career.

I'm certainly not trying to "destroy" the guy....certainly not more than he's already done to himself through his shoddy art and questionable professionalism.

A

Going back to the subject of models, I think the decline of superhero comics coincided with the increase of silicon filled models in the porn industry. Just look at Jim Lee's or Mike W. Turner's women!

Justin Alt

Did anyone remember to mention that Rob Liefeld created X-Force, the successors of The New Mutants?

Pj

Um, I know this is about a year or two after the fact, Mark, but that comment about neglecting to mention X-Force is actually tying into my reason for commenting: You say he had a "popular run on Marvel's X-Factor." I'm sure you meant X-Force. Liefeld was never a regular on X-Factor, except for a cover or two.

:)

Mark Engblom

Thanks for the reminder, PJ. I changed "X-Factor" to "X-Force", so now we're good.

Ed

I know I'm a little late to the party here, but I just have to comment on the inestimable mystery that is Rob Liefield. Much like Mark, I became aware of Liefield at the height of his Image fame in my early to mid twenties. At the time, I was at the end of about a 5 year hiatus from comics, so the most radical comic art I was used to at this time was the old JRjr style that was employed in the ASM run written by Roger Stern. So when I checked out what all the fuss was about with Leifield, McFarlane, Larsen, etc. I was quite taken aback. My initial reaction was to just hate it, but I tried to keep an open mind and give it a chance since it was "style" I was experiencing for the first time.

Now, all the years later, I still hate it, but see that the vast majority of public sentiment has swung the same way. My question at this point is - how the hell did this guy get so famous and, at least initially, successful given how freakin' atrocious his art is widely considered to be at this point? What accounts for such a phenomenon? Apparently he was good enough to have millions of fans at one point, sell hundreds of thousands of issues under a then-fledgling company and fire the first serious "shot across the bow" that the big 2 ever had to worry about?

Like I said, hundreds of thousands of people thought he was the cat's ass at one point in time - where are they now? How has public sentiment turned so dramatically w/o a peep from these one-time fans? Is it like in the music industry, where millions of teen and pre-teen fans can turn acts like Poison and the Backstreet Boys into the biggest things the industry has ever seen and then, after this same fan base ages and matures for a few more years, realize how juvenile and undefined their tastes were at the time, and are now too embarassed to come forward and admit how big a fan they once were of this stuff?

Like I said, it boggles my mind, but the music industry is replete with examples from generation to generation. I think the Image guys were just the first time we had ever experienced such a thing in comics.

Thoughts?

Eklectic1

Happily, I entirely missed this guy Liefeld's era. I stopped buying comics at the time DC sent my favorite comic hero, Jonah Hex, into the future. So, around 1985, around the time of Crisis in Infinite Catboxes, I simply bailed. By that point, I was only reading Jonah Hex and Blackhawk and American Flagg! anyway. I couldn't stand any other comics.

I've only just gotten back into buying comics this year, back in July. The stuff nowadays is nearly all photorealistic, of course, and, sadly, everything's part of a story "arc", which is utterly tiresome; I like sharp, economical storytelling, not serials.

But back to this Liefeld guy. I looked around at his stuff on the Internet. Blows my mind. People bought comics with this guy's art in it and on it? And bought a lot of 'em? That's just...dispiriting to contemplate. You poor things who were buying comics back then. And you lived to tell about it and warn the rest of us.

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