Must read: How to Beat The Haters by Rob Liefeld

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n560233552 1429432 2450 Must read: How to Beat The Haters by Rob Liefeld
Not too long ago, Rob Liefeld had a long blog post about how to deal with the ups and downs of the business. When you think about it, he’s the perfect person to write that piece — his ups have been high and his downs have been low. And despite his very name being one of those push-butten codewords for bad art among many comics observers, Liefeld hasn’t let that stop him. He does more public appearances than ever and every time we see him, he appears to be having a good time. Say what you will about his art, in that way Liefeld has exhibited a professionalism that a lot of people could learn from. And one of the message of his piece is that you just can’t listen to the haters:

Very recently, a longtime friend and comic book author called me in a panic. He had enjoyed a nice run of success but his recent projects had been critically lambasted. He was tasting the fanboy wrath and was clearly coming undone. “Rob, how do you cope with it?? Does it affect other areas of your life??” What? This guy had lost his mind. I distinctly remember having to work extra hard to calm him down while I watched the baseball playoffs. He chewed my ear off for an hour. ” They can;t find a single positive review or quote to put on the trade collection” he whined. I stopped it all cold with offered up some blunt talk. ” Your books are top sellers. They chart great and you are moving tons of product. I don’t get your worries here. Welcome to success” And I meant it, I went on to cite many directors and movie stars including Michael Bay and Tom Cruise that the public supposedly loathed but somehow always managed to chart and connect with the masses. Same with pop stars and all other variety of artists. ” Stop worrying. I wish I had your problems” I commented. “This will pass and your next project will be even better.” That’s how I honestly feel and I stand by that sentiment always. Get up, get back at it. That’s how its done. You have to have thick skin in this business. Period. It’s not for the weak or faint of heart. Fan is short for fanatic and we are all very passionate about our favorite characters and story lines.


Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather Michael Bay was stopped before he kills brain cells again. But there’s a lot of good practical advice here, as well.

Comments

  1. I have to say I agree. I’ve only met Mr. Liefeld in passing, but I’ve watched him interact with his fans, & his patience, sunny good cheer & interaction level with long lines & occasional catty comments is something a lot of industry veterans, as well as newbies, could learn from.

  2. Rob was probably talking to Jeph Loeb. :)

  3. Given a choice between being critically panned and selling a lot of books, and getting great reviews but not selling… I’d be happy with either. :)

  4. Mike Murphy says:

    I doubt he was often that professional with the folks that worked under him – I had friends who colored for him who went unpaid when Awesome went under. Just prior to that, he had tried to convince them to move from New England to California to work under him directly… if they had, they would have been up the creek.

    I also doubt that the color separators owed money after the collapse of Extreme ever got repaid either…

  5. Aaron Poehler says:

    I must admit Jeph Loeb’s name certainly shot right into my mind too.

  6. Synsidar says:

    The problem with rejecting criticism from fans because they’re fanatics is that the praise should be rejected for the same reasons. If a soap opera fan loves an actor because she thinks he really is the character he plays, her love is as insane as any hatred she might have for another one. Too many fans react primarily to what happens to their favorite characters instead of reacting to the stories as whole works. If “what happens” is what a fan is addressing, whether it’s in a comment or a review, then it’s dismissible. If the fan is reacting to the story as a whole, then his reaction is something to consider. If no intelligent reviewer understands what the creator is doing, then there’s definitely a communication problem.

    Then, of course, there’s the money issue. Ideally, fan reactions to the stories shouldn’t affect the creator’s income. But we don’t live in an ideal world.

    SRS

  7. Will Naslund says:

    I’ve seen Rob at several cons, and he always comes off as a friendly, happy-go-lucky guy who is genuinely grateful for his success — a welcome contrast the Comic Book Guy-style misanthropy exemplified by some other pros.

    And despite his issues drawing feet, guns that look like hairdryers, and all the other widely-known and exhaustively documented flaws in his art — there’s an undeniable dynamism to his work that’s fun and kind of charming.

    He’s also, IMHO, somewhat underrated as a character designer. Like them or not, Cable and Deadpool are two in a very select group of Marvel characters created since the mid-1970s to become genuine commercial successes — and much of the credit for that has to go to Rob’s design work on them.

    All that said, his flooding the market with myriad half-baked, never to be finished titles during his Extreme Studios/Maximum Press days likely helped to put a lot of retailers out of business during the collapse of the speculator market — and very likely left a lot of unpaid (or partially paid) collaborators and/or staffers holding the bag when those imprints went belly up in the industry implosion that followed as well.

    And his reputation with respect to delivering on commissions is decidedly…mixed.

    So is a lot of the negativity and invective directed at him hyperbolic and ridiculous? Absolutely. But at least some of it is well-earned.

  8. Liefeld is absolutely right. It’s not about the fans, it’s about getting the job done, and standing your ground in the arena rather than the sidelines, and regardless if the crowd is cheering or booing you.

    Several lines from Kipling’s IF poem address this subject better than i ever could:

    http://www.kipling.org.uk/poems_if.htm

  9. Rob is a good guy and honestly I’m often at odds when people rip on him so much. I’ve met him in person and through other business actions; he allowed me to use his characters in my series.

    He’s right in regard to selling and staying in the biz. It affords the creator to keep swinging. Folks need to remember it’s not too hard to get in the biz, but it’s hard as HELL to stay in and keep pluggin’ away and gaining trust (no matter what your style) and to learning your craft.

    Also, I’ve come to learn that it is *never* up to me to tell others what to like and consume. Granted I can have an opinion, but in my old age I’ve come to let fake reality TV, pro wrestling, and pseudo-celebrity roll off my back. My book is also ripped on on a daily basis, but professionals like Rob are good examples of how to continue to live your dream as a creator in this field. I’m all for diversity and that includes work from the likes of Lark Pien to Rob Liefeld to Larry Marder to Derek Kirk Kim to Jim Balant and others.

    Listening to fans and criticism has a place in the spectrum, but the rainbow has many colors.

    Damn, that was a really corny line, haha! But the sentiment is the same.

  10. “Very recently, a longtime friend and comic book author called me in a panic. He had enjoyed a nice run of success but his recent projects had been critically lambasted. He was tasting the fanboy wrath and was clearly coming undone. “Rob, how do you cope with it?? Does it affect other areas of your life??” What? This guy had lost his mind.”

    FRANK MILLER.

  11. Hmm, hadn’t heard any of that stuff about who Rob L. worked with. That’s unfortunate. But he’d hardly be the first artist I’ve heard of being late with commissions. That seems more like a default setting in the convention business I’ve seen swirl around me.

  12. jacob goddard says:

    Indie guys like me LOVE liefeld. Seriously. We tend to put him in the same category as Fletcher Hanks, or even Jack Kirby.

    He makes superhero crap that’s actually expressive and energetic. More fun to look at than just about anything else in the genre.

  13. jacob goddard says:

    Aw man, a wonderfully written post ruined by bad punctuation on the very final word.

  14. Will Naslund says:

    @ Eva

    “But he’d hardly be the first artist I’ve heard of being late with commissions. That seems more like a default setting in the convention business I’ve seen swirl around me.”

    Eh, I don’t think that’s quite fair. I’m not all that well-traveled commission-wise, but I’ve still been pleasantly surprised by the coolness and professionalism displayed by just about all of the folks I’ve dealt with.

    And many artists known for slow turnaround times compensate by not taking money up front — which I think is a totally equitable approach.

    But if your rates are high *and* you require payment in full upfront — then flaking (or worse, not delivering at all) is a more serious issue, and can open you up to some justifiable criticism.

  15. Synsidar says:

    Aw man, a wonderfully written post ruined by bad punctuation on the very final word.

    There were many more typos, although they don’t invalidate what he wrote.

    SRS

  16. jacob goddard says:

    Yeah, I regretted writing that after I posted it. It’s like the angry fanboys ignoring the awesome, aggressive, adolescent energy he brings to his work and instead bitching that he doesn’t draw anatomically correct ankles.

  17. Jeremy Holstein says:

    Liefeld’s resume is littered with half completed series or promised comics that never materialize, which somewhat undermines his point.

    That being said I completely agree with Jacob above. Anatomy, backgrounds, perspective… Who cares? There’s a manic energy on a Liefeld page that few others can match. And you’ve got to admire his recent commitment to comics. He’s penciling/inking two books a month right now.

  18. Comic2read says:

    Rob Liefeld’s artstyle I never got used to. It was like an Aaron Spelling show if Spelling did comics. But I wouldn’t go so far to say I hate it. If others like it good for him.

  19. AfterHours Al™ says:

    I’ve just read Liefeld’s blog posting, and admire his ‘keep your head up’ attitude. In most aspects, Liefeld has a very healthy and positive attitude.

    However, not everyone who criticizes his work is a raving kook or a hater. It seems that if you don’t think he’s great, you must then hate him?

    I think that a creative person needs to have the strength of character to identify whether the critical comments are coming from a legitimate place before dismissing them.

    Why does he not address those tiresome and repetitive criticisms (you know the cliches: the leg pouches, the hidden feet, the questionable anatomy…) and make it part of his craft to quietly learn how to draw better feet and fewer pouches?

    Then he can sell his books to his fans AND the reformed haters/art critics, and have the satisfaction of taking the wind out of their sails as he signs more books than ever.

  20. Chris Hero says:

    There’s a lot not to like about Liefeld’s art, but there’s a lot to like as well. I love the manic energy and the kooky designs. I also like that he clearly gives a shit. That matters a lot.

  21. Snikt Snakt says:

    “Liefeld’s resume is littered with half completed series or promised comics that never materialize”

    I used to be a big Liefeld fan until this exact reason killed any interest I still had in his work. Now I avoid buying anything that has his name on it…

  22. Snikt Snakt says:

    Who is that guy in the picture w/Rob?

  23. Any advice coming from liefeld is suspect…almost as suspect as his “art” “style”. Oh I hate Bay and Cruise, they don’t get my money either.

  24. legitsquare says:

    Liefeld is a true class act and I have nothing but respect and affection for him.

    His art doesn’t always appeal to me, but when he’s paired with a totally insane action heavy story I think it works and is entertaining.

    Huzzah and Bravo to Rob Liefeld.

  25. Shawn Kane says:

    I’m not a Rob Liefeld fan but I appreciate his spirit. Ever since the Watchmen and Dark Knight days, there’s an ever growing pretentious group that wants to read about superheroes but must be “artistically viable” so that they can enjoy them. Liefeld gets alot of flack whereas someone like Jonathan Hickman (good writer but does extremely boring comics to me) gets their praise. Both creators have their own strengths and weaknesses. It’s really about personal preference.

  26. Rob Liefeld’s only fault is that he doesn’t draw MORE comics.

  27. Synsidar says:

    Rob Liefeld’s only fault is that he doesn’t draw MORE comics.

    Liefeld has a right to his personal style, but why shouldn’t readers look at his bad anatomy, misproportioned figures, etc. and conclude that they’re the result of someone not taking the time to draw the things correctly? It’s not as if dynamic artwork can’t be produced without distorting bodies. If a writer typed as fast as he could because he was eager to express his creativity and the result was a mishmash of run-on sentences, misspelled words, semi-developed ideas, and readable text, he’d have hardly any readers. Artwork that repeatedly takes a reader out of the story is as much of a problem as terrible grammar is. Liefeld is arguably being praised for his intentions, not for what he produces.

    SRS

  28. R. Boros says:

    He’s an interesting character, Rob Liefield. Seemingly a great guy with an applaudable professional attitude and outlook, unique artistic style, and influential in the industry. And yet there’s that other side: the infringement stuff like with “Fighting American”, the flaws with his style, and the vehement negative perception of his work by fanboys. He is the great dichotomy.

  29. jacob lyon goddard says:

    i do honestly believe that after the original Image 7 have all passed on, history will be the kindest to Liefeld’s stuff.
    much like Fletcher Hanks now.

  30. Liefeld has a right to his personal style, but why shouldn’t readers look at his bad anatomy, misproportioned figures, etc. and conclude that they’re the result of someone not taking the time to draw the things correctly?

    THIS.

    Sometimes, Mr. Liefeld, people who criticize your artwork (and I’m using that last word generously) aren’t haters. Sometimes, they’re just pointing out ways you could make said artwork better.

    You can always disregard criticism you find invalid. But disregarding all criticism is the pathway to stagnation.

  31. jacob goddard says:

    Some of you guys are waaay too focused on the mainstream tropes of illustration that were established well before any of your great grand parents were born and appropriated by comics in the late 30s.

    It’s all about who can put ink on paper in an interesting way, everything else comes second.

  32. The Beat says:

    Liefeld’s misdeeds in the 90s are well known, and egregious. Just to be clear, I’m saying that his current persona at public appearances — despite his name being a very public joke in some quarters — is very professional.

  33. Synsidar: here’s why Rob Liefeld hate is counter-productive and harmful to comics:

    At some point, Liefeld became the sacrificial lamb for comic artists. All was forgiven because we could always point to him and say “that’s the worst guy. Him. At least I’m not HIM.” It was a cop out. He became Vanilla Ice.

    People hated him just to be hating him. Blogs with “40 worst Rob Liefeld drawings,” or the Tumblr blog dedicated to his work that was actually dedicated to insulting him. It became reflexive. “Liefeld” itself became an insult. And I know that the guy’s got a million dollars or whatever, but it still bugs me to see people with little or no critical insight just kicking a guy just because he’s been greenlit for kicking. It’s anti-intellectual and it’s unthinking.

    People say “oh his art is so terrible,” but that isn’t the truth: he’s no Alan Davis (who is?) but he’s a lot more accomplished than a lot of the talentless artschool undergrads who never have done anything yet see fit to compare themselves to this fellow just because he gave Captain America tits once. They compare themselves to him and they say “I WOULD DIE IF SOMEONE SAID MY ART WAS WORSE THAN ROB LIEFELD,” or things like “Rob Liefeld is the worst artist in the WORLD!” It’s not even slightly true; it’s not even subjectively true. Apart from whatever he’s achieved in terms of making art for a living, he does what every commercial artist dreams of: he interprets the world through the prism of his personal viewpoint. Some artists work for forty years and never develop a point-of-view. Liefeld had a developed POV from day one.

    I know that people don’t want to hear it, but to hell with what they like: Rob Liefeld is an important cartoonist because he has a personal voice that carries its own meaning. And that’s worth more than proper anatomy and classical instruction. And who are any of *us* to offer him a critique? Would you walk up to Gary Panter and say “hey Gary, that leg on Jimbo looks a little funny.” No, you wouldn’t. Panter is afforded the respect of a professional who knows what he is doing. And his anatomy is far crazier than Liefeld’s. No one would dare question him–not because the average comic fan “understands” his work–but because we haven’t had decades of it being socially acceptible to rip on the guy. Panter was embraced and people made an intelligent effort to try and understand what he was going for. Liefeld–for many cultural reasons–was never afforded that benefit of the doubt.

    I don’t believe that most people *have* a legitimate gripe against Liefeld’s art. His work looks like what superhero comics look to the rest of the world: totally bonkers. His work is already standing the test of time; he will outlast most of us.

    God bless ‘im.

  34. This is what I post when a unusually snarky troll pops up..Thanks to Anton Ego:”In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends…”

  35. Xenos says:

    I guess I’m a bit of a hater. Yet I can’t dislike the guy, just his artwork on a number of levels. He’s a damn nice guy and he always seem to be trying. And it’s not like it’s all bad. His crazy innovative panel design and energy, while sometimes lead to problems, are also a plus. Just as fans can be blind to his faults, haters can be blind to his strengths. And even his his technical merit in drawing is faulty, his pure energy and love for comics has kept him a huge star in comics. You gotta at least give him that.

  36. Synsidar says:

    We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.

    Critics have to be knowledgeable about their subjects to benefit their audiences. That leads to specialization, and the sophistication of the material matching the sophistication of the criticism. Fanfare, for instance, provides detailed reviews of classical music recordings. I bought it for years when I was collecting CDs and enjoyed reading reviews, even of recordings I didn’t intend to buy, because of what I learned about music from them.

    Criticism isn’t inherently negative or nasty. The critic might see vast potential in a fictional universe and its characters and be disappointed when stories fail to realize that potential. They become sharply negative when they see mistakes of the same types occurring repeatedly, or evidence of laziness or sloppiness.

    In the case of Liefeld, his lack of formal education can be held against him. If someone doesn’t know what the rules are, he doesn’t know when it’s okay to break them, or whether his readers will be sophisticated enough to know why he’s breaking one of them.

    SRS

  37. Newton Burcham says:

    I think Liefeld is as a good as anyone in the field of comic art. If your judging by self expression and personal style, he ranks with the best. You can always recognize his work instantly. Just like Kirby and Frazetta he stands out amongst the rest and gets criticized for his individuality.

  38. Newton Burcham says:

    Pardon my typo “you`re”.

  39. I think the trick is just to keep the criticism legitimate. Rob, by all accounts (I’ve meet him once) is a nice guy with a passion for comics. Where he falls down is reliability (which is a fact) and the quality of his art (which is an opinion). If you want to slam him, slam him on those. If you want to call a comic creator a jerk, stick to Pat Lee.

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