In defense of Liefeld

With hashtag= traffic fantasy bloggers live in and the Deadpool movie about to come out, it isn’t much of a shock I saw a blog recently bashing Rob Liefeld’s comic book illustration abilities.  As the movie gets closer we’ll probably be seeing them daily, from people trying to get traffic to their site in as backhanded a way as I can think of.



You can read it here if you want, but it’s all the usual swipes at the guy…The torsos are too big, the waists are too small, he can’t draw feet so he hides them…you know the drill, by now if you follow comic books, and if you don’t, all you have to know is the guy has a half-dozen things or so that are painfully obvious that he keeps doing wrong.  Because he became hugely successful at a young age and seemingly didn’t have to pay any dues, he’s a favorite target of critics…even though you could list as many painfully obvious, consistently wrong, flaws in almost every illustrator.

As I like to say,  “style is just doing something wrong consistently”

Jack Kirby couldn’t draw women’s heads, or hands correctly. John Byrne only knows how to draw two faces, male and female, and without costumes you’d never be able to tell the difference between Captain America, and Hawkeye.  Frank Miller doesn’t draw anything correctly.

I’m not saying Rob is on par with these men, I’m just pointing out that whether it is a “flaw” or “style” is in the eye of the beholder.  And if that eye belongs to the green eyed monster ( envy, not the Hulk) then yeah…you think Rob sucks.

I dunno, I’m not really on board with all the Liefeld bashing that goes on. it’s a unique situation, he was just a dumb kid when he started and everyone made him famous and then it was one deadline after the next, you only have so much time for learning in a situation like that. While there is a lot of stuff he didn’t bother to learn to do correctly, I can’t say he isn’t putting full effort into things. Look at all the detail, the man did work hard.

Here’s a thing to remember…drawing stuff is hard.  Leifeld isn’t going to be able to draw anatomy as well as Boris Valjeo just because you think he should be able to. As long as someone is working hard to put out what they think is a good product, I don’t have a problem with him/her. He avoids drawing feet…well if you can’t draw feet and you have a deadline you can either draw feet poorly, or hide them.  I’d say , for the sake of a better product, hiding them is a better option. I haven’t looked as his work recently but I don’t recall a lot of lazy ass cutting and pasting back when I saw his stuff last.  The bottom line is always- do you know how to tell a story with words/pictures/and panels.  He’s done some pages that left me wondering what the hell is going on, but most of the time they are understandable and move the story along, and once in a while he does something inventive.

Maybe more importantly, he’s not ripping anyone off.  If you see that Leifeld drew the book, you know what you’re getting. Some people like his stuff and they think it’s worth the cash, those who don’t know right away not to spend the money.  It’s a different situation then a middle tier guy phoning it in, when he should be earning the readers cash and …perish the though…even advancing the medium.  Leifeld already contributed to the medium of comic books in a substantial way, he helped found Image and break the hold on the store shelves that Marvel and DC had, and helped advance the option of creators owning their work even in larger companies.  He did some stuff that wasn’t good, but he did more things that helped the industry stay relevant.

So the people who beat up on the guy, to me, have a lilliputian vibe to them.  Like whoever wrote this.  He doesn’t  seem to have any more insight into comic book illustration than Rob, probably a lot less. A torso is too big, a waist is too small, the faces are wrong…anyone on the internet could have written this, there is no criticism worth reading here.  No insight into the whys and wherefores of sequential storytelling.  No insight into how a rearranging of panel or composition could have made the page or illustration better.  No insight at all, just snarky drive by insults. and really…40 pages? You want to know who is “phoning it in” and not really putting effort into something, it’s the author of this blog.

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  1. I’ll admit when I first got into making comics I had a phase of blind Liefeld-bashing, helped in part by the webseries Atop the 4th Wall (if you haven’t seen it, it’s a man talking derogatorily about comics for 10 minutes, then hashing in another installment of an awful, awful side-skit megaplot for 5 minutes). Looking back at his stuff now, he’s still not the artist’s artist on a technical level, but if he successfully makes a fun comic (which a well-paying audience would say he does), then clearly he’s doing something right.

  2. And, like you said, even if he’s lacking in certain areas, you can tell he’s putting in the effort to win other fights. He’s not phoning it in, he’s prioritizing.

    • @noahjeadie “he is putting the effort into winning other fights” well said. The biggest fight of all is capturing the readers imagination, and telling a good story. I’m no real fan of the guy, but I’ve read a book r two he’s done that I thought were good, and captured my imagination and…were fun reads.It all goes back to his immediate success, he never got a chance to/was forced to strenghten the basics, so his basics are not good, but he (as you said) fights other battles very well.

  3. It’s one thing to have a particular “style,” but another thing to be wildly inconsistent with said style from page to page, or even panel to panel. If you’re going to draw Cable’s leg with a thigh wider than the human head on page 2, it should be the same size on page 3. That’s not a “style” issue; that’s just bad illustration.

    “Maybe more importantly, he’s not ripping anyone off.”: Contributors to Awesome and Extreme feel very differently. Alan Moore, for one, has been pretty vocal about not getting paid. And you can’t say his original characters are anything but derivative. Youngblood was a Teen Titans pitch, and those characters remained analogues for existing Titans characters.

    I’m not trying to troll, merely trying to shed some light on where the criticism comes from.

    • Since when did Johnny Q. Casual Funseeking Reader ever say, “Oh darn, Cable’s thigh isn’t the right size, better huck this comic out and buy a new one”. I can understand the criticism from an artist’s point of view, or for someone with very particular views on art, but at the end of the day, stories are remembered for how they made you feel, not how thick the character’s thighs were. And I get it, maybe the inconsistency makes you “feel” cheap – in which case, fair enough, you aren’t the guy’s target audience (neither am I, but I’ll admit a small part of me gets giddy whenever I see his gonzo action poses and rippling yelldudes with no pupils). Bad anatomy isn’t bad illustration. Bad anatomy is bad anatomy. Boring illustration, now *that* is bad illustration, outright.

      Not gonna try to defend the unoriginality of Youngblood, though. I don’t know enough about the in-era context to give my own thoughts.

    • Having a different opinion does not make you a troll my friend, as you as you have a genuine and thought out opinion, which I believe you have.

      To that, I’d say the criticism in the blog and of most people are the standard things I pointed out, scowling faces, too small waistes ect. A thigh being to big one panel and too small the next is simple…sometimes drawing stuff is hard, especially during a deadline. Have you looked through Frank Miller’s Dark Knight ? A character has a next one panel and no neck the next, people heads are drawn relatively realistic in proportion to their bodies, except for Alfred who occasionally looks as cartoon like as Mr. Wrong from the Maxx, and superman who would be twelve feet tall in some panels by a head to body ration and I defy you to tell me how tall Robin is in Relation to batman…Frank Miller simply doesn’t get the same scrutiny. Why? I dunno, perhaps because he was never viewed as an upstart flash in the pan..that didn’t go away. or because he had drawn less stylized things in the past.

      as far as what pros Rob ripped off, unless you have seen the contract, that’s all hearsay and sour grapes. If Moore is owed a check, I’d imagine that he would be venting to an attorney , not his readership.

      • Oh, I agree about Miller. Much of his work is just plain ugly. Janson did A LOT of heavy-lifting during the DD days, particularly the later issues (you may be able to find some of the original pencil art online.) I think Miller received his accolades from his writing and storytelling (layout, “camera angles,” narrative), which were pretty revolutionary at the time.

        I WAS Liefeld’s intended audience when he broke (teenager). Even then I thought his work was sloppy…but I am an editor by trade, so perhaps that kind of attention to detail was inherent even at 15.

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