Rob Liefeld Takes "Deathstroke," "Grifter" & "Hawkman" to the Extreme

A polarizing figure in the comic book industry, there's no arguing that Rob Liefeld is a creator at the top of his game. Even as DC Comics announced the cancellation of "Hawk and Dove," which Liefeld is currently writing and drawing, along with five other titles from the New 52 line-wide relaunch, Liefeld found himself helming not one or two other DC titles, but three.

Beginning in May, Liefeld will take on new creative responsibilities for three New 52 titles, including writing and illustrating "Deathstroke" while plotting "The Savage Hawkman" and "Grifter." His run on each series begins in #9.

CBR News spoke with Liefeld about his expanded role within the DCU, and the always-candid creator shared his thoughts on his storied professional relationship with DC Comics' Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras, fan reaction to his forthcoming projects, what plotting a series means and why Slade Wilson and Wade Wilson really aren't clones of each other.

CBR News: Before we get to your new DC Comics duties, I want to ask you about "Hawk and Dove." Did that series have to end to make way for your new assignments or was that already decided before you were offered "Deathstroke," "Savage Hawkman" and "Grifter."

Rob Liefeld: I was writing "Hawk and Dove" #7 when I was asked if I was interested in looking over a few other assignments. [DC Comics' Editor-in-Chief] Bob Harras, who I had a great relationship and experience with during my run on "New Mutants" and "X-Force" at Marvel, called me up and offered me some great opportunities. There were some creative teams moving around, shifting. I know for a fact that Tony Daniel was leaving "Savage Hawkman" to give all his focus to "Detective," where he is currently blowing up, and they asked me if I was interested in following him on "Hawkman."

Bob and I had a great run over at Marvel. Flat out, we changed the entire shape and direction of the X-Office for the last 25 years. One extended run on a group of characters that were, frankly, considered D-list X-Men has generated 25 years of stories and spinoffs for Marvel. Cable, Deadpool, Stryfe, Domino, X-Force, "X-tinction Agenda," "X-Cutioners Song, "Messiah War," "Messiah Complex," "X-Sanction." No Rob, no Bob, none of these comics, events, toys or cartoons come to pass. We have a great track record together, and though Bob and I haven't worked together in 20 some years, I think he wanted to go back to his bench, give it a second go-round.

Once I chose "Deathstroke" as my writing and penciling assignment, "Hawk and Dove" came to an end. If there's another version of that story, I'm not aware of it.

Were you sad to see "Hawk and Dove" be canceled? It's really the series where you first made a name for yourself back in 1988? And will you get to tie up the series with a neat little bow when it ends with #8?

I'm mixed in that I really love those characters and I had some great stories planned out. We gave it our best shot and there will be a nifty trade collection in the spring as a nice bookend. I love Hawk and Dove and I'm certain that I'll hang with them again.

And yes, I will be wrapping it up nice and tidy. These last three issues are great fun. The reaction online has been overwhelming, my Twitter feed blew up with the "Hawk and Dove" news. It was really moving seeing how many people dig the characters.

Will we see more of Hawk and Dove in the New 52? Maybe even in one your titles?

That's what DC tells me. Hawk and Dove are certain to appear in some other title very soon. I can think of a number of potential homes for Hawk and Dove. It will be fun to see where they end up.

How did you land these three new titles? Did you actively pursue them? Were they offered to you as a package deal?

As I mentioned above, I was approached by Bob Harras. I imagine I was up against other creative pitches, or at least I'd like to think that I had to win each gig. This is a competitive business and it's never been more of a pressure cooker than right now. That said, I'll put my pitches for each book up against anyone's pitch. I came strong because I really dig each of these characters. They are all in my wheelhouse and none of them are seen as "sacred cows." These aren't Superman or, let's say, "Watchmen." These are characters that have great upside and tremendous potential. I'm working hard to push all of them. If they offered me, say, "Red Hood" as a drawing assignment, or "Mister Terrific" as a writing assignment, I'd pass. Not because they aren't great characters, but because I just don't have any connection [to them]. I've always been in awe of Hawkman and Deathstroke -- and "always" means since I was a child. With Grifter, he has always just intrigued me. It's their time to step out of the shadows and take their turn in the spotlight.

Are you at all surprised by fan reaction, both good and bad, to your increasing creative role within the New 52?

Again, my Twitter feed and my Facebook exploded on Friday and it was 99.9 per cent love and support and excitement for everything that is to come. The hate on message boards is a part of our society. Kobe, the Kardashians, LeBron, Tebow, Adam Sandler, Michael Bay, Tom Brady, Rex Ryan, Liefeld -- everyone hates something, someone, somewhere. I just clicked on a Paula Deen story about her having diabetes and folks on the thread were saying she deserved diabetes because of her cooking. What? Welcome to the Internet. So hate me, love me, I'm all good. It's part of the business. It doesn't rattle me. I've been blessed with the best, boldest, craziest fans, and they are energized and will throw down with anyone. This should be great fun.

From the information DC has released so far, we know all three titles are set in space. Will the coming Liefeld-driven corner of the New 52 result in the storylines in "Deathstroke," "Savage Hawkman" and "Grifter" being interconnected?

That's not the case. Each book is grounded, on Earth. Each book touches on extra-terrestrial dangers and villains, but the stories all unfold on Earth. DC has so many great alien worlds and characters and it is a blast weaving them in and out of these titles. Threats are lurking around every corner in the DCU. Lobo is the extra-terrestrial threat in "Deathstroke," and then there is the Omega Class, which is a group of alien hybrids. Grifter is fighting a massive Daemonite invasion. He's no longer fighting the reconnaissance scouts, he's battling Elite Warrior-class Daemonites. And Hawkman has the Thanagarian legacy that comes into play, so they are all an extension of their missions and the challenges that are before them.

While obviously three very distinct characters with very unique personalities, abilities and raison d'êtres, what commonality drives Slade Wilson, Carter Hall and Cole Cash?

Slade Wilson is at a crossroads. He is questioning his purpose in life and career as he has taken on all comers and left them all in his wake. It feels like there's no new mountain left to scale. Then, the biggest challenge of his career crashes into his life and provides quite a roller coaster for him.

For Carter Hall, it's all about discovery. He's just beginning to get the hang of this Hawkman gig when he is throttled from all sides by multiple challengers looking to control the Nth metal. His comfort level is radically disrupted. How he responds to these challenges will reveal more about his character.

And for Cole Cash, it's all about acceptance as he has just been getting by. He's a slacker, a classic under-achiever and he is now confronted with his past and has to make a choice that will re- define him.

Each character is flanked by a great supporting cast of mysterious, compelling, dangerous characters that will enhance each of them. It is the challenge that defines each of us, that defines our resolve. Each of these guys is pushed to their limits in very different storylines that will take them down exciting new paths.

While they sometimes confused, Wade Wilson and Slade Wilson are two very different characters. Beyond the name, not to mention super-aliases, are there any likenesses between your Marvel creation Deadpool and DC's Deathstroke?

No likenesses for me. While ruthless, there is certain nobility to Slade. He tried to have a normal family at one point, and believed in honor amongst thieves. Wade, while canny, is an insane person. The similarities are they both shoot guns and wield swords.

Deathstroke faces off against Lobo, the baddest bastich in the universe, in your first arc. What should fans expect when these two cutthroat killers enter each other's sights?

Plenty of carnage. I mean come on, its Lobo! It's Deathstroke! When these two guys finally throw down, it's big. It's nasty.

You're writing and illustrating this series, which must be both exhilarating and daunting. How do you approach such a project? Will Rob Liefeld, the writer, complete a script and hand off to Rob Liefeld, the artist? Or will you be constantly creating wearing both hats?

I write the story, breaking down every page, then I draw the pages and script the pages. It keeps the process fresh.

You're plotting your other two new titles, "Hawkman" and "Grifter." Can you share who your collaborators are? And what will the set-up be in terms of creative control?

Well, I'm the writer. We really need to educate people as to what providing the plot means, and it's as simple as this: I provide the story, written down on the page for the artist. Every page and every panel are written by me, described and directed by me, for the artist. From there, I may or may not apply a final script. But the artist is drawing my story.

Again, from the initial announcement, it appears you will be really digging into Hawkman's origins and those of the Nth metal. You've also teased new enemies and allies for him. What else can you tell us about Carter Hall's future?

Hawkman's story is very exciting. I love the fact that he has to figure out the legacy of his armor and his own past while he is pursued by multiple threats that seek to obtain what he has. Xerxes is a nasty new villain, while Pike, who will be familiar to Wildstorm fans, will be appearing, too. I don't want to reveal anyone else because I'd risk giving away too many secrets that I want the readers to enjoy.

Finally, you're taking a turn with Grifter, a character created by DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee for WildStorm in the mid-nineties. Have you had a chance to speak with Jim about Cole Cash and how he operates both historically and within the New 52?

I have, and he is totally onboard. This is great fun and I hope fans check it all out in May.

Finally, what effect, if any, will these new duties at DC mean to yours and Robert Kirkman's creator-owned Image Comics title, The Infinite?"

I'm wrapping up "The Infinite" issues right now. "The Infinite" will continue to ship.

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