The Liefeld Trilogy, Part 2 of 3 — Superstar or Title Killer?
Editor’s Note: This article was written before Liefeld left DC in August 2012.
Welcome to Part 2 of the Liefeld Trilogy. In Part 1, I attempted to look for the middle ground of Rob Liefeld and deconstructed him to find the foundation of his subpar body of work and failure to communicate to his audience.
Part 2 will examine his recent work with DC’s New 52 line, namely the now defunct Hawk & Dove and his current projects — Deathstroke, Grifter and the Savage Hawkman. Does Liefeld truly live up to his name (as the DC house ads have portrayed him) … a Superstar.
It is unknown how Liefeld became involved with the New 52 line, so I will make a guess. Liefeld probably used his connections to his fellow “Founding Image” brother, Jim Lee, to get his foot in the door. Further, Liefeld use to work for current New 52 Editor-in-Chief, Bob Harras, when Harras was Marvel’s Editor-In-Chief during the gluttonous hey days of the 1990s. Sure, Liefeld had to pitch his ideas and stories in order to get those New 52 assignments like most writers and artists, but nepotism does help.
Let’s start with his return to the two characters that helped him break into the business, Hawk & Dove.
Joined by writer, Sterling Gates, Liefeld launched Hawk & Dove with a storyline marking the second American Civil War. Interesting concept. I decided to give it a try… mainly because Gates was attached to the project, who wrote a great two year run on Supergirl from out of the gutter in 2008 to becoming one of the better Superman titles (with help from artist Jamel Igle) by the time he finished in 2010. Unfortunately, Liefeld’s art style continues to not ignore any chance to mete out sophisticated distortions upon the human form, especially on established characters such as Batman and Robin (Damian). Gates eventually left the rapidly ailing Hawk & Dove series leaving Liefeld to write it until it was one of the first six cancelled New 52 titles in April of this year. I wonder where Sterling Gates is now? I really enjoy his work.
How do you reward failure? Give someone three other titles to potentially destroy.
Deathstroke, Grifter and Savage Hawkman were rapidly losing readers since their New 52 debut and DC needed to stem the bleeding. The creative teams of those three titles were removed in April and put under the control of Rob Liefeld starting the month after. I have understood that Liefeld had to pitch his ideas of how to enhance story content, bring in new and lapsed readers and improve sales. Liefeld focused to two ideas: expand the galactic content within the New 52 Universe and intensify the merging between the DC and Wildstorm Universes.
Deathstroke. I am not going to focus on Liefeld’s art on Deathstroke, it’s terrible. No point in rehashing and trying to find other negative colourful metaphors to slam his art work. I think we all got the point about my feelings toward his art. However, Liefeld’s story ideas for Deathstroke is fascinating.
The introduction of Zealot into the New 52 Universe was intriguing to the point of a possibility of the eventual creation of the New 52 version of the WildCATS (Covert Action Teams). Created by Jim Lee and Brandon Choi during the early days of Image Comics a generation ago, WildCATS revolved around the centuries long war between the Kherubim and Daemonites; which has ignited anew in the New 52 Universe. Zealot (aka Lady Zannah) is Kherubim and a Coda warrior who is an amalgamation between Wonder Woman and Marvel Comics’s Elecktra. Zealot’s core character origins and personality is still in its center in the New 52. I did enjoy the interplay between Deathstroke and Zealot, if you forget about the art.
The introduction of Lobo into the New 52 Universe regressed the character to the Roger Silfer and Kieth Giffen era of the Omega Men in the early 1980s. I do not like this adaptation of Lobo compared to the pre-Flashpoint version. Lobo having a love interest?!? Disappointing. Lobo a prisoner of some galactic mob under the leadership of Maxim?!? Weak. Lobo’s look, pansy assed! He is more of a clown than a threat. It almost makes me cry how pathetic and degenerated Lobo has become.
The revelation that the original Omega Men cast (first appeared in Spring 1981 in Green Lantern and then made appearances in Action Comics and the New Teen Titans a year later before receiving their own series in early 1983) was a delightful surprise. I loved the original cast of these intrepid rebellious warriors but lost interest thanks to the Crisis on the Infinite Earths and the death of several original cast characters.
Deathstroke (based on July 2012 sales figures) is #10 of the Top 10 Lowest Selling New 52 titles; however the title’s sales are slowly moving their way back up. In retrospect, Liefeld gets 2.5 out of 5 cans of beans with Deathstroke. It has some crap in it but it is better crap than I have seen in a long time with him in an writer/artist capacity.
Grifter. I never liked Grifter in solo action and found that he is much better as part of an ensemble cast (ala WildCATS or Team 7) or a buddy/buddy type partnership. This time Rob Liefeld is co-plotter with Frank Tieri as the scripter and art duties being continued by Scott Clark. Clark’s interior art is decent and likable (the covers by Liefeld is unpleasant), however the story is still unpalatable despite having a great set of villains—the Daemonites and Helspont.
The addition of Voodoo (whose series is slated to be cancelled due to poor sales next month) into the Grifter series with very different relationship in the New 52 Universe than they had in the Wildstorm Universe. It gives further hope that a New 52 version of WildCATS is on the horizon.
Regardless, Grifter #11 (July 2012) sales have dropped further to 13,382 copies since Liefeld got his hands on the title. Further, there is a rumour circulating around that Liefeld’s final issue on Grifter is #16 and plans to cancel the series. If true, then why should I or anyone else bother to get the final issues of Grifter or even the reprinted graphic novels.
Grifter, under the Liefeld banner, gets 0.5 out of 5 cans of beans. Barely even a fart.
The Savage Hawkman. Before I make comments on Liefeld’s run on the series, I have to say something about the previous creative team—Tony Daniel and Phillip Tan. In my view, both did a remarkable job during their brief tenure. While I do enjoy Tan’s art, I thought his art was out of phase for the Savage Hawkman title. I find his art to be positively grungy (in a good way) and more suited towards the Dark branch of the New 52 titles.
Tony Daniel. Not only do I enjoy his art, but I find that his writing on this title and in Detective Comics (plus the Pre-Flashpoint Batman work) to be pretty good. I enjoyed the psychoanalytical angle of his writing. I am sad that he has left both Detective Comics and Savage Hawkman but at least he gets to flex his artistic muscles for a two issue stint in the Justice League later on this year.
While there is a demand for a good Hawkman series, the Daniels and Tan version of the character did not cut it for most readers, hence the creative team change.
Again, Rob Liefeld acts as co-plotter (and terrible cover artist with the worst rendition of Hawkman I have ever seen) with Mark Poulton (collaborator with Liefeld on Images’ Avengelyne series) and interior art by Joe Bennett and Art Thibert.
The interior art on the Savage Hawkman. By far the most visual appealing of all the three Liefeld titles. I have always enjoyed Bennett’s work, especially during his first Hawkman run in 2004-2005. Thibert is an inker extraordinaire and has greatly enhanced the visual qualities of the Savage Hawkman, especially the look of the title character.
Content. Liefeld is focusing on a total character transformation (more like a reboot of the reboot) of Hawkman and he seems hell bent on trying to outdo Geoff Johns’ Hawkman transformation of a decade prior. This title is the most fast paced of all the New 52 titles under the stewardship of Liefeld. The introduction of villains for Hawkman to fight (including the New 52 version of the Wildstorm villain Pike) coupled with the pending revelation of the Nth Metal, the mysterious Hawkwoman figure and the state of Thanagar in the New 52 Universe. I am intrigued about to the point that I will get the second graphic novel volume of the Savage Hawkman when it comes out sometime next year.
Of the three titles, the Savage Hawkman, in my opinion, is the best of the lot and gets 3.5 out of 5 cans of beans thus far. There is certainly a lot of fibre in the Savage Hawkman. What excites me, especially for a Liefeld controlled title, is the fact Liefeld is on the verge of making Hawkman a pre-eminent character of the New 52 DC Universe as he promised. The upcoming Wanted: Hawkman story arc coupled with appearances in Green Arrow, Deathstroke and the Justice League will indeed make that promise a reality.
….. the Savage Hawkman is #6 in the Top Ten Lowest Selling New 52 titles (as of July 2012) at 15, 460 copies sold. The first issue of Savage Hawkman sold around 60,000 copies when it debuted nearly a year ago.
All of Liefeld’s current New 52 titles are in the Top Ten Lowest Selling of all the New 52 titles with potential to being cancelled at anytime. Grifter #16 (January 2013) is rumoured to being cancelled mainly because of low sales which beckons the point if the next set of titles set to be cancelled is tentatively being scheduled for January 2013.
If DC decides to cancel the next five New 52 titles based on sales around January 2013, the following would be cancelled—GI Combat, Grifter, DC Universe Presents, Blue Beetle, and Fury of Firestorm the Nuclear Men. Savage Hawkman is right behind and Deathstroke is not that far off.
So the question becomes is Rob Liefeld a Superstar or a Title Killer?
It would be so easy to say that Liefeld was hired to kill off Deathstroke, Grifter and Savage Hawkman. But that is not the case; I do not believe that Liefeld wants to develop another torrid reputation as a killer of titles. He is certainly trying to elevate those titles… well Deathstroke and Savage Hawkman anyway.
Rob Liefeld, Superstar? I have to reluctantly say… yes. His work on X-Force made him a household name. He co-created Image Comics with five other Marvel creators on their top titles 20 years ago that has revolutionized comic book entertainment to this day. His appearance on in a Spike Lee directed Levi’s commercial made him legendary (for a time). His ideas were recycled. His research was fictional. His foresight unconventional and somewhat distinctive. Love him or hate him, Rob Liefeld is indeed a Superstar who is a legend in the pop culture field.
I still remember him proposing marriage to his wife in the last page of the sixth issue of Youngblood in 1994. I am still wondering, did she say yes?
In the final chapter of the Liefeld Trilogy, what’s next. Liefeld has tweeted that he is leaving the New 52 sometime next year to focus on more creative owned stuff. I will take a look at that plus other avenues he could of explored with the New 52 as possible editor of the Edge brand and maybe even writing (and ugh drawing) the New 52 Version of the WildCATS.http://pokupo.com/2012/08/23/the-liefeld-trilogy-part-2-of-3-superstar-or-title-killer/ComicsFeaturecomics,Dave's Pop Culture,DC,Deathstroke,Grifter,Hawk & Dove,Liefeld Trilogy,Rob Liefeld,Savage Hawkman,The New 52,Wildstorm