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This is the thirty-sixth in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous thirty-five.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Rob Liefeld once drew a book in landscape style without being asked, leading to the book having to be cut and paste to look like a normal comic book.
Rob Liefeld’s big break in comics came in the late 80s, when he was the penciller on the Hawk and Dove mini-series for DC. Written by Barbara and Karl Kesel, with inks by Kark Kesel, the mini-series became a really big hit for DC (and led to the Hawk and Dove ongoing series).
In any event, so it goes that in the last issue, Hawk and Dove are in a chaos dimension, and (someone linked me to this particular version of events on a messageboard, but I am afraid I have since lost the link, so if someone finds the link for me, I’ll gladly credit it here)
Without consulting his editors, Rob drew all of this sequence in “landscape” (i.e. you would have had to turn the comic to read it). When asked by the baffled and shocked editor why he had done this, Rob said that’s how it had been drawn the only other time this dimension had been shown.
Inker Karl Kesel had to rotate all the panels and paste them together into a new flow as part of his inking job. The letter column to issue #5 contains an oblique reference to this incident, mentioning that Rob “showed something new to an editor who thought he’d seen everything”.
Here is the issue in question:
I asked Karl Kesel if this version of events was true, and here is Karl’s answer:
Yes, Rob did draw the entire Chaos Dimension sequence sideways or “landscape” style. He did this without consulting anyone. I’m sure Rob saw this as cool and different and exciting, but the editor, Mike Carlin, was not quite as thrilled. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of having to turn a comic sideways to read a story, especially not in the middle of an issue. It pulls you out of the story by calling far too much attention to itself. It can be done– there was a great issue of the Moore/Bissett/Totleben SWAMP THING that actually had you turn the comic completely around as you read it that was an amazing use of the device; and John Byrne did a FANTASTIC FOUR story set in the Negative Zone where it worked well– but generally I think it’s best to avoid.
Anyway. By the time we reached the last issue of the mini-series, Rob’s sights were clearly on other horizons. He had gotten later and later on deadlines…The Chaos Dimension sequence seemed to be the last straw for Carlin. As I remember it, Mike called me up to tell me that Rob had drawn the sequence sideways for no good reason, and that he (Carlin) was going to cut-and-paste it (using xeroxes) into a readable form and send those to me. Which he did. I lightboxed them onto DC paper and inked them.
By the way: Rob did NOT draw the dimension sideways because that’s how it had been drawn the only other time it had been shown. THIS was the first time it had been shown– Barbara and I created it for this story.
Mike Carlin once said of Rob: “He has it. He just doesn’t have it yet.” And I couldn’t agree more. Rob is one of the most energetic and charming people I’ve ever met– you can’t help but like him– and at the time of H&D his work showed great potential. But success came far too quickly and easily to him, and he never felt the need to develop that potential. Which is really too bad, because if he did I’m certain he would have left a very different mark on the industry. Not that things worked out that badly for him…
Thanks for the info, Karl!
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