Reason 12c: Yet more bad swiping

I'd like to take a look at another Rob Liefeld swipe (with thanks to the Adlo blog), this time from the incomparable Frank Miller, to show why I hate Rob Liefeld's art. Again, I don't have a problem with "swiping" (using someone else's previously published layout as a template for your own), I have a problem with bad swiping.

Which, given that it's Rob Liefeld we're talking about, is pretty much the only kind we're going to get.

He makes it all the worse when he uses such titans of the craft as Frank Miller, and his iconic "Ronin". But, never one to pass on a Level Five Suck Challenge, Rob went for it.

Frank Miller, "Ronin" number 1, page 32-33 (1983)


Rob Liefeld, "New Mutants" number 100, page 27-28 (1991):


Let's pass on Shatterstar's ridiculous outfit and prehensile pony tail and just focus on the layout, because I think this is a great example of how very small changes can have a very large impact. Take a look at the rear figure's left hand in Miller's panel, and note how its pinky overlaps Ronin's shoulder. We've talked about the importance of overlapping lines before, and once again Liefeld demonstrates that he has no understanding of the technique at all.

By choosing to line his figure's fingers parallel to Shatterstar's shoulder blade instead of across it, he loses that sense of imminent, looming menace that Miller achieves. In "Ronin" you have a slavering demon killed just as he's about to completely enclose the warrior in a crushing grip. In "New Mutants" you have a guy in a funny helmet about to give a sword-wielding wrestler a backrub.

That's a lot of weight for one pinky to handle.

There's more to it than that, of course. Look at how Miller's colorist has made the fingers yellow and the face red, to reinforce that layered effect, while Liefeld has red gloves right next to a red helmet, making them blend in together even more, flattening the composition further.

Miller's also much better with shading. Moving from lower left to upper right, the Ronin figure has his chest and abdomen in shadow, the front of his shoulder in light, the demon hand shadow, the lighted demon hand, the shadowed demon chest, the lighted demon shoulder, and then the darker background. You go dark-light-dark-light-dark-light-dark, stepping the viewer through layer after layer of shapes overlapping and reinforcing each other.

Compare that to Liefeld's haphazard and nonsensical line work, which looks like someone let his four year old loose with a Bic pen. There's no rhyme or reason to the placement of light and shadow, so instead of Miller's carefully thought-out and mutually reinforcing use of line, shadow, and form, you get a big pile of disjointed and badly designed monkey feces.

Suffice it to say, the actual drawing (as opposed to the design) also blows. In the original, Ronin is using a katana, which has a hilt you can grip from any angle, making the hand placement logical. Shatterstar, on the other hand, is using a cutlass, which means he's having to grip the actual blade in order to shove it through his enemy's guts. Even assuming the first few inches are dull on the cutting side, that's still not a great idea; you'd think his off hand would be on the pommel for the added thrust. But hey, Miller didn't draw it that way, so what's an artist to do?

Also, I find it incomprehensible that a) Shatterstar has a sword with two blades on it because WTF, this ain't a Schick razor, and b) neither one of them line up with the actual hilt! Dude's got two freaking blades on that thing and still he can't line them up! I guess Liefeld was too busy that day to reach for the straightedge, despite all the time he saved letting Miller do the layout for him twelve years earlier.

I also wonder why this guy is stuffed with sawdust, judging from its explosion from the exit wound, but I don't want to kick a guy when he's down.

The last thing I want to point out is Liefeld's decision to use an onomontoPOWia for the blade exiting the target. As best as I can tell it's "SHVTHOOM", which is just flat out stupid. On what freaking planet does a slab of metal slicing through a meaty physical body make a noise that has anything like "THOOM" in it? But worse than the content of the sound effect is its mere presence. Whereas in Miller's layout you have a grim spectacle in classic samurai silence, a moment of extreme violence captured soundlessly and classically so the visual dominates the stage and you're left in this great suspended moment, Liefeld stomps in like a dinosaur in combat boots and has to SHVTHOOM all over everything. It's oafish, clumsy, cluttered, and completely unnecessary to include a sound effect there, and having to lazily jam it into that bizarre trapezoidal shape because oh no, page border! just makes it all worse.

If you're going to swipe another, much greater artist's work, at least do it the honor of treating it with respect and skill. Rob Liefeld has neither, and that is yet another reason why I hate his art.

15 Responses to Reason 12c: Yet more bad swiping

  1. Lyogi says:

    The thoom sound comes from the exploding sawdust.

  2. redvector says:

    I didn’t think there was any need for a sound effect at all.

  3. Skiriki says:

    Well… sawdust and flour and straw can spontaneously combust and explode…

    Maybe that’s a Strawman Magneto or something?

  4. John says:

    As usual, Jeffrey, eminently well stated. You hit the nail on the head with the point about shading: the light-dark pattern through Miller’s layout reinforces a sense of space and dimension. Liefeld’s spastic lines that lead to nowhere are just hard to look at.

    “Clumsy” and “oafish” indeed!

  5. Whit says:

    I knew that the second picture was flatter but couldn’t figure out why. Thanks for the explanation. 🙂

  6. Kalkin says:

    I have to say, I never screwed up a sword that badly even in my 5th grade doodles. Liefeld is supposed to be a trained professional. Why hasn’t he committed a seppuku out of shame by now?

  7. Moonshade says:

    Kalkin, he’s probably tried, but can’t get the blades to line up right with either the hilt or his own vital internal organs.

  8. Dan says:

    I’m no artist, but one other thing that really grates on me in this is the extra panel on the bottom right of the drawing. It seems to stick that whole block over the main panel, making it appear more like a background than an actual part of the story.

  9. John says:


    That’s an excellent observation. Spot on.

    I know Jeff has talked about Liefeld’s incompetent layout skills, and this double page spread is an excellent example of Liefeld’s multi-level hackery. He literally can’t get anything right.

    Miller’s layout composition frames the story appropriately, allowing the central action moment of the narrative to have room to breathe and dominate the layout. It’s *the* moment, and the reader’s eye has to be led to understand it’s importance. Liefeld completely misses this point. You’re right, Dan, in noting out that the big dramatic moment of Headgear-Man stabbing Helmet-Boy is relegated to a background. Jeff has rightly pointed out that Liefeld doesn’t understand the basic principle of overlapping figures in compositions. When he *does* overlap something, he blows that too by undercutting his own storytelling.

    He’s damned if he does, damned if he don’t. And our eyes bleed as a result.

  10. JInkieZoinks says:

    The mention of the panel that Liefeld shoe-horned in raise a good point. But I think what is worse is the choice of and I use the term loosely here, art he put in all of the frames. In Millers piece. the final frame is left black and edged off of the page. leading readers to conclude a finality in the entire scene, but not the story. Liefeld’s attempts to hold readers interest consist of what appears to be an angry sword wielding man engaged in what looks some form of country dance and then the masterful classics, for Rob, the impassive mannikin man talking, and my personal favorite extreme anger man talking quietly. Why?? All I conclude is from the entire composition Shatterstar failed to impress the Mutant judges in X factor with his I dance with a exploding dummy routine. and Rob Liefeld needs to stop.

  11. Redd Fox says:

    I have to agree with all of you guys, this is just terrible. This is a funny website that is titled “The 40 Worst Rob Liefeld Drawings”. Its a good read but keep the little ones from reading, due to some inappropriate (but funny) paragraphs explaining each one.

  12. William says:

    Not to mention it looks like Shatterstar is stabbing through his own gut to strike at the badguy. Ronin looks like that too, but the blood on Ronin’s arm and chin makes it seem intentional. Or maybe I just haven’t read Ronin.

  13. let’s talk about pouches.
    when I saw this – – i thought it was photoshopped

  14. tommy says:

    The THVOOM is from the Mutant Bio Blast that he directed thru his sword. If you notice in the previous panel, he bagan focusing the power as the baddie picked him up. It’s the same power he hit Cannonball with.

  15. ThatStrangeGirl says:

    WARNING: Do not look at Rob I-Can’t-Draw-But-I-Do-It-Anyway Liefeld while eating. I just vomited in my mouth. Thanks a lot.