Monday, March 5, 2018

In defense of Rob Liefeld

Let's talk about a truly controversial subject, the man that gave us these guys.

Rob Liefeld gets tons of flack from comic fans and it's not without reason. He has a history of criminal lateness, a seeming dislike for editors and a bit of a cantankerous streak that has ended a few too many projects. His creations have become the focal point of Fox's blockbuster Deadpool and its upcoming sequel. He's worked with some of the best writers in the business from Alan Moore and Robert Kirkman to Joe Casey and Jeph Loeb. And he does it all with the energy of an ADHD patient off his Ritalin.

No, he's not the best artist on the market today. He's anything but the fastest. Much of his work is built around high-intensity low plot storytelling. But he does something few other creators can offer. He brings a level of gonzo energy to his works that rival some of the all-time greats in comics. His creative forces have brought dozens of characters to life and often those characters are years ahead of their time. He's created legions of fans in the process as well, as can be viewed from the creative forces he combined for his arrival of the Extreme line in the last few years. Names like Warren Ellis, Sophie Campbell, Brandon Graham, Tim Seeley, Erik Larsen, Chad Bowers and Michel Fiffe have all contributed to various past and upcoming projects.

The creative fire Rob brings reminds this writer of the likes of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Jim Starlin or writer Steve Gerber. It's a sort of manic need to create, to share an undeniable vision of what comics should be. I can point out twenty carefully crafted comic series from spectacular talents on the market today, but few can match the love and power that goes into works by those greats or Liefeld. His raw creative energy might never be as carefully crafted as some, but he's not afraid to let a few warts show to bring his vision to life.

Robert Kirkman was a decided advocate of Rob's works, to the point that he helped bring Rob back to comics in a major way with The Infinite. Like so much of Rob's works it was never finished, but it shows exactly the level of tour de force energy I'm talking about.

Lately, Rob has been doing a lot fewer comics than he once did. While he has written and drawn a few back-ups for Chad Bowers & Jim Towe's excellent Youngblood revival and will be the inspiration for Michel Fiffe's upcoming Bloodstrike: Brutalists, he's drawn very little since the release of Deadpool: Bad Blood last year.

He remains an incredibly divisive figure, yet opinions of him online seem to slowly be turning to the positive. It's unlikely he'll ever be universally respected, but I remember a day and age in the 1980s when Jack Kirby was considered a hack by a lot of people. I think it's time to re-evaluate and look back at everything Rob Liefeld has given the world of comics. Let's celebrate it, warts and all.

He deserves it.

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