Rob Liefeld, writer of DC's Savage Hawkman, Grifter, and Deathstroke (where he's also the artist), quit DC Comics today, which isn't really the big news, but the sudden manner in which he did it, followed by a Twitter rant with pointed words toward unnamed members of DC's editorial staff. Grant Morrison announced his departure from the company last month after his obligations are fulfilled, and Liefeld stated then (via Twitter) that Liefeld would also be leaving DC in 2013. It just happened a little sooner than expected. I'm not going to re-run all of Liefeld's tweets, but you can read some of them collected on Newsarama. Currently, Newsarama's commenters are chiming in with two flavors of negativity:
- Rob Liefeld is a big dumb idiot who can't finish anything and a bad artist.
- New52 was the first step in DC Comic's eventual, swift demise.
Are either of these opinions true? Well, something is going on at DC, though I'm so far removed from the loop, I'm not sure what is happening over there. I know there was a big editorial shake-up in the middle of the New52's first year. I know that George Perez, pretty much Liefeld's opposite as an artist, had trouble writing New52's Superman, hamstrung by Morrison's carte blanche secret plans on Action Comics. I know that the creative team behind Static Shock imploded immediately after the first issue hit the stands. I know Chris Roberson left iZombie and said of DC, "I don't agree with the way they treat creators and their general business practices." And I haven't even brought up the Before Watchmen controversy.
All of this, coupled with anecdotal talk on podcasts and such about how different, how scary, how corporate the Big Two are now make me wonder just how dire everything is behind-the-scenes. (It's all rainbows and lollipops at Marvel, with Marvel NOW on the horizon and coffers full of Avengers coin, but Marvel has also done some hardcore cost-cutting recently, from personnel lay-offs to changing the paper stock of their covers to the same flimsy paper found inside.) Specifically, whatever's going on at DC is causing some long-time creators to look at the company in a completely different light than they ever have before.
There's a new regime at DC Comics, with Diane Nelson as president, Dan DiDio and Jim Lee as co-publishers, Bob Harras as editor-in-chief, and Geoff Johns as chief creative officer. There are always big changes when there's a massive shift in leadership like the one at DC, and it's hard to believe that creatives like DiDio, Lee, Harras, and Johns would sacrifice the creator at the altar of the bottom line (or their own personal interests). I can't say what's happening, but I hope it shakes out. I like DC and I want to see their characters in exciting, creative stories.
I wasn't reading Liefeld's books so it's no loss to me personally that he's quitting. The comics that Liefeld creates, whether as an artist or a writer, don't hold much appeal to me. I don't mind him on pin-ups or covers -- the stylistic flourishes that drew my attention to his work back in his New Mutants days still exist -- but his actual sequential work tends to play to his fans only, delivering exactly the simple Rob Liefeld action book they expect, filled with angry, gnashed-teeth posturing and women with interchangeable faces (it's pretty much the same opinion I have of Jim Lee, who's widely considered a "better" artist).
The funny thing is, I think Rob Liefeld has good taste in other people's comics. If you look at his Extreme relaunch as it stands at Image, he's assembled quite a line-up of oddball superhero books that are worth taking a look at (I'm reading Supreme and Glory monthly, I liked Prophet and Bloodstrike quite a bit, but I haven't sampled Youngblood). These are all based on concepts he created, but the creative teams in place seem to have free reign to run wild with Liefeld's toys. The books are unusual and a lot of fun. Even if you go back a decade, to his Awesome Comics days, Liefeld was surrounding himself with commercially and critically reliable creators (including Alan Moore) to make his creations look better.
His true calling may be in an EIC capacity, creatively overseeing a stable of books, and I don't think you could say that about just anyone.