It wasn’t until towards the end of the interview that Rob Liefeld apologized to me about being distracted. His child was sick, you see, so he’d been wrapped up in that all day. Considering the detailed answers he’d given about Deadpool and his controversial time at Marvel Comics, it was hard to spot just where he’d been distracted.
Liefeld has been both the king of comics and the butt of jokes during his long career, but he’s at a high point this week: Deadpool, his most popular and enduring character, is finally hitting movie screens. He spoke a bit about the origins of the Merc with a Mouth and the wild ride the movie went through to get made.
Deadpool was introduced in the first issue where you had almost complete creative control, New Mutants #98. How’d that come together?
I was told that I could do what I want, because if it didn’t work, they’d shut the lights off. I felt I knew what had been missing from the book: It was silly. It stuck out like a sore thumb. The disparity between X-Men and New Mutants was about 200,000 books. My first issue got a bump because it was a debut, and the success of Cable completely changed the direction. The book became serious. And they rewarded me by giving the book. There’s a pressure that comes with, “Oh my gosh, I got everything I ever wanted.” I get to dictate everything, and I get to do it from my table!
You didn’t have to work from New York?
Myself and Jim Lee, we had fax machines, and it took a year to convince Marvel to get fax machines! We would sit there and watch that paper scroll out, and it was magic! We made our books with snail mail and FedEx.
That sounds agonizing for an artist.
I’ll tell you a secret, there’s an artistic function of Deadpool. I didn’t have to draw all the hairstyles, the stubble, the facial features, I didn’t have to line it all up. I was jealous of Spider-Man and his big oval eyes. My assistant remembers I ran in and said, “I got my own Spider-Man! With guns and swords!”
You were working pretty much constantly back then, creating a huge number of characters.
[Laughs.] Young Rob Liefeld had no life. I stopped seeing all my friends. “I can’t go to the movies, I got to get these pages out.” I was a very motivated young man, trying to create my career opportunities, and I felt that creating characters was the way to advance. I didn’t have any in my corner, so I had to create my own. It’s the biggest kick that they’ve had longevity.