People sometimes ask me if I like Rob Liefeld.
I met Rob Liefeld for the first time the same week Sweets #1 came out. It was also the same week of the San Diego Comic-Con and that’s why we were both there. I had a table in the Image Comics section (I miss those days), and Rob Liefeld was directly to my right at the corner table.
Back in the day, I bought X-Force and Youngblood comics, and those that know me well know that I have a very special spot in my heart for the Bloodwulf gun-bike. That stuff is outrageous and a shitload of fun.
Truth be told, the final Marvel books all the Image Creators ( X-Force, X-Men, Spider-Man, Wolverine) are what got me into comics in the first place. New issue number ones, clean entry points, fun art, lots of energy, that era of comics seemed eager to welcome in new readers and I was one of them. That stuff was my entry point. When they made the jump, I followed those creators to Image, and I got in even deeper from there with the second wave at Image and right into Dark Horse, Vertigo, etc. I never looked back.
Still, until that SDCC, I don’t recall ever actually meeting Rob at any convention I’ve ever done, and I didn’t know much about him except for the Levi’s commercial and the Stan Lee video series “Comic Book Greats,” I owned four of the set and Rob was on two of those.
As I normally do for big conventions, I got there a little early to set up. Rob got there around the same time and dropped off a few boxes, then started chatting with old friends. At some point, he started making the rounds to introduce himself to many of the Image creators he hadn’t met, including me. He flipped through some of my original art pages, said a few nice things, I gave him a copy of Sweets, thanked him for helping start Image Comics, and he moved on. As comic book conversations go, it was pretty light, but the guy already had a line wrapped around the corner.
For those that don’t know, SDCC is the best and the worst of all the comic book conventions. Because of the size and the attention, it’s great in so many ways, but there’s also a big downside of the size. The constant meetings, signings, panels, and a massive crowd that makes all of those things difficult to get to, and even harder to get back from. Table time is precious and scarce. Still, I’d say Rob put in a solid amount of time at his table, not an easy task for anyone.
As expected, Rob always had a huge line and spent most of his time signing books. He did reach into his bag and hand off the occasional commission or crank out a quick Deadpool sketch for a kid, but it was mostly signing books and talking comics. And Rob is very good at talking comics. His favorite runs, his favorite creators, the works. My first impression was that Rob Liefeld was a nice guy that loves comics.
Then it happened. Then it happened again. Four or five times during that convention, I heard ‘fans’ pass his table and insult him. Not constructive criticism or playful jokes, but bile-filled insult directed at the man and his work. Out loud. For everyone to hear.
Everyone has opinions on everything, and there’s a TON of comics out there I don’t enjoy, or that I consider downright horrible. But to actually scream an insult to a creator at a convention? I’ve never seen that happen to any creator at any convention, before or since. It was shocking. The fact that it happened multiple times is even more shocking.
To his credit, I never saw or heard Rob react to any of it, he never got noticeably angry or yelled anything to anyone. I was there, inches away. Not one thing. No one would have blamed him if he had gone off on one of those idiots, but he never did. Rob just kept his focus on the people there to meet him and was genuinely happy to meet the fans that support his work. Rob’s work helped get me into comics, I published my first fully creator-owned book at Image Comics, a company he helped start.
Yeah. I like that guy.