After a very brief period that saw Rob Liefeld take drawing classes and submit some work to Gary Carlson of Megatron Comics, he hit it big. At a very young age, Liefeld was picked up by Marvel and put on the New Mutants title. For the time period, his style was seen as fresh and he injected new life and characters into the book. Eventually, the book would transform and from New Mutants into X-Force. X-Force, for a short period, was the highest selling comic ever created.
And with that, Rob Liefeld’s star was born.
As his notoriety continued to climb, so to did his desire to work outside Marvel Comics. In 1991 he made it clear that he intended to work on a title for another publisher, Malibu Comics. While the title was not officially named, Marvel caught wind that it was very similar to the X-Men and threatened to sue.
By 1992 Rob Liefeld, along with 6 other artists left their companies to create Image Comics. They did this because they got tired of not receiving the credit or compensation that they felt they deserved. Each of the artists created their own imprint. Liefeld would write and draw under his Extreme Studios. His book, Youngblood was the first to ship and was met with mixed reviews. Aside from the poor dialogue, critics and fans alike chastised it for improper perspectives, lack of backgrounds and more.
By 1996, Marvel Comics had come calling his name again. This time, he and Jim Lee were asked to helm a relaunch of many Marvel heroes under the name “Heroes Reborn”. Liefeld was tasked, along with Jeph Loeb, with writing twelve issues of The Avengers, as well as illustrating twelve issues of Captain America. After just six issues, it was deemed a commercial failure and the remaining books were given to Lee.
As 1996 played out, so to did the growing frustrations at Image. Liefeld began making counterproductive decisions for the company and this caused a large degree of friction in the group. Most notably, Marc Silvestri wound up leaving and taking his Top Cow imprint with him. By the end of the year, Liefeld had left Image and struck a partnership to bring his company, now called Awesome Comics to Malibu Comics.
Legal troubles appeared for Liefeld after he unsuccessfully tried to purchase the rights to Fighting American from Captain America creators, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Instead of paying their price, he opted to create a character called Agent America. Simon threatened to sue and the parties were forced to negotiate a deal. Marvel, however, was not happy and made it clear that Fighting American could not throw his shield like Captain America could.
By the early 2000’s Liefeld had come full circle and was now working on Marvel’s X-Force titles. Around this time, and under his Arcade Comics imprint, he opted to resurrect his Youngblood line. This, however, was never really formed and just a single issue made it to print.
Reunion and more
In 2007, Rob Liefeld brought his Youngblood comic back to Image. Coincidentally, at the San Diego Comic-Con, the seven founders reunited on stage. They did this to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the company.
Like Jim Lee, Liefeld was brought back to DC to help launch the company-wide initiative, the New 52. He was chartered with the art on the series, Hawk and Dove. The series was a failure and Liefeld moved to three different titles. These titles would be Liefeld’s last at DC as he abruptly quit the company citing frustrations with then editor, Brian Smith.
Most recently, he has appeared in the Big Screen adaptation of his creation, Deadpool.
Often criticized for his lack of training, realism, and other fundamental drawing traits, Ron Liefeld has enshrined himself in comic history…good or bad. While he has done some questionable things over the years, he helped shape the defining style of comic books in the 1990’s.