Jab’s Deep Dive: Image Comics (Liefeld cont’d!)

(For more on Jab’s look into Liefeld, click here!)

ROB’S ARTISTIC QUIRKS & FLAWS:

The infamous “crotch attack” panel, for anyone who hasn’t seen it.

“Rob Liefeld is a bad artist” and “Rob can’t draw feet” get mentioned so many times as to be cliche, but I feel the need to actually list ALL of the disparate ways in which he is a bad artist. The vast majority of these are do to a combination of laziness and not being able to catch mistakes before it’s too late. As an artist, I can empathize with the last one- the notion that a pose doesn’t quite “work” from that angle, or that you drew a body part too big or too small, can be devastating when you’re almost done and you realize that. But a true professional will of course try and edit things out, start over, or work with it. Rob? Rob just forges ahead, because he’s lazy and he wants to start on the next page.

Rob’s Quirks: Less offensive, these are more due to things that befall all artists- overusing the same design elements repeatedly (even George Perez did this).

-THOSE DAMN ’90s EYEPATCHES: A huge portion of Rob’s characters have “patches” over their eyes- in a single calendar year, he introduced Wildside and Reaper of the M.L.F., and Domino & Deadpool, every one of whom had big rounded “eyepatches”, either on their faces or on masks. That these were all characters from the same book made it really stand out. When he got to Image, Vogue and Cabbot Stone, major characters, also had them, but now they were tiny and ended in points on the bottom.

-People with huge flared gloves or boots.

-MASSIVE shoulder-pads, beating anything short of Warhammer 40K.

-Giant Guns.

-Oddly skinny or broad swords. Frequently, guys use Katanas that are an inch or two wide at most, or knives that are a foot wide.

-Endless Pouches: one of his most infamous quirks, made particularly notable by the fact that his characters rarely used gadgets of any kind, making their pouches meaningless. What gear they actually DID carry was always too big to fit into the pouches anyways!

-Inconsistent costumes: There’s an issue of X-Force in which Cable is wearing head-to-toe body armor and it’s never explained. His default outfit changes repeatedly without mention. Domino in the same book would have a helmet sometimes, full armor sometimes, and a Combat Skinsuit the next.

-Armor in Random Places: Some guys will have armor, but only on their arms (Gideon), cock & inner thighs (Battlestone), and more.

-Character with ponytails- giant flowing ones for the girls; tiny ones for the guys.

-Everyone grimacing. The sexy women? Angrily grimacing? The angry guys? FURIOUS grimacing. Every Rob Liefeld character looked like they were taking an enormous shit.

-Oddly pursed lips. Okay, I ADORED Rob’s art when I was twelve. But even then the way that even male characters pursed their lips when they talked irked me. Everyone just sticking their lips out when speaking so their teeth were clenched (GRITTED TEETH ARE RAD!). It was unnatural and strange.

Rob’s Flaws: deep breath

-Inconsistent Sizes: large characters are frequently drawn either as a “big dude” in one panel, and a literal giant the next.

-Inconsistent Hair: Rob loves to add lines and details to certain things, especially if its hair, which is more free and fun to draw. Except characters never have the same haircut from panel to panel- he’ll draw a giant bouffant hairdo for a male character in one panel, and in the next it’ll be cut almost military short. Ponytails? JESUS CHRIST- it can be six feet long one minute, and 6 inches long the next. It flies about even when the character is immobile, and it even changes position! Yes, Rob is so bad that he would draw the part where the ponytail touched the head… without realizing he needed to be BEHIND the person’s head! Instead, the standard ponytail would randomly be a side-ponytail or come from the neck or whatever!

-No Backgrounds: this got worse with time- Marvel would insist upon backgrounds, though Rob could half-ass them (guys often stood in a “field of lines” or with “Random Gear” behind them). Eventually, everyone was just floating in nothing. This isn’t just lazy, it’s problematic- the action is never “centered”, and characters have no frame of reference to them, drawing the fans “out of the story”. This is part of the reason for his stuff being strangely-sized from panel to panel.

-A Lack of Sketching It Out First: As an artist, I can tell this one right away. Guys holding swords or guns that were clearly drawn after he’d drawn the hands, so it doesn’t look right- their hands are clasped too tightly to actually have anything in them, and the weapons aren’t even sprouting straight from the grip- they’re kind of angled funny off to the side, or bent backwards. Weapons “tilt” or bend in the middle because he started too much and didn’t realize it didn’t fit until it was too late.

This is common when he draws characters beside each other and you realize they can’t be standing on the same plane. I’ve done this before, and was embarrassed to not catch it, but I’m not a professional illustrator. And I at least BS’d a platform or something. Though Rob did once draw Cable awkwardly “sitting” on a flying jetbike because he’d clearly drawn him crouching, but too high off of a dock to be there. EASIER THAN REDRAWING IT!

-NO FEET: Rob’s infamous issues with feet are probably his most notorious flaw as an artist. To be fair, many/most artist struggle with feet, and the only people who draw GREAT ones are probably foot fetishists- but most people just suck it up and draw them. While you can get away with it in most comics panels (drawing big figures means you often can’t see everything in a panel), Rob would go so far out of his way that it became incredibly obvious- people standing behind boxes. Smoke clouding the floor. People standing awkwardly so you can’t see them. Rob would even stretch poses out so that a leaping person would only have their upper legs visible- the lower legs (and feet) “disappearing” behind them due to “foreshortening”, which was done so consistently that it was clearly a cheat.

And of course, Rob WOULD draw feet when forced to thanks to the aforementioned “No Sketching” problem. If he couldn’t avoid it, he’d… draw a strange blocky structure. Or itty-bitty lil’ triangles.

What the frick is wrong with his hands?!

-Other Missing or Bizarre Anatomy: Rob often also skips out on things like arms or legs when they should be visible, in ways that make it very clear he intentionally left them out. His characters’ fingers will often not be the right length, as Rob draws them increasing in size until you get to the forefinger. Thighs and calves will appear incredible bulbous on frames that are otherwise not muscular. Waists, both male and female, will be drawn far too thin for their frames.

-Lack of Detail in Costumes: Rob was unafraid to add extraneous details to costumes- he’s infamously fond of “pouches” because of this, with guys being strapped down with random bandoliers, strings of pouches, pouched shoulderpads, etc… but sometimes, he’d just go “fuck it” and the characters would have a One-Piece Swimsuit for a costume. Male and female characters alike might have a single bodysuit with absolutely zero detail to it aside from a single dividing line or two to have a different color. Thermal & Stasis of Brigade and Strobe of the M.L.F. are characters like this.

-Excessive Shading: Trained in the ’90s styles, Rob is particularly bad at cross-hatching. While Jim Lee was very good at casting characters in shadows and shaking up his cross-hatching so that it varied among different parts of the anatomy (being “tighter” on small body parts and bigger around large muscles like the shoulders), Rob would instead just lazily post the same “Checkerboard of death” (actual term used in art magazines) over the entire figure. Faces are bathed in darkness almost to avoid drawing the hard bits like “facial features”. Sometimes only one person or one part of their body will be cast in shadow, leaving every thing else bright.

-Bizzare-Ass Posing: Rob appears unaware of how the body works at all. Unrealistic proportions are common in comics, but he frequently draws people as if he just bent up his action figures and drew ’em that way. The weirdest pose may be the “Tits Out, Gut Sucked In” pose… with MEN. I mean, we’re used to that with women, but Rob actually draws the DUDES this way, having them puff up their chests and swing their asses back. It’s almost his default “man standing there” pose.

Okay, we hope you enjoyed this break from looking at Liefeldian characters to ponder some more on Rob himself. When the deep-dive reconvenes, we’re going BACK to his many inspired Image creations. Stay tuned.

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