Rob Liefeld = The modern Jack Kirby?

I know this may come a little late for some universaldork readers but since I just stumbled across this, I felt it worthy of my reporting time because not only does it bring up a very serious comic book industry issue for me (more on this later), it’s absolutely fucking bananas and makes me feel even more like

Robert Kirkman is full of shit.

105 - Robert Kirkman, Greg Pak, Rob Liefeld, Jeff Parker

First off, Kirkman’s bizarrely confrontational stance here really bothers me. Why does he need to come protect Liefeld from the school bully that is the comic book message boards? In WIZARD, no less!? Two possibilities here:

A. He genuinely believes this b.s. or

B. Image put him up to this.

Unfortunately, I have to go with A, because at the time of this little editorial, Liefeld wasn’t exclusive to Image and in fact was hard at work on the very forgettable Onslaught: Reborn for Marvel. For those who didn’t click on the link, here are a few gems from the commentary:

“But Rob – who else could you compare to Jack? Rob has the same energy on his pages…”

No. No he doesn’t. What’s being mistaken for “energy” is the ability to cause the brain to work overtime in order to accurately understand what dimension what object is coming from.

“Does Rob know the complicated ins and out of human anatomy? No, neither did Jack or – at least, it didn’t show in his comic art.”

Yeah, no big deal here. And while I agree that everyone Kirby drew looked like Mr. Fantastic or maybe Mr. Fantastic looked like everyone else, similar looking male and female characters are the least of Liefeld’s worries. While I have no problem with Liefeld’s Steve Rogers looking like his Hawkeye rip-off, Shaft, I do however have a problem with his Franklin Richards looking like his Invisible Woman. The big difference here is that Kirby’s anatomy was passable at that time while Liefeld’s, a product of the time, is significantly fucked up in comparison to most of the top artists of the early 90’s.

“Then it’s the sheer excitement you SEE translated on the page and the sheer number of original creations each creator brought to the medium. Characters like Cable and Deadpool, Youngblood and Supreme, and the list just keeps going on.”

And Jack only created Attuma, Baron Zemo, the Eternals, Executioner, Fin Fang Foom, Galactus, Growing Man, Hellcat, the Masters of Evil, the Celestials, the Super Adaptoid and the Watchers, just to name a handful! So putting aside the fact that Cable was co-created by Liefeld along with Chris Claremont and Louise Simonson, let’s check the math: Liefeld 4. Kirby 1,000,000!

“And maybe Rob’s characters aren’t your favorite, but if Stan, Jack and later just Jack hadn’t taken all the good names over in the 60’s and 70’s, maybe Rob probably would’ve had more to work with than ‘Bloodwulf’.”

So let me get this straight: In the 1960’s and 1970’s Kirby’s was hogging up all the good names like Sporr, Torgo and Baxu, while poor Liefeld was forced to label all those original and innovative characters types he created with discount names such as ‘Badrock’ and ‘Bloodwulf’. Man, I’m starting to see Kirkman’s point.

All this just brings out the biggest concern I have with this article and it’s something that continues to bug me in comics today:

The artists and writers within the comics medium are too accessable.

This was something that I loved about comics just a year ago or less. I loved that I could join the same message boards that Brian Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Ethan Van Sciver and John Byrne post on periodically. The feeling that you are getting to know a little bit about the people who write and illustrate these engaging stories is pretty exciting. But lately it’s been kind of a downer.

A few months ago I read an editorial from Fables writer Bill Willingham where all his ultra-conservative views are expressed and it really challenges my interest in Fables (I know, so what), which sucks because I am always interested in the discovery of a new book of outstanding quality.

John Byrne (though I often agree with his points) comes off crotchety and negative more often than not in every topic he posts in. I have to pretend I don’t know that there’s no chance in hell that he’ll ever work on any of my favorite Marvel characters again.

I can’t get Bendis’ site to load until his twitter feed finishes loading. Not until I finish reading how many chik-fill-a’s he’s gonna eat in New York, am I able to discuss Alex Maleev’s outstanding artwork.

Now this. Kirkman writes the only book that month in and month out, I thoroughly enjoy. The Walking Dead is continuously entertaining and I look forward to it every month – I always save it for the last of my buy pile that week – it’s THAT comic. Now, although I’m sure I’ll still love it, I’m now forced to wonder what other ridiculous points could he possibly have built rationale for? Does he support things I am seriously against politically? Does he support the same things and share similar ideas as myself? And better yet, why should I know the answer to these questions or even be thinking about it? It’s because, today, we as readers have waaay to much info regarding the creators of these books we love.

So yeah, the solution for me is to just cover my ears repeating “la la la…” by not hanging out on comics message boards and avoiding creator-owned websites but that seems a tad bit ridiculous as I often get to enjoy some nostalgia shared with like-minded fans on these boards. I mean, Prince doesn’t update his facebook status: “13 horns blowing, eating sandwich”. Johnny Depp isn’t taking out ads in Variety stating “Corey Haim: Modern Paul Newman!” and I certainly have no clue what Fernando Valenzuela thinks of the steroids scandal or Obama’s election. This helps me freely enjoy what they’ve done and/or do and I think it could help me enjoy comics a little more too.


  1. Richard

    According to Wally Wood, Jack Kirby claimed he invented “everything”, so you’re probably missing a few names from your list. Most of what Jack invented was invented with others — it seems to bother you that Rob co-invented his characters, you ought to acknowledge the same for JK — and Jack’s grasp of “anatomy” seems to match Rob’s step for step. Neither one is a great artist. Their stuff is dynamic, their stuff would only work in comics or cartoons, and they’ve both made a mark. The part that really rubs people, though, is that Jack didn’t receive his kudos when he should have, and Rob received his before they were earned. So Rob quit growing, and Jack grew bitter.

    • Peter Saturday

      you make some great points here, in the end it really all comes down what our different tastes are, I’m a big fan of Kirby but something about Liefeld’s art didn’t take with me even though he was for a time a “rock star” artist. He got way too much hype, along with Todd Mcfarlane, Jim Lee & Erik Larsen. His style seemed like a watered down version of Todd Mcfarlane. Still Rob created some decent characters, Dead Pool being his claim to fame, especially currently.

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