The Genius of Rob Liefeld
New Mutants #98
Plotter and Artist: Rob Liefeld
Scripter: Fabian Nicieza
Colorist: S. Buccelatto
Without question, Rob Liefled is the defining 1990s superhero artist. In terms of impact and influence, the conversation starts
with him and stays there long before it moves on to anyone else.
Like any superteam, the line-up of the New Mutants had changed over the years. But since the beginning it had featured a stable “core four” of Wolfsbane, Cannonball, Sunspot, and Dani Moonstar. These characters' personalities and relationships gave the team, and the book itself, its beating heart. In his second issue as artist, Simonson and Liefeld introduced a grizzled old cyborg mentor for the team – Cable – and so began a complete makeover of the team, from costumes to line-up to premise.Interest rose, and so did sales. Liefeld’s art was raw, but it was so vibrant and so different from the Marvel and DC house style that it was like catnip to fans, myself included. But Liefeld’s success on New Mutants wasn’t without drama. Louise Simonson didn’t like the addition of Cable or the fact that he represented the impending militarization of the team. Also, Liefeld had begun collaborating with editor Bob Harras to rework Simonson’s plots, often without consulting her.
Now Liefeld had clearly been brought in to shake things up – Marvel Age ran some of his sketchbook designs for new costumes and new characters before his run on the book even started – but it’s still hard to blame Simonson for feeling hijacked. In the first 11 issues of Liefeld's run, the team she had so lovingly written was ripped down to its studs: Dani Moonstar left the team to live in Asgard, Rusty and Skids joined the Mutant Liberation Front, Warlock was killed, and Wolfsbane was brainwashed into a Genoshan mutate. By the end of the “X-Tinction Agenda” crossover, Simonson had decided to leave the title.
In later interviews, Liefeld was unapologetic about
pushing Simonson out, saying disingenuously, “I was basically drawing a book
about a group of whining teenagers. I wanted more than just a change in
costumes.” (Comics Scene Spectacular 4).
“New Mutants No More.” Hank Kanalz. Comics Scene
Spectacular 4 (July 1991).
“Youngblood.” Mike McAvennie. Comics Scene 25 (April
“Rob Liefeld’s New Mutants Sketchbook.” Dwight Jon Zimmerman. Marvel Age 81 (Mid November 1989)
“Rob Liefeld Interview.” Peter Sanderson. Marvel Age
86 (March 1990)
“No Holds Barred.” Patrick Daniel O’Neill. Wizard 10 (June 1992)