March 6, 2008

Image Comics founder among citizens of Diggnation

Rob Liefeld and I are least on the social news networking site

Apparently we share the same appreciation for news coverage on the Vatican's decision to place a statue of Galileo in its hallways-- as an apology of sorts after putting him to death for telling people the earth wasn't the center of the universe.

ANYWAYS, I read the story and decided to click the “digg it” button embedded into the browser, which was registering at 1 digg. The submitter was one “RobLiefeld” but I really never considered that it was actually the famous comic book artist that I knew in my youth as the guy who drew cool, bad ass mutants with huge shoulder pads and even bigger guns. As best I can tell, this user is the real deal. I arrived at this conclusion only after reading some of his comments to other posts.

All of them were a bit off color, cocky and reeked with sullen elitism...all the signs of a genuine comic book fanboy. Either this was the Rob Liefeld who drew about 25 percent of all art that hung on my wall when I was nine-years-old, or someone who can fake being him really well.

It actually makes perfect sense that Liefeld is somewhat of an active digg user. The truth is that he's got a lot in common with both Kevin Rose and the former Tech TV crew (in regards to starting a revolution of sorts--- specifically to Rose's departure from the G4 television network.) While Rose believed in the work he did while at Tech TV, his conviction was extinguished when the network was re-branded, which meant it was moving in a direction (one would assume it would be called the wrong direction if you visited the exodus message board of old Tech TV fans ) that might hinder future aspirations.

If you don't know who Liefeld is, then you are probably not one of the four million people who purchased* a copy of X-Force #1 or had no interest in super-hero comics in the '80s and `90s. Aside from his creative talent, he also helped bring about a revolution in graphic literature into the modern age of technology.

X-odus or Exodus?

In 1992, Liefeld and a group of white-hot talented artists quit their day jobs at Marvel Comics to start a new company appropriately called Image. The movement was dubbed the X-odus.

Instead of taking the cheap route of printing comics with the minimum cost, the company chose to utilize the best technology of the time. Gone were pages of crappy paper and low DPI color printing. The image books were glossy pages in high-resolution. Marvel and DC soon had to follow Image's lead to ensure their place at the top (eventually leading to a new era of foiled, holographic, lithographed books---A.K.A. Expensive Crap)

Usually the credit for this new era of comics goes to Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri, Whilce Portacio, Jim Valentino and Erik Larsen who are all among the Image Comics founding members. Each have had great success with the studios they set up with the company over a decade ago. Some would even argue that Liefeld has the least of all the contributions since his work never really took off in the way the others did.

Critics describe his Image work harshly by saying:
“...contained elements that became Image stereotypes: huge muscles, breasts, and guns. However, Youngblood immediately began to suffer from delayed publication dates and major changes in direction.”
I find it hard to believe that Liefeld's role was anything less than absolutely essential to the movement that began the Image imprint.

Rather than looking at the longevity of Liefeld's creative projects, look at the campy-ass New Mutants series written by Chris Claremont about five years into it's run. That book was worthless by most standards and probably only survived as long as it did out of nostalgia for the times when stories were actually good. It was a throwback when Liefeld got put on the book. My thinking is that they didn't much care what he did because they expected it to fail anyways. It didn't.

Eventually the campy team of goofy mutant kids was transformed into a a stronger, better and prettier force of warriors. They had a purpose and a new direction that did not mesh well with the classic old guys' methodology. It was X-Force and it sold more copies of its first issue than any other book Marvel had published at that time.

If you look at what happened in the next few years, you'd know that Liefeld was probably channeling the energy he'd later take with him to help form that new company---the Image founders, perhaps, a version of X-Force in the real world. All that frustration of big box corporate comics was building and, in turn, producing some great stuff that had never been seen before.

When I reached high school I remember even harsher criticism of Liefeld when he took on the “Heroes Reborn” story line back at Marvel. Mostly it was of industry guys and other creators reiterating the less than complimentary points I've mentioned above. A hand full even described him as the center of his own universe.

Unlike Galileo, no one has ever figured out a way to execute him for crimes of heresy. However, if they do find a way, I'll expect history to repeat itself by having a Liefeld bust or statue installed into the Image Comics office.


*I'm well aware that it was probably closer to 1.5 million people who actually purchased a copy of X-Force at initial publication in mass quantities of around 4 million...and that's still lotsa damn books.

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