Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Rob Liefeld: Acquired Taste or Guilty Pleasure (?)

Following his first major comics work (DC Comics Hawk and Dove mini-series in 1988), Rob Liefeld struck creative gold with his 1990’s Marvel Comics series The New Mutants and X-Force (after New Mutants was renamed) selling 4 million copies of the # 1 issue of the re-titled series. He was later one of the seven super-hot, largely X-Men related artists, who broke ranks with Marvel and founded Image Comics in 1992. And then the trouble with Rob really began!

Although Liefeld’s Youngblood series (which was based on an aborted Team Titans idea that he had previously proposed to DC) was the first out of the Image Comics gate, his frequent publication delays, major changes in direction (literally from one issue to the next) and his stereotypical huge muscles, breast and guns art style led to his increasingly being seen as a controversial figure within the comics industry.

Liefeld returned to Marvel in 1996 for the “Heroes Reborn” event alongside fellow Image partner Jim Lee, but Rob’s work on relaunches of The Avengers and Captain America met with less than enthusiastic response and Marvel terminated his contract early. Rob Liefeld wasn’t exactly welcome back at Image either, he was accused of writing checks to cover personal debts from Image funds, copying artwork from the other Image partners work, moving established Image properties to his own imprint, and using Image staff to do production & promotional work for his own private publishing efforts. Depending upon whose side you want to believe the most, Liefeld either resigned or was fired by the other partners in the wake of this litigation.

After several years of courting Hollywood in an effort to adapt one of his creations to the big screen, including meetings with Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise, Liefeld managed to make small returns to DC (on Teen Titans) and Marvel (on X-Force). Still considered a lightning rod for hostility within the comics community, Liefeld has refused to completely fade away (exaggerated musculature and all), his Youngblood series has currently returned to Image Comics under a new creative team, but with Liefeld producing the covers, and he was reunited with the other Image Comics founders at the 2007 San Diego Comicon for the fifteenth anniversary of the company. It was the first time that all seven had appeared together on stage.

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