Just sitting here, nodding vigorously to what both of these dudes have to say.
[…] I know that the go-to Rob Liefeld punchline is “lol feet,” but that’s as stupid as boiling Claremont down to bondage fantasies and bad accents. He created/co-created a bunch of characters, a few of which are absolutely crucial to Marvel’s status quo and bottom line today, and all of which were in the perfect style to hook a kid like me and crawl up inside my brain. […]
David Brothers, ladies and gentlemen. Go read the whole piece, and Graeme’s piece as well. They’re both worth the read and both guys are better at this thing than I will ever be. But I’ve been trying to articulate this ever since I read this Matt Seneca piece a while back, and I’m not sure if I’ve really processed it completely yet, but here goes.
Let’s get real here: It’s just not possible that all of those Image #1 sales were to speculators. There were A LOT of people reading those comics. (Which is why the New52 creative lineup includes so many 90’s players. It was the last time comics were anything approaching popular and if it worked then, why not now?) They captured what teenagers at that time loved: action movies, low-concept sci-fi, guns, violence, melodrama, a fascination with our developing bodies and sex, and they did it with such friggin’ gusto that they could bypass the Big Two machine entirely and start a company that survives and thrives in a much different marketplace 20 years later.
I unabashedly loved X-Force. It was like X-Men fused with G.I. Joe on a bedrock of James Cameron knock-off VHS action/sci-fi that was pretty much what I was all about at age 14. I bought an X-Force t-shirt and wore it until it faded. Read that sideways issue until it fell apart. Jim Lee on X-Men was cool and McFarlane’s Spider-Man was alright, but for a whle there, X-Force (and Peter David and Larry Strohman’s X-Factor) was my jam. “THIS IS ME NOW.”
By the time Image rolled around, my tastes had changed and I’d moved on to Cerebus and Hellboy (I had fallen in love with Mignola after he did that dope time-travel/Wild Pack issue of X-Force) and Sin City and Evan Dorkin and Allred’s Madman and then on to digging through record store bins and trying to get girls to kiss me on the mouth, preferably with tongue. Things change.
To put it another way, I can’t for the life of me listen to a Pearl Jam album, despite the fact that Pearl Jam was maybe my favorite band through high school. I listened to Ten while I got ready for school almost every day my sophomore year of high school, but when it came up on shuffle the other day and I couldn’t sit through even the first song. Part of that is wincing at how seriously I took this record as a kid and part of it is that it’s 2012 and most grunge music was not, in my opinion, constructed in such a way to remain relevant for more than a few years. For the age I was at though, at that period in history, they were the perfect band for me and a lot of other dumb, frustrated, sad kids. Now? Now they’re just embarrassing. So po-faced and dated and flannely and grim. So painfully 90’s. What was the big deal with these guys?
I would submit that Liefeld and the Image comics crew are the grunge music of comics: insanely popular and transformative at the time, but embarrassing in retrospect. And again, this embarrassment at the younger us’s and the dumb stuff we loved is total Man In the Moon stuff. “Look at you! A Terminator rip-off with a big-ass gun and a bionic arm and shoulderpads and tiny feet-LOL. What’s that supposed to signify?”
And the punchline in Flex Mentallo works just as well here: “Being clever’s a fine thing, but sometimes a boy just needs to get out of the house and meet some girls.”
Yes, Liefeld’s grasp on anatomy is oftentimes woeful and he tends to choose iconic dynamism over legibility (or plausibility), and his stories favor kewl badassness over any intellectual arguments or examinations of the genre, but, well there were a lot of 70’s comics fans saying the same thing about Kirby. (And, having just read Kirby’s 2001, which is pretty much panned in every letters column, they were all very, very wrong.)
Am I saying that Liefeld was the Kirby of the 90’s? I don’t know. I guess in a way I kind of am. I definitely think Kirby’s legacy is far more earned and I definitely prefer his comics to Liefeld’s, but I also think that both artists are the perfect encapsulations their time. It just happens that the 90’s were a pretty vacant time period and that’s more our fault than Liefeld’s, isn’t it?