I’m making this post to announce two more upcoming projects that I’m working on. First, I’m doing a series of trading cards that I’m calling Douchebags of Comics, and Liefeld will obviously be getting a card.
I had a lot of fun a while ago doing a portrait of Frank Miller after the babbling insanity on his blog and I thought it would be fun to do more. Once I started thinking about it, I realized that there was no shortage of people in the comic book industry that deserve to be called out as douchebags. There’s Orson Scott Card, who is a completely nutty homophobe, Chuck Dixon, also a homophobe, Dave Sim, a paranoid misogynist (Although he’d object to the term misogynist. He’s just some other sort of person who thinks that women are biologically inferior, I guess) and on and on.
Rob Liefeld, for me, is emblematic of a major problem in the last 20 years of mainstream comics, which is these sort of mentally deficient man-children that started taking over things in the 90′s by playing to the worst common denominator of the fan base and valuing flash and crumminess over any kind of storytelling or content or talent. The Todd McFarlanes and so on.
Their reign of crap comics and foil covers and all that almost ground the entire industry into the ground, with Marvel filing for bankruptcy around a decade ago. What we’re witnessing now is, rather than being shown the door, these same inmates that almost burned the place down are now being given the keys to the asylum. Rob Liefeld can’t draw, and he also can’t write, so I guess somebody at DC thought maybe two negatives would make a positive, so they should pay him to do both. It’s kind of the Tony Daniel strategy, although I think Tony Daniel probably has a little more drawing ability than Rob Liefeld, even if he does have a similarly adolescent storytelling sensibility.
For me, Rob Liefeld gets a card in Douchebags of Comics because he seems to take a particular pride in his mediocrity. In his own blog, Liefeld compares himself to Michael Bay, and seems to equate success with the quantity of toys you sell based on a product. ”I’ll be the first to tell you that we were never the best artists. We were never the best at anything, but just like a song or a band or whatever, we caught on and we toured rigorously,” Liefeld says of the success of the 90′s Image comics crowd.
In, “How To Beat The Haters (how I do it),” a blog entry on his website, Liefeld spends 3,617 words (A few extra because he seems unaware that “Online” is a compound word and consistently types “on line”) explaining his philosophy that, when you’re the most reviled artist in mainstream comics, and one of the few things a pathologically divided fan base can agree on is your general suckage, it can’t be because of anything you’ve drawn, it must be a problem with Haters because, afterall, he sold a lot of comics a couple decades back.
The word “Spicket!” on my drawing above is a reference to this blog in which Liefelds discusses the phenomenon of people, “Grilling me on a spicket.” Google tells me that “Spicket,” is *sort of* a word, a semi-colloquial variation on, “Spigot,” and you can assume from close reading that Liefeld was trying to use some form of the expression roasted on a spit, but how one could be roasted on a spigot is a bit mystifying. Either way, the point is that, throughout the post, it’s obvious that Liefeld has a kind of tenuous, Sarah Palin-ish grasp on the English language. He’s an adult man that thinks that apostrophes pluralize things. And DC is paying him to write three titles for them.
The real problem, of course, is that people that think that employing him is the route to making a good comic book company, so I kind of went back in forth on my head on whether Liefeld should get a card in Douchebags of Comics, but I decided he needs one for the kind of defiant pride he takes in sucking. There’s also the fact of the sheer sloppiness of his work which seems to me to convey a certain kind of contempt or disregard for his audience. Looking through some issues of Hawk and Dove, it was pretty amazing to me the number of panels that didn’t have backgrounds or looked half-finished. I felt sorry for the colorist that had to go through there and try to make it look like it was a real comic.
I felt that the image of him enthusiastically, with big jazz hands, saying, “Spicket!” conveyed pretty well my opinion of him as a storyteller. He has a certain kind of enthusiasm, sort of like the enthusiasm of a dumb puppy that’s about to get a milk bone. This was actually a pretty hard drawing for me to do, because most of the portrait drawings I do are of guys I think are attractive, so I wasn’t used to drawing somebody who looks like Liefeld. I had to keep reminding myself: No, you’re drawing Rob Liefeld, it’s *supposed* to look like a mentally handicapped circus clown.
He’s not as evil as I believe Orson Scott Card to be, though, or as mentally ill as I feel Dave Sim and Frank Miller are. I want the series of cards to incorporate all sorts of different people who are part of the problems with comics. On the back of the cards, I think I’m going to put Stats, where I rate them from One to Ten on various criteria, such as Talent, Misogyny, Racism, etc. Rob Liefeld, for example, might get a One in Talent, but not rank as highly in other fields as some of the other people getting cards. Dave Sim, whose drawings I admire, might get an Eight or so on Talent, but would also get a high score on some other categories.
One fun thing about working on these cards so far has been that, as soon as I explain the series, everybody I’ve mentioned them to who works in comics or reads comics immediately had several suggestions for people who deserve cards. If anybody reading this has candidates they’d like me to consider, please tell me and I’ll look into them. I’ve had several good suggestions already. I think it will take around 50 Douchebags to make a good set of trading cards, and I’m sure the comics industry will have no problem supplying that many.
The other thing about working for one of the big mainstream publishers that do so much damage to the medium is that a lot of people employed by them, if they want to continue to be employed, can’t say certain things about ongoing projects or other creators. They’re supposed to pretend that they don’t think the Watchmen prequels are the stupidest thing ever, for example, because these are their friends working on them, and their employers producing it. I understand the dilemma, so I enjoy the fact that I doubt DC or Marvel would ever want to employ me or that I would ever want to be employed by DC or Marvel, so I can say what I want. Given a lot of the recent rampant douchebaggery from those two companies, I’ve had a lot of things I’ve wanted to say about them, so I figure I might as well start having fun burning those bridges.
Which brings me to my next project I want to talk about: I’m creating a manifesto.
I love comics, and I see in the medium more potential for communication and expression in today’s world than probably any other medium. I also see more *untapped* potential, and a marketplace kept stagnant by bad business and tepid, uninspired laziness from companies that have a stranglehold on the distribution system, but choose to not use that stranglehold to *do* anything.
So, for a couple months now I’ve been working on something I’m calling The Comics Manifesto. It’s going to be my treatise on the potential of comics as an art form, and also on the functions they should serve for creativity, communication and expression, as opposed to fan service for milking licensed characters.
I’ve had a lot of conversations with other people who work in comics over some of these issues, and I’ve felt encouraged that I’m not alone in my sentiments. The whole idea of the potential of art, and the roadblocks that bad practices tied to the way that art is monetized throw up in the face of that potential, is central to a lot of the things I’m writing with my characters, and also to the manifesto. So much of what goes on in the World of mainstream comics is such bullshit, and takes comics so far away from what they could and should be, that it makes a lot of people depressed about the medium as a whole when it could actually be one of the most exciting things happening.
So, I’m gonna be posting bits of the manifesto as I go, and anybody that cares about comics, feel free to comment on it or send me your thoughts about it. I’m hoping that, like how a lot of people I have talked to about my candidates for Douchebags of Comics cards have enthusiastically told me how much they’d like to see so-and-so get a card, the manifesto can speak for more than just me.