EXCLUSIVE: Rob Liefeld has a hell of a lot going on. Deadpool has been a fan-favorite character of his for a while, but in 2016, the dude hit the mainstream in the Ryan Reynolds-starring film of the same name. Of course, Liefeld has had a ridiculous amont of stuff going on, not the least of which is an upcoming Prophet film in the works from Studio 8.
At this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, I had a chance to sit down with the man and talk about that and Deadpool, but we also delved into such topics as the new Titans trailer, DC fandom, and his love of anime and manga and how it helped shape his career.
LRM: I imagine it’s pretty insane for you as well. You got two great things, “Deadpool 2” has been killing it at the box office. “Prophet” just got announced to be picked up.
Liefeld: Yes. Don’t leave out the Titans. Minka Kelly’s character of Dawn Granger. I created her. 1987, my first job. And she’s come to life, and putting her hand through people’s faces. You see that trailer?
LRM: I did see the trailer.
Liefeld: Yeah, yeah. With Barbara Kesel and Carl Kesel, she did not exist prior to 1987. You know, Hawk and Dove as a concept was a failed concept. It was war and peace, two brothers. They were at odds with each other. In 1985, they killed the male Dove in the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and for two years Hawk was alone. In 1987, myself, it was my first job. They were like, we want to do a new female Dove, and in the third paperback, even the Kesels … At the time they were married. They talked like, listen to Rob. I mean, I had to fight for every inch of that character. But she launched, and the female Dove has been around 10 years longer than the male Dove. So Dawn Granger has existed 30 years. The original dove was 20. So no, I’ve been waiting for this trailer to drop. I mean, Geoff Johns was showing me pics from the set since October. I’m like, “oh my gosh, oh my gosh.” And so Hawk and Dove is what I’ve made my career on, but like Dawn Granger, again, I have like creator credit on her.
So that launched yesterday. Obviously, you said Deadpool is killing it. Just, you know … And it’s everywhere. I mean, I was out scootering around this morning, and there’s all these Monster energy drinks with Deadpool on them. I’m like he’s … What Fox has done to me … They keep topping themselves. These are brilliant minds who are getting him out there in the most unconventional ways. The toilet seat covers here at Comic-Con, which if your readers don’t know, are in all the bathrooms in the convention center … If they’re still there, because people are stealing them in giant quantities. ‘Cause I mean, a guy brought me 10 to sign. And I’m like, you just robbed that from 10 people. Like, 10 people don’t have a toilet cover right now, you know. So dude, I mean, it’s crazy. So it’s a lot of fun.
It’s Deadpool. We got Prophet, again, like you said, with Studio 8, which is … They sold me on their vision. I was really like excited. These guys read their comics. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised anymore, because in the ’90s, when I would take meetings on comic book movies, nobody read comics. They just heard, comics are supposed to be special. Now, these execs grew up on them. I can talk hours, and a meeting that’s scheduled for an hour will go two and a half hours, ’cause we’re just talking craft, you know. Talking the craft, and talking the stories. So good times.
LRM: So tell me a bit more about your reaction to the Titans trailer.
Liefeld: Well, I knew it was gonna be dark. No one else did. So I love it. You know, I love it. It was funny. I took my kids out to dinner last night, and they all … I hadn’t seen ’em all day, and they all weighed in on it. Two of my kids loved it, one of my kids was not into it at all.
LRM: Why not?
Liefeld: He just didn’t … You know what, he’s 16 years old, and he couldn’t articulate. But he said, “Dad, I didn’t like it.” I just can’t tell you why. He just didn’t like it. And I’m like, well did you not think Robin looked cool? “No, Robin looks great. Robin looks great, Dad.” And what about Hawk and Dove? “Hawk and Dove look great. Hawk and Dove look great.” I’m like, “You gotta tell me.” And he may just be being obstinate, but like my other two kids were like, “Dad, it’s aw-” They were not expecting … And the F-bomb to Batman is the … I was like, wow. We just got that right out in the open. Like, if I was to re-do it … They’re not gonna wanna hear this. I woulda waited … I wouldn’t have put that in the first trailer. I think it — not derailed — but it took a lot of focus. It’s sucking up all the oxygen, and my kids didn’t mention that. But look, I think they’re trying to tell you that they’re not Arrow, and they’re not Flash, you know. And maybe they did it in kind of an overtly, you know, aggressive manner. But you know, the bottom line is, cream rises to the top. And I’ve seen enough of this show, and I know that the cream rises to the top with this one.
LRM: Have you seen any completed episodes yet?
Liefeld: I have seen a lot of footage. Like I said, I will get footage sent to me. ‘Cause Geoff Johns loves talking Dove, and he grew up being a fan of my work, has expressed this to me numerous times. So he tells me this. “You know how much I love Dove, Rob.” You know. You know. So he sends me everything. I mean, from the first screen tests on through some killer action stuff, and some just Dawn Granger Hank Hall stuff, where they’re just … ‘Cause they’re great as not Hawk and Dove, like I said. So I think it’s gonna be really well received. But I dunno, man, I gotta tell you, there’s a whole sidebar … We could do a whole episode on DC fandom, because I’ve been in this business for 32 years, and DC fans are traditionally more finicky. I’m gonna say finicky. Finicky. I’m thinking of that commercial that I had growing up … You’re way too young. But they pushed … It was Life cereal, and they said give it to Mikey.
LRM: He hates everything.
Liefeld: And then he ate it. And I’ve always thought, like, DC fans just kinda go, “That’s not for me.” And they, you know … Which is very bizarre, because I gotta tell you, man … So you know, a DC fan, I’ll say, “I think Aquaman is gonna be awesome!” “Oh, jury’s still out.” And then I’ll go, “I think Shazam looks terrific.” “Oh, looks no good to me.” And I’m, okay, well I’m just gonna keep being positive. And then I’m like, oh, “I love Titans,” and a guy said, “that was an abortion.” And I’m like, you … They like sit and dream of these like …
LRM: Creative ways to hate on something.
Liefeld: Yeah, and I’m like, are they happy? Can they be happy? Can they achieve happiness? So I think wisely, you just gotta drown them out, and know that … Like again, I got three teenagers. We’re gonna have the streaming service in our house. They’ll watch it, and they’ll watch it repeatedly, but look, again, seeing … Hawk and Dove are … I cannot stress enough. They were canceled in the 60s after eight issues, and they never had another series. Then we did it in 1987, and they’ve had about 50 … They had like a nice healthy run, and have been revisited several times. Seeing them come to life is fun. They’re cool characters. Again, they were war and peace in the 60s. One brother represented war, one brother represented peace, and every cover … Someone even said yeah, Dove wasn’t done any favors by DC on ever cover. He was like, don’t do that, Hank! Don’t do that, Hawk! That’s not a character you … The guy telling you not to do stuff is not somebody you …
But when we introduced Dove, I mean, I was like, I wanna make her a badass, like, ninja. She moves like the wind. And I mean, to see Minka Kelly move the way she did, and they’re like, oh! And have the wings cut … She’s not a pacifist. And we changed it into chaos and order, and we gave it a supernatural element that didn’t exist prior. So it’s gonna be … And there’s a lot … One thing I told my son, that’s it. My youngest son … Now I remember. He wasn’t digging Raven, and I said are you aware that she’s the daughter of the Devil? No. And I said, except the Devil in this is called Trigon. And he goes, “Oh. Yeah, I didn’t know that, Dad.” I go,” Okay, son, let’s read up and then revisit. Read up, revisit, right?” So …
LRM: What didn’t he like about Raven? Just a feeling?
Liefeld: Dude, kids are kids, right? We could sit here and talk about 16-year-olds ’till we’re blue in the face. But the thing is, my son is a giant … He is a massive anime fan. He consumes …When I was a kid, I watched Bastard, Berserker, Gundam, Patlabor. That was my stuff of my early 20s. And now, he goes, “Dad, you gotta watch One-Punch Man, and we’ll watch ’em all.”
LRM: Did you watch “One-Punch Man”?
Liefeld: Watched all of ’em. “You gotta watch My Hero Academia.” I’m caught up. You know, he’s just … He really is my anime kid. So he has a lot of validity, but you know, I just … It’s interesting. Like I said, two of ’em … My other two kids, my oldest son and my daughter, totally dug ’em. Totally dug ’em. Totally dug Titans.
LRM: All right. So, curious, have you watched One Piece at all, or read One Piece? Have you heard of it?
Liefeld: I have, actually, yes. Yes. It’s very violent, and I enjoy it very much.
LRM: Yeah. Yeah, I just … When I get to watch that, I always think just the sheer number of characters and abilities and things they have in character designs …
Liefeld: Yes, yes, yes, no. He actually turned me on to that too. And there’s another one I can’t think of. I can’t think of this one that he’s really into right now. But yeah. anime’s a big deal in our house, so …
Cable, all my X-Force stuff, I leaned heavily into anime. That was a giant influence on me. I mean, Cable, Shatterstar, all were very much reflective of my love of anime. The gear, the pads, the big … The yelling faces. American audiences are saying, “Why are your characters always yelling?” I said, have you opened Akira, or have you opened Bastard, or have you op- I mean, Fist of North Star? “Ahhh!” You know, I mean, that’s, you know, the … So I pulled a lot of that in my work, and I honestly think it’s why my work soared above the rest in the 90s.
It tapped into an emotion, and I was … While everybody else was trying to do how to draw comics the Marvel way, I already had just digested that and applied it to a manga platform. ‘Cause I also understood, manga as published at that time, even when we reversed it in English … ‘Cause I got the pure stuff from the Japanese bookstore in my hometown. Even when you reversed it, the layouts don’t apply to us. But I took American layout and design, and took manga anime emotion and gestures, and smashed ’em together, and I’ve had a great career.
LRM: Are there any other characters out there … You have a lot of them that are obviously making it to the big and small screen and everything. Any other more obscure character out there of yours that you would like to see get the treatment soon?
Liefeld: You know, I don’t have any obscure characters left, honestly. Youngblood is a giant million-selling platform that has been toys and comics, and everyone is coming out of the woodworks. I literally couldn’t walk 10 feet yesterday without a producer asking me, can we do Youngblood together? I’m like, look, I’ve got another guy … No, no, no. Let me get in front of that guy. Youngblood is … And I knew I would hold it ’till last. But it’s my biggest success after X-Force, Deadpool, Cable. It is the number one, and that’s the one … I mean, literally, I went to two industry parties last night, and … “What can we do to get you” … I mean, it’s awesome. But it’s like, that will be the one that I’m the … probably the most difficult, ’cause if we’re not gonna do it right, we’re just not gonna do it. I can wait another 10 years.
The one thing about Prophet and Extreme on Netflix, I’ve had the … Being in the position I am with Deadpool and Cable, and even Dove, having participation in these characters, so that when there’s a Deadpool comic, and there’s a Deadpool poster, and there’s a Dead — that, you know, I receive a portion of that, I am in a position to say no to a lot of stuff. So I’m not gonna say yes unless it’s a good fit. And that’s why I’m not rushing in to do any deals or stuff that just doesn’t fit. So you know, with Youngblood … Youngblood is the one that everyone seems to want, that if you go on my inst- anytime I do any sort of announcement … Prophet. Where’s Youngblood? It’s Deadpool. Where’s Youngblood? It launched Image Comics. It is the flagship book. It was the first book out of the gate. It was the only Image Comic for four months. So, you know, it’s got a special place in the history of comics. So I’m gonna be a little pickier about that book.
LRM: Fair enough. So one of our guys, he’s a huge, huge, huge comic fan with everything. He wanted me to ask about The Pouch.
Liefeld: Yes, yes, yes.
LRM: What can you tell me about this character? And can we see this character come to the big screen anytime soon?
Liefeld: I think The Pouch is probably gonna be something animated. Already in the talks that I’ve had, and the people I’m talking with … Look I just did it. I just … I thought one day, what if I created a character all made of pouches? And when I hit the face, I just knew … I’m like, The Pouch had this face, and the button in the mi — Dude, sometimes you just look at a design, you go, “this is gonna work.” And it ju- We put a cover to Bloodstrike #2, a book that I published, and I made it a Pouch variant. And I mean, in this market, to sell 20 thousand of one cover. One cover. The orders for those three covers, The Pouch outsold … And on my website, it is the biggest selling … It’s outselling every Deadpool book I’ve ever done. I cannot ship them and print them fast enough. But we just scratched the surface.
I mean, I did a little two-page feature in the first to show you kinda what he does, and some of my visual … Some of the … Kinda there’s a guy throwing a punch at him, and the one pouch is opening. You can see that his arm is all the way through beyond what would be realistic …
You have no idea what’s in these pouches. And when I show you, you know, I mean there’s … Like, every one unlocks a different secret and opportunity. And again, I just tried to make something funny, and I had … You know, I put it on my Instagram, and it blew up. It’s the power of social media. It’s the power of interacting on fans. It felt like Cable and Deadpool all over again. Like, it felt like 27 years ago. Just immediate … We love it. ‘Cause that’s how it was back in the late 80s, early 90s, man. I knew what a Midas touch was. I would put a character out there, blow up. Put a character, blow up. And I would just write them. And it was great, because I didn’t have access to the popular characters. Wolverine and Spider Man were not available to me. They were protected by their own, you know, gatekeepers. So if I was gonna have any success, I had to create my own. So The Pouch feels like that all over again, but we’ll see.