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Year of the Artist, Day 193: Rob Liefeld, Part 2 – Uncanny X-Men #245 and New Mutants #88

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Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Rob Liefeld, and the issues are Uncanny X-Men #245 and New Mutants #88, both of which was published by Marvel and are cover dated June 1989 and April 1990. Enjoy!

Liefeld went over to Marvel and drew some stuff before taking over New Mutants, and in his second issue, Louise Simonson introduced Cable, and Liefeld’s drawing of Mr. Summers became all the rage. I wanted to take a look at his fill-in issue of Uncanny X-Men, which came before he took over New Mutants, and issue #88, which is the follow-up issue to Cable’s introduction. I wanted to show these comics because they feature a bit more of what we might call “Liefeldian” art, even though Liefeld still isn’t inking himself, which is where his work really took off. Dan Green inked Uncanny X-Men #245, and Hilary Barta inked New Mutants #88, so let’s see what’s up with those combinations.


X-Men #245 is one of the funniest comics Claremont ever wrote and is still very funny, years later when many of the references are incredibly dated. I just like this tiny panel, in which Liefeld and Green add a bunch of guest stars to the alien invasion force. I’m pretty sure Brian has shown this before (and the previous panel, in which Chewbacca appears), but I just wanted to show it because it’s fun.


Liefeld gets to draw the entire team at the time (this is during the “Outback Era,” which is of course the greatest period in X-Men history and if you disagree I may have to reach through the computer and rip your spleen out!!!!!), and we see some of his tics beginning to emerge. We can’t see Storm and Dazzler too much, but Longshot’s hair is … well, it’s 1989, certainly, and in Panel 4, Liefeld amps up Rogue’s hair and we see a bit of the “Liefeld face,” with the thin eyes and the full lips. Green’s heavy inks on Rogue’s face don’t help, unfortunately. Havok also has some Liefeldian tics, as he gets another terrible hair style – it looks a bit too long to stand up like that, so Alex must have styled it that way – and heavy cheekbones, which might be Green’s contribution. This isn’t too egregious, but it’s a harbinger.


In the previous issue, the X-Women went to Los Angeles to go shopping (women be shoppin’, amirite?), and they happened to pick up Jubilee along the way. Wolverine suggests a “boys’ night out” for the X-Men, and as Peter is stuck as Colossus, Alison decides to put make-up on him so he can move around in mixed company. As this is a comedic book, Liefeld exaggerates for effect, so Logan’s hair is even spikier than usual, while Green heavily inks his eyebrows and his facial hair, making him more animalistic. Panel 2 is interesting, as Peter is gigantic but fairly well proportioned. As we’ll see below, some inkers use thin lines on Liefeld’s clothing, which makes them look baggy, but Green uses some thicker line work, which makes Peter’s pants fit him better. Of course, this is an early example of Liefeld’s clothing bunching around the crotch, which would reach epic proportions later in his career, but it’s not too ridiculous. Meanwhile, Alison is drifting toward the strangely proportioned females Liefeld would draw later, but we can forgive it a bit because she’s stretched out in excitement, so we can understand why her body looks slightly out of whack. Liefeld’s famous foot fetish (in that he doesn’t like drawing them) is also creeping in here, although it’s certainly not as bad as it could be. Green continues to ink very well, as he and/or Liefeld make Storm’s beautiful hair richly detailed. We saw yesterday some early examples of “Liefeld hair,” and this is another one.


Claremont is making fun both of DC’s 1989 summer event, Invasion! (always remember the exclamation point, kids!) and his own mythology with the “Jean Bomb” (I think Claremont making fun of himself is even better than the DC parody) as Invasion! relied on a “gene bomb” that turned a bunch of people into superheroes or changed the powers of those already possessing them. Liefeld has a lot of fun with the “Dominators” – the green aliens that parody the Invasion! masterminds and are never named in this book – as he doesn’t have to make them look remotely human, so he exaggerates their teeth and their bulbous heads. Note “Jean’s” giant hair. Why Liefeld never drew an Inhumans book is beyond me.

Story continues below


Now this is classic early Liefeld. Once again, we get the exaggeration – Logan’s hair is amazing, and although it looks largely inked, I have to believe that Liefeld at least provided a basic framework (and the inking is wonderful). Once again, Green pumps up Logan’s eyebrows to make him even more hirsute. Longshot and Alex have pretty standard “Liefeld faces” – they’re wide where the eyes are and slant inward rather severely at the cheeks. Peter has a Liefeld mouth, with that puffiness around the jaw that is really strange when you think about it. Liefeld puts Peter’s head in between his broad shoulders, turning him into a sloucher instead of making him look powerful, which I wonder is what he was going for. Peter just looks dumb in this drawing, which is too bad. I’ll write a bit more about the influence of this particular panel below, but I wonder if this is a watershed moment for Liefeld.


Claremont takes a small shot at Perry White here, as he’s far more interested in covering the presidential inauguration than an alien invasion (to be fair, in the DC world, if aliens are invading it must be Thursday, so Perry might get a bit of a pass here). We see a bit more of Liefeld’s evolution here. In Panel 4, Perry is inked far too much, and I wonder if Green simply inked all the lines Liefeld drew on Perry’s face. The wrinkles are excessive, turning a not-bad face into a creepy, leathery one. In Panel 6, Jimmy Olsen is a pretty classic Liefeld character – he has the spiky hair with the tuft in the middle sticking out over his forehead. He has the heavily inked eyes, the thin nose, and the thicker lips, and just enough wrinkles to age him prematurely. His abstract shirt is nice, though. I also want to point out Panel 2, in which it’s clear that Liefeld doesn’t steal images and incorporate them into his art, because he obviously had never seen a map of the world before! Little things like that are why I can’t hate Liefeld. He’s so charmingly weird at certain things.


After thwarting the invasion, the men come home and face a disapproving Ororo (um, didn’t they just thwart an alien invasion there, Windrider?). Look at that glorious hair in these panels. Rogue is trying to outdo Wolverine, Storm is ready to head over to the Great White video shoot, and Alison is probably going to sing a duet with Prince. There are some weird signs, though – Peter’s face in Panel 2 is too goofy, and Logan’s hand in Panel 4 is weirdly decrepit. But man, that hair. THAT HAIR!!!!

Why do I think that panel above is an ominous portent (I have to use that word every so often to make Travis happy)? Well, Liefeld began drawing figures in a more exaggerated fashion (not just Peter, but some others in this book), and I’m not sure if he realized that what worked in a comedy book might not work in a more serious book. Peter’s bulk is silly, but everything in this book is pretty silly – Longshot charming all the ladies (one of whom has actual hearts instead of eyes at one point), the Australians not really noticing that they’ve been invaded, the Jean Bomb itself – and Peter’s largeness fits in well. But while Liefeld may have decided that he could exaggerate to ridiculous proportions on everything and it would be his way to parody superhero excess, it doesn’t seem anyone told his writers or even the part of Liefeld’s brain that wrote his comics when he did that. So that panel is full of foreboding, as we’ll see a little less than a year later with New Mutants #88. So let’s get to that!


The interesting thing about Liefeld is that the signs weren’t really there – he seemed to transition quickly from the guy who drew Hawk and Dove fairly well and even from the guy who drew the above issue with its obvious exaggeration to the guy everyone loves to hate, even with solid inkers going over his pencils. I don’t know why Liefeld shifted, but he clearly did, and while the comics world might have lost a fairly decent artist, it gained a piñata, plus Liefeld became a superduperstar, so I guess it all worked out for everyone. But let’s consider this page. Cable breaks out of prison, and he does so by blowing a poison dart into his guard and then using acid to melt his chains. Look at how Liefeld draws Cable in Panel 1. While it’s not egregious yet, the fact that he seems to draw Cable’s fingers in random positions and then places the small blow tube among them foreshadows his bigger errors of placing guns in hands that don’t look like they’re holding anything. He’s making an effort, though, as Cable’s cheeks are puffed up with air, and the first two panels work together pretty well. In the thin Panel 4, we see an early example of Liefeld not drawing feet terribly well, but Cable is wearing boots, so again, we can forgive it a bit. The final panel is odd, as Cable appears to swing upward to knock the guard backward (it’s a different guard than the one he shot in the neck), which seems strange until you understand that if Cable swung downward or forward, as we’d expect, his arm would probably be blocking his face, and Liefeld wants to make sure we see that. I don’t know why, but it’s clear that we’re supposed to see Cable’s grim visage. Barta is a fairly standard inker, so we don’t see the overhatching that we would soon get with Liefeld himself and others who inked him later in his career, but things are trending that way. It’s most apparent in the clothing, which has no thick blacks to create more nuanced folds, with Liefeld/Barta instead simply using thin lines a bit more than is necessary, creating a baggy look that will become more prevalent in Liefeld’s art. It’s kind of strange.

Story continues below


Here’s a good example of where Liefeld was headed, and it wasn’t terribly pretty, although it is dynamic, which might explain his popularity a bit. In Panel 1, Barta inks Cable’s face a bit too much, aging our hero quite a bit (I know he’s supposed to be an older dude, but as the series moved on, he began to look decrepit). I noted yesterday the curve on the forehead with the perpendicular hatching on it, and we see it in the inset panel pretty clearly, but it’s even heavier than in Hawk and Dove. We get the thick ridges above Cable’s eyes, which create huge shadows for eyebrows, and thick ridges from his nostrils down around his mouth, making that sink into his face a little. The white of his face can be explained by the light thrown by Pyro’s device, but it’s interesting because in later issues of X-Force, this kind of blanching becomes common, and it’s very strange. We’ll get to that tomorrow, though.

The bigger panel is problematic, too. Liefeld, as we saw yesterday, didn’t start out making his characters grotesque giants, but he does that with the Blob, and it’s fairly ridiculous. Part of the problem, it seems, is that he drew Cable pretty large, so the Blob had to be even bigger to make it even more impressive when Cable took him down. As we saw above, Cable’s pants are inked oddly – Barta or Liefeld uses some more blacks, but the hatching along those blacks make the pants look rigid, and the way Liefeld draws Cable’s left leg makes his waist look gigantic. The Blob and Pyro both have the same mouth, but as Fred’s is more obvious, let’s focus on that. Liefeld makes it gape very wide, which isn’t in itself a problem, but the way he extends the upper ridge is bizarre, making Fred’s mouth look more rigid than it should be. Glynis Oliver, who colored this, uses red on that inside portion, which makes it stand out even more. Liefeld gets across the Blob’s terror, but his work is slowly becoming more cartoony, which has unfortunate side effects.


Boom-Boom, who was so memorably revamped in Nextwave, shows up dressed in killer 1989/1990 fashion just so she can impress Rictor, which, in retrospect, is pretty funny. The side panels are a bit difficult to see, except for the final one, where we get Angry Tabitha. That’s not a bad drawing, as Liefeld narrows her eyes, crooks her eyebrows just a bit (it’s not quite supervillain-y!), and wrinkles her mouth in disapproval. Whether he or Barta inked Boom-Boom’s hair, it’s done well, and is a pretty good example of “Liefeld” hair, some of which we saw yesterday. The first panel, though, is where the action’s at, and it’s certainly something. How does Liefeld draw something like this? If there’s one thing we can say about Liefeld, it’s that he doesn’t cut and paste from other sources, whether it was magazines back in the day or the Internet today (at least, it certainly doesn’t look like he does). Yet Tabitha here looks completely divorced from her surroundings. Her right hand on her hip is … okay, although it seems like a strange way to hold your fingers. Her left hand, meanwhile is resting on something that isn’t there. That’s kind of strange. If that blue … thing where her hand lies is supposed to be a platform, Liefeld doesn’t do anything to distinguish it from the blue machinery behind it, but if we’re supposed to believe it’s next to Boom-Boom and not behind her, okay? Finally, Tabitha is standing on tiptoes for no discernible reason. Why wouldn’t she just wear heels instead of those Peter Pan slippers? The shortness of her skirt (don’t bend over to pick up a quarter, Tabby!) doesn’t really bother me, as it’s perfectly plausible that a young girl trying to catch a guy’s attention would wear something like that (not that I would know, as most girls when I was young spent their time around me wearing large, shapeless burlap sacks). The way Boom-Boom is drawn and inked, though, is also weird. I noted yesterday that Karl Kesel seemed to ink every single muscle in every character’s body, and here, Barta is following along with that. The deep “V” of the collarbone and the inking on Boom-Boom’s forearms makes her look more emaciated than is healthy, yet Liefeld still gives her thicker legs than usual (although her left leg seems to be twisted really painfully). These little things make the drawing odd, even if it’s not awful. Just don’t get me started on Panel 2, where she bends awkwardly backward and we get an inked starburst around her crotch.

Story continues below


Liefeld’s lack of training is evident in Panel 1, as it’s clear what he wants to do, but he doesn’t do it very well. Silver Sabre stops short of getting decapitated, so his head stays where it is while his body keeps going. Liefeld draws his chest sticking out, but his hips are twisted really gruesomely and his legs don’t seem to be moving the way legs would. His right leg is sticking out of his hip like an insect’s, while his left calf is gargantuan, even for someone whose mutant power is running really fast. His back comes in toward his waist at a very strange angle, and again, we know what Liefeld is trying to do, but it’s rather creepy. Panel 3 is also horrific, as the Blob opens his mouth wider than should be possible and Liefeld draws in a waterfall of drool (Fred has 35 teeth, too, but let’s let that one go). For some reason, Liefeld gives him a constipated face, as if he’s trying to pass a whole watermelon, even though the dialogue doesn’t exactly match the expression. Barta/Liefeld is using too many inking lines here, which contributes to the constipated look, and I’m not quite sure what’s going on with the corners of Fred’s mouth. This is just a bizarre panel.

[I apologize for using two more comics in this post instead of sticking to one comic per post. I know it’s my series and I can cheat if I want to, but I try not to, and I originally only had New Mutants #88 in this post, because I completely forgot that he drew Uncanny X-Men #245. The latter is fairly important in his development, however, so I decided to slot it in. I wrote that part this morning, so it was pretty last-minute. I hope you guys don’t mind!]

As we can see, very early in his career, Liefeld had already decided on a direction. He took his basics and exaggerated them to insane degrees, and the comics-reading public rewarded him for it. Soon he would be inking himself, and we’d get this kind of art, even more unrestrained. I hope you join me tomorrow to check some of that out! Fortify yourself in the archives!


I’m glad somebody else loves #245 like I do. I really liked that Claremont did these two X-men hanging out issues after a year of intense stories and a bunch of sub-plots just came to an explosive climax in Inferno. The X-Men needed a break! Liefeld’s exaggerated design was a great match for the lighthearted comedy vibe of this issue.

I think my favorite bit is when Colossus gets in a fight at a bar with an alien, and Havok and Wolverine are on the side with a couple of beers. Havok’s like “Think we should pitch in?” “Twenty to one odds? Naaaaah!” Logan replies with this evil grin and those blacked out eyes he’s rocking this whole issue.


July 12, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Is this a joke?

Jeremy: Yeah, the entire issue is full of fun little moments like that. I miss silly issues in the middle of all the seriousness of current comics.

deleteMyComment: Why would it be?

tom fitzpatrick

July 12, 2014 at 3:27 pm

I’m wondering if Bryan Singer’s version of Logan (Hugh Jackman) was based on Liefeld’s rendition of Logan.

BTW, doesn’t it appear that Dan Green inking Liefeld’s art actually kind of improves it?

“Just don’t get me started on Panel 2, where she bends awkwardly backward and we get an inked starburst around her crotch.”

Well, it certainly caught Warlock’s attention! Similar lines appear in a similar region on Silver Saber in panel #2 of the last clip as well. Not sure what those lines are trying to accomplish?

Other than poking fun, I don’t really have much else to say. I agree with all of your points. The M-shaped upper lips on the mouths are funny, but at least Logan’s hair is cool.

Imraith Nimphais

July 12, 2014 at 3:45 pm

If nothing else…Liefeld excelled at fabulous ‘early 80’s’ hair. (The fact that these are drawn in the late 80’s-early 90’s is irrelevant.)

Tracer Bullet

July 12, 2014 at 3:55 pm

It amuses me that Boomer’s dress is so tight we can see the full outline of her crotch. And is that panel the first instance of Liefeld drawing all his women on tiptoe?

Jeff Nettleton

July 12, 2014 at 4:15 pm

For the panel of Boom-Boom, I would guess Rob’s reference material consisted of a Patrick Nagel poster and a magazine devoted to ballet; which, after binging on Jolt cola, twinkies, and whatever else (I don’t know, Reese’s Pieces?) melded into one image (no pun intended on that one) and that was the end result.

Now, let’s get to pouches galore and “Lego guns” (as I like to call them).

ps. How many comics can you say have cameos from Dan Vado’s The Griffin, along with his sidekick Lt. Stomu? Liefeld actually did a decent job, on that panel.

i am not enjoying this trainwreck but i ll stick through the liefeldition, it s only gonna get worse i m telling myself. that is dedication

Uncanny #245 was the second issue of UXM I ever read (the first being #244) and at the time, I was still trying to figure out who all the characters were, but I absolutely adored the humor of #245. As an Australian, my favourite scene is still the one where the alien invaders go to the Mayor of Sydney’s office and proceed to blow up the Sydney Opera House and the mayor says “Been wanting to do that m’self for years, but it’s on all the postcards, you’ll have to put it back”, that still makes me laugh.

I forgot that Liefeld did that issue. I guess I read it when I was less knowledgable about artists so didn’t pay close attention to the credits and it looked way too good so I didn’t have a “ah crap, a Liefeld comic” moment. It’s amazing how much worse he got in one short year.

the first page you show of the New Mutants issue, in that last panel where Cable punches the guard, I wonder if he’s supposed to be hitting the guard with his left arm swinging downward, and it’s the motion lines that are in the wrong place? It’s a weird panel no matter what, but if you took away the motion line it would look more like Cable running forward and hitting downward with the left arm, and wouldn’t be that bad of a panel.

tom: Well, Green is a good inker, so I think that’s fair to say!

David: Those crotch lines are fairly common in this era. I never knew what was up with them!

Tracer Bullet: I didn’t want to mention the crotch outline, but … yeah.

Well, Dazzler is on her tiptoes in the X-Men issue, but you can make the case that she’s jumping with excitement, so maybe Boom-Boom’s is the first time!

Jeff: That’s probably it!

Chris: Yeah, that’s a good one. It’s right after the mayor gladly gives up his office because he’s overworked. He just wanted to hit the beach with a beer!

Dalarsco: That issue might have been the first time I saw Liefeld’s art – I’m not sure. So I had no frame of reference. Even today, I’m impressed he drew it so well.

Jazzbo: Hmmm, that’s a good point. That would make more sense, and I wonder why Liefeld or Barta would put in motion lines that seems to imply it’s the right hand coming up. Strange.

I refer to his guns tomorrow as rolls of aluminum foil. “Lego guns” isn’t a bad term, though.

I really loved these when they came out. At that time, I thought he was the next Art Adams (I was only 14, I can see a world of difference in them today). His work was/is really appealing to hormone frenzied teens. I liked Boom Boom at the time, but I really had the hots for her for a while. Somewhere along the way, I think he started drawing her in fishnets. Not functional, but pretty damn sexy to a boy in puberty.

The gaping flaws in his artwork are there, but there is no doubt that he was tapping into something at the right time. I became a Liefeld hater around the time of his Captain America Heroes Reborn launch, but in the past few years, I’ve come to respect him as a comic lover who draws incessantly. Of the original Image founders, only Liefeld and Larson seem to be comic fanatics. He wouldn’t be half as hated today if he hadn’t been so popular. At the same time, if I had been in his position, offered millions to draw despite not having the fundamentals, I would have leapt at it too.

s!moN: Aw, come on! It’s fun! :)

def: I was 18/19 when these came out, and I thought they were awesome, even though I read comics more for the stories than the art back then. But yeah – I’m totally complicit!

I’ve often mentioned that I don’t like Liefeld’s art and haven’t for two decades, but I have nothing against the dude personally. As you point out, not many people would turn down what was offered to him, and during the 1990s, I know he helped new or obscure talent find an outlet. I met him briefly a few years ago, and he seemed like a very enthusiastic dude, and I can’t fault that. I think it’s a shame that he never developed as an artist and actually regressed, but I don’t think he’s a bad guy at all.

Liefeld’s work on 245 is great. For an over-the-top story like that, his over-the-top art is a perfect match.

def: The sad part is that he really could have been the next Art Adams (who was very much the progenitor of the whole Image style movement), or even Kirby if he had really applied himself to honing his craft. But he never did.

I remember an early letter in Hawk & Dove complaining that Liefeld’s legs for Hawk looked more like tree trunks. Oh, the days when that was worth complaining about…

The X-Men art makes Liefeld look like a natural for Howard the Duck, What The…?!? or similar parody books. Everything about it screams “parody”.

The New Mutants issue has sharply different art, though. The trouble at keeping proportions is more obvious, as is the difficulty in translating character ages. Boom Boom’s dress looks like something one would use for suspect lines of work. Rictor looks like he is of floating age and height, going for well over 20 in the first panel to about 15 and overweight in the second.

And Blob size looks just right for an adult elephant.

The heads. Oh, the heads. I keep wondering what happened to them. Someone must hire Liefeld to write a story about headshrinkers. I would buy such a book out of curiosity alone. One could fill half the book with the letter columns alone, discussing whether the aberrant size changes are dictated by plot or by the random fluctuation typical of Liefeld’s pencils.

It is such repulsive, ugly art!

In that panel of Boom Boom, even though her right leg is passing behind the left, the right foot is a little lower in the panel making it look like it’s a little farther forward. That’s a pretty insane way to twist your leg. Maybe Boomer’s power is to be double-jointed in her knees and ankles.

Oh, and I seem to remember feeling at the time that Liefield had a compete disinterest in drawing backgrounds; just drawing lots of speed lines or cross hatching, or leaving the backgrounds blank. So far, it doesn’t seem like he’s completely abandoned backgrounds, but that large panel of the four guys in UXM could have used a setting.

Plenty of pouches in that UXM issue too, but to be fair, Longshot always had that shoulder belt full of…flasks?…and Peter & Alex’s fly-fishing vests would naturally have lots of pockets.

Longshot’s shoulder belt was where he kept the throwing knives, his signature weapon. The reason Art Adams added the belts with pockets to Longshot’s costume, when he was designing him for the Longshot mini, was that he disliked characters whose weapons would simply materialize out of thin air… If Longshot was gonna throw things at his opponents, those things needed to be kept somewhere. So, ironically enough, the original superhero with pouches and belts actually had a practical reason for wearing them, but with Liefeld and his followers they soon lost any sense of practicality.

But yeah, with Liefeld’s art Longshot’s shoulder belt definitely definitely looks like he’s keeping bottles there. You can see then handles of the throwing knives sticking out of the pockets, but the pockets are way too wide for the knives. Compare it to Adams’s original Longshot art, where the pockets are much narrower. I guess Liefeld though drawing so many pockets was too much work.

Nu-D: The lack of background detail in some of the panels really hurts the perspective. Like the steps in yesterday’s post that Greg noted, to the Perry White panel 5 above, there is even no illusion of dimension to the panel, looking like flat characters against a flat background.

Luis: I’ll get to the heads, believe me! :)

Nu-D: Today’s entry really shows the lack of backgrounds. I like to think of it as Peak Liefeld. You’ll see what I mean!

The Longshot thing is interesting, because I think it was Silvestri who made the throwing blades more like spatulas, which would make the wider pouches more logical. In that case, I wonder if Liefeld wasn’t going back to Adams’s design, but the more recent Silvestri stuff, where the blades are much wider.

David: Yeah, as I mentioned above, today’s entry and backgrounds … phew. Get ready!!!!

Maybe they really are flasks in that panel. After all, carrying nine pints of liquor makes more sense for a guys night out than carrying a bunch of spatula shaped throwing knives.

“Here’s a good example of where Liefeld was headed, and it wasn’t terribly pretty, although it is dynamic, which might explain his popularity a bit.”

spot on. New Mutants was a mess in the run up to when Liefeld came on as an artist. He injected some dynamism and life into the title. made it feel more like a comic with teenagers in it.

We can bust on Rob all we want…but at least he’s no Chris Wozniak.

Greg…do you dare?

Vin: No, I do not dare! Mostly because I don’t have enough Wozniak to make it worthwhile. You’re right, though – that’s some bad artwork!

I have to take issue with the assessment that Peter is “fairly well proportioned” on that second page. His head is tiny, and his legs are immense. I mean, compared to the Blob in some of those later pages, sure, I guess. Not terrible for Liefeld is not the same as not terrible.

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