Writer/artist Rob Liefeld has been on a tear at DC Comics since the publisher’s reboot last September, and despite Twitter talk of going fully creator-owned, he isn’t ready to make the transition just yet.
Currently, Liefeld is shepherding three New 52 titles across the DC Universe: “The Savage Hawkman” with co-writer Mark Poulton and artist Joe Bennett, “Grifter” with co-writer Frank Tieri and artist Scott Clark and “Deathstroke,” which he’s writing and drawing solo. Each series focuses on tropes familiar to the creator’s wheelhouse — namely, weapons-toting leads and alien invasions — but each also riffs on a different piece of the new DCU, from the secret of Nth metal to the merging of the DC and WildStorm Universes and the reintroduction of fan favorite villain Lobo.
With new issues of both “Deathstroke” and “Grifter” hitting stores this week, CBR News spoke to Liefeld about all his DC work, and the creator revealed new details on Hawkman’s incoming origin including a new take on the planet Thanagar, Grifter’s battle against longtime Wildcats foes Helspont, the battle between Deathstroke and Lobo and his plans to return to “Bloodstrike” with a new take on Brigade once current writer Tim Seeley’s storyline wraps.
Rob, when you came on to work on your three DC books, you spoke openly on Twitter about being tasked with raising the sales of a crop of titles that were at a precarious point in regard to their future. How has that challenge gone so far? Are these titles still set for continued existence under your stewardship?
Well, from a story point, Pike services a basic function in that we have Hawkman being hunted and we need hunters. Why not use a bounty hunter that I’m familiar with? I believe as far as visual flourishes, you are referring to the idea that Pike was born in the aftermath of the Deadpool influence, and while there’s no denying that visual tether, I see Boba Fett in there as well — but I see Boba Fett in every bounty hunter. After pitting Hawkman against a pair of similarly armored foes like Xerxes and St. Bastion, I wanted to throw a more spry, agile, elusive opponent at Hawkman, and their battle really provides more great action that the fans have specifically requested and enjoyed. Pike is a wily foe as you’ll see through out the issue. His arrival is important as it sets the stage to reveal the client that hired Pike in first place. Every issue is very deliberate in peeling away the conspiracy against Hawkman and the Nth metal.
So we’ve got a woman who’s been breaking through to Hawkman’s Nth Metal armor via some kind of distress signal, and then we’ve got a very Hawkwoman-looking character on the cover to issue #12. How are these two connected?
Hawkman has indeed been receiving messages within his Nth metal, since early in my first issue. We had to pay that off eventually, right? Issue #12 sets the table for months to come with #0 and the aftermath that leads to “Wanted.”
The “Hawkman” #0 issue seems to be a chance for you to ties the origin special concept directly into the endgame you seem to be heading towards with Thanagar. Since so many fans know the something about how that planet has worked in the past, how are you trying to make it different in the New 52?
I have a completely different approach to Thanagar and Hawkman’s origin. It’s a very different path for Katar Hol than any that have been traveled before. Hopefully long time fans as well as new readers will enjoy this direction. We had a lot to fit into 20 pages — conspiracies, drama, action, monsters — it’s really big.
On the other side of the DCU, “Grifter” has certainly accelerated the pace of that character’s development from revealing his “chosen” status alongside a set of new powers to ramping up the Daemonite invasion so that Helspont is right on his doorstep. How does this week’s issue #12 and its final battle turn the book and the character to their next logical phase?
Issue #12 competes the first arc. We identified Grifter as an important cog in the Daemonite plans, and Grifter reluctantly accepted that has to take action, and he can no longer hide from what he has been selected for. He finally faces Helspont and it’s a huge measuring stick for both sides as they figure out what each is capable of. Another big issue with a nice twist heading into the issue #0.
The entire story revealed that the original Omega Men are lurking out there somewhere, having left their offspring here on earth. Where are they and why they left is another question I’d love to answer. I love the original Omega Men. This was sort of my love letter to Roger Slifer, Kieth Giffen, Marv Wolfman and George Perez, as I was doing a giant mash-up of all their wonderful creations.
You’ve already brought Deathblow into the mix for “Grifter,” and the incoming “Deathstroke” #0 issue promises an appearance by the new Team 7. How does aligning Deathstroke’s past with this wide range of DC and WildStorm characters change how readers will view him in the DCU?
You’ll get to see what an Alpha dog Slade truly is. His tenure with Team 7 only enhances his history, I love that he’s tied to this elite group that served together. It makes the well even deeper.
Finally, I wanted to ask about your recent comments on Twitter echoing Grant Morrison’s desire to wrap up your current run of work-for-hire gigs in favor of getting back to creator-owned work full time. What’s your personal timeline for making that move, and how quickly do you expect your new stuff to roll out?
Well, my issue isn’t with DC as they’ve been fantastic to me, in every way. The last couple years working with everyone there has been the best pro experience I’ve had with either of the big two. I’ve been itching to tell more adult stories. For me, it’s a reflection of everything that I’ve been consuming for years — just harder, more adult fare that I could really only do on my own. It’s not a reflection on any company other than subject matter and the levels of “mature” content I’d be able to produce. More gore, blood, sex, violence, like any good cable show. It starts on my “Bloodstrike” arc, and then there’s a new title I’m launching mid 2013.
Also announced through your Twitter account is your next big creator-owned story — the “Bloodstrike” arc, featuring a new version of Brigade that also includes Shaft, Die-Bold, Deadlocke, Bloodwulf, Fourplay and Cabbot. Why make this team happen now? Does this mean an end to Tim Seeley and company’s run?
Tim Seeley was moving on. He let us know he was finishing up. Dude has a ton going on. He told his story, and with his arc finishing, I stepped in to tell a story I’ve been itching to tell for years. I’m very excited to share it. It’s bloody good.
“Grifter” #12 and “Deathstroke” #12 are in stores today from DC Comics. “Savage Hawkman” #12 ships later this month.