I thought I covered just about everything I thought about Rob Liefeld but I re-read your question and finally figured out what you were driving at.
Rob was never my thing, good or bad. I don’t think I’ve ever been attracted to the hyped up ultra masculine/ ultra dominatrix thing that Rob does. I only have 3 issues of Youngblood despite the fact that they live in the dollar bin. His characters were “so edgy that we don’t have pupils”. On a limited budget, something like that really informs your purchasing decisions.
On the flip side Rob was the face of new comics. I have a vivid memory of seeing Rob on Good Morning America in the early 90’s. We ate up anything thing that was comics so we eagerly watched and waited for the piece. You know where they say “And up next we have comic book artist Rob Liefeld, coming up after the break” So the break is over and they still tease you with “Seriously, Rob will be on just as soon as we talk about the weather and Joan London’s hair” The whole time they’re showing cut-a ways of Rob nervously smiling. Finally we get to see the inner workings of what comics were like. Apparently they’ve got these things called computers and you need those and scanners to make comic books work. I was drawing mine on sheets of green card stock paper. If the segment would have been on today it would have been half as long, said nothing at all, and would have been a plug for Rob’s new movie. From what I remember it was a pleasant interview and they went into detail about the process of how comics were made. The interviewer even got his drawing souped up by the colorist and logo designer. (It might have been Chris Epilous now that I think about it. I could youtube it…. but that would spoil the memory, wouldn’t it?)
So after 95-96 I dipped out of the comics scene and my attention was turned 100% towards the Beatles. They had this new song called “Free as a Bird”. It kicked off Beatle mania in my mind.
I had this poster by Stephen Platt (or S.Platt as he licked to sign his work). It was a huge fold out that came out of an issue of wizard (no.35 I think) It was really beautiful to look at. But as I got older I started to see how it was just down right stupid and how things were badly out of proportion. For instance one characters head was smaller than the crotch section on Prophet (the THE in demand comic book of the day) Then bullet shells would be as big as a fist by comparison. It just bothered me.
Prophet was created by Rob Liefeld, but Platt really ran with it and made it the hot ticket item by drawing it like a combination of Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane. In fact he got his job by doing a three issue stint on the We’re going to cancel this anyway so we can give this kid a break Moon Knight series. That was THE hot item on Wizards top ten list. Suddenly you had a Tood-look-alike working on a severely under printed issue, demand was high supply was low.
That’s where it ends for me. Cut to 2004 and I’m talking with my friend about Straw Man and he brings up Rob Liefeld. I can’t remember why but he seemed to go on about it. He’s a funny guy so he can pick apart any situation and really turn it into a barrel of laughs. He talks about Rob’s itty bitty feet and a couple other stylistic tics and suddenly I catch on. I’m like yeah HE IS BAD… ha ha. I can TOTALLY draw better than Rob.
Wizard, back in the day, had this how to create comic book characters design tutorial in their magazine. Every 90’s cliche’ packed together in one little book. Pouches, Shoulder pads, and Pony Tails OH MY! I know I borrowed from that book a few times. I think it’s safe to say Rob invited the 90’s. I don’t think any other artist was able to capture a fad quite like him.
So I just– dived in– I think the Sin Warrior came about very organically. I’m not sure how 5-7 was going to go without him, but once I created him It became a priority to get him into the issue. I think the story lurches forward unnaturally a few times. The end of issue 5 goes on longer than what it should, issue 6 is ultra compacted, and issue 7 finally levels out. I think it would have been better if I introduced the preacher about 3/4 through #5 so that I didn’t have to get them in that room so quickly. That’s why you do stuff instead of worrying about it. You learn as you go.
See I started to buy into this idea that Rob really sucked and that he shouldn’t be drawing comics. There is this drawing in the back of issue 7 where I show a bare chested Straw Man taking a shower. It’s a response to the infamous Captain America big chest snafu. I don’t know if you’ve seen it but, somebody took Rob’s drawing and removed all of Cap’s clothes leaving a star over his SGT. Major. It really pointed out the absurdity of Rob’s drawing. I heard that Jim Lee and several others tried to tell Rob that the anatomy was way out of wack, and he just didn’t listen. So this thing hits the internet and it just adds more fuel to the “Rob Liefeld” sucks fire.
Something changed for me once I watched a video of him talking about his creative process. He really seemed to put a lot of work into his compositions. He seemed like a good dad. He really wanted things to get better. You could tell he was concerned about how people perceived him and that he wanted to get things done.
At some point Rob was a part of the Image board of directors and he was summarily ousted by the group. But he’s been re-instated as a member. Erik Larsen will be the first to tell you when you’ve screwed up but he’ll also be the first one to forgive and forget too.
Fast forward to Image United. An epic book that unites all the founding Image Characters together on one page. A technical nightmare conceived by Erik Larsen and written by Robert Kirkman. It sounds like a killer idea putting all these guys together on one book, but for one reason or another the project has been put to the sidelines, mid-stream. Now you would think, who could be holding this up? It’s certainly not Erik. He’s emotionally vested into the project. Could it be Whilce Portacio? He’s only got one character here. Couldn’t be him. What about Silvestri? Could well be. What about ‘normal man’ Jim Valentino? I highly doubt it considering he was the publisher at Image for a number of years and he’s used to responsibility. What about Rob? He’s a got a reputation for being late. What about Todd Mcfarlane? hmm? Well guess what. It’s not Rob that’s holding up this project. And it’s probably not Jim, Mark, or Whilce either.
I came away reading SPAWN #10 with ‘wow’ self-publisher’s are awesome. It’s funny how Todd stopped drawing comics altogether after 30 some odd issues in.
While Rob is not my cup of tea, he’s certainly not the worst thing to happen to comics. I think he’s shown that he’s redeemed himself to a certain extent.
I think the other side of the coin on this question is, how would I view Dave Sim if I wasn’t a fan and would I have the same temptation to drag him through the mud like I did with Rob? Truthfully? I’ve never heard of Dave Sim. He did what? Oh, well I won’t be picking up that book.
As a mighty as your name is with indie publishers and comic creators, I don’t think Dave Sim means anything to the general comic book buying public. Cerebus is certainly not a book you’d give to children and tell them to enjoy. The difference between me and let’s say Erik Larsen in this case is that Erik hasn’t invested the time to figure out who you are. He’s indifferent and probably thinks your ideas are out there. I doubt he thinks, I’m am not going to enjoy this because Dave is a misogynist. I don’t think it’s that pointed. I know he’s read Cerebus and Cerebus himself is in a wedding shot in issue 50 of the Savage Dragon. Clearly he’s a fan. I think time constraints really keep people from investing into the world of Dave Sim. Let’s say someone tuned into CerebusTv and the Canadian brothers skit started airing out of the blue. Let’s say all they every heard about you was “he’s weird”. Then what that episode looks like is, “Man this guy is schizophrenic”. But in context it’s pretty funny or at least understandable.
We had a “leadership” class at Wednesday night church and one of the books they covered was “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. I’m sure you’ve heard about it. Anyway during the class we were asked to write down what we thought about the other person in the room. It was anonymous and I felt like… man they’re really going to let me have it. But what I got back was really surprising. They all looked at my good qualities. One person wrote down “lackadaisical” but I don’t think they meant anything bad by that. It was a real eye opener. It made me feel like I had been lying to myself about how awful I was. It was revolutionary for me. I would suggest maybe writing a letter to people who’s opinion you respect or someone you feel like you’ve misconnected with and ask, “What do you honestly think of Dave Sim? And what can I do to help change any negative perceptions you have of me?” as an open-ended question. If they are as passionate about feminism as you are then they’ll probably say so. BUT I DOUBT it’s as bad as you think it is. I didn’t really know what feminism or misogyny was until after I started reading Cerebus. So… it’s not an everyday topic. People just don’t want to know and they don’t want to think about it.
I think also there’s this built in problem to the “I don’t think Dave Sim is misogynist” petition. That being, if there is a petition, then he must be a misogynist. I do not have the time to investigate this and I don’t care if someone is being mislabelled that badly– because I don’t know, I won’t sign it.
If you started a petition that said “I think Dave Sim is a lover of women”, you’d probably get a few more replies…
I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about marriage in this conversation as well. I’ve been at it for 4+ years now. It doesn’t make me an expert but I think I’m qualified to have a few opinions now. I think it depends 100% on finding the right person and being 100% honest with them. If you think that dress makes her look fat you need to tell her the truth. Not in a mean way, but in a “Honey I love you but I think this doesn’t really accentuate you the right way” kind of way. That may seem impossible but believe me, it works better than trying to lie about it. It maybe as simple as saying “That dress doesn’t work for me”. If they want to know why you go into details if you want. Marriage is built around trust. It’s not always about pleasing the other person to keep the peace. It’s about understanding that person and adapting yourself so that you begin to work as a unit. What makes me happy will make you happy and vice versa.
One thing I like a lot about Larissa is that if she wants to visit her parents on the weekend I can stay at home and work uninterrupted. We both win that way. She trusts that I love her and I trust that she’ll come back! I always thought that once I was married I’d have no problem with being focused on just my wife. But the Adversary has a way of getting inside your head and planting ideas that shouldn’t be allowed to grow. So we talk about stuff like that. Totally uncomfortable and even hurtful at times. But you know what? We’re better in the end for talking about it.
I think if you’re goal is to go to a bar and pick up a woman, you’re not going to get quality, no matter how hard you try. You’ll get interesting, you’ll get sexy, you’ll get fun but you won’t get anything lasting. I struggled with this a lot when I was dating. I had to have someone who was a Christian, someone who could put up with my obsessions, and someone who could just be pleasant to be around. You won’t find that at a bar.
I was ending a bad relationship with an ex and Larissa popped up into my life again. We were casual friends on the internet but when this terrible relationship was coming to an end she became a good sounding board. One day my phone went out and I couldn’t give her a call. A week later I received a 10 dollar phone card in the mail. I knew that very instant I was going to marry her. She cared enough about me in a casual way to invest her money into something that may or may not work, not even knowing me. After the selfish and lying abomination that was my ex girlfriend was over, this was like drinking cool refreshing glacier water.
So kindness goes a long way. I think too, my parent’s successful relationship showed me what I was looking for. My brother made it almost 5 years into his marriage before it ended in divorce. I can’t say I was surprised, she was pretty manipulative and lazy. Not a good combination. Some really weird stuff was going on, so much so that she pretty much prevented my brother from ever visiting me.
We’ve had some trouble but it’s mostly revolved around my career or lack there of. I’m objective enough to man up and say, yeah I am the cause of this problem! I use to shift a lot of blame to her and I use to not take her feelings into account. But I’m getting better at recognizing where I can improve.
Have I changed to suit her every whim? No way! Has she changed to suite mine? By some degree, yes. But not by coercion or manipulation. We talk things through and little by little we tend to meet in the middle. But when she insists on something she’s usually 100% correct about it. I can acknowledge it and agree with her. She knows that something like this “Now I’ll Ask You One” things is a once in a lifetime deal. She’s supportive of my dreams and wants to see me succeed, so she’s letting me do this.
I think of the opposite way, if she forbid me to do this I wouldn’t be with the kind of woman that made me happy. I probably wouldn’t have married someone like that. That understanding… that’s special. I can’t help but think about how unique Larissa is and how perfectly suited she is to me. God had a hand in bringing us together I think.
You know, look at Jack Kirby. He had an awesome wife. She made sure that Jack got the work done. But Roz had an awesome husband. He wanted to make sure she was taken care of no matter what. That’s commitment. She knew first off all he was going to do everything in his power to take care of her, because he said so. Simple as that.
I made a commitment with issue 5 to do 12 issues of Straw Man. It’s not been the easiest promise to live up to but I will guarantee that I will do it before I die. And if I die before it’s finished Larissa will hire someone to finish it.
The problem with sales for Indie comics is like this: You’ve started on this journey by putting out 3 good looking issues. That’s a lot of work so I’ll reward you with buying the first. You never know — you might make it as a superstar, and I’ll have the first issue. So when you get to issue 5 people are like, wow you’ve been doing this for a while, well I’ll just wait for the trade to come out. Because they don’t want to get half the story and two years later find out the guy never finished what he started. So when you get to issue 9 it’s like, well there’s so MUCH story how will I know which one to buy and if the story will make any sense by itself? I think that’s your telescoping effect you’re talking about there.
What are the odds though, that you’ll find someone who says, “Yes I’m going to do 12 issues, and no I’ll never stop until I’m done” and means it? You know how easy it is to talk the talk.
OK, NOW I’LL ASK YOU ONE:
Deni was the publisher of Cerebus for a while, can you tell me how stuff like “Neil the Horse” and “Puma Blues” came about? And after the divorce how did she apply those same sensibilities to her own publishing ventures outside of Aardvark Vanaheim? What obstacles and problems did you run into while doing both Cerebus and co-running Aardvark Vanaheim?