Rob Liefeld is an incredibly popular but polarising artist. His fans adore him, his detractors (and for a long time, I was one one them) deride him as a no-talent hack with no understanding of anatomy.
This is the story of why my attitude changed...
I'm making a point of writing this week's waffle before I read Major X #1, because whether I love it or hate it (and to be fair, I'm not really an X-Men guy...) I don't want my view to be coloured by it.
I can tell you that when the puclicity images were published the internet was somewhat divided betweem "ROB LIEFELD!!!!! WOOT WOOT!!!!!!!" fanboys and sneering "terrible artist, no talent, needs to take some anatomy lessons" haters. I imagine that there was a middle ground of people who didn't care about it one way or the other, but it was the internet, so nobody heard them...
I mean, it's not the best cover art I've seen this year, but it's far from being the worst - and while it might not be the most original superhero costume design I've ever seen, most of the superhero costume designs out there aren't really original - and hey, it's Liefeld and there are no pouches. For him, that is truly original.
Perhaps nothing is more emblematic of the way I see Liefeld's art than the pouch. Back in the nineties as a pretentious comics reading self-styled "intellectual" they were something to point and laugh at - the way Deadpool had pouches not just on his belt, but on a damn garter, or the way Cable has so many pouches he needs not just a belt and a garter, but two garters, a belt and a bandolier.
It's almost beyond satire...
But of course, this was the nineties, and the nineties were kinda like this. Not for me, of course, I was a pretentious intellectual goth type, so for me the nineties were all Niel Gaiman's Sandman and Paul Chatwick's Concrete. But that's not what was selling.
The likes of Liefeld aren't massive names because their books were financial disasters. Liefled's books have sold in the millions, and as Stephen King once said"I'd rather have all my readers than all your awards..."
So that's the first point, really. I can sneer at Liefeld, his lack of anatomical accuracy, and his pouches all I like. I mean, he makes it easy - as this infamous image of Captain America makes clear. I mean, I'm no artist, and I certainly couldn't do any better - but I'm not charging people to look at my daubings.
But it's irrelevant. The only question that matters is "did lots of people like it?" and the answer to that question is "I dunno for sure, but a heck of a lot of people bought it, and that's the best gauge of popularity we have."
So who am I to tell readers they're wrong? I don't have to buy it, but telling people they're wrong to like what they like is simply not what being a geek is supposed to be about. Besides, follow Rob Liefled on Twitter for any amount of time, and it's hard not to love him.
For example, all his career he's been criticised for not being able to draw feet. (For the record, he's always been better at feet that Todd McFarlane, but that's another story...) His Twitter response?
Yes, a link to an instagram account featuring pictues of him with people whose feet cannot be seen.
And then there's this:
Variously known as Pouchman or The Pouch this could be the most Rob Liefeld character ever, and it's the thing that made me realise that my criticism of Liefeld - and I wrote some genuinely scathing things about him in the early 2000s when I had a weekly column on a popular comics website - was unfair, unwarrented and elitist in the worst kind of way.
It remains the case that his art is not to my taste - a fact that I'm sure causes Mr Liefeld no end of distress and upset as he sits atop a mountain of cash and fan mail sobbing "All of this is meaningless if Regie doesn't like the picture I drew!" - but "everything that's wrong in comics"?!
He seems like a decent bloke, and his work makes a lot of people happy. Decent blokes making art that makes poeple happy? Surely that's everything good about comics?
So, I guess the moral of the story is, like what you like, dislike what you dislike, but if what you dislike isn't hurting anybody, be like Elsa and just let it go.