Rob Liefeld. Just saying his name is enough to elicit groans from some comic book fans. He made a name for himself at Marvel in the late 80s and early 90s, and made be the quintessential artist of that era. The only thing bigger than the muscles on his men were the guns they were carrying.
But for all the people who scoff (especially online) it can’t be denied that his comics sold. In fact, some comics with his name on them are the biggest sellers of the last twenty years. For example – X-Force #1 sold 5 million copies. To put that in perspective, the highest selling comic of the last ten years (Amazing Spider-Man with Obama on the cover) sold 500, 000 copies. He was so popular in the nineties that he even had his own 501 Jeans commercial (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJhoa2SVGNA).
Eventually, he left Marvel with some of the other biggest names in comic art at the time to form Image comics. But that’s a story for a different column. Suffice it to say, things at Image went well for awhile. Then, all of the artists started to breakaway and make their own companies. Eventually, some of those companies faltered and failed, and the artists had to go back to Marvel for work. And by “some,” I mean Rob Liefeld.
In recent years, he’s done an X-Force comic, some Deadpool stuff, and he just started to do draw and occasionally write Hawk and Dove for DC. In an effort to promote that recent work, he appeared on the Word Balloon podcast with John Siuntres (here). Over the course of this interview, he decided to bite the hand that feeds and criticize Marvel’s handling of the X-Men titles.
He implies that since 20th Century Fox owns the X-Men movie franchise, Marvel is downplaying that area of their universe. He says, specifically, “I presented a couple of new X-Men ideas with a ton of new characters, and I was told that’s not going to fly. We don’t create intellectual properties for Fox.” While this is an interesting conspiracy theory, it’s blatantly and verifiably untrue.
If Marvel does not want to promote characters whose movie and TV rights are owned by Fox, why are they putting out 17 X-Men books a month? That’s not a number I just pulled out of thin air, by the way. I counted through the solicitations of Marvel comics for February, and there are exactly 17 X-Men books coming out. There’s a series called Generation Hope that is devoted to the creation of new X-Men characters. There’s a new team called X-Club that features all the brightest minds in the X-Verse working together. New ideas and changes are seen on a monthly basis in the X-Men books.
On top of that, Marvel has put two of its “Architects” on the X-Books. Some of Marvel’s top writers with exclusive contracts are listed as the Marvel Architects. They guide what is happening in all of Marvel’s comics. Jason Aaron and Matt Fraction are two of those architects, and they have done a ton of work on the X-Men books.
Now, to me, that doesn’t sound like Marvel is just phoning it in on those characters. To me, it sounds like they didn’t really like Rob’s ideas and he invented this whole conspiracy theory.
Anyway, all in all, it was a really interesting interview. Ultimately, Rob manages to continue his reign as The Most Polarizing Man In Mainstream Comics.