First and foremost, whatever your opinion on his art, it has to be said that Rob Liefeld is one of the nicest guys in comics. Ever since the first Deadpool film became an unexpected monster smash hit back in 2016, the legendary Image comics publisher co-founder finds himself once more in the Hollywood spotlight. While there have been a plethora of creators who have helped shape the character and franchise into the household name it is today Liefeld has become the goodwill ambassador of his creation and everyone’s favorite Merc with a Mouth.
While in NYC this week attending the Deadpool 2 red carpet premiere as well as hosting his LIEFELD CREATIONS POP UP shop in Midtown Manhattan, the Beat had a chance to chat with Liefeld on seeing one of his creations come to life on the roller coaster ride that is Deadpool.
Potential spoilers in interview so don’t say we didn’t give you fair warning!
Taimur Dar: Know you attended the NYC premiere this week. As of this interview how many times have you seen it?
Rob Liefeld: That was my 3rd time seeing it. I saw it with the director in February and Fox gave me a screening a week ago for my family up on the lot. I knew how good it was [back in February] so when the rumors started floating around that it wasn’t doing so well, I was like, “That’s a total lie.” When the first movie came out, I told Fox they had a monster hit on their hands. They didn’t know what they had. I speak comic book. I know my own fans. I am a fan. They blended these characters. The movie has great heart. It’s fun, and you cannot put a premium on fun.
Dar: How did seeing it at the premiere with an audience compare to those first two viewing experiences?
Liefeld: Fantastic! There’s stuff you know that’s just going to be so much richer with an audience. The audience is going to understand “fanny pack” and “cybernetic arm” jokes. There’s just so many in-jokes in the movie that they’re seeing for the first time. David Leitch is a great action director and this movie has big action pieces. This is definitely a bigger movie.
Dar: It’s funny, during a screening I attended there was a kid a few seats away who just lit up as soon as he heard Shatterstar name-drop Mojoworld.
Liefeld: I brought Robert Kirkman to one of the screenings and he lit up too. He loved that they referenced that and they were true to the origins. It’s those kinds of payoffs that are just so fun to experience.
Dar: Conversely, without giving too much away, it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing this iteration of X-Force again despite including fan favorite characters and recruiting some big name stars like Terry Crews. I’m sure the audience didn’t see that coming so as a creator behind some of those characters and the X-Force franchise what was your reaction?
Liefeld: I knew about it from the beginning. I was on set last summer and I was aware of everyone’s fates. Here’s the deal that I tell people, Josh [Brolin] as Cable and Zazie [Beetz] as Domino are the key new components. I knew everything else was gravy. People who have been getting excited about some of these other characters I go, “Stay focused on Ryan, Josh, and Domino!”
As a guy who created all these characters, it’s rich. You don’t get to hit it out of the park three times. Ryan is Deadpool. Josh as Cable and Zazie as Domino, that’s just perfect. They’re wonderful. Zazie steals the movie in my opinion. She’s so awesome and charming. I love how he [Deadpool] is talking about how un-cinematic her powers are and they’re SO cinematic.
The fates of the others were known to me early and I tell people, if we lived through Wolverine: Origins we can live through anything. Baraka-pool is our litmus test of what kind of pain we can endure. If we endured that, and moved through it and got to the other side with these two great movies, we can get through anything.
Given that there’ some twists in it, there’s no reason to believe we might not encounter these characters again.
Dar: The filmmakers don’t hold anything back with jokes at your expense particularly related to your unique art style. Was that something they felt obliged to run by you first and was it a sore spot at all?
Liefeld: Ryan [Reynolds] called me up and he said, “Rob, there’s a line with Domino about her powers and I just wanted to ask you if you have a problem with this. I said “Ryan…I love it.” I love to take the piss out of myself. I love to take the piss out of others. I said to him, “First of all, I have three teenagers. They make fun of me all the time, so it’s only fitting that my characters are going to make fun of me too.”
I loved it. I’m so glad it’s in there. It’s a wonderful shout-out along with fanny packs. I mean that’s a reference to pouches. [Imitates Deadpool voice] “What’s with the fanny packs? I had those in 199-never!” Great line! There’s so much in this movie that references the era.
Dar: Speaking of that era, going back to that comics period I was curious on your creative and thought process when it came to the conception of Domino, particularly her trademark tattoo eye.
Liefeld: I was obsessed with the game dominoes. And I always thought that a character who was 100% black and white would be a tremendous visual. So when the time came for New Mutants #98 I got the full reigns and I’m writing and drawing the book I had Deadpool, Domino, and Gideon.
Two [out of the three characters] connected with people but her visual was so important. The idea absolutely was that it [the black spot] was a mutation.
Ryan asked me, “What’s up with the luck power?” I told him that when you play dominoes, it’s a game of chance. When I pitched it to my editors they said, “Yeah, go with that. That’s good.” And now to see it unfold onscreen is so fun.
Dar: Anyone intimately familiar with the X-Men comics knows how complicated Cable’s backstory is, and the X-Men franchise in general if we’re being honest. Much like his depiction in the X-Men: The Animated Series, the filmmakers opted to streamline and simplify his character without any of the unnecessary family tree baggage that might confuse new viewers. As both a comic creator and a storyteller how do you feel about this approach?
Liefeld: When I introduced Cable, we teased him for 1 year. We called him Cable. We didn’t tell you who he really was. The way the characters met him in the comics is the way they meet him in the movie. They never go beyond that his name is Cable and that he’s from the future. He showed up trying to save the New Mutants and battle this menace from the future and I think it worked.
When I got on set, the wonderful makeup artists behind this movie came up to me and they had the first time Marvel published Cable’s appearance in Marvel Age. They said, “When you originally drew him, you had more dark in his hair. Eventually, he went full white. We wanted to start Josh [Brolin] with dark [hair] so that in future movies we can whiten it.” And I said, “Look at these people! They’re paying so much attention to the comics!”
I think what they did in the movie is enough to tease you and we’ve forgotten the art of the tease. All I did with these characters is tease them. I’ve had Geoff Johns, Robert Kirkman, and Ed Piskor all tell me that the last page of New Mutants #100 blew them away. It really launched a franchise. You met Cable, you know he’s badass and now come back next time for more.
Dar: Don’t suppose you’re reading Ed Piskor’s X-Men: Grand Design?
Liefeld: He knows how much I love it. I’ve promoted it relentlessly. He’s just a genius. I think he’s one of the most important creators right now in the business. He just has a wonderful way of presenting his storytelling.
Dar: As a comics creator and fan yourself, I think I can safely assume you’ve already seen Avengers: Infinity War. Josh Brolin has received acclaim for his portrayal of the villain Thanos in that film. With both Infinity War and Deadpool 2 released so close together are you able to separate the characters from the actor?
Liefeld: As we saw for Cable, he got so lean and ripped, and committed himself to the part. He transformed his body to become this warrior specimen. When I first met him while they were filming, he had giant veins in his arms that looked like snakes. I was so taken and asked him if they were real and he said, [Imitates Josh Brolin] “Yeah, I earned them in the gym. You gotta understand doing this part after,” his words, “being a purple gorilla, it’s nice to be more me.”
When I saw Infinity War, I was blown away. I thought his Thanos was just Shakespearean. But then he immediately transits to this tough, kickass, futuristic warrior. He’s kind of the star of the summer. You can’t get away from Josh Brolin. He rules the cinema!
Dar: So what does the future hold for you regarding Deadpool comic projects?
Liefeld: Right now I am working on the sequel to Deadpool: Bad Blood entitled Deadpool: Badder Blood which is loaded. It’s even more fun. Fans showed up in droves for a $25 graphic novel. I think it even surprised Marvel. And we are going to deliver the goods with this one.
I have some other projects with Marvel that are in the deep, deep discussion phases that I am very excited about. I’m not sure if they’re going to make it to fruition but you’ll hear it from me first.
Dar: Great chatting you with!
Liefeld: Thank you very much!