Saturday, December 23, 2006

Definitive Proof That Rob Liefeld Shouldn't Be Drawing Comics

I stumbled across Rob Liefeld's web site recently and saw that he had several pages of preview art for his work on the upcoming Onslaught Reborn #2. There were others on Comics Continuum's and Marvel's web sites as well. Since I wasn't able to use scanned artwork in my previous rant about Liefeld, I thought I'd copy the preview artwork here and point out the same types of flaws I saw in his first issue in the manner that I would've liked to have done originally.

To be fair, some of these scans are of incomplete artwork; however, as we'll see shortly, that won't really be an issue with my comments as Liefeld repatedly shows here that he tends to go with his first instincts anyway.

The Cover.
There's a few problems here. First, look at Thor's hammer, Mjolnir. The post that holds the head of the hammer to the handle is the handle itself. It's essentially a long stick from one end to the other. Yet in Liefeld's version, the diameter of one end of the post is dramatically larger than the diameter at the other end of the head -- the head should snap right off the handle.

Next, Hulk's feet are two different sizes. The two red lines are the length of his right foot. As you can see, Hulk's left foot is larger by the length of his big toe.

Speaking of feet, I'll just point out that half of the characters aren't shown with any, one of them is only showing part of one, Hulk's (as noted above) are drawn incorrectly, and Captain America's... well, I'm not really sure what's going on there in the first place.

Here's another thought: why not leave room for the UPC symbol and the logo? That way, your artwork wouldn't need to either block the logo itself or be blocked by the UPC code.

Page 1.
First panel, Franklin's hair is parted differently than every other page in the book I've seen so far.

Why is the border of the first panel thicker than the others?

What exactly is Onslaught looking at it in panel 3? It sure ain't Bucky and Franklin!
Pages 2-3.
Let me say first that some of the anatomy is questionable here. I'm not really sure what's going on with Bucky's and Franklin's legs, and Franklin's right arm has got to be twisted in an unusual manner. Onslaught's groin area has got to be stretched to it's limit, too, but we're not shown enough information to see if it's actually wrong from a technical perspective.

What is wrong, technically, are Bucky's hands. The fingers on her right hand are considerably smaller than those on her left. While perspective can play tricks on the eye, and I can allow some mismatching because of that, this is drawn in drawn in a backwards perspective. Given the placement of Bucky's hands on Franklin, Bucky's left hand should be at most the same size as her right, if not smaller.

It's difficult to tell for certain, but it looks to me like Franklin's been drawn with a right foot on his left leg.

Also, I've included an inset drawing of Liefeld's Onslaught from issue one. You might note that several of the glowing disc things on his gloves have vanished, as have one of the sets on his shoulders.
Page 4.
Where does Bucky's rope come from in panel 2? What's keeping it from falling into the chasm? (Which is where, by the way? We still haven't gotten an establishing shot that tells where the characters are.)

And why in anything that is holy would you design a panel where the results of an action are shown before the action itself!?! Franklin should not be seen haning onto the rope before the image of Bucky catching him. Good grief! If that doesn't showcase poor design thinking, I don't know what would!
Page 5.
I will give Liefeld credit for having tight pencils. He's obviously put some work into ensuring that his art can be reproduced cleanly without having to be inked. I can only find one real fault with this page, aside from Cap's oddly drawn feet...

The straps on his shield. I've traced in how they would be completed based on how Liefeld drew the parts that we can see. You can see that they must be very loosely attached to the shield in the first place. And in the second place, their placement ranges all over the back of the shield throughout the rest of the artwork of the issue. (As we'll see shortly.)

Interesting to note as well that a Quinjet was added to the final piece. I'm not sure if it was added by Liefeld or the colorist, but it's good to know that Cap didn't just pop out of thin air!

Page 6.
This looks like a color guide, but Liefeld notes on his site: "I do these color roughs to help me see the page and determine wether the foreground and background have enough depth... they aren't meant as guides for the colorist in any way, they help me see the page better." At this point, he considers the page done from a layout perspective, and he's got a good chunk of the detail work done as well.

In panels 1 and 2, we see some serious issues with Cap's shield straps again. I'm not sure how the shield is just floating there in panel 1, and panel 2 shows straps that are so loose that the shield should've slid right up Cap's arm upon striking Onslaught.

The lack of gutters also makes this page particularly problematic as several of the lines from panel 1 merge with lines from panel 2. This makes differentiating one panel from another unnecessarily problematic. And the color rough should serve to emphasize this point, as Liefeld's colored things in exactly the same color in that panel overlap area. There's almost no differentiation between the panels! (In the final version, the letterer very smartly places some text exactly over this area. Kudos to the colorist as well for making a very decided effort to place a convenient fog throughout the first panel to help delineate things even more.)

Page 7.
Another page that's not terrible! The size relationship between Cap and Onslaught seems to vary quite a bit from panel to panel, but one could argue that Onslaught has the ability to change size.

The bigger issue here is that the panels aren't straight. I've marked in red horizontals across the page. (The scan itself is a little crooked, but you can see the actual horizontals pre-printed on the page at the top and bottom edges.) You can clearly see that Liefeld's missed the horizontals on several of his panel borders. While that's certainly permissable in page layouts, any artist or designer worth his salt would tell you that if you're going to do that, do it decisively. Either make them really off the horizontal or don't bother. I think Liefeld's clearly fall in the "don't bother" category.

(To be fair, this looks like it may be cleaned up/straightened out -- presumably by the colorist -- by the time the book is actually published.)

Page 10.
Another instance of linework that runs from panel to panel, making panel distinctions difficult.

Oh, and Captain America has grown considerably since the earlier pages of this fight sequence.

Page 11.
I think the biggest problem here is just poor panel layout. Onslaught's head is crammed into the corner of the panel, making him look insignificant to the action of that panel. I might suggest that this was the result of poor planning, but we also happen to have Liefeld's original pencil rough as well. As you can see, it's almost exactly the same, and the problem could easily have been corrected at this stage. The red lines I've drawn over the finished pencils show how Onslaught might have been positioned within the panel to allow for better readability.

The page layout also seems to weigh very heavily to the left side, making the page feel unbalanced on the whole.

Page 14.
This is painful.

The circle over Cap's shield is the size it was drawn, relative to Cap's arm, on page 17. Again, I can forgive a little variation due to artistic license, but there's a 15% difference there!

Next, the part of Cap's boots that fold over. His right boot has a V-cut in the front of it, but there's no evidence of such a cut on his left. Granted, his left leg is turned to one side, but we should still see at least some of the V-cut.

The final panel is most painful, though. I've traced over the Cap and Iron Man figures, and repositioned them next to Bucky and Franklin. Admittedly, the two of them should be smaller than the older heroes, but not by that much!

Also in the final panel, the Fantasticar is not drawn in perspective to itself. A quick game of connect-the-dots and you can easily see that the corners of the craft don't line up with the edges as Liefeld's drawn them.
Page 15.
Let me start with the part that's just a little odd. The bottom left corner shows Franklin jumping up to/in front of/near the Invisible Woman. I've traced the outline as Liefeld drew it, and tried to extrapolate the rest. Nothing wrong here, per se, but it's a really odd position to be in after you've coming running up to someone who you think is your mother.

While we're in that panel, the lights in the background don't line up.

In the upper right corner of the page, we have pipes that lead nowhere. One might chalk up part of the problem to the colorist, but that vertical I've drawn is the right edge of the very last panel. You'll note that Liefeld's drawn a horizontal panel next to Thor's bicep instead of the curved piping he drew above.

Also, what are Thor and the Invisible Woman standing on in that panel? Liefeld's drawn verticals all the way down the page. Shouldn't there be at least one horizontal line to represent a floor, if not some perspective lines to show the panels on it?
Page 17.
That first panel is supposed to show how devasted the place got during the battle, right? Wouldn't it be a decent idea to make the panel big enough to show some details?

... especially in lieu of a panel of three people just standing there!

I've traced Cap's visable arm in the second panel and extrapolated some possible placements for the arm that's concealed by his shield. While it's certainly possible for Cap to stand in that position, it sure doesn't look comfortable, or natural.

And c'mon! Franklin's "4" isn't even straight!
Page 18.
I have to admit that I don't see any real problems here. The Echantress isn't actually looking at the well, but that could be intentional, depending on what exactly is supposed to be going on in the story here.
Page 22.
I find this just baffling. Liefeld drew a sketch for the page, looked at it in color, and decided he might try another version: "I tend to always go for the tight shot, closing in on the action as much as possible, but I think this shot [the second one at the right] might work better than the previous shot, given that it's pulled back
further and at a tilted angle allowing for more impact... maybe a third version is the answer."

I don't know if he attempted a third version or not. But evidently, even with that internal deliberation, he went with his first one. I have to admit that I don't see any technical flaws in this, but I have to say that I personally think his second draft is the stronger of the two images. And what I find baffling is that he did, too, and he STILL went with the first one!



All of this says to me that the man is not qualified to be called an artist. His anatomy (especially the lower body and feet) is weak, his page layouts don't convey a story very well, his panel layouts are poor, his depictions of characters are inconsistent, he has yet to master the basics of perspective... we're even looking at parts of his thought process here and the conscious artistic decisions he makes are, at best, arbitrary.

In all seriousness, I really don't understand why this man has a job in the industry. If I were that bad of a web designer, I would've gotten kicked down to the ranks of burger flippers long ago. Why does he still get work?

11 comments:

cap97 said...

Early in his career (ala New Mutants), I thought his work somewhat interesting, maybe because it was different at the time, but yeah, he's really horrible, and I think he just gets worse every year. I think Jim Lee and Marc Silvestri regressed too, though not nearly to the same low.

Hal said...

Ah, Kleefeld, you gotta leave this Liefeld guy alone. You've done the "Liefeld sucks" thing before. You need to go forth and do something new.

"Liefeld sucks" ain't new. I disagree with your viewpoint, sure. Robert Kirkman disagrees, too. We might be the only two but there you go: It's more interesting to have someone say that character proportion is less important than delivering an exciting comic book experience. At least, that's how I feel.

(No, I don't know Liefeld. I'm not the president of his fan club and I don't have a huge Rob Liefeld comic book collection. I feel for the guy, though. Everybody hammers him. Maybe it's justified in the grand scheme of things, maybe not, but it's old, old, old.)

And that's why I'd like you to drop the subject. Because, Kleefeld, you're better than this.

Y'see, it's tough to find good writing on the comic book field. Unlike most, your blog is actually worth visiting. I like to read what you've written. I want to read more of what you've written.

I mean, I'm desperate for a fresh voice in the comic book jungle. You're one of the few that can put words together in a way that makes me want to read the next paragraph. But not when it's the same ol', same ol', that everybody else is offering.

Give me a new spin, give me fresh eyes. I'm beggin' you, man....

Sean Kleefeld said...

Hey, Hal. Thanks for coming back.

You don't need to worry about me tagging Liefeld again, though. That first issue of Onslaught Reborn really rubbed me the wrong way and I had to do this post to get it out of my system. I actually wanted to do exactly this type of thing with #1 but couldn't for a variety of reasons. When I found all this preview art for #2, I took the opportunity to do the post I wanted to do for #1.

But, rest assured, I'm done on the subject. You might note that in my entire, nearly daily blog, I've only taken these two attacks against Liefeld. As I said, I've got it out of my system now.

Thanks for tolerating my views of him long enough to come back and check out my other posts. I promise I won't be making any further posts attacking Liefeld or his abilities.

Unless he comes to my house and tries to beat me up or something. :)

Leah said...

Late comment on an old post (go Google), but did you notice that in p2, compared to his original drawing which you pasted in, Onslaught's grown a new finger as well?

Anonymous said...

How did you never notice that Cap's shield switches which arm it's on? It starts left, then right, then left later, and right again.

Rob Liefeld is a true idiot.

Anonymous said...

The hilt of Thor's hammer is waayyy too long. It's apart of the story that it is so short for a reason. Something about Loki messing with the dwarven guys making it, just to get a Thor. I'm a Thor fan tho, so it bothered me.

Dylanio21 said...

This was posted so long ago but I just found it now through Google.
I enjoyed reading parts of it, not so much others.
I don't know, I always found Liefeld bashing interesting.
The dude has sold millions of comics and his work is purely excitement based, which I hold a lot of respect for.
I actually am pretty anti-anatomy to be honest, that's probably why I like him.
Chester Gould, Dick Locher, Popeye, Asterix & Obelix, Betty Boop...I don't care for anatomy, I care for cartoons...Rob Liefeld is a cartoonist that adds a lot of details but does quick layouts, cool combination.

AshK said...

Yet another reader who found this post via Google :)

As someone who values aesthetics in a comic (along with a few other things), I find most of Liefeld's 'art' to be simply painful to look at, from the unnatural expressions to the obvious mistakes and awkward everything. I really had to add my two cents here: that drawing comics driven by 'excitement' alone is no excuse for... well, for any of what Kleefeld wrote above, and all the other (many) things that Liefeld did wrong. I know bashing the guy has been done to death and beyond, but that doesn't make it any less true.

Anonymous said...

I read and collected comics from the late 70's to late 90's. I have a ton of his work. I liked him in New Mutants and X-Force and followed him. When he got to be the "main attraction" so to speak, a lot of other artists work suffered because they emulated a lot of what he did.
This can be seen in Jim Lee's work on the X-Men books and somewhat in Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man work. McFarlane is my favorite of that time in the 90's but even he had drawbacks to his work: often times overly large faces or facial features, later on in his work there was just too much going on the page at times which interfered with the story being told and I'm sure there are other examples.
Rob Liefeld is just a mediocre artist who got too huge, too fast and didn't do what one should always do in one's profession...continue to learn and better one's self at it. He didn't have to and he got lazy. When you don't put out your personally owned book on time (youngblood months late)...that's Laziness and Hubris.
All these guys may have gotten rich during the 90's boom of crossovers and covers and etc. but their books will not have the selling value in years to come and that should make them feel bad as well. In fifty years it won't be a Spawn or Youngblood, or even an X-men variant cover or Spider-man Foil cover that sells. It's going to be the first book that featured some artist that no one paid any attention to until he paid his dues, mastered his craft and drove himself to excellence. (Same for a Writer or combination)
Ex. Neal Adams, Simon Bisley, Jim Lee, Bill Sienkiewics. There are others, I just wanted to drop a few that were recognizable.
That's my wall of thought.

Anonymous said...

Liefeld sucks, I agree.

However your first points about Mjolnir's handle and Hulk's feet were clearly not accounting for perspective.

Anonymous said...

Cover - 4 of the characters are in vurtually the same pose, and it's a pose he over-uses. One that conveniently conceals the hips and feet, which are areas of anatomy that he just doesn't understand.

Pg 10 - Captain America's neck is broken. He often draws heads floating at odd/unnatural angles to keep the faces in front or 3/4 view, the two he knows how to draw (ish).