As one of the founders of Image Comics almost 20 years ago, Rob Liefeld is a familiar name to comic book fans. But since that time, his output as an artist has diminished.
Until recently, that is.
Currently, Liefeld is one of the more prolific creators in the business, on high-profile projects. Last week he launched Hawk and Dove, which he's drawing with writer Sterling Gates as part of DC Comics' relaunch. But he's also still producing a creator-owned comic, The Infinite, with his co-partner at Image Comics, writer Robert Kirkman. Then Liefeld is co-writing the comic Avengelyne for Image Comics, featuring a character he introduced more than a decade ago.
Newsarama talked with Liefeld about this new surge in production and what we can expect from the upcoming issues for all his projects.
Newsarama: Rob, you've been talking a lot about productivity lately, and it seems like you're really creating a lot of work right now. Why such a burst of artistic output?
Rob Liefeld: Well, I suppose I can attribute it to my mid-life crisis taking over! It comes from a desire to create a larger body of work, tell more stories as I'm not getting any younger and I'm still making up for lost time from the mid-90's where I spent more time running a studio than producing work. I've never illustrated 2 monthly books but my childhood idols, John Byrne, George Perez and Jack Kirby did this frequently, its something I've always wanted to attempt and here I am pushing myself to achieve that goal. For this year at least, I'm pushing towards making that a reality. As I sit here The Infinite #4 is in production, issue #3 is off to the printer and over at Hawk and Dove issue #2 is off issues #3 and #4 are in various stages of completion, so there's 4 months worth of doubling-down that has been achieved so far.
Also, the right projects came along at the right time with both The Infinite and Hawk and Dove and there are some other projects that are brewing that you'll hear about soon enough. So opportunity has presented itself and I'm working around the clock to complete these assignments. I'm very fortunate to be working with all the outstanding talent and characters on these projects.
Nrama: What do you think of the current approach DC is taking to artwork, where they're trying to stay monthly even if it means fill-in artists?
Liefeld: I take it very seriously and I think it is absolutely important to stay with the schedule and deliver these books on time. The fans have shown up in record numbers to get these books, and we need to keep feeding the schedule. I work seven days a week nowadays and have for months. You do what you have to do.
Nrama: Let's talk about some of this work you're doing. Last week saw the release of Hawk and Dove #1, but Sterling Gates told Newsarama that you're working ahead, all the way on #5. Since you're so far into it, what's the series shaping up to be? How would you describe the direction it's taking?
Liefeld: I perceive our work on Hawk and Dove to be in the vein of the classic Marvel and DC super hero comic books from the late '70s early '80s. Hawk and Dove is a super hero comic book, it's not a horror book, a mystery book, it's not noir. It's two avatars of War and Peace, struggling against their foes as well as their own dynamic.Hank Hall has always been a cross of Peter Parker meets Guy Gardner. He is a student, he's well-meaning but he's a hot head, he's got a short fuse and when he turns into Hawk he is akin to Wolverine. He's a berserker, he's a bulldozer.
Dove/Dawn Granger is just a lovely person, she's even-keel, thoughtful and as Dove, she is dynamic and sleek and a sharp thinker.When they work together, they are formidable. Dove also has become extremely powerful since i introduced/created her with the Kesel's many years back. She's holding up a plane in the first issue — a plane? I called around and was like, "She can do that??" Apparently so, which makes for an even more interesting pairing with Hawk.
Together they have to overcome personal tension, as well as secrets that they have kept from each other all the while defending themselves and Washington, D.C. from supernatural assault from some aggressive new Avatars hell bent on destroying them. We have hit the ground running introducing a number of threats to HD and so far I feel it matches up very well with my earlier run on the book.
Nrama: As you've gotten to know these characters again, what has surprised you about them? And what has challenged you?
Liefeld: The new color scheme on Hawk is something I'm still getting used to. I like it but I'm not certain I'm using it to the best potential yet. It always takes me a few issues to find my stride with any character, and I'm working my way back around with Hawk. Expect to see more Hawk in more shadows in upcoming issues.
Dove is so fun to draw, maybe we can knock Hawk out for an entire issue and just feature Dove for 20 pages. I'm really proud of Dove, I had to fight to even let her have hair and a ponytail back in the original series. Editorial wanted just the same old skullcap on a female figure and the ponytail was a compromise on both fronts, but her look has endured and as I said, I just love drawing her!
Nrama: It looks like you're getting to design a lot of new characters. What's your approach been as you've invented these new avatars to populate the DC Universe?
Liefeld: Well, as far as the Avatars that are appearing and attacking Hawk and Dove, I'm sticking with the same approach as when I created and designed Kestrel back in the original mini-series. The idea is that there is a basic design element with some facial and costume differences but the bird spires, the helmets, they share a design element but are differentiated by color.
We introduce three new bird Avatars in issue #3. I think it becomes very clear on those pages. But if Kestrel returns, expect a very different look for him. You will know it's Kestrel, but he'll be much more....frightening.
Nrama: Do you feel like you're on Hawk and Dove for awhile?
Liefeld: Yes. At least two arcs. I hope for more but we will see what lies ahead. What was important to me, having always loved Hawk and Dove, was re-establishing them after not having a series of their own for 20 years. I appreciate that DC and everyone in the decision process selected this book for special attention, being part of the 52, which has resulted in a huge audience for so many great DC characters that deserve a platform in this new era. Characters like OMAC, Hawk and Dove, Firestorm, Captain Atom, Animal Man — all these characters, while obviously not as well known as Batman, they have great stories and history.
Nrama: You've also got The Infinite coming out with Robert Kirkman. Have you been collaborating pretty closely with Robert on the book?
Liefeld: We talk almost every day. The Infinite is a constant in my every day life, I'm eating, breathing The Infinite all day every day. We started this process over a year ago, we were passing the designs and concepts and rules and names back and forth for months. We are equal partners in this endeavor and I'm loving every page.
Nrama: For people who didn't have a chance to check out issue #1, what's the idea behind the comic?
Liefeld: The Infinite is a story about an aging soldier returning from a war that was lost to ensure that a different outcome is achieved. He makes contact with his younger self at a crucial moment in his life and begins to change the course of his own life trajectory."The Infinite" refers to the villain of the story who has used time-travel to conquer the world. Bowen and Bo, our older and younger protagonist, have stole a means of time travel and will use it as a counter measure. But wow, are there some great twists and turns along the way. Both sides of the conflict are playing a great chess game, out-maneuvering each other. And at the center of it all is a great love story with both men's affections playing a role with the woman they love/loved.
Nrama: For those who did, what can we expect from next week's issue #2?
Liefeld: With issue #2, things start to heat up, Bo is being trained by Bowen and their personal friction takes center stage. There is a father-son, older brother, younger brother dynamic that they are both uncomfortable with and both are stubborn and feel that their way is correct. Imagine having an argument with consequences of life or death with your younger self and the different perspectives both sides would present. And then there is a first strike where our heroes encounter the villains in our present day, there is much in play with issue #2. We introduce another major character in the back of the book so we keep expanding our cast. One of our key characters isn't introduced until the first few pages of issue #4
Nrama: Readers tend to think of you drawing larger-than-life action, but Robert seems to write more dialogue-driven comics with strong character moments. Have the two of you altered your style a little for each other? Or are you challenging each other as you work on this?
Liefeld: Well, first off, I tend to believe that fans of Invincible would disagree that Robert Kirkman doesn't write some of the best, most intense, most violent action scenes in all of comics. That book had an 8-issue war that was as action packed as anything I've seen. But yes, character moments are his sweet spots, and it was the single biggest draw to The Infinite for me. And each issue has great developments between our old/young protagonist as well as what is coming along and a stellar supporting cast. I love talking heads, that's where the rich character stuff comes across. This book has a great balance and I feel it becomes more compelling with every page but never at the expense of great action stuff. Our first trade collection comes out in December and it's a great first arc, we had a lot of characters and concepts to introduce in getting the story rolling.
Nrama: Let's talk about Avengelyne. What's it been like co-writing the series with Mark Poulton?
Liefeld: Mark has been on my radar for quite some time, I really enjoy his Koni Waves book that he has been producing for years and he has been a charter member of my Liefeld message boards for the last 10 years so I've gotten to know him quite well. I've asked him to help me out on scripting before with various projects and I mentioned Avengelyne to him about two years ago and now here we are as the third issue is ready to ship.He has a multi-year arc for Avengelyne and a passion for this character that I have never seen. I discussed with him an approach I wanted to take with the character and expanding her myth and he has taken it and run with it and it’s a great ride. The idea that Avengelyne is a spirit and she had inhabited the female host that we are familiar with and has now inhabited a new host is something I wanted to explore.
The upcoming stories continue to build the war between Heaven and Hell as it plays out on earth. Fans can expect to see more of the supernatural cast of characters that were introduced in the Extreme and Maximum comics I published years ago.
Nrama: Owen Gieni's art has really brought life to the comic. Has the work surprised you at all?
Liefeld: Oh man is Owen Gieni's art a blast or what? He is another longtime member of my message boards that I have been talking about finding a vehicle for and he has produced amazing visuals for the new Avengelyne series. His art and designs are so fresh and they pop off the page. His pages are packed with great energy and motion. As far as surprising me, yes his volume and the quality he is maintaining has been impressive. I just looked at pages from issue #4 and it's his best work to date.
Nrama: As we head toward the conclusion of the first story arc, what can readers expect from issue #3?
Liefeld: Mark and Owen have brought Avengelyne and her allies, Passover, Peter and Priest into her conflict with the Red Dragon, so expect plenty of supernatural consequences.
Nrama: So let me get this straight. You're drawing two series and co-writing another. What's your secret?
Liefeld: There is no secret, just a lot of scheduling and discipline and surrounding yourself with good talent. I'm leaving all the writing chores to Mark on Avengelyne at the end of the first arc. He has earned the title of sole writer. The arc I wanted to tell is done, so now he can go in whatever direction he pleases. It's good stuff.
I have much more coming up in 2012. I continue to work with up-and-coming talent, much of it culled from relationships online, from Facebook, Twitter and my message boards at robliefeld.net. My inker the last two years on Deadpool, The Infinite and Hawk and Dove has been Adelso Corona, another relation from my message boards. I'm using several colorists from my boards as well, bottom line, talent has a direct line to us in this profession, and I'm always interested in giving new talent a break.
Nrama: Is there anything else you want to tell fans about what's coming up for Rob Liefeld?
Liefeld: I really want to speak to all the fans who I have met at conventions, at store signings and online through all the social media. These fans have given me my career for the past 25 years, they have supported me and enthusiastically followed all my various projects. I'm doing my best to give them my all and I cannot even begin to express my gratitude for their support over the years. I receive thousands of messages through all the social media outlets and at shows and it is truly humbling. Thank you for all your support!Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!