On top of all the creative work that Rob Liefeld can generate these days, the guy can also produce a lot of buzz.
And for DC Comics, that buzz has been pretty loud since last week, when the publisher announced Liefeld would now be working on three of the New 52 titles beginning in May.
Starting with issue #9 of each title, Liefeld will be plotting The Savage Hawkman and Grifter, while writing and drawing Deathstroke. DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio announced on Facebook that Liefeld will be working with a co-writer on two of the series — presumably Hawkman and Grifter — although the co-writer's name has not been announced.
Along with replacing the former writers on those three series, the addition of Liefeld also shakes up the existing art teams. Deathstroke's former regular artist, Joe Bennett, will now be drawing Savage Hawkman. Scott Clark will continue to draw Grifter.
The change displaces former series writers Nathan Edmondson (Grifter), Kyle Higgins (Deathstroke), and Tony Daniel (Hawkman). There is also no word yet what former Hawkman artist Philip Tan will be doing next for DC.
"Tony and Kyle aren’t gone (they are still doing great work on Detective and Nightwing, respectively) and we are hoping to find new ways to work with Nathan soon," DiDio told a fan on Facebook. "As for Rob, he has a lot of great series under his belt, has a lot of great ideas, and will be working with co-writers on two of the series."
The changes came after last week's announcement by DC that it was canceling six of its recently launched New 52 series in April, and that it would replace all six of them with different comics in May.
Among the canceled New 52 comics was Hawk and Dove, which Liefeld had been drawing since it launched in September. Liefeld also just began writing the title, after the departure of former writer Sterling Gates.
Newsarama contacted Liefeld to find out more about all the news.
Newsarama: First, Rob, when we talked about you being prolific in our last interview, I had no idea you were taking it to this extreme! Is this a case of you really wanting to stretch your writing legs?
Rob Liefeld: I've been itching to expand my creative roots all over the map. I sparked to each of these titles. They are referred to as the bad boys of DC comics. I felt like I had great stories for each character. If not, we wouldn't be moving forward.
And really, I've been drawing everyone else's stories the last decade. It's been a great learning experience. But I'll put my track record as a writer and a creator up against anyone.
This last year, when Marvel collected my entire New Mutants/X-Force run, it really sparked me to create another run along those lines. This opportunity really mirrors that opportunity in many ways. Chief among them is Bob Harras at the helm for both opportunities. As a writer, I've always strived to deliver memorable characters and story lines and I'm looking to give these titles my best shot.
Nrama: Last week had a lot of good news for your fans, but it also had some bad news for them, as Hawk and Dove was canceled. Anything you want to tell people about its cancelation?
Liefeld: We gave Hawk and Dove a great shot. In all honesty, we stumbled out of the gate. Our first effort could have been much stronger and it wasn't. I take responsibility for not delivering a more powerful first effort.
Hawk and Dove are great characters, but perhaps not ready for prime time in this era. That said, I just returned from a convention in Arizona where I signed what seemed like a gajillion copies of the first five issues, and the outpouring of affection for the characters online has absolutely overwhelmed me.
But this is as competitive a time in comics as I can remember, and books have little time to capture the fan base necessary to thrive. So we move on. My first issue as writer and artist ships in a few weeks, and I'm completing the last few issues with great energy and enthusiasm. I'm confident Hawk and Dove will appear in another corner of the DC Universe very soon.
But you know what they say about one door opening as another closes.
Nrama: Exactly, but wow, you'll be involved with a lot of titles in May, particularly if you count your Extreme Studios stuff. You're not concerned with spreading yourself a little thin?
Liefeld: Nah. To my knowledge, no one else has been pencilling and inking two books a month these last five months except for me. If you plan ahead and surround yourself with great people, you can manage a family this big.
Let's take Youngblood for instance. We had the writer, John McGlaughlin, write his first issue a year ago. I sought out the artistic services of Jon Malin, whom I've always favored and who is currently drawing his fourth issue of Youngblood. Issue #71 doesn't come out until May. I go over every page and, as a matter of fact, was providing layouts for Jon's first issue, which is 28 pages by the way, way back in the summer.
Same model applies to Erik Larsen on Supreme. He's on his fifth issue and his first was just solicited for April. I've seen every awesome page. Everything crosses my desk.
I'm capable of a ton of work. My Kirby gene has been fully activated. And by that I mean, the capability to draw many pages. He hit his stride in his 40's; I'm 44. My kids are all in school eight hours a day. They are all in multiple sports and activities. I have nothing to do but draw all day and try to keep up with their pace.
Nrama: But from a creative standpoint, when you've got something like the revival of your Extreme Studios going on, what is it about the New 52 that interests you enough to dedicate this much time and energy to it?
Liefeld: Two things: opportunity and bucket list. I'm running out of time and I'm a huge fan of the DCU. They have an unbelievable library of amazing stories. I've been as much a DC guy as anything else my entire fan life. As much as Marvel owned my childhood — with the original Uncanny X-Men revival, the Perez/Byrne/Shooter Avengers, Perez/Byrne Fantastic Four, Captain America, Thor, Marvel Team-Up, Two in One — I always followed Justice League, Legion, Teen Titans, [and] Justice Society because those characters captured my imagination.
Then, in 1980 when Perez and Wolfman took over the Titans, I started carrying so many DC books. The Levitz/Giffen Legion, Perez JLA, Green Lantern — these were among my favorite books. And Marvel in the '80s lost some luster for me. DC had become the more exciting company.
Then Frank Miller and Alan Moore arrived and it was all over.
I ended up making my name at Marvel, but I've always desired greater access to the DCU characters. Bottom line: I'm a huge fan. This is a great opportunity on characters that while popular, aren't sacred cows, and could all stand to go higher than they have been before.
Nrama: OK, so the opportunity came along to do some DC books. But the publisher obviously thinks you, as a writer anyway, fit best with these titles in particular. Why do you think your style as a creator fits these three books?
Liefeld: They are the action-adventure books, and they have unlimited, untapped mythology. That's what I plan on tapping into the most. Each of these characters has tremendous upside and I intend to exploit all their strengths and create some great new paths for them to travel. The journey defines the hero and each of these characters has a difficult challenge ahead of them.
Nrama: Why did Deathstroke interest you as a writer and artist?
Liefeld: Hearkening back to the Perez/Wolfman Titans, I have always had a huge thing for Deathstroke. He's a phenomenal character. His original origin, for me — that of a former patriot, transformed and betrayed — calls up images of a dark Captain America. Visually, from the chain mail to the buccaneer boots and flared gloves, he always felt like a dark flip on Cap.
Now with the New 52, the slate is wide open and I intend to push him and make things uncomfortable for Slade Wilson. My big beef with Slade up to this point is that all the memorable Deathstroke stories took place outside his own series. The Judas Contract and Identity Crisis and everything in-between had him in a supporting role. I want to blow the doors off with some defining stories in his own title. Like I said, we are going to push him.
Nrama: Anything you can tell us about what you're hoping to bring to the Deathstroke title as you take over on both the story and art?
Liefeld: Well, we open with a cartel of crime lords who have all been screwed over by Slade and who have pooled their resources in order to wipe him out. There is a covert government agency that hires him to clean up their mess involving escaped prisoners which leads to Lobo. And Slade has a group of young, talented hybrids that are tied to Lobo under his charge. He has his hands full.
With the first 10 pages of my first issue, I think we will grab the attention of readers new and old by putting all of his talents on display. Slade is a great thinker, a master tactician and deadly combatant. He's way more than just a gun and a sword. I'll put my Slade/Deathstroke pitch/direction up against anyone's.
Nrama: Then let's switch to Hawkman. What is it about Carter that made you want to write his comic?
Liefeld: I've loved Hawkman since I was really young. I've followed all his incarnations through the years and this current DC 52 incarnation excites me the most.
He's an open book as far as direction is concerned. The Nth metal armor, which Carter possesses, is in huge demand. It's power, and the secrets it possesses are desired by dangerous players, from our world as well as other worlds and dimensions. He is surrounded by danger and opponents who appear to have him outnumbered, and yet he fights back with a vengeance and takes matters into his own hands.
As a linguist and archeologist, he's very intelligent and resourceful. Those qualities help him as he pushes for answers for the origins of the armor and his place in the mythology.
Nrama: What will we see from Hawkman as you plot the book?
Liefeld: A greater sense of his importance in the DCU. It's his turn to step onto a bigger stage. I made a huge push for the guys on Deathstroke to come over to Hawkman and help me launch him into the stratosphere.
Joe Bennett illustrated the first two issues of Alan Moore's Supreme back at Extreme. I have followed his career closely and with great interest over the years. I'm really opening things up to accommodate Joe and Art's incredible work. They are essential in putting Hawkman over the top. I'm really humbled they decided to join me on this journey. We are swinging for the fences.
Nrama: Grifter seems to really fit your edgy style. Why did that character's series attract you?
Liefeld: First off, with the 20th anniversary of Image Comics upon us, Grifter has a real soft spot in my heart as part of the original Wildcats.
That said, his place in the DCU has not yet been clearly defined. By the end of [my] first issue, he and the reader will know exactly who Grifter is and who he must become in order to realize his potential.
As far as his existence is concerned, the threats that he has faced become much, much bigger. Everything else pales, and he has no choice but to own up to everything he has been running from.
The thread in all these books, as I examined them and gave input, was that they all needed a greater challenge in order to define and push them. That will reveal the true grit of each of these characters.
Nrama: Any hints about what we'll see from Grifter once you're plotting the comic?
Liefeld: New alliances, some familiar faces from both DCU and Wildstorm that have not yet reared their heads in the new 52. Dan, Eddie and Bob have been great in opening up the toy chests.
When Lobo was approved, I was really excited because pitting the most dangerous hunter in the DCU against the greatest prey in the universe is a great match-up to exploit on both ends.
Nrama: With a Lobo connection in Deathstroke, a Thanagarian connection in Hawkman, and a Daemonite connection in Grifter, these characters are all heading toward cosmic-type showdowns. As a result, there's been speculation that these three titles will have some type of crossover, since you're writing them all. Is there any chance that's going to happen?
Liefeld: Right now, the goal is to set up each title on its own path and turn up the volume with each character. But the storylines are set up to facilitate a crossover with the three titles someday. There are a number of shared threats that I have definitely targeted for a crossover storyline, but frankly, that's a ways off.
Nrama: DC has announced that you're writing Deathstroke, but calls what you're doing on The Savage Hawkman and Grifter as "plotting." But what does "plotting" mean, exactly? Will someone else be doing dialogue?
Liefeld: Plotting is the act of " writing the story." Without a plot there is nothing on the page. I write the story and panel descriptions for every single page. The artist draws what I have written. I'm the story credit.
I'll script Deathstroke as well, so I'll embody every aspect of the writing process.
On Hawkman and Grifter, that is yet to be determined. I'll probably script one of those but not both, there's only so much time in the day. That's where the schedule comes into play and something has to give.
Nrama: Are you looking forward to working with the artists on Hawkman and Grifter? Have you worked with them before, and are you familiar with their styles?
Liefeld: I enjoy both Joe Bennet and Scott Clark. I've worked with both before. Joe drew the first several issues of Alan Moore's Supreme back at Extreme, and I've followed his career with great interest ever since. The work he and Art Thibert were doing on Deathstroke was really nice. I asked that they get promoted to Hawkman because Joe is capable of some really great visuals. And Hawkman needs an artist of his scope and scale!
Scott Clark drew Avengelyne for me back at Extreme and I'm going to push him to another level on Grifter.
Both these guys are very talented illustrators. We all have our work cut out for us on these titles.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell fans about your work on these three DC titles?
Liefeld: I hope everyone picks up the issue #9s in May and jumps onboard the new directions with me, Joe, Art Thibert and Scott Clark and the rest of the crew!
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