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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #153

This is the one-hundred and fifty-third 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 one-hundred and fifty-two. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.

Special Theme Week! Today’s theme is “What’s in a Name?”

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Rob Liefeld bought the rights to Fighting American under legal pressure from Marvel.

STATUS: False

The story of Rob Liefeld’s transition from Captain America at Marvel to Fighting American at his own Awesome Comics is pretty interesting in the way that the story overlooks a fairly significant part of the story, in my opinion.

Here is Wikipedia on the situation:

At Awesome, Liefeld and Loeb attempted to resurrect their unused Captain America plots for a new character, Agent America. This character was nearly identical in appearance and background to Captain America. Under legal pressure from Marvel, Liefeld scrapped Agent America and acquired the rights to Jack Kirby and Joe Simon’s Fighting American, updating the design.

Okay, so the part where Liefeld does Captain America for Marvel is correct.

He then left the book, along with a number of stories that he and writer Jeph Loeb had finished, but Marvel was not going to use.

So Liefeld decided to turn the unused pages into a new comic book, with some changes.

Now here is where the story takes a bit of a twist – the first place Liefeld went was to GET the rights to Fighting American. He knew that he’d be better off using an established character with these unused pages, so that’s what he went to do.

He could not strike up a deal at the price he wanted, and that’s when he created Agent America, which was more a matter of compelling the Fighting American rights holders to give him the rights to Fighting American, which they did. He did a pin-up or two using the character. It was the Fighting American people who first considered taking legal action, but in the ensuing negotiations for Fighting American, Marvel then sued Liefeld.

Before the trial started, Liefeld finalized the deal to license Fighting American, which bolstered his claims, and at the end of the trial, both parties had what they felt to be a “victory.”

Liefeld was able to reuse his Captain America pages as Fighting American, but Marvel got the judge to rule that Fighting American could not throw his shield, and that there must be some cosmetic changes (like more brown in the costume).

International Hero has a great display of the three characters (click to enlarge)- Captain America, Agent America and Fighthing American.

They also have a display of the three sidekicks (click to enlarge)…

Thanks to Luke Y. Thompson of The OC Weekly for the information!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Bug of the Micronauts got a name change so Marvel could own him.

STATUS: True

Last year, Christopher Mah asked me:

If the Micronauts were licensed characters from Mego, why can Marvel use “Bug” (=Galactic Warrior) in their new “Annihilation” stories??

I am going to take a bit of a leap from standard practices and just answer this one without any actual confirmation from anyone as I’m just about positive that I am right, so who needs confirmation? :)

Anyhow, here (courtesy of the awesome Micronauts website, Inner Space) is a picture of the Micronaut toy, Galactic Warrior…

Okay, now here’s Bug…

They barely look alike, right?

Okay, so when the Micronauts comic came out…

Bug IS referred to as Galactic Warrior for the first three issues, then he’s Bug for the rest of the run.

So here’s what I’m pretty sure happened – Marvel felt that they had created a pretty interesting character on their own, and he really did not have that much of a connection to the Galactic Warrior, figure, so instead, Marvel just said he was NOT the Galactic Warrior, but rather, a brand new character named Bug.

So when their license expired, Marvel still owned Bug.

And that’s that! :)

Thanks for the suggestion, Chris! And thanks to Inner Space for the picture.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: DC created a black version of Zatanna for a project called Conjura.

STATUS: True

A reader named John asked me about this character awhile back, to see if this was seriously just Zatanna as a black woman named Conjura, or if it was some other obscure character, but yes, it’s true, DC really did turn Zatanna into a black character for the sake of a project!

Warner Educational Services did a Super Dictionary (plus some spin-off educational books for schools, where they would have simplified stories of DC heroes, with questions at the endl) in the 1970s, with artwork by the great Joe Kubert.

In the Dictionary, as with the educational books, on top of creating some multi-cultural characters, Kubert also changed some characters up so that they would be more multi-cultural – one of them was the Superman supporting character Lola Barnett, and one of them was Conjura!

Here, from Mike Kooiman’s amazing collection The Obscure DC Characters website, is a description of the story by Xanadude:

The middle story is the most important to us, since it stars the covered featured Conjura in “The Magic Piper”. The story is a reprint of the Zatanna story from SUPERGIRL #2, with all of the Zatanna and Jeff Sloane figures redrawn to be Conjura and her friend Biff (both are African- American). Again, it’s kind of disconcering to have these Kubert drawn figures set into a Don Heck drawn story. Conjura has the exact same powers as Zatanna, with the addition of her having a magic carpet (in The Super Dictionary, she also has a time tunnel). Basically, a tenement building is infested with rats that will not go away, even with Conjura’s magic. So Conjura goes back through time to get the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Her magic isn’t able to bring him forward in time, but in the last panel, a man looking exactly like him appears, saying “My name is Pete Piper. But I come from a long line of rat catchers!”

Here is the back cover, and I am pretty darn sure that that is Conjura in the purple, but if someone has a scan from inside the comic that is better, PLEASE send me it! I’ll love you forever for it.

David Farrell and Kari won my love by sending me some scans of Conjura. David sent me a piece from the actual dictionary, while Kari sent me scans of copies her sister had of the aforementioned educational storybooks (if anyone is interested – she’s selling them!).

Enjoy!

As a last tidbit, this Dictionary was where the classic “When no one was looking, Luthor took forty cakes. He took 40 cakes. That’s as many as four tens. And that’s terrible” bit came from!

Thanks to John for the question and Matt Kooiman for the information!!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database for this week’s covers!

While you’re here, check out the Top 100 Comic Book Runs countdown (you can follow it here)!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com.

See you next week!

95 Comments

That is terrible.

Doesn’t Marvel also own the rights to fellow Micronauts Princess Mari and Commander Rann……although Rann was refered to as Space-Glider (another Mego Micronaut toy)….towards the beginning of the series. It’s a shame that Marvel never came up with another name for Acroyear.

Brian Cronin

May 2, 2008 at 2:57 am

Marvel owns the rights to everyone who isn’t a toy. :)

Liefeld art… brain hurting… argh!

Not only is it as many as four tens, it’s as many as ten fours.

And that’s terrible.

That IS terrible. Now we know why Post-Crisis Luthor was so pudgy.

Tom Fitzpatrick

May 2, 2008 at 3:32 am

The very fact that Liefeld is mentioned as a urban legend is enough to be terrible. ;-)

so could Marvel use Kwinn the eskimo, Billy and Dr. Venom from G.I.Joe?

Brian Cronin

May 2, 2008 at 3:44 am

Other series have other rules. I would not be surprised if Hasbro had a “anyone you create for the series is owned by us” policy, which is similar to the one that Hasbro had for their Transformers comic.

That must be the epitome of evil, how is he even going to eat 40 cakes before they get stale?

Man, that Galactic Warrior is one crappy toy. It makes the ROM toy look like a Randy Bowen sculpt. :)

Alex the Greek

May 2, 2008 at 5:04 am

I distinctly remember looking through an issue of Liefeld’s Fighting American. On one of the splash(I believe the artist was Stephen Platt) pages of the issue, one can see Captain America’s little head wings still on Fighting American. They never removed it from the original artwork that must have been planned to be used in Captain America. What a disaster Heroes Reborn was! Especially, Rob’s issues. And Fighting American was just plan sad…

Alex

I had that dictionary when I was a kid! I’m pretty sure I still have it, and yes that is Conjura on the back cover.

Liefeld’s Captain America, Agent America, Fighting American – all CRAP!

Doug Atkinson

May 2, 2008 at 5:26 am

That DC dictionary was also part of the inspiration for Mojo Jojo’s repetitive dialogue style on “Powerpuff Girls,” according to Craig McCracken (Speed Racer being another part).

Don’t be fooled by the crappy looking Micronauts here. The majority of Micronauts toys were spectacular.

That Super Dictionary is amazing.The entries are just complete nonsense. It’s full of things like “Batman is riding a TRAIN. He is riding a steam-powered vehicle on rails. Robin will TRAIN the seal. He will teach the seal what to do.”

And it also features El Dragon, an ill-defined Latino hero invented for the book. My friends and I keep hoping he’ll be introduced to continuity.

I enjoy hating on Liefeld as much as anyone, and probably more than most. Never would I pass on an opportunity to point out yet another reason to hate his work. Thankj you, Bruan, for supplying a cover of Cap 1 for us to mock.

For the time being, let’s ignore the extra striations running from the chest & back to the shoulder, the mis-aligned & mis-shaped head, the shortened upper arm, and the straight (not tapered) forearm which is as thich as the biceps/triceps. No, instead, let’s just look at the shield.

Isn’t it supposed to be round? Clearly, it is drawn oval. Not only that, but the center ring is pointed like a cat-eye.

This is all an issue of perspective and the way objects diminish while angling back towards the horizon line. When viewed head on, the shield is a series of concentric circles, all equally distanced from each other. Also the shield is arched equally across it’s surface, as if it was sliced evenly from a giant sphere. If you turn the shield on it’s axis, the rings on the other side of the shield will become less visible due to the curvature. Also, whatever portion of the rings on the other side of the shield are still visible, they will appear thinner. Again, this is all a function of perspective.

Look at Liefeld’s shield again. The rings are (roughly) the same width all the way around. Therefore, this is a head-on shot of the shield. (I’m not even going to touch on how anatomically impossible that one is! ) That means the shield is OVAL, not round. With a cat-eye center. And shading lines that are all wrong. And highlights that aren’t from any consistent light source.

And that’s terrible.

Do you think Luthor took the 40 cakes in response to years of being foiled by Hostess Fruit Pies?

I remember some of those educational materials. Back in the 1970s, Warner licensed it to a company called SRA (Scientific Research Associates, they’re now a part of McGraw-Hill) which did all sorts of classroom resources related to math, social studies and reading comprehension. The DC superheroes appeared in a resource called “Super A” and featured, as stated, slightly simplified versions of comic book stories reprinted from 60s and 70s DC comics. The main distinguishing feature was that they used mixed upper and lower case for the captions instead of all upper case.

There’s a great little article on it here:
http://obscure.dcuguide.com/su.htm (scroll down to Super A books)

They were used in my school to help people with remedial reading. I unfortunately read at too high a level to be allowed to read them! So I stared at them longingly for the most part. Occasionally I was allowed to read them (or I borrowed off of friends who were slow readers!) and marvelled at and was puzzled by it. I remember Conjura and El Diablo and thinking “they’re not DC characters!”

Avengers63, I hadn’t consciously realized why the shield looked so wrong until you pointed it to me. Now it’s so obvious.

Isn’t it depressing how the entirety of the comic book industry (including many fans and magazines and critics) went crazy in the early 90s? What is the explanation? Mass hysteria?

From Marvel’s GODZILLA and SHOGUN WARRIORS, the characters Red Ronin, the pilots of the Shogun Warriors mecha, and Dr. Demonicus all appeared elsewhere at Marvel following the end of those series. Red Ronin showed up somewhere around AVENGERS # 198-199 (and more recently as a teenaged girl in LONERS); the SHOGUN pilots got a new mecha in an issue of the FANTASTIC FOUR (somewhere near 220, give or take five issues); and Dr. Demonicus showed up both in IRON MAN and in AVENGERS WEST COAST, I think (as did a certain unnamed, appearance changed to avoid copyright issues, large dinosaur-like creature).

I remember when Liefeld debuted the “Agent America” preview book at a convention shortly after he was fired from Captain America. I was at a different convention in NYC a week later, where a dealer had a pile of them, all labeled “LIEFELD LAWSUIT SPECIAL! BUY THEM BEFORE HE GETS SUED!” and was selling them for $5! I couldn’t say no! The inside was full of spectacular ripoffs. Aside from the female Bucky, there was a flashback page where “Agent America” meets what is obviously Nick Fury & The Howling Commandos (there was even a character wearing Dum-Dum’s signature hat! And his villain was Nazi with a metal skull for a head!

I just want to say that I love the Legends Revealed column. It is by far my favorite.

I used to make my parents read the Super Dictionary to me at night when I was a very young kid. It was my first introduction to DC characters, and probably comic book characters, period. At the time, I’m sure I loved the pictures more than the actual words, which weren’t, you know, crafted into a story, but rather, a freakin’ dictionary.

Only when I got older did I realize why my parents were always trying to convince me to have them read me something else. I can only hope that when I have kids, I have the love and patience to, if they so choose, read to them from a dictionary night after night :)

Does this license business mean Marvel can’t ever reprint ROM?

Well, “ever” is an awfully long time, but right now Marvel doesn’t seem to be able to, or at least doesn’t want to open that legal/financial can of worms.

Even the issue of Power Man/Iron Fist that guest-starred ROM was omitted from the B&W “Essentials” collection, if I’m not mistaken. And if that issue’s not essential, what is? It had ROM shooting a Dire Wraith hooker, for chrissakes!

I was just seriously getting into comics when Heroes Reborn hit. I thought Liefeld’s art was good, because everyone acted like it was good. This is what good comics art looks like, obviously, if everyone says so.

Now, later, Liefeld strikes me as a fanzine-level artist who somehow improbably hit the jackpot. It’s enthusiastic and dynamic, but man is it rough.

comb & razor

May 2, 2008 at 9:00 am

Rene said:

“Isn’t it depressing how the entirety of the comic book industry (including many fans and magazines and critics) went crazy in the early 90s? What is the explanation? Mass hysteria?”

honestly, it really does get me down. because it reminds me of how alien, ugly and brutish comics became to me almost overnight and how that sudden change in aesthetics helped mostly drive me away from comics for almost a decade! i actually feel *angry* when i see Liefeld’s artwork and remember deciding that i had no place in a hobby where THIS was considered the hottest, most cutting-edge stuff on the scene.

and then i look to my left and right at the other comics fans who are gleefully heaping colorful and highly creative ridicule upon Liefeld, and i feel suspicious of them… they’re laughing *now*, but back then were they amongst those kids i saw filling out the LCS every week, poring over the latest Liefeld work and trying to convince me of how “rad” and “kick-ass” it was?

where ARE those kids now? nobody seems to want to admit to have ever liked this stuff, but obviously a LOT of people did! i mean, it’s like the Spice Girls… they sell millions of records and yet you can’t find a single person who admits to buying them!

i always wonder if the highly colorful ridicule heaped upon Liefeld’s art is revisionism, because at the time, obviously people dug it.. a lot.

Okay, this is the first I’ve heard of any of this and I’m majorly confused. This story is wild! How many issues ahead on the art was Liefeld before he was fired? I thought he was notoriously slow– so how did he have several issues worth of pages in the can that never got used? If Liefeld was willing to re-draw them a little bit, why not just redraw it a little bit more and turn Cap and Bucky into Youngblood characters? Surely that would have been a lot quicker and easier than fighting a lawsuit? Wha??

Oh and has anybody seen the cover for the “Deadpool Classic” tpb? (Strangely, it seems to appear nowhere on the internet– amazon has the cover of issue NM98 instead. The actual cover is just deadpool standing there with exceptionally emaciated lower legs.) Is it just me or did they INTENTIONALLY choose an especially bad Liefeld drawing for the cover? It’s almost as if the art department was so pissed off to see this stuff reprinted that they deliberately sabotaged the book.

Screw that, the man wanted forty cakes. Damn you judgemental bastards to hell.

yikes. check out the perspective on Captain America America’s shield. It looks like he has a pizza on his arm

So in addition to being a lazy artist, an irresponsible boob, and a general all-around idiot, this article sorta makes one think that Liefeld is also a scumbag who would do anything legal or illegal to make a buck.

Once there was this baseball pitcher who won 31 games in one season. During his career, he got involved in illegal activities and got suspended. After his baseball career ended, he got involved in a business. Eventually his business failed, for many reasons. After the business failed, the Government got involved regarding missing money. Turns out the baseball pitcher used money that was supposed to go elsewhere for his own purposes. Baseball pitcher did prison time. After he got out, he eventually (inevitably?) got in trouble again. The story of Denny McLain. Is it possible that this is the kind of future awaiting Rob Liefeld?

At least in my hometown, the guys who really liked Liefeld were those guys who’d read comics until they got a girlfriend, and then you never saw them again until a few years later when they were getting rid of their entire collection in the shop, hoping to scrape up enough money to buy a PlayStation.

“where ARE those kids now? nobody seems to want to admit to have ever liked this stuff, but obviously a LOT of people did! i mean, it’s like the Spice Girls… they sell millions of records and yet you can’t find a single person who admits to buying them!”

So true, Comb & Razor…

The whole Image thing eventually drove me away from comics too. I actually did enjoy the first issues Jim Lee did in Uncanny X-Men (the Mandarin x Psylocke ones), but by the time the adjectiveless X-Men started, I already had mixed feelings for the way Jim Lee’s art had developed, too confusing and dirty and looking more like a frantic MTV videoclip.

And Jim Lee was the one hot Image artist that I even tolerated. Rob Liefeld I always hated, and I’m proud to say I never bought Heroes Reborn nor any of the early Image Comics except for a couple of issues of Gen 13 (and just as quickly I gave up on Gen 13 too).

I eventually left the hobby completely for a couple of years, then started to buy one or two comics again when Astro City started, and slowly came back and felt glad that the craziness had passed.

I liked Liefeld, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Those Levis commercials he did are the reason I got into comics. His art was new and exciting and like nothing I’d ever seen before.

I was also 13. I now detest the tv I watched back then, so I don’t feel bad about detesting Rob’s questionable art…

“I was also 13. I now detest the tv I watched back then, so I don’t feel bad about detesting Rob’s questionable art…”

didn’t Gail Simone theorize that Liefeld’s art has some sort of visceral quality that instantly connects with 13-year-olds… even today? (citing her own son’s instant enthusiasm for the 2-issue Teen Titans arc she did with Liefeld, despite him usually not being interested in Mom’s work in general)

i think that makes a lot of sense…

KS: No.

The licenses were different for the 80s toy-based series. Marvel owns Marvel created characters from Micronauts, Shogun Warriors, Godzilla, etc. But Hasbro owns any character created for G.I. Joe (remember, the Baroness was created for the comic before she became a toy), Transformers, et al.

I’m not entirely sure how or why the licenses differ. I assumed that it was legal differences that occurred between the 70s and 80s, until I remembered Marvel doesn’t own anything it created in its Star Wars comic.

Super Dictionary is one of the greatest books ever written. I used to drag mine around the house with me, tracing pictures of Batman. I knew where the best pictures were in the book. I think either Freedom or Liberty or maybe even Flag has a great JLA pinup shot with everyone standing in front of an American flag. I also wish they’d introduce El Dragon to continuity. The Trappers too. And the lady who had a name like SR-71.

Green Lantern’s cousin Air Wave was also in it. I didn’t think he was a real character as a kid.

(follow up): Recall, Circuitbreaker (a Marvel-created Transformers villain) was introduced in Secret Wars II, specifically so Marvel had legal claim on her.

I think Scott McCloud mave have made a similar observation (although he didn’t mention Liefeld by name). I seem to remember reading a book about comics that theorized that exaggerated and/or distorted anatomy, big explosions and violence, and lots of unnecessary crosshatching speaks to the turbulent emotions of adolsecents.

I will absolutely cop to being one of those adolescents entranced by Image-style art. The first comics I read and then subsequently bought the next issues of, and so on (as opposed to the random issues of things I picked up here and there before this ) were Uncanny X-Men 290 (While Poratico) and X-Men 8 (Jim Lee). And eventually they led me to Liefeld’s X-Force. That was 1992 or 93, so I was 11 or 12. And I loved that art. I didn’t know anything else, or any better.

Liefeld’s character’s didn’t have any feet? I didn’t notice that-look how big Cable’s gun is! Jim Lee’s art is overly-rendered? I didn’t know what that meant, and besides, Psylocke was in a bikini and she’s HOT!

It wasn’t until I got older and experienced different kinds of art in comics (mainly through back issues, so that I was seeing the characters I liked drawn by different people) did I notice the flaws in the popular art of the time. I began to appreciate people like Walt Simonson and John Buscema, and while my enjoyment of people like Jim Lee didn’t entirely vanish overnight (and I admittedly still enjoy some of his art, at least, today, even if I’ve completely left Liefeld behind) I did begin to despise all the copycats trying to draw just like the Image guys instead of the more classic artists I was beginning to appreciate.

My comics vocabulary was so limited back then that I didn’t even know what they were doing wrong. Page layout, pacing, panel composition, these things meant nothing to me until I grew and learned more; all I cared about art-wise, was that characters looked “cool” (whatever the hell that meant).

Believe it or not, I was one of those who never liked Liefeld (almost) right from the start. Hawk & Dove was OK. I saw potential in it, but he needed some serious work. Then New Mutants hit. His work had gone downhill. Then, for reasons I’ll never understand, he (and all the dumb-ass characters he made), got really popular. His “art” tanked fast. Then the Wizard hype machine targeted him. His art went from “bad” to “what’s wrong with you” almost overnight.

I was in college when he hit it big. Not a single person my age or older I associated with liked him save for one person. That suggests to me that the main buyers of his tripe were kids & investors. Yes, let’s not forget the investors. They certainly didn’t help matters any, but that’s best left for a different discussion. We might accidentally stray from the Liefeld bashing.

But there’s plenty of blame to go around. Isn’t part of the editor’s job to approve every aspect of the comic? If not him, is there an “art editor” of some type to perform quality control? Some dork gave his mis-proportioned work the official stamp of approval.

And that’s terrible.

Appreciate the honesty, Teebore.

Maybe I’d have felt the same way if Liefeld had made his debut when I was 11-13.

I was already closer to 20 when I was exposed to the hot Image guys, and due to the time differential in publications in my home country (Brazil), I actually had a taste even “older”, since my first exposition to superhero comics had been late-70s, early-80s Marvel/DC.

In short, I was just the right age to hate Image Comics and to feel unwelcome in the new environment of the early-90s.

I was in the right age bracket when Liefeld debuted, but I think I was a little too… uh, female to find anything attractive about his art. Actually, the entire Image/Valiant dominance just sort of passed me by while I was reading other things. I preferred the softer, more classic-looking styles, and also cartoony styles that had a bit of the implied movement of good animation about them. I bought so many comics full of bad art, though, that I guess half the time I just didn’t care what the books looked like…

What bugs me now, though, is that there are still plenty of artists that work in the Image style. People go nuts for Ed Benes’ work on JLA, but it looks just as bad to me as Homage Studios’ stuff does now. I will also admit to liking (most of) this stuff as an adolescent, but I grew out of it. There are plenty of people that mock Liefeld but still rave about Benes, Talent Cauldwell, and the like. Doesn’t seem quite right.

I had never seen anything of the DC Super Dictionary. How does the JLA appear multi-cultural with Conjura standing next to aryans like Aquaman, The Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern Hawkman and Hawkwoman Superman, and Wonder Woman? Wouldn’t this have been a great opportunity to spotlight Black Lightning? Or John Stewart?

I was about sixteen when i found most of the back issues of Youngblood that i still have now. I thought the premise was wonderfull, but the execution was lacking. Compare Youngblood to Peter Milligan’s X-Force and X-statix, where the premise is identical (heroes scrutinised by the media) but the execution was successfull.

i have to admit that i actually liked Ed Benes on Birds of Prey… i don’t know if the smoothing effect of Alex Lei’s inks made the art more coherent and fluid, but i found his work pretty pleasant (if cheesecakey) on that title.

when i look at his work on other titles, i barely recognize him as the same artist.

in any case, one thing that the likes of Benes and Caldwell have over Liefeld: they seem to have at least a rudimentary degree of knowledge and respect for the human anatomy.

I only recently read the Liefeld Captain America series, and I’m sure the credits indicate that he had to get someone else to draw the shield for him for most of the insides.

Isn’t it interesting that whenever old geezers talk about getting kids to read comics, they seem to think kids really want to read Silver Age-style “silly” stories? But from what we see in this thread, what kids aged 11-13 really want is violence, big muscles, bigger guns, explosions, hot chicks, etc.

The “innocent” kind of stories seems to me more appealing to even younger kids (aged 6-10, perhaps). Though when I was that age I had no interest in superhero comics at all, prefering funny animal stuff.

Ken, I don’t think Ed Benes is as bad as Rob Liefeld. I’d compare him more to Jim Lee.

I still don’t like Ed Benes’s work, though. People complain (rightly) that his women are fan service porn, but his men aren’t much better. Every one with exactly the same over-muscled body type, and the same face. Still, it doesn’t quite offend me or confuse me like the early Image Comics guys. At least Benes has a storytelling approach that is a little clearer.

It’s a bit sad that most of my countrymen that became hot artists in the US favor the Image Style. Or manga (sorry, I don’t really like manga).

glad I am not the only one that looks and shakes my head at why I ever thought Rob had any artistic skills at all.

A little implied racism maybe, in creating a black character and putting her into a story dealing with a rat problem in the ghetto? Of all the stories that they could “cut and paste” a token black character they picked that one?

The really scary thing about Liefeld is that in 50 years he’ll be the Fletcher Hanks of the 21st Century and websites and books will be devoted to retrospectives his work. (Shudder!)

Mike Loughlin

May 2, 2008 at 12:27 pm

Who else was there, in early’90s super-hero comics? You had solid craftsmen, like Ron Frenz, servicable but boring. You had bad Image rip-offs, like Mark Pacella, even worse than Liefeld. You had the Kubert Bros., whose ork didn’t thrill me at the time. You had some young stylists, like Leonardo Manco and Gene Ha, but they were on the marginal comics. You had Valiant, which I never really warmed to. Really, the Image boys were “the best” because their art was “awesome.” I grew out of that phase (and, like everyone, I knew one guy reading comics who never did), but I can see why Jim Lee, McFarlane, even Liefeld, had such strong appeal.

Did everyone grow out of liking Liefeld first, or did the art of the whole Image crew (excluding Larsen, maybe) stop being “cool” at once?

Andrew Collins

May 2, 2008 at 12:29 pm

joecab said:
“Does this license business mean Marvel can’t ever reprint ROM?”

Currently (and sadly) the answer to that is yes. There’s been some legal disputes in recent years between Parker Brothers and the guy who created Rom for PB. I don’t know what the current state of that legal case is but it’s kept Marvel from re-licensing anything. Plus I’ve heard stories of PB not showing any interest in licensing out the character again anyway.

By and large I think Marvel still owns most of the characters from the series. Rom in his human form has shown up in a 1996 Hulk issue, as did Brandy, and the Spaceknights had a mini-series of their own back in 2000 (which included a cameo by an unnamed Rom in his armor form). I’m not sure about who owns the Dire Wraiths. But without the rights to publish Rom in his cyborg form, the comic is stuck in back issue bin limbo…

“Who else was there, in early’90s super-hero comics?”

Hmmm… a list of guys I liked back then: Gary Frank, Mark Bagley, Alan Davis, Dale Kweon is Image-y but I liked him, old guys like John Byrne were still active. I sorta liked Mark Teixeira more than the Image guys too. Dan Jurgens was okay.

First of all, I never really dug Liefeld but I do remember the energy that he brought to The New Mutants. Didn’t care for his Hawk & Dove, though I think that mini was fairly successful.

I know I’m in the minority, but I didn’t mind Heroes Reborn. Liefeld could certainly be a mess, but his stuff being anatomically incorrect and out of proportion isn’t necessarily a sin. There are lots of comic book artists that aren’t 100 % in proportion. Some would call it stylistic, rightly or wrongly. I think part of what really hurts Liefeld is that he overpromised lots of things, has done some pretty weasel-y things, and most of his “characters” are shameless ciphers. His style is energetic and bombastic. I’ll give him that much.

Never read Fighting American, but I heard it was pretty good.

Back to the Micronauts !

Brian has another column going about Top 100 Comic Book Runs of all time, and I have to confess that for my personal Top 10 list I had Bill Mantlo’s Micronauts. Yes, that would be the entire first run, but I loved every issue with art ranging from Michael Golden, Pat Broderick, Gil Kane, Jackson “Butch” Guice, and Kelley Jones.

How I wish we could get the real deal back again. I suppose it’ll never happen, which to me as absolutely amazing as Mego is doing nothing with the characters.

I too would love to see ROM collected. My brother collected it and the concept of the whole series has grown on me over time. Another Mantlo title. Hmmm……… Loved his Hulk too.

“Did everyone grow out of liking Liefeld first, or did the art of the whole Image crew (excluding Larsen, maybe) stop being “cool” at once?”.

I definitely grew out of Liefeld first, before all the others. Heck, I still enjoy Jim Lee’s old art to a certain extent, and even some of his new stuff. Whereas now when I see Liefeld’s old stuff, I shake my head and chuckle, wondering how I could have ever enjoyed it.

To answer/ comment on a couple different things:

Rene: I’m not comparing Ed Benes to Rob Liefeld per se, but commenting that his current work seems to come right out of that old Image school. To me, it looks dated as hell, but people seem to be bananas for it. But yeah, he’s definitely more Lee then Liefeld. As to the change in style, I think it’s mostly because of Sandra Hope’s inks.

As far as early 90′s artists go: there was also Kevin Maguire, Adam Hughes, and a host of people working in the lush “good girl” style, in addition to the ones Rene mentions. There were plenty of talented people not working in the “Image House Style”, and one, Art Adams, that probably was, but he predates them all and is much better.

I think I grew out of Liefeld first, but who can be sure? The only thing of his I really liked was Hawk & Dove; by the time he was on New Mutants I thought he was pretty bad. I loved Todd on the Hulk and Amazing Spider-Man, but by the time adjectiveless Spider-Man came out, I’d grown out of him (the writing sure didn’t help!). Same with Jim Lee; somewhere during the course of X-Men he went from my favorite artist to someone I couldn’t read anymore. Incidentally, I never could stand Larson and still have to choke down his work; he’s the brussel sprout of comics artists.

I think the thing about that style is that it’s superficially exciting and dynamic, but it becomes boring and repetitive rather quickly. After “bold” there’s really nowhere else for it to go.

Yeah, repetitive and grating. Another complaint I have of the Image Style, particularly of Jim Lee (though he is the one Image guy that I sorta liked), is that it’s also confusing. I particularly remember the space scene closer to Asteroid-M in the early issues of adjectiveless X-Men, full of guys wearing spacesuits, and I couldn’t make any sense of what was happening.

The same problem some action films have with too frantic action scenes. Not surprisingly, since that is one of the Image style biggest inspirations. I’d say Rob, Todd, Jim, and the rest of them had four sources: blockbuster action movies, martial arts movies, cyberpunk, and the first grim ‘n’ gritty comics of the 80s.

Rom also made an appearance in Alex Ross’ Earth X. The Dire Wraiths have appeared in Marvel Comics since ROM was cancelled, so I suppose that Marvel owns the rights to those ROM villains. I still think that ROM would make for an excellent animated series/video game with toy tie-ins for the spaceknights.

It is a pity that we may never see a ROM reprint, especially the last 16 issues (with Ditko pencils; still a Ditko fan after all these years). To be honest, I pretty much got out of American superhero comics during the mid 90s.
I was never a huge fan of the Image work (I liked MacFarlane’s art on Spawn but was utterly convinced that he
couldn’t write his way out of a wet paper bag), and I hate to sound like I am joining the chorus, but IMO Liefeld’s
art was worse than a fanzine artists…there were plenty of fanzine artists who went pro and got better, but I never
saw one who got worse and people praised him for doing so.

And I too got annoyed looking at manga-wannabe artists (the fact is, I enjoy many manga, and there are a huge
variety of manga styles out there, much like the diversity of comics in the first 10-15 years after Superman).
These two-cylinder Shirows got turned on to Akira and Ghost in the Shell and suddenly they decide to emulate
the so-called “new hotness” (unlike Frank Miller, who went the Goseki Kojima route and was much better at it)
and pander it as “originality”. Please. If I want Shirow. then I will read Shirow. He’s much better at it.
But to be honest, I have seen little to entice me to come back, other than the classics of my youth.

It is a pity that we may never see a ROM reprint, especially the last 16 issues (with Ditko pencils; still a Ditko fan after all these years).

That… that was weird.

Not GOOD weird, mind. Latter period Ditko “I wanna paycheck” stuff is a little sad. But I’d probably buy it just for the WTH value.

Don’t forget that the Spaceknights have featured in both Annihilation series, albeit looking a lot more like actual armoured knights these days than the robotic characters at the start.

“Black Canary rode a donkey up a hill”… (back cover of the Super Dictionary)

Gods, that’s a bizarre image. Oh, the indignity…

I read all of Rob Liefeld’s New Mutants and X-Force. Youngblood was the only Image comic that really excited me. I went out of my way to meet Liefeld at conventions and comic shops to get his signature. Loved his work back then. And I still love it. Most of my love for it now is nostalgia, but his energy is amazing. His anatmoy has become more exagerrated over the years and that can really hurt the work. But man his Marvel work in the early ’90s was awesome. All my friend’s loved it. He trailed only McFarlane and Jim Lee in appreciation. Back then everyone loved it. His stuff was new when I started collecting which is why I probably still love it. I have different tastes now than I did then but I really do appreciate that energy Liefeld brought to the comics.

This column is a good example of how to recreate characters well- and how NOT to do so:

The Micronauts: basically created by Marvel from whole cloth, as the toys had almost no backstory to them (in the American version anyway;) pretty good characters.

Fighting American: Pathetic. Talk about a poor loser. “I WILL have my Captain America stories published, I don’t care what Marvel says!” He could’ve changed it enough to make it halfway original, but nooo.

Conjura: Good Lord, instead of featuring whatever minority characters they had, DC had to effectively turn Zatanna Black to do it!? That’s worse than even the “International” Super Friends members. Sheesh.

Just a point of clarification — the great Obscure DC Characters website is a wonderful compilation and editing of a thread that originally appeared on the DC Comics Message Board. Everyone on the thread contributed entries, and, the portion you quoted in the column was written by.. Me :)
I’m a HUGE fan of these offbeat characters and even had someone make custom JLU action figures of both Conjura and El Dragon.

LOVE this weekly column!

Xanadude28@yahoo.com

I think that the best part of that Luther seciton is that it really seems to be saying that math itself is terrible, as if they object to the base ten counting system.
And that’s excellent.

fourthworlder

May 2, 2008 at 11:22 pm

I think in hindsight it was Liefeld more than anybody who made me finally give up on Marvel Comics.

On another note from a happier time, Bug [klik!] ruled! Those first twelve Micronauts issues were great.

Feet? On my Liefeld cover?

I was one of the people that liked Liefeld at first. There was an early issue of What If? where Wolverine becomes an agent of SHIELD that he did the art on that I loved, and I then started getting New Mutants. I started souring on it pretty quick. I must admit I bought most of the initial mini-series that launched Image, but Maxx was the only thing I bought after that. And when Heroes Reborn came about, it drove me away from comics in general for over 5 years.

I also have to admit I still like Jim Lee’s art. Not as much as when he was originally on Uncanny with Claremont, but I think he’s a pretty good artist still.

Where are those kids now? Check the Lifeld boards – they’re still around, and still worshipping everything Rob does.

Rob’s almost as sour as Byrne is when it comes to banning people who dare disagree.

That said, I enjoy old Liefeld art. I think he’s vastly improved since the X-Force days, but that that actually makes his work less interesting.

And TBH, I prefer the 90s “Artists rule” era over the post 2000 “Writers rule, and artists must trace photos” era.

“A little implied racism maybe, in creating a black character and putting her into a story dealing with a rat problem in the ghetto? Of all the stories that they could “cut and paste” a token black character they picked that one?”

Nothing implied about it, imho. It was maybe spawned from cultural ignorance, but that would be the norm for the entire comic book industry at the time that ‘dictionary’ was created. Maybe the dictionary editors were feeling the impact of the popular Sesame Street show, where the characters lived in an urban setting, and felt compelled to keep the story in that setting.

Also, even though John Stewart had been introduced as a character, he was a token black male with anger management issues, so I’m sure any editor who knew the character’s background would’ve nixed his appearance as being too controversial for a children’s book.

“And TBH, I prefer the 90s “Artists rule” era over the post 2000 “Writers rule, and artists must trace photos” era.”

Not me, friend.

I prefer anything but the “hot artist rule”. God, give me the Complete Collected Works of Brian Bendis over any of that early Image Comics stuff.

Anyone who saw those Fighting American comics on the shelves when released, post Liefeld’s Captain America run, couldn’t help but crack a smile. I mean, c’mon.

When Image first came out, I had mixed feelings towards Liefeld, his wannabe’s, McFarlane, and his wannabe’s.

There were so many rip off characters in the titles, and every team seemed to almost be the same … they all had one BIG guy, for instance.

I recognized Liefeld’s anatomy problems. I recognized every character had an “arrow” for a nose, their hands were always clenched into fists, and they all had lines all over their skin, and usually holding a big gun.

Still, there really was an energy to the titles compared to what else was out there. There was an “eye candy” feel to the dynamic use of panels, endless splash panels and pages, and the characters all had this style that seemed to be the lamborghini to the big two’s beetle.

I think it was just so different compared to what many grew up with. The same formula of how to create a comic was finally energized with something new. Furthermore, the 1990′s were all about “flash” and “style” over substance. While there were obviously some exceptions, just look at all the neon, the heat induced color change t-shirts, and so forth.

In cartoons, the style was changed to appeal to a younger “hip” market. The biggest example of this, in my opinion is “Yo Yogi” where Yogi Bear and other Hanna-Barbera characters are now tweens wearing bright neon colors with their “cool” clothes. The New Archies come to mind, although I think they were on the cusp of the 80′s more so than the 90′s.

I think the analysis that the 13 year old would be drawn to Liefeld and company’s art more than others for said reasons, but I think that the “eye candy” as mentioned above drew others as well.

The extra violence or darker nature obviously stuck with us, and the appeal to be more dynamic with poses and panels and profiles still exist also. The cheesecake and so-called sex appeal of showcasing a female character’s anatomy is still with us, although it isn’t as bad as it was back then.

I remember reading an article about how Liefeld was upset that there was so much “blood on boobs” and that he wasn’t going to do that, or at least, not have a valid reason, but I don’t think that was actually honored. Every woman in Image at the time basicly had a blood on her exaggerated breasts, and a big sword for the over-compensating artist also was drawn a lot.

In any case, I find I’m in a love hate relationship with Liefeld. I look at that Captain America cover, for example, and shudder that he was able to get into the industry. But then, DC, for example has had some truly horrifying artists in their line up (see some issues of Superboy for example), so it’s not that big of a surprise. So, I recognize and shudder at Liefeld’s incompetence, and yet I still find myself drawn to his recent Onslaught and Teen Titans runs where despite that lack of artistic competence, I find there’s still that aesthetic appeal to it at times. Seeing his Enchantress and Scarlet Witch, I analyzed how inaccurate their anatomy was, and yet loving the overall presentation. But maybe there’s just too much “13″ in this 31 year old..

Still, artists like Bart Sears who drew every woman with a jaw structure the exact same as his men, and who often looked like a man with breasts and pursed lips, and had his own set of wannabe’s (think “Eclipso”) and who was a big part of the 90′s isn’t scrutinized. I mean I know I have a love/hate relationship with him also. I cringe at his Power Girl, and yet love reading his issues of “Justice League Europe.”

Is it because of the overall aesthetic, the dynamic eye candy, and because he knows more in regards to anatomay and doesn’t promote lawsuits and concern over rip offs, but why isn’t he criticized?

Furthermore, if everyone hates Liefeld so much, and if everyone is able to see how wrong his art can be, why do Publishers still request his work? (Granted it’s limited, but still it’s out there.)

BTW, anyone know where I could get a copy of that dictionary?

What I’ve heard about Rob still getting work is that he has many friends in powerful places in the industry that genuinely like him and his work, and are willing to keep giving him chances despite the way the fan rabble and especially the internet has turned him into a joke. In particular, Rob goes way back with currently-hot writer Jeph Loeb, and I want to say some other Marvel writers have tried to defend him as a modern-day Jack Kirby.

Thanks for the info.
I know I’ve read writers and other artists defending him also but in the sense that he’s someone who’s always had lots of potential for growth but never seems to follow through.

He has obviously some very good ideas in creating a comic book, but his art seems to be exactly the same as it was in the ’90′s. Granted, not everyone’s art needs to change, but the fact that his sense of anatomy doesn’t seem to have improved all that much. (Although he did admit his big-busted Cap was very wrong.)

But, perhaps he just doesn’t care. I’m sure he knows all the ridicule that is out there, but maybe he just doesn’t do anything different because he knows people will still buy his artwork anyway.

I’d be more displeased with his lateness than artwork really. I mean he puts out that Supreme/Suprema flip book but where is the rest of the story?

I think part of the reason for his appeal back in the day is the pure dynamics he brought to the game and the fact that, anatomy be damned, he was a product of the 90′s. His stuff really reached out and had a feel all their own. His stuff is energetic and I can appreciate that. I don’t think his stuff is the absolute worse stuff I’ve ever seen. In fact, as time goes on, I like the aforementioned Bart Sears’ work less and less, but I feel both he and Liefeld are in dire need of the same element to greatly improve their work : someone besides themselves to ink their pencils.

As pencilers I think they both have that same dynamic, but having the right inker not just trace but enhance the pencils to give them a dimension they lack while still building on the basic pencils that have been laid down is what both these guys really need. It also takes an editor to help coordinate and bring that team together to make it work. Sadly, too few fans really understand both of these roles as the marquee glamour all goes to the writer and artist. Let’s throw colorist in with editor and inker as roles that most fans don’t fully grasp or appreciate in what they really bring to the overall product.

I’d love to see an uninked page by either of these artists / pencilers, and then show a variety of “after” copies of the page after they are inked by different inker to visually show what an inker can do with the pencils that they are given.

“Is it because of the overall aesthetic, the dynamic eye candy, and because he knows more in regards to anatomay and doesn’t promote lawsuits and concern over rip offs, but why isn’t he criticized?”

Bart Sears is just a penciller, Rob Liefeld is a symbol of a certain style of penciller. He attracts more ire from people who despise his style (such as me).

John Byrne, who was once my idol when he wasn’t as crazy as he is today, said something particularly smart. When examining the material of this week’s next hot artist, pay attention not only to how he draws action scenes featuring people in spandex, but also to how he depicts everyday quiet scenes with people wearing normal clothes. How he does backgrounds. How he does normal vehicles, normal buildings, forests, normal animals…

When looking at Liefeld’s scant background work and how his depiction of normal people in an office room is bizarre, distorted, and unconvincing, I became more convinced than ever that his art is truly worthless.

I hate elitist fanboys. The art and stories in today’s comics are excruciatingly boring and trite. I don’t know why Liefeld gets a bad wrap other than it gives unpublished artists a false sense of accomplishment in their own art.

Michael Hoskin

May 5, 2008 at 10:39 am

I think it would be a tragedy if Liefeld caught a cold. Let’s all pitch in and find him a good wrap.

I think the main thing about Liefeld’s artwork is his ENERGY. You can criticize his artwork, but every piece of his work just has this…feel…about it.

My main criticism of the man is the business practice of soliciting something that isn’t finished. Or even partially completed. It really does seem that he’ll wake up, have an idea strike him as “Cool,” draw up a promo piece or a five page story, and then solicit it as a series. Along the way he’ll lose interest and go onto the next “cool” idea.

Which is one of the reason I’m really digging the current Youngblood series — it’s actually a fully realized series.

R. J. Sterling

May 6, 2008 at 4:15 pm

I can’t look at Liefeld art anymore without wanting to cry or punch someone. It’s just sickening.

Check out some of his Armageddon pages he’s doing. It looks great. He’s finally found a colorist who can compliment him. That’s all he really needed.

Growing up reading the likes of John Buscema, John Byrne, Michael Golden among others, it’s a crime to find that Liefeld is on the same line of bussiness as they.

[...] me some scans of Conjura, who I featured in Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #153. Check them out here. Comments [...]

So Conjura’s weakness is chalkboards? She can’t pass one without writing on it? It’s kind of like pouring sand in front of a vampire, I guess. I almost wish Grant Morrison had used Conjura in the 7 Soldiers Zatana book: not as the main character or anything, but just in a small cameo with all the other weird magic users…

–yo
gets arrested when he invites teens to meet him at the “pocket park”

Okay, yo, I’m just glad that I’m not the only one who was unsettled by “pocket park.” :)

Morrison did leave an opening to bring Conjura into the DCU proper if someone wanted to — in the Zatanna mini, she was friends with Ali-Ka-Zoom, who used the same type of magic Zatanna did. Conjura could be Ali’s daughter, a contemporary friend of Zatanna’s who used her magic on a much smaller scale (Ali-Ka-Zoom was the Magicians of the Ghetto) to defend her neighborhood or something similar.

I’m just going to second the Texiera love. When he was making Wolverine look like Clint Eastwood, that was my most cherished comic book memory as a child. Platt is in many ways worse than Liefeld. He can make a hell of an ass kicking cover, if he has 4 months to draw it. If anyone has ever seen that “man who’s arms blew up” documentary, that made me think of Liefeld.

I’m shocked 3 years after this being posted Conjura hasn’t been brought back by DC. If for nothing else, reminded to protect their rights to her if they ever wanted to use her. It’s doubly funny when they were turning every 3rd string character into a minority just a few years ago, when they had some ready made ORIGINAL ones they could have used , with probably less retooling than it took for the others….. I mean, they wouldn’t have had to have Max Lord put a bullet in Zatanna’s head.

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