Rob Liefeld Creations
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  • October8th

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    The Uncanny X-Men continued to surge forward, building momentum with every new issue by the creative team of Chris Claremont and John Byrne. The intrigue and danger was further enhanced as an old nemesis, Mesmero, was elevated to a formidable threat in an issue that found Beast returning from the pages of the  Avengers to track his former teammates who had gone missing. Beast finds the team as featured players in a travelling carnival of freaks and sideshow acts. Wolverine’s feral nature was further enhanced as a chained Wildman who could barely muster a coherent word. Storm’s sexuality came to the fore as Byrne depicted her as an exotic Jungle Queen in a barely there leopard bikini top and bottoms. My memory of Byrne’s run is of the spotlight frequently shared by two characters, Wolverine and Storm, each of whom played to his particular strengths.  In truth, every X-Men looked fantastic under Byrne’s pencil, but his Wolverine was long considered the gold standard and is believed to have created added interest in the series. His diminutive stature and the emphasis on those hairy, hairy arms distinguished him from all other depictions to date. Logan/Wolverine carried a constant growl or smirk on his face that other artists of the time did not catch. His depictions of Wolverine in action were iconic and instantly imitated.  Under John, Storm was much more voluptuous, more elegant than she had been portrayed before.  Her oval face, big opal eyes and her curvy figure found extra attention with John at the artistic helm. Wolverine was primal rage and Storm was a sexual creature in a way she hadn’t been portrayed with Cockrum.

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    The issue ended with the big, dramatic reveal that Magneto, the long time foe of the X-Men had been behind Mesmero’s plan all along. The final splash where Magneto emerges from the shadows is as good and often imitated as any  “villain reveal” before or since. The next two issues would depict Magneto in as cruel and evil manner than he had been portrayed before. After completely dismantling the X-Men with greater power than previously depicted, Magneto held the entire team hostage deep within the base of a volcano. They were each trapped in mechanical chairs restricting their every movement as they were attended by a frighteningly cold and aloof robot servant named “Nanny”. The Nanny robot bore a more than passing resemblance to Byrne’s own ROG2000 robot that he introduced at Charlton Comics. More to the point, the robot displayed another strength of Byrne, which was his ability to depict technology in a sleek manner, superior to anyone in his time. Byrne-tech, Byrne-walls, floors, was an influence on me, my friends and up and coming artists that I began seeing on the convention floors. My first conventions were in the very early 80’s and there were several young artists all attempting a Byrne style and a Terry Austin ink line. The technology that Byrne depicted was very style-specific and his robots were fantastically imagined and executed. His impact was growing.

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    But let’s hear it for Chris Claremont as well. The romance and drama in the X-Men were a huge part of the books appeal. When I hail the Uncanny X-Men run as the greatest of all time, much of that is due to the influence it has exerted on the rest of pop culture. The romantic love triangle between Scott-Jean-Logan was the obvious precursor to the Edward-Bella-Jacob triangle in the Twilight series. Torn between two lovers, one stable and strong, the other feral and restless, a wolf even, evokes Scott-Jean-Logan for me and always will. The corruption of Phoenix and her struggle with the dark side culminated long before the Skywalker family drama by at least three calendar years. The Hellfire Club is one of my favorite concepts that Chris ever conceived, wicked, Victorian styled mutants operating a secret cabal among the rich and elite of Manhattan served as the basis of his finest tale. Wolverine was multi-layered, the outsider who longed to be accepted while resenting all who scorned him was the recipe for the most popular mutant of his time.  Strong women were Claremont’s staple, Jean Grey, Moria Mctaggart, and especially Storm were more than just glamorous mannequins, they were pillars of the team. Consider Storm’s role on the team, an African women in a starring role, commanding as much attention and story as any man in the book. You didn’t find many comics with strong women, much less women of color circa 1978. Storm’s triumph over her claustrophobia while attempting to escape from imprisonment in Magneto’s lair gave her a strong connection to the readership. Her vulnerability and subsequent victory over her own fears created a deeper bond with the characters and the fans. Yet another signature achievement by Claremont.

     

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    An amazing facet of the impact of Claremont-Byrne’s run, as with anything from that period, was the SEVENTEEN PAGES that it all unfolded on. Remember, they had only SEVENTEEN PAGES to establish themselves each and every month as the masters of their craft. When I broke in the business, every comic at the majors was 22 pages, which was the standard from the mid-eighties forward. In recent years, the majors have cut down production to 20 pages an issue. Imagine whatever impressive work you’ve enjoyed over the years and immediately SUBTRACT between FIVE to THREE pages from it. Would it hold up? Add to this that Byrne routinely, almost regularly utilized at least one complete splash page as well as a double page spread in every single issue and this accomplishment becomes even more staggering! This run is truly brilliant on every single level. Byrne exceled at double page spreads, they were lavish and carried true impact. Wolverine throwing a flying swing at Sauron or Ka-Zar and the X-Men carefully perched above Garrok’s Lair nestled within the canyons are images burned into my retina for all time. On a personality note, Byrne was famously rumored to have quite an ego during this period , actually it’s not a rumor, just read The Art of John Byrne and  you’ll have concrete proof, but to that I say, “Have at it, Johnny! You more than deserved the ego and cockiness that came with producing such lush and amazing work!’” During this period and for the next decade, John Byrne was the absolute best in the business, but make no doubt, the legend was born in the pages of Uncanny X-Men.

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    During John Byrne’s run he illustrated several other Marvel comics, he was their most prolific producer. He contributed to Captain America, Avengers, Marvel Team-Up, Marvel Two-In-One and Fantastic Four. His work was inked by the very best of that period, Joe Sinnot, Dan Green, Joe Rubenstein and Dave Hunt. His signature work and style always stood out no matter who inked him. I loved Dan Green and Joe Rubenstein over him but Terry Austin remains my absolute favorite inker over John. Terry elevated everyone’s art, he had an inking style and approach that no one has ever mastered. I’ve always joked that his inks are from the future. No one else’s line work comes close to his razor sharp precision and line variation. His cross hatching and textures would inspire two decades worth of imitators. He was as visionary as any artist and he was the most sought out inker of his age. In the early 80’s I spoke to George Perez, no slouch in the popularity department in this era, and he told me that he always asked for Terry Austin first, but Terry was often too busy to tackle an entire issue. Stories of Terry’s approach to his craft are the stuff of legends, from shaving down his inking nibs and creating custom tools, it really communicates the level of experimentation and risk he took to creating the most unique inking style in the business. I didn’t actually view Byrne’s pencils until the end of his X-Men run and they were  definitely softer, fuller and more textured than I expected, but the mechanical precision approach Terry applied to them created an unexpected sheen that shouldn’t have worked as well as it did, but was magnificent. I’ve read thirty years of interviews with both gentlemen and they both acknowledge that the approach wasn’t always what the other anticipated or preferred but that it worked regardless. For me, I don’t care, my 10 year old self loved the end product. It didn’t matter wether the penciler liked the inks, as long as the final product looked as superb as these did.
     
    The best argument for Terry Austin’s contributions to this particular X-Men pantheon is Uncanny X-Men #118. This is the issue that Wolverine and the team arrive in Japan and Wolverine is introduced to his eventual love, Mariko. Sunfire palys a signature role and Moses Magnum and the Mandroids show up. It’s a great issue packed with loads of story and character development, the art is great, but….Terry Austin is no where to be found. A talented inker named Ricardo Villamonte assumes inking chores for this episode and while the work is strong, it is a far, far cry from the technical mastery and prowess of Austin’s ink line. Ricardo brought his “A “ game to each and every page, he was more than competent to do the job, but the line work was lighter and thinner and the faces especially were not as defined or enhanced. The depth of field, one of Austin’s strengths was not as pronounced without Terry. Austin returned for the next issue and the direct contrast on the faces of Moses Magnum between Ricardo’s inks and Terry’s further underscores Austin’s role in creating the all around look and commercial appeal of this run for the ages.

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    Byrne was actually credited as co-plotter, sharing story duties with Claremont with issue #114. There are numerous stories of the creative friction between these two authors, the kind of push and pull that rests on the razor’s edge, always threatening to destroy the union but guaranteed to improve the overall body of work. The book changed with Byrne, it was deeper, more layered, the obvious elevation of Wolverine and his increased role and the actual layout of the book were a result of his input and influence. As mentioned before, every issue featured a splash, followed by a double splash and each issue often ended on a powerful splash image as well, this was not the case under Cockrum who was a more passive collaborator than Byrne.
     
    The most signature Byrne influence was yet to come, a two part showdown in Canada with John’s Alpha Flight. John was Canadian and Alpha Flight was from Canada and Wolverine was Canadian, this was about to get even better.
     
    Part 3, new characters and new conflicts build bigger storylines.
     
     

  • October8th

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    I come here only to praise what I sincerely believe as the greatest run in comics over
    the last 40 years. My love of the Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont and John
    Byrne is never ending. It inspires me to this day, the story, the characters,
    the ideas and most of all the unbelievable art of Byrne and Terry Austin.

    First let’s address the idea that everything is “Of A Time”. Books, music,
    films, television and comics are “Of A Time”. For fans that watched the birth of
    the Beatles and the phenomenon that followed, that experience is elevated beyond
    my experience of reading about it, which is exciting and thrilling to me,  but
    it will not be the same. Not even close. When I tell  or show my boys about the
    Magic Johnson led Laker squads of the eighties, they are intrigued and inspired
    but they cannot possibly share the connection that I have as a teenager as I witnessed
    and experienced that team in real time. Sports fans are famous for comparing and
    contrasting teams from different era’s, another example of “Of A Time” playing
    out in real time. Often, the person or person’s that did it first, is identified
    as doing it best. Michael Jordan vs. Kobe vs. Lebron and their respective fan
    bases play this scenario out on a daily basis across sports message boards and
    social media. I maintain that unless you experienced the first Star Wars film
    circa 1977, in a theatre, in real time then you have no idea whatsoever what
    that film meant to the culture and how it changed everything around it for the
    rest of time. Movies in 1976 didn’t look and feel like Star Wars and that film
    changed cinema forever following its release in May, 1977. “Of A Time”
    communicates an original connection with the material, and the realization that the
    audiences that discover it later will not completely understand the importance
    and the impact of that particular film, show, disc or comic book.  I assure you
    that Uncanny X-Men, by Claremont, Byrne and Austin is most certainly “Of A
    Time” as far as I’m concerned. The material can certainly be appreciated by present day
    audiences, and admired due to it’s ahead of its time execution of pacing, story
    and art, but the impact it had in its day, to its audience is unparalleled. The
    X-Men were a footnote at Marvel prior to this run, post Claremont-Byrne-Austin,
    the X-Men became the crown jewel of the company and its top performer for thirty
    years. Ironically the title would be unseated on the charts by the youth that
    inspired it and a company they formed.

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    For me it all started in 1975 at the corner Liquor store on Broadway and
    Magnolia in Anaheim. This was obviously pre-direct market, pre-comic stores but
    I was fortunate to have two local markets where I could purchase comic books
    from. A convenient 7-11 corner market and a liquor store were directly across
    from the closest intersection to my house. I visited both locations in search of
    fresh comic books every single day. At the time my favorites were DC’s Legion of
    Super-Heroes and Marvel’s Fantastic Four and Avengers. When there were no more
    copies  of my favorite titles and the latest treasury sized edition reprints had
    sold out, I would look at other offerings such as the X-Men or Freedom Fighters.
    I always liked X-Men, mainly because it was another Marvel team book but also
    because the cast intrigued me. This was during the period where the X-Men was in
    its reprint cycle and the issues drawn by Werner Roth were circulating. ( Yes,
    for an extended period of years, the X-Men recycled reprints of earlier stories
    due to low sales. it was kept alive, but barely ) I favored both Angel and
    Beast, they were visually and conceptually interesting to me, this is pre-Blue
    Gorilla beast, but I didn’t love the book. It was a lower priority book for me,
    on a rung with the 2001 comics that Marvel was adapting, far below The Defenders
    and Marvel Two-In-One. That all changed with Giant-Sized X-Men #1

    Giant-Sized X-Men #1 blew my mind. The new cast of mysterious characters
    charging through the torn cover page featuring the original X-Men, visibly
    distressed and endangered, was more than enough to thrill my eight-year old
    frame. I grabbed it and consumed around ten pages before protectively tucking it
    under my arm, ensuring a trip to the cash register for purchase. When I reached my home and settled under the tree in my front yard to fully digest these “All-New, All-Different” X-Men, my pulse was racing. Giant-Sized X-Men #1 remains one of the best stand alone introductory issues in the history of comics. Old team is
    captured, new team must be assembled and save them. The story by Len Wein moves
    at a perfect pace and the art by Dave Cockrum is lush, his best line work of his
    career to date. Cockrum had illustrated many of my favorite Legion issues
    providing a natural tether from one favorite to my new favorite.

    Uncanny X-Men would resume its numbering with this new team, albeit on a
    bi-monthly schedule. Chris Claremont assumed writing duties, an assignment that
    would set him up as a legend in the comics industry and Cockrum continued on
    art. When the series resumed, they killed a member of the new team in the first
    regular issue , furthering the sense of danger and unpredictability of this bold
    new direction. Cockrum and Claremont continued together for eleven issues before
    Cockrum left the series. His last issue coincidentally introduced a popular and
    long standing staple of the Marvel Cosmic universe, the Imperial Guard. This
    team of Shiar protectors was an obvious swipe at Cockrum’s Legion of
    Super-Heroes, with obvious riffs in every panel, Fang = Timber Wolf, Oracle =
    Saturn Girl, Mentor = Brainiac-5 , Hobgoblin=Chameleon Boy,  Tempest = Lighting
    Lad and so on and so forth. Having just experienced the Squadron Supreme and
    their obvious Justice League influence, the Imperial Guard just blew my mind.
    Their conflict with the X-Men and Cockrum’s obvious love for every frame made
    this my favorite of Cockrum’s run. He went out with an absolute bang, the
    highest of all possible notes.  The groundwork laid by Claremont/Cockrum was
    substantial, the introduction of Phoenix, the rebirth of the Sentinels, Black
    Tom and Juggernaut, Storm’s backstory, Imperial Guard, much if which was just
    the base foundation for an incredible run of comics to come that remains to this
    day, unmatched in modern comics history.

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    What came next, the creative changes to follow, would influence comic book and
    pop culture at large for the next thirty-plus  years. Back in 1977, there was no
    accessible newsstand comic book magazines like Amazing Heroes or later, Wizard
    and there certainly was no Internet of any note. The reason I mention this is
    because there was no advance warning of Dave Cockrum’s departure or of his
    replacement, John Byrne accompanied by Terry Austin on inking chores. As I
    picked up my copy of X-Men #108, wrapped with a business as usual cover by
    series regular artist, Dave Cockrum, I had no idea Dave had left the book.
    Nowadays we would know 3-6 months via the Internet and social media that there
    was a changing of the guard, but in my youth, the discovery of a new creative
    direction happened as you picked up the actual comic book in real time. I had
    seen John Byrne’s artwork prior to this, I had collected the Charlton Comics
    that featured his early work, E-Man and especially Doomsday was a particular
    favorite of mine, although newsstand distribution was spotty in my area. Byrne
    had drawn issues of various Marvel comics over the recent months but none of
    them looked like this did. His work inked by Terry Austin’s futuristic inks was
    eye candy in every sense of the word. It is the rare occasion that a new team
    replaces an old creative team to your absolute satisfaction, delight and in this
    instance, guilt. “How can I love this guy’s work more than Cockrum’s work because
    I absolutely adored Cockrum’s work, but this work is so fluid and so crisp and I
    don’t know if I can wait another TWO MONTHS for more of this Byrne-Austin
    artwork goodness!! Why does this book have to be bi-monthly!!!????” In truth,
    Byrne’s first art on X-Men was in service of cleaning up the story arc with the
    Shiar and the Imperial Guard that Cockrum had started and established. Byrne
    drew every X-Men member and the entire Imperial Guard with a confidence and
    quality of a seasoned pro. For years, my comic book buddies in the neighborhood
    and at school would describe Byrne as depicting every comic book character ”
    Exactly as you would always want them to appear/look”. Remember we were 10-12
    years old, this was how we could best describe our favorite taste in comic
    books. But that description still feels right to me, in his prime, Byrne’s
    version of everything was fan-approved and preferred.

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    There is a page in the middle of his first issue where the cosmic disturbance in
    the story is felt throughout the Marvel universe and Byrne/Austin depict then
    President Jimmy Carter, the Fantastic Four and the Avengers in a series of quick
    cut panels communicating their concern. I can’t tell you how long I lingered on
    that one page. The Uncanny X-Men, the Imperial Guard, the Avengers, Fantastic
    Four and the President in one issue. This was comic book nirvana. Byrne had
    depicted the F.F. And Avengers  in their respective titles prior to this issue,
    but with Austin’s inks and the slick detail he provided, they looked different,
    in truth, they looked better than ever before.  Byrne had an anime element,
    mostly found in the faces and the big eyes and curves he gave his ladies. I saw
    elements of Neal Adams, Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby in his early work but it had
    an anime sheen to the fluidity if the figures and faces. Bottom line, it was
    fresh and original and combined with Terry Austin’s razor sharp ink line, it
    looked like nothing else on the comic rack.

    The next issue would begin a run of new characters and concepts that made this
    book and cemented its legendary status. Upon returning home from their galactic
    voyage, the X-Men partake in some casual rest and relaxation until they are
    attacked by a vibrant character named The Vindicator, later re-named Guardian.
    Vindicator signaled the sharp shift in focus that the book took in placing
    increased priority and attention on Wolverine. His exchange with Storm before he
    goes out hunting was the most insight to his true nature and character that we
    the audience had experienced to date. He was a hunter at heart, not a ruthless
    killer, resulting in Storm’s quick apology, with Wolverine feeling unduly judged
    once again by teammates that don’t quite know what to make of him. Wolverine’s
    careful approach to an unsuspecting doe is abruptly interrupted by Vindicator
    who is in hot pursuit of Wolverine on behalf of the Canadian Government. Let me
    make something clear, Vindicator looked COOl. His red and white costume was
    cool, his powers were cool and his knowledge of Wolverine’s past had my full
    attention. This particular issue was sold out at my local market, we had moved
    houses and my new neighborhood had many outlets for comic books, but somehow,  I
    missed this issue. My neighbor buddy  who was as obsessed with comics as I was
    showed me the comic and led with his enthusiasm for Vindicator. He shared it
    with me and we geeked out together. He was kind enough to allow me to keep the
    comic over night and I wore that issue out, pouring over every frame. Vindicator
    drops all sorts of back-story intrigue and hints at Wolverine’s mysterious past
    as he tackles not only Logan but the entire X-Men before quickly teleporting
    away and talk of returning with the full force of Alpha-Flight to back him up.
    Whoa! This is a single issue clinic for how to properly introduce an exciting
    new character. Every fan I encountered over the years were counting the days and
    minutes for Vindicator’s return and the promise of ” Alpha Flight”
    Claremont-Byrne-Austin were two-for-two, the X-Men was officially the coolest
    book in the comics industry.

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    Following a fill-in issue that felt like it was a decade old in terms of
    quality, Claremont and Byrne took the X-Men on a years long globe-spanning
    adventure that introduced more new characters, such as the villainous Arcade,
    depicted Magneto in the most sinister manner he had ever been portrayed,
    transported them deep into the Savage Land with Ka-Zar and Garokk and finally
    delivered the long-awaited introduction of and showdown with the
    much-anticipated Alpha Flight.

    Before I go further, allow me to offer a quick explanation for why I identify
    this run as the greatest in the last forty years and possibly the best ever.
    First, it’s a long, five year run spanning thirty-issues and the concepts and
    characters introduced continue to influence comics, film and beyond.

    The Hellfire Club
    Proteus
    Alpha Flight
    Dazzler
    White Queen
    Death of Phoenix
    Days of Future Past
    Expanded Imperial Guard

    These character and storylines captivated the entire comic book culture. It
    informed and influenced an entire generation of young fans who didn’t experience
    Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s ground breaking Fantastic Four run. These were seminal
    comics that combined soap opera theatrics with multi-layered mysteries as well
    as dynamic action and illustration that to this day looks ahead of our time,
    much less the seventies.

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    In Part Two, we will explore more of the storylines and the artwork that
    transformed the X-Men and the comics industry at large.

  • October2nd

     

    I do plenty of art and story development that I never share, many, like these pages from a biblical thriller I am working on don’t ever see the light of day. These pages are for an “Untold tale of The Bible” a story I am finishing about the theft of the Ark of The Covenant. It involves Prophets, Judges and Philistines. No sense in letting it collect dust so here is some preview art for The Covenant. The color art is by Owen Gieni and Juan Fernandez. Enjoy!

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  • June6th

    As most of you are probably aware, I’m running a Kickstarter campaign in order to provide FREE copies of my new BRIGADE series launching this fall  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/649924296/brigade-returns It has been an enlightening and thrilling experience so far. I am so humbled by the overwhelming support from so many generous benefactors. I have done a number of interviews covering the campaign as well as the new BRIGADE series. I’ve provided links below

    http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=45899

    http://comicsbeat.com/interview-rob-liefeld-talks-brigade-and-kickstarter/

    http://www.examiner.com/article/interview-with-comic-superstar-rob-liefeld

    So why FREE copies of BRIGADE? It’s simple, there is a new generation of potential readers that are passing comic books buy, they aren’t seeking them out and aren’t aware of the direct market. They are ages 9-14 and when given a FREE copy of a comic they are enamored and excited by them. FREE beats every other option. My two sons are 11 and 13 years of age, their friends come over and pick over my comic book spinner racks and take comics for FREE from my house. Not long after, they want more comics then I can supply and we open a dialogue with parents as to where to buy them at stores in the surrounding areas as well as digital options such as comixology. For ages, people have told me that my work shines with young readers, so here I am, attempting to distribute copies of my latest work for FREE.  BRIGADE is going to offer smart, exciting adventures with a wide ranging and diverse cast of powerful characters and personalities. I am very proud of all the work to date and excited to reach the public with as many as 100,000 FREE copies! Thank you for your support and for spreading the word about this campaign! http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/649924296/brigade-returns

  • May16th

    I am writing and drawing a new BRIGADE series and I want to give you FREE copies! A radically re-imagined and re-designed Brigade series is coming your way and I want to launch it with this FREE comic initiative and get as many free copies into as many hands as possible. Follow this link to see the new characters and rewards involved with the BRIGADE kickstarter!

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/649924296/brigade-returns

  • February20th

    EXTREME TALENT CONTEST! LIEFELD DRAWS YOUR STORY!

    I want to help out young writers and give them a chance at having a short story published in an issue of Youngblood and Bloodstrike. Here’s how you participate.

    Step 1 – Write a short story featuring one of my EXTREME CHARACTERS. the story MUST BE EXTREME CHARACTERS ONLY.  You are submitting a brief few paragraph’s pitching your idea for a short 5-6 page story.

    Step 2 – HIT THE BUTTON. Here on this web site, to the right is a button that says CONTACT ME! This will send your story to my attention.

    Step 3 – Wait to be contacted. I will choose 3 winners, 1 every few weeks starting March 6th, 2013. If your pitch is chosen you will be given a work for hire agreement to sign in order to participate.

    Step 4 – Submission agreement. Click link below.

    EXTREME TALENT CONTEST SUBMISSION FORM

    I  have the absolute highest regard for creators and for the ownership of original properties, and this agreement should in no way be misconstrued as license for us to appropriate your creations. This agreement protects Rob Liefeld from any liabilities involving coincidental similarities to works-­‐in-­‐progress or other submissions. Any submissions received without a signed agreement will be discarded without review.

    5. GOOD LUCK!

  • February14th

    Here’s a sequence from the upcoming BLOODSTRIKE….rough pencils. More soon….

  • February12th

    Part 3 – Continuing a walk down memory lane commemorating the release of the new X-FORCE OMNIBUS.

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was 23 years old and I really needed New Mutants #98 to sing. It had to have significant impact as it was my first issue guiding the book as writer in addition to being the artist. This was the moment I had been striving for since breaking into the comic book field, I had to make it count. The issue was purposely packed with new faces, Gideon, Domino and the most important new face of all was that of DEADPOOL.

    In a matter of only a few pages, the team was rocked by the presence of a deadly new nemesis, a contract killer, a bounty hunter that single handily takes down the entire New Mutants roster. Deadpool’s prowess is immediately felt as he comes prepared for to dismantle all their various mutant abilities. Any villain who can walk in the door and take out an entire team of powerful opponents is going to catch the attention of the reader, Deadpool succeeded in going above and beyond our wildest expectations. We had spent ten issues building up Cable as a formidable figure, standing toe to toe with Marvel’s mightiest, Wolverine and Stryfe, he had more than proven his mettle. Deadpool takes him out with relative ease, speaking more to the preparedness of Deadpool than to his own personal power levels. The entire time, Deadpool was cracking wise-ass remarks, establishing him as the “Merc with a Mouth”. Fabian Nicieza and I were firmly on the same page, Deadpool’s depiction was exactly what I had hoped for. As with every issue, I signed off on all the dialogue and Deadpool was unleashed on an unsuspecting world.

    Over the course of a few pages, Deadpool dismantles everyone and looks to triumph over Cable and his new ward’s. We had no idea what we had unleashed. My editor called me a few days following the release of New Mutants #98 , he was frantic, ” We need more Deadpool. The phones have been ringing off the hook and the mail is pouring in asking for more Deadpool. I think we have a major new cast member.”

    By that time, we had wrapped New Mutants in anticipation of the New X-Force series launching later in the summer, I was drawing issue #1 of X-Force and was asked if I could provide an appearance of Deadpool is issue #1. There was no room to include him, so we included him as a fact file and as one of the trading cards that would be packaged in with X-Force #1. Deadpool would take center stage in X-Force #2, where he would introduce another member of the Weapon X program. Deadpool would appear regularly in X-Force, his popularity demanded it. X-Force was the #1 selling comic in the industry for its first few months, and then remained a staple of the top 3 for months after. Deadpool was appearing in one million comics every month and was included as an action figure in the X-Force line of toys that debuted by popular demand a few months later. His first mini-series by Fabian Nicieza and Joe Mad is one of my favorite depictions of the character ever. That mini-series sold over 500,000 issues, every issue for the duration of its run. Another best selling mini-series followed and another until Deadpool was awarded his own series in 1996. He has been a staple of Marvel’s publishing ever since. There was that weird “Agent X” experiment in the early 2000′s but the less said about that, the better.

    NEXT: DOMINO!!!

  • February7th

    Continuing my commentary on the newly released X-FORCE OMNIBUS, I’m focused on New Mutants #98, my first issue as both writer and artist. Except, I didn’t want to provide the actual dialogue, our deadlines were tight enough with me penciling and inking the boards, I didn’t want to hold the book up with writer’s block. I had met the talented Fabian Nicieza early on in my career at Marvel, he was working in the sales department and wanted to break in as a writer. We had attempted to put together a Soviet Super Soldiers mini-series about a year earlier but my schedule didn’t allow it to come together as planned. Fabian had a great ear for dialogue and responded well to my ideas for New Mutants. The decision came down to him and a couple of other writers, but in the end, I favored Fabian because I felt we had a good connection and relationship. I would write out my plots on yellow lined notebook paper, illustrating for him how I was imagining each page and sequence as I drew them. We would usually follow up with a call running through each page and Fabian would produce the fabulous scripts that made the book sing. You won’t ever hear me do anything but praise Fabian, he worked under diverse conditions, many times catching up for the time I lost on the book, and he always came through with fantastic results.

    Allow me to apologize in advance for the poor scans of these pages, I’m running a low rent operation here and really, shouldn’t you actually have this book in your collection by now?

    So PAGE 1, PANEL ONE, SPLASH! Here is Gideon! My penchant for biblical names was once again in full focus, blame it on my southern baptist upbringing, I love those Bible names. I may even have a son named Luke….

    Anyway, Gideon, new character, smiling menacingly, or annoyingly, depending on your view point years later. Nice ponytail. Why the ponytail? Well, anything that could whip around in motion was desired by me in order to provide another element of energy on the page. Capes, webs, braids, ponytails….I’m in! My Art Adams influence is very strong on this page, tiny waist, thick thighs, it’s all there. Art Adams was my east, my west, my north, my south, he was who i aspired to be. The smile is pure Art Adams mojo lite. Ditto the long spingely-fingers. My inking line was very McFarlane-esque, lots of little nicks and pull outs, gritty and bloopy. Yes, those are the professional terms for inking techniques. “Gimme more bloopy lines and work on your pull-out’s” were common verbiage among the comic book jet set circa 1991. The image and the crop of Gideon was a nice reminder that we were treading brand new ground starting with the very first page.

    PAGES 2-3. Nothing says “Fear me” more than a pony-tailed vest wearing figure pummeling a room of giant robots. “Hello, I am an exciting new bad guy and I work out in the morning with my robots!” It’s a fail safe, go-to move for all the new bad guys. It worked here as Gideon is introduced via an “us vs. them” action sequence. The “Dear Sebastian” refers to Sebastian Shaw the head of the Hellfire Club, establishing a direct and immediate link to a classic stable of the X-Men universe.

    By page 4 of the issue, you see that Gideon is a tough customer, more than just strength, he can fly and assimilate multiple powers at one time. We were very clearly trying to establish his power levels from the outset. By page 5, we have shown that Gideon is a capable and formidable foe with ties to the larger mutant universe.

    Next up is a Danger Room sequence mirroring Gideon’s, depicting Cable and Cannonball as they hone their own muatnt powers and abilities. Cable offers distinct and specific directions regarding Cannonball’s force shield while revealing a brand new technological ability in his own cyber-arsenal. I had waited until I had more control of Cable’s character to depict that his arm could actually deploy firepower on his own.He didn’t actually need a gun, his arm had plenty of firepower. Again, part of my strategy was to introduce as many new, complimentary elements to the existing New Mutants cannon as possible. At the end of this sequence, Cable re-affirms to Cannonball that they are soldiers now, not students, further emphasizing the new direction that we had in mind as far back as New Mutants #87.

    An artistic note is that I did not ink either of these pages, I was running behind and needed assistance. Art Thibert inked page 8 and Joe Rubenstein inked page 9. Neither gentleman has been credited in the past, so after 23 years, I figured they were due!

  • February7th

    It was almost a year into my run on New Mutants that I was offered the opportunity to both write and draw the book. As with any creative endeavor, the old guard changeth and Louise Simonson was moving on after a long and successful run. Our sales had more than quadrupled by this point and the book was riding a wave of surging popularity with retailers and fans alike. the introduction of Cable had created a stir and driven increased attention to the book. In short, I was living the dream, but now it was time to step up to the plate and see if I could hit a home run in the major leagues. It all started with this cover.

    This cover tells the whole story, all of the changes and drama to come was right there in full view. I felt tremendous pressure to make an immediate impact with my first issue writing the comic, I had to prove to readers and skeptical retailers that the book was in good hands under my direction. It was my intention to load that first issue with as much excitement as I could muster between 22 pages. This was the time to lay the groundwork for a new path for the series as we prepared to launch a new team and a new concept with X-Force. Three new players were set to be introduced, Domino,an assassin with a mysterious past tied to Cable, Gideon, a wealthy mutants with designs on Roberto/Sunspot and his family fortune and a contract killer known as Deadpool.

    Each character was important in establishing our new storyline. Gideon was the first member of a clandestine mutant group known as the Externals. His arrival put a powerful new presence into the mix and his connections to Roberto and his father’s corporate empire would provide drama and conflict as he exerted his will on Sunspot. I had to clear out some existing characters to  make room for the new one’s I was introducing and Gideon helped service that agenda while also giving us a new threat that would loom larger down the road.

    Domino was the love interest that the book sorely needed, but rather than some damsel in distress, I needed a dynamic counterpart to Cable. Domino, black and white, like a Domino, had mutant powers of probabilities, you never knew which way the luck would fall when she was present. She didn’t rely on that though, she relied on her physical skills and training, and her arsenal of knives and weapons. She knew Cable and that in and of itself was going to give the book another layer of mystery as we could examine how and why she knew the new headmaster.

    Deadpool was a name I had on my list for sometime, I couldn’t believe it wasn’t taken already, so I scooped it up. I was obsessed with Wolverine and the fact that Wolverine was actually labeled Weapon X, a product of experiments that produced at least NINE others before him. I pitched Deadpool as Danny Devito from the movie Twins, Devito was described as the “crap” before they got to the perfection of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character. He was tossed out and I felt there was a great story to be told with the experiment right before Wolverine, a project, a guinea pig that had failed to come together as planned. He would be disfigured and dismissed and pissed off. And a smart ass. Visually I was creating Spider-Man with guns and swords. During this time, Todd McFarlane was my closest friend in the industry and he would always rub it my face about how easy he had it with Spider Man because he wore a full face mask with big eyes. No eyeballs, nose or mouth to line up, just a mask. I wanted one of those characters, no one in New Mutants wore a full face mask, I needed something simple and fun dammit! Deadpool was my entry into the Spider Man derby, and it paid off bigger and better than planned. I used the black and red Spidey motif, added pouches, swords and a gun and felt that he would be a powerful graphic visual in the book. A deranged killer with a contract on Cable, a character capable of taking down the entire team, he was as much of a sure thing as I could bank on given the books increased popularity and influence.

    So that’s the behind the scenes on the cover to the comic that has proven to be one of the most sought after books of it’s age. I’ll start commentary on the interiors in part 2.

    NEXT: Fabulous Fabian!