Dashing Dean Zeller sent this over to me today – it was a post he put up two years ago for Rob Liefeld’s birthday (WHICH IS TODAY…OCTOBER 3RD!).  I personally am a MASSIVE Liefeld fan so I thought I would start with Dean’s original post (which touches on Rob’s successes and failures) then add my own thoughts (talking about how fabulous I think Rob is).

First up?  Dean…

Happy Birthday, Rob Liefeld, the co-creator of Deadpool!

Officially, that’s the end of this post. But I have a personal history with the works of Liefeld, as follows…

I would call Liefeld the M. Night Shyamalan of comic books. He was immensely popular during the boom of the comic market in the early 90’s, only to fall in bad favor with the public after failed decision after failed decision.

While not my favorite creator, I admire what he did for the comic industry itself. He and Fabian Nicieza transformed a moderately selling and kinda boring mutant title “New Mutants” in a hugely successful bad-ass title, X-Force, introducing popular characters like Cable and Deadpool. Liefeld eventually left Marvel, joining Todd McFarlane (Spawn) and five other top Marvel artists to create Image Comics, a new business model where creators keep the rights to their characters. His efforts helped create a frenzy of interest in comic books, both at Marvel and Image. I feel it was Image’s influence that started a greater appreciation for the writer and artist of a comic, rather than the character and company. Image also abandoned use of the totally ridiculous Comics Code Authority, something that both Marvel and DC decided to do soon after.

However, after a few years at Image, things started to falter for Liefeld.  Zeller-favorite Peter David wrote a weekly column named “But I Digress…” He started finding evidence that Liefeld was copying the artwork style of other famous artists, without giving credit. Liefeld denied it, claiming they were homages to the originals. The best example is pictured, with Badrock in a surprisingly similar pose and size to The Thing #6, by Ron Wilson. Peter David was my favorite comic book writer at the time, so anything he said was word, and I generally accepted the Liefeld was an utter copycat. (After 20 years of reflection, I have eased on this particular opinion. As an artist myself of both writing and performing, I look at what other artists do, and use what I like. But I digress…)

In any case, Liefeld’s career slowly went down into the toilet. He stopped getting along with his friends at Image, and eventually left the company. He signed a 12-issue deal with Marvel to re-invent Captain America and and Avengers, but was terminated after 6 issues due to “creative differences.” He started up Awesome Comics, who’s headline character was so much of a copy of Captain America that he was in court with the families of Captain America’s creators (Jack Kirby and Joe Simon) and Marvel Comics.

Soon, he became the most hated creator in comics. He was known for his attempts at copying other artists work, and that his stories just didn’t make sense. He would still do the occasional cover or pencil, but his popularity was nothing like in his heyday. Whenever I see his name pop up, I think to myself “good for him!” I like stories where a character becomes intensely popular or famous, and then falls from grace to be hated, and they push forth and crawl their way back up. It’s similar to when I see an actor like Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman) or Rob Lowe become semi-successful after some very bad press.

So happy birthday, Rob! You helped transform comics into what they are today, by making the public realize that it’s about the creators. After Image’s popularity, both DC and Marvel stared putting the writer, artist, and inker names on the covers. They also both dropped the Comics Code Authority, something that Image did first.

I really, truly, hope that Liefeld gets co-creator credit for the upcoming Deadpool movie. With all of the popularity of the character, it’s only right that credit goes where its due. Liefeld was the penciler for Wade Wilson’s first appearances, so he created the costume, look, and influenced the character appropriately.

I’m going to be a bit more gushing in my happy birthday to Rob.

A couple months back I was on Twitter where some people were just tweeting how bad Rob’s art was.  Look at this pose.  Look at that pose.  Look at how cool we are as we talk about bad artwork.  At first I wanted to engage but …I just thought there was no point in it.  I sat there and I thought…I should really make a video on how incredible Rob is.  I thought about putting up these tweets about Rob and then I was like…why in the hell would I give these guys even more of a forum?  I still may do a Liefeld video in the future.  For now?  Now I’ll just talk about him.

I was a kid who read many comics from many comic companies.  Growing up poor I lived for cheap comic books and would often beg to go to a comic convention where I could pick up cheap quarter books for my collection.  For many years my comic collecting never wavered.  One day I saw this cover…this amazing cover.  With this amazing artwork.  I looked at it, picked it up, and pieced through it.  The same guy who did the cover was the same guy who did the book.

Rob Liefeld.  Hawk and Dove #1.  It was a five issue miniseries of some characters that I had never heard of.  Luckily in those days even the “expensive” brand new DC Comics were a buck so you could try a book for a very reasonable price.  I went home and read the book.  I remember liking the Kesels’ story but I was just damn impressed by that artwork.  I really, really was.  I kept collecting the series until it ended.

When Liefeld jumped onto The New Mutants I was there nearly from the start.  I remember I didn’t have that first issue that introduced Cable and ended up trading some more valuable comics in the collection to snag that puppy.  But it was great – it was such a refreshing breath of fresh air.  I liked the X-Men but recently it had been outstanding due to the combination of Chris Claremont teaming with Jim Lee. I thought The New Mutants was even better.  Why?  Because you actually care about the X-Men.  Though I had read New Mutants on and off for years I had never really been invested in those characters.  I became invested when Liefeld took over.  I didn’t get how other characters seemed to suddenly know Cable (like Wolverine) but I overlooked it.  I was having too much fun.

X-Force #1 sold 90.3 trillion copies.  I’m pretty sure that number is accurate.  I bought every single bagged issue with each one having a different card plus an opened book that I could read.  This new book was even bigger and badder.  I’ll be honest that I wasn’t really impressed with Deadpool (perish the thought) – but was more intrigued by Cable and his relationship with X-Force.  I love that character.

Rob was everywhere.  I mean EVERYWHERE.  I was watching TV one day and suddenly there was Rob Liefeld in a Gap commercial.  A comic book artist.  In a Gap commercial.  For like Gap…the clothing store.  I was blown away.  That was just so amazing to me.  Famous people were in Gap commercials.  Rob was in a Gap commercial.  I mean – did it get bigger or better than that?

I do think the love for Liefeld died a bit when he went and co-created Image.  I remember Youngblood’s first issues not quite being great reads.  There was some slowness in getting issues as well.  His Extreme Studios saw some amazing new talent on books like Dan Fraga and Marat Mychaels.  I know things soured with Image for awhile though I won’t get into the details.  He returned to Marvel with Jim Lee to create a whole side universe with some of Marvel’s biggest heroes and that even went down the toilet a bit.

With the advent of the Internet it gave everyone the chance to be a critic.  To gripe and bitch about every little thing.  Hey…I’m doing that now!  But Rob’s artwork seemed to just be pleasurable to those who just want to rip it apart.  This chest is too big.  This waist is too small.  These guns are too big.  He can’t draw feet.

I always just….I just sat in wonder.  This was a man who brought my countless joy.  I could sit in my room and reread The New Mutants and X-Force all day.  He finally got on a role with Youngblood and I really enjoyed it too.  Rob has done so much for the comic world.  SO MUCH.  And yet people have nothing better to do.

“Rob can’t draw!  He can’t draw feet!” I imagine some asshole saying, standing there wearing a Deadpool t-shirt.

So if you think it is cool to sit there and mock Rob’s artwork – good for you.  Hope it makes you truly happy to point out every single flaw.  Me?  I’m going to stand up and say, “Rob – thank you.  Thank you for everything.  Thank you for making my childhood happy.  Thank you for making me love comics even more.  Thank you for never giving up.  Thank you for keeping going.  Also…thank you for coming up with the best damn marriage proposal I’ve ever seen.  You are a phenomenal artist and I will never take that from you.

So HAPPY BIRTHDAY ROB.  I hope it is amazing.

– Ryan

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