When Rob Liefeld took the stage at his Toronto ComiCon Q&A, he took the stage solo saying that he would, “eat that moderator alive.” Out of the mouths of most people, that would have sounded hyperbolic, but in Liefeld’s case, 60 minutes later, the crowd knew it to be true because it was a solid hour of Rob Liefeld talking about Rob Liefeld and not one question was asked or answered. Perhaps he really didn’t need to answer any questions. For Liefeld, who’s currently basking in the success of the movie Deadpool, this official first trip to Toronto felt like a victory lap.
So what did we get out of the 60 minute stream of consciousness loosely organized as a biography, or a “Rob Liefeld, This is Your Life!” panel? It started with a humblebragged. “I was able to get into comics right out of high school despite my teacher saying ‘that’s not a legitimate business,'” Liefeld explained. “I’ve had a pretty fun career. At one point I had the Midas touch and one day people woke up and said I sucked [but] I’ve always been gainfully employed in comics and that’s why I’ll keep doing it until I can’t see, and my hands don’t work.”
Next, Liefeld talked about his first job, and how all the while he had his eyes on the bigger prize. “You can’t get to Deadpool without Hawk and Dove, so you have to hear about these bird characters,” he said adding that “I knew I would draw the crap out of Hawk and Dove” even though is was a book everyone else had turned down. According to Liefeld, he then immediately got into a fight with the editor when he proposed changing Dove’s costume. Three issues in, he said he got a call from Marvel and the chance to work on an X-Men title, Liefeld’s “favorite characters.”
The way Liefeld tells it, he was given the choice between X-Factor or New Mutants. Not wanting to follow in the vaunted footsteps of Walter Simonson, Liefeld chose New Mutants, and was given the instruction to “do what you want with it and get it going again.” According to Liefeld, the book was stymied by “a giant character that looked like Big Bird” and characters with a “fashion sense that’s seven years too late,” so he went to the editors and said, “let me introduce this character called Cable, and that was my first big ticket.”
Liefeld said that competition amongst Marvel’s marquee artists at the time was fierce so he was trying to make his mark against colleagues like Todd McFarlane, and Jim Lee. “I love Jim, we were buddies, but he had Wolverine and I didn’t,” Liefeld said. “That first issue [of New Mutants] I introduced 13 new character. I didn’t know it would go so well, I was just trying to keep my job!”
Introducing Cable was phase one of Liefeld’s New Mutants take over, phase two, with issue #98, included the introduction of Deadpool, Domino, and Gideon, or as Liefeld puts it, “two of our of three ain’t bad.” Liefeld humblebragged again that the reaction to Deadpool’s first appearance was huge, generating a box of letters from fans the size of a “washing machine” and the demand by Marvel’s editorial team to get Deadpool into the next issue.
Liefeld says that his “proudest achievement” is the final issue of New Mutants, that the artist called “48 page of kick ass and it went back to press again and again and again!” His second proudest moment was when we was invited to meet with Avi Arad, then the head of Toy Biz, to discuss turning the X-Force characters into action figures. “I laugh at how important that was to me,” he said. “‘You have achieved perfection! You’re a toy maker!'”
Now claim to fame is being the creator of Deadpool and talking about the transition from comic book antihero to international box office superstar that his Merc with the Mouth has undertaken. But it wasn’t an easy path. First there was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which Liefeld remembered thinking that something about it was amiss from his first glimpse at the footage. “I thought maybe if I see the whole movie together it will be cool,” he recalled. “I always knew Ryan [Reynolds] was Deadpool, he’s funny and he’s a smart mouth. The good thing that came out of Origins is that they knew they blew it.”
Liefeld then described the long journey of getting the Deadpool movie to the big screen, praising the work of screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick for setting the tone right from the get-go. “All that was on the page since 2010, the first two acts are unchanged from Deadpool,” Liefeld explained. “Here’s the miracle of Deadpool: they didn’t hire other writers. This script won every battle. […] It’s such a testament to the guys that made the film.” But even as Deadpool languished in development hell, it’s awesomeness couldn’t be denied. Liefeld recalled a conversation he had with an unnamed Marvel Studios executive, “He said, ‘I don’t know why they (Fox) are not making this movie.'”
Still, it wasn’t wall-to-wall praise. Liefeld wanted everyone to be clear that in his cameo in the movie, Deadpool isn’t saying “F**k Liefeld,” he’s actually recognizing two different characters, “Buck” AKA: “Fat Gandalf” and Liefeld. The cameo was supposed to be different, as movie Liefeld was supposed to get stabbed in the hand reenacting a famous fight where someone mad at Liefeld said that they wished someone would stab him through the hands so he couldn’t draw anymore, but there was a malfunction with the prop knife.
Liefeld, always supremely confident, recalls that this time last year he was telling people that Deadpool was going to open big, perhaps not as big as it’s ended up being, but still highly successful. Now, Liefeld says he’s meeting with the Fox executives again to give them the lowdown on Cable, and getting ready for Deadpool 2. Having said that, “You guys showed up in droves and saw it again and again and again,” he said with gratitude. Expect for that one person… “I’ve got a guy that’s seen it 66 times and has mailed me the stubs and I’m like dud I’m not sure I want to know you.” It was all in jest, of course. Probably.