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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 62: New Mutants #100

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from New Mutants #100, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated April 1991. Enjoy!

HELLS YEAH!!!!!

Fabian Nicieza scripted this issue, Joe Rosen lettered it, and Brad Vancata colored it. It’s the final issue of the long-running “junior X-Men” title that Claremont began back in 1983, and by 1991 had pretty much run its course. But nobody cares about that, because it’s motherfucking Rob Liefeld!!!!! Whoo-hoo!

It’s interesting discussing Liefeld with people who like Liefeld’s art. They can’t really pinpoint why they like it, except perhaps that it’s energetic, which is certainly is (or used to be, back in this time – it seems to have become a bit more enervated these days). Usually they just shrug their shoulders and say, “I just like it.” Yet people who don’t like Liefeld’s art can list myriad ways that it’s bad. This page offers some of those reasons.

First, Nicieza’s script gives us some information. We know that we’re in the “underground bunker headquarters” of the team, and it’s 8 December at 3.15 p.m. There’s an intruder in the danger room, and the boss – Sam calls him “sir” even though we don’t get his name on this page – both identifies Sam and James and lets us know that James is new to the team. The woman in Panel 3 exposits awkwardly that Sam has gotten better at dulling the noise of his blast field. So there’s that.

Liefeld is inking himself, which these days is a recipe for disaster but in 1991 was still not the worst thing in the world, as he hadn’t become such a superstar that he felt he could take pages off (as he seems to do these days). We do get some unnecessary motion lines in the first panel – the light isn’t moving, so why the lines? – but this was the early 1990s, when more lines = more awesome, so whatever. Liefeld shows his odd obsession with pouches, as Cable, James, and Domino have an inordinately high number of them at their waists. Liefeld’s storytelling in this page is perfectly fine – the layout, which in a Liefeld comic is often maddeningly confusing, doesn’t daunt us too much: the three figures run toward the door of the danger room in Panel 2, the four of them arrive at the door in Panel 3, James opens the door in Panel 4, and they enter the room in Panel 5. Liefeld leads us easily over the page, which is nice. So his storytelling is sound, and the fact that he’s waiting for pages 2 and 3 to reveal who the intruder is (it’s Shatterstar, by the way) is Comics 101. There’s nothing wrong with the way the page is structured.

Then we get to the figure work. Oh dear. Cable’s head in Panel 2 is tiny compared to his shoulders and torso, James looks like he’s about to take off, and Domino is freakishly thin. In Panel 3, we see the giant legs/tiny feet that Liefeld loves to draw, and unfortunately, we can’t see the marvel that is Sam’s costume – aviator “helmet,” purple jacket, purple-and-white pants – too clearly. In Panel 4 we see James’s giant legs and his oddly shaped boots and feet. Liefeld’s problem with anatomy has always made his perspective strange, which we see in the final panel – with an artist whose anatomy is fine, Cable’s arms and hands wouldn’t look strange, but with Liefeld, the depth in the panel just makes the anatomy look more bizarre. Except for Sam’s costume, I’m not even going to bash Liefeld’s sense of design too much – this is what a lot of comics looked like in 1991, so we can’t blame it all on Liefeld.

As we’ve seen with some other artists (Romita, Jr., for instance), Liefeld doesn’t seem to have benefited from the advances in coloring and paper that we’ve seen in comics. The pulpiness of the paper and the rougher colors help cover up his deficiencies, while glossy paper and smoother colors actually seem to highlight them. Liefeld hasn’t changed very much in 20 years, but his art looks lazier these days, and I wonder how much is due to him actually being lazier and how much is due to the technology exposing his lack of drawing chops. I can still read his work on New Mutants without cringing, and I really can’t do that with his more modern stuff. Maybe I have a soft spot in my heart for my 20-year-old self’s total ignorance about what was good art!

This page isn’t very good, but it could be a lot worse. We don’t even see one of Liefeld’s characters grimacing and showing all 432 of their teeth! It’s actually pretty fascinating reading these latter-day New Mutants issues and wonder at how Liefeld became such a superstar. Oh, the fickle fans of comics!

I forgot to put this in the two previous posts, but I’m looking for candidates for the next theme month (April), which will focus on writers. I’ve already decided on one (and his initials are G. o. A. C.), so the top three people you guys vote for will be the focus of the other three weeks. If you’re only interested in one writer, you can list only one. Or you can list your top three. I’ll add them all up when I reach the day I need to start writing them up (I’m usually about two weeks ahead of the actual post, so voting will be open for a while). Remember: The only restriction is that I have to own the comics, so if the Hernandez Bros. get the most votes, that’s too bad (yes, I suck because I don’t own enough Hernandez Bros. – give me a break!). Leave your nominations in the comments, and I’ll have fun tallying them up!

Next: A critically acclaimed horror comic that, for whatever reason, I just can’t get into. Oh well! I can always find a bunch of cool stuff in the archives.

40 Comments

[...] Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 62: New Mutants #100- comicbookresources.com Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from New Mutants #100, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated April 1991. Enjoy! Fabian Nicieza scripted this issue, Joe Rosen lettered it, and Brad Vancata colored it. It’s the final issue of the long-running “junior [… [...]

Chris Claremont is a must!

Jim Starlin!
Steve Gerber!

Neil Gaiman
Steve Gerber
Brian Wood

Roy Thomas! Jim Shooter! Mike Grell?

It might be interesting to see how pages from writer/artists are different when they draw them themselves vs. when other people draw them, like Miller with Mazzuccheli doing art or Grell on Green Arrow.

I’d choose Ann Nocenti, Mike Baron, and Peter Milligan.

Peter Milligan
Warren Ellis
Joe Casey

Michael Howey

March 2, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Claremont
StarlIn
Bendis
Millar
Waid
Busiek

Anyone wondering about the problems with Leifeld art should check out Doom Force #1 (collected in the Planet Love TP). Liefeld did an AWESOME job on Uncanny X-Men 245 and those two Atlantis Attacks Annuals (Amazing SPM. & New Mutants). He was like a cool mesh of Art Adams & McFarlane, but as he began to disregard the “Marvel Style”, his work resembled a mish-mash of anatomically incorrect action poses, showcasing exploding boob-age and oh so tight crotch lines. His juvenile tantrums as he left image made me dislike the ‘artist’, then Alan Moore forced me to live his characters. The fact that the other Image creators gave him a voice at their recent anniversary conference, and that DC’s ‘new 52′ crew feels that the public is-a-hankering for more Liefeld makes me think he’s the luckiest guy in comicdom. Nothing truly against Liefeld, just wish other more talented artists had his fame.

Wally: I don’t mind his work on that issue of Uncanny X-Men, but I hope you’re not saying that he drew Doom Force, because he didn’t. Unless you’re not saying that, in which case, my bad!

Mazzuccheli would be worth a week, as well as Brian Hitch (from his early Alan Davis clone days on She Hulk to Ultimates). Cassidy, J.H. Williams III and Sam Kieth as well.

Writers:

I see your Morrison and raise you Alan Moore. Your Top Ten did point how what I think a lot of people forget is that for all his self-reflexive metafiction and subtext, Moore knows the ins and outs of just plain good storytelling, and I’d be interested in seeing if any Moore work, no matter how minor or major, can function as an exemplar case of how to make a good first page or not.

Also, while I’m at it, let’s go with Steve Gerber, the spiritual godfather of those two wacky British lads, as his work can range Marvel House Style of the 1970s to his pretty sophisticated latter day Vertigo and Hard Time work.

Mark Waid, John Byrne, Chris Claremont, Jack Kirby. (Yeah, I’m old, sue me.)

Doom Force was a purposeful attack on the Leifeld Style. I believe it was meant to be a parody on all Image creators, but a quick flip through the book looks like Liefeld, Liefeld, and Leifeld. It was drawn by Steve Pugh, Ian Montgomery, Walter Simonson, Paris Cullins, Ray Kryssiing, Duke Mighten, Mark McKenna, and Ken Steacy. I think Leifeld was the weak link in the Image founding, and so Doom Force focused heavily on his inadequacies.

Dude has no time for backgrounds.

Alan Moore, Peter Milligan, J.M. DeMatteis. And I won’t mind if Waid, Peter David, Brubaker or lots of other people get chosen. And I might tune out for a week if Claremont gets chosen.

Mike Loughlin

March 2, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Steve Gerber
John Ostrander
Steve Englehart

The Crazed Spruce

March 2, 2012 at 10:01 pm

You forgot to mention Leifeld’s stock legs-spread-arms-spread-hunched-over-looking-up-shocked-expression-on-the-face pose that shows up on pretty much every page of his work. (Like Cable and Domino in panel 3.)

And hey, since you’re focusing on writers soon, I’d like to add my vote for John Byrne, Chris Claremont, Alan Moore, Mark Waid, Brian Michael Bendis, Kurt Busiek, Warren Ellis, and Stan Lee. (You do have copies of Ravage 2099 and that Silver Surfer special that Moebius drew, right?)

The Crazed Spruce

March 2, 2012 at 10:02 pm

Oooooh, add Peter David to my list, too.

I think it was Matt Seneca that did a whole post about the “goodness” of Liefeld’s art.

Rob’s ok, in my book. He seems like a decent guy who loves comics, and the new EXTREME stuff looks good from what I’ve seen (as was the AWESOME stuff, like that Judgment Day book with Alan Moore writing for Gil KANE! art). He definitely needs a good inker, though. I looked at some of the New Mutants/X-Force stuff semi-recently, and in NM 87, I think he’s inked by Bob Wiacek, and the art is pretty good. Here’s still ok like you say, but anything more recent….

Oddly enough, the apparent reason why his book with Kirkman, The Infinite, is going to end is that Liefeld was getting inked by someone else, and Kirkman didn’t like it because it didn’t look Liefeld-y enough.

The other thing about when I looked at NM/X-Force stuff is that Liefeld can’t be completely blamed for how awful that stuff is. After Liefeld left and Nicieza was still writing it, it’s not like it magically got better.

As I said a while back, I think looking at writers would be the most beneficial with writers who have the ability to change around their style based on the strengths of the artists they’re working with. Given that, here are some writers that I think are good at adapting to artist strengths:

Alan Moore
Chris Claremont
J.M. DeMatteis
Mark Waid (the way he worked with Ramos on Impulse was great)
Warren Ellis

As for why I think Liefeld became a superstar, I think it was a combination of several things:

1. The covers on his run really stood out as being different and dynamic, though a good portion of that credit goes to McFarlane for inking them.
2. Cable was a reasonably good character who captured the zeitgeist of the time.
3. The added attention Jim Lee was giving to the x-verse aided New Mutants.
4. It was the speculator era, so an x-book with a lot of new characters felt important.
5. He helped take New Mutants into a direction it hadn’t been yet. The characters seemed a little less like kids and more like fighters, which also tapped into the zeitgeist.

To appreciate Liefeld you had to be there at the time. New Mutants was terrible before he came on board and he injected real life and dynamism into the title. It was different to the stuff that went before and full of energy which was just what the title needed.

Peter Milligan
Mark Waid
Dennis O’Neil

Mark Waid
Alan Moore
Brian M Bendis

I was never a huge Liefeld fan, but I have never understood the backlash. His stylized art is more fun than the interchangeable army of “realistic” folks that currently dominate the industry. He has never driven me away from a title that I would otherwise purchase.

Regarding writers, I’d love to see you do famous teams that split up. So:
- Claremont & Byrne contrasted with Claremont without Byrne and Byrne as a solo act.
- Lee & Kirby contrasted with Lee without Kirby and Kirby as a solo act.
- Lee & Ditko contrasted with Lee without Ditko (or Kirby) and Ditko solo.
- Wolfman & Perez contrasted with pre-Perez Wolfman, post-Perez Wolfman Titans and Perez solo.

Dean: Man, that’s a good idea. I’m not sure if I will do that for strictly writer’s month, but it’s an idea for a different theme month!

Thanks, Greg!

Man, Cable had a weird hairline. I guess Liefeld really wanted to emphasize his age.

Top three writers I’d like to see:
Warren Ellis
Joe Casey
Adam Warren

I like Dean’s idea too. Ive read enough on Moore,Morrison,Ellis etc. I think you should go with DeMatteis(Moonshadow is the best graphic story ever done,and Blood is beautiful also), Starlin (original Warlock was like nothing else done at the time) and Doug Moench (Master of Kung Fu needs to find a way to be reprinted so people can be reminded of true long form story telling!) Those are my picks

1. Stan Lee, 2. Joe Casey, and 3. Peter David.

I can’t see how people can call Liefeld’s art energetic, because when virtually every single panel he draws has characters posing dynamically, none of them end up actually being dynamic.

- Scott Lobdell (for all his problems , he’s prominent these days)
- Brian Bendis (weeklong speculation on whether he’s writing the X-Men, X-Vengers, X-Wives, Cage and the FF, Runaways vs. Squirrel Girl crossover event, and the next trimonthly reshuffle of x-men and avengers rosters)
- And to get something slighty different, a bit more tame and less CONTROVERSIAL and SENSATIONAL but still damn good: DnA

"O" the Humanatee!

March 4, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Writers to feature:

- Alan Moore (can’t believe how few votes I see for him – as The Eye says, Moore is a great comics craftsman, a fact that I think gets overlooked in the emphasis on the content of what he’s writing)

- Doug Moench

- Bill Messner-Loebs (though to make me happy you’d have to feature lots of Journey, which I suspect you may not have in your collection)

- Don McGregor, whose purple prose I used to love when I was a teenager but which is so out of style now – he certainly had a unique way of writing

“O” – I own both volumes of Journey from when IDW collected them a few years ago. Bwah-ha-ha! And I’m surprised too at the lack of Alan Moore – maybe people are so familiar with his work that they don’t want to see it again?

Travis Pelkie

March 4, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Greg, what’s in those 2 volumes? I’ve got the original 27 issues of Journey, plus issue 1 of the War Drums mini. From what I understand, there was only the second issue of War Drums printed in addition to what I’ve got. How far into the series did the IDW volumes get?

Travis: The IDW collections have the 27 issues but nothing else. Beats me why they didn’t reprint the mini-series. Rights issues?

[...] Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 62: New Mutants #100Comic Book Resourcesby Greg Burgas Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today's page is from New Mutants #100, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated April 1991. Enjoy! Fabian Nicieza scripted this issue, Joe Rosen lettered … [...]

For a writers month I’d love to see Claremont, Shooter, Gaiman, Peter David, and DeMatteis.

If there’s ever a theme devote to “plotters” then it should be a big ol’ tribute to Keith Giffin.

Travis Pelkie

March 6, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Doubt it’d be rights, Greg, since Fantagraphics printed most of Journey, including the mini. I assume War Drums was unfinished, and also since the end of 27 is such a perfect ending, to include something else would take away from that.

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