Rob Liefeld began his successful career at DC as the artist on the Hawk & Dove mini-series. His style, fresh and dynamic, earned him some positive attention and his name began to be known. But he'd have to wait to firmly establish himself in the industry until the late 80s/early 90s and his work on The New Mutants, a Marvel series which had difficulties prior to his arrival. He redesigned the characters and introduced some instant fan favorites like Cable, the mentor of the team from the future, Domino, a mercenary working with Cable, and Deadpool, another mercenary working for Tolliver, a mysterious businessman trying to kill Cable.
1 million copies : X-Force
With the success of New Mutants, Marvel decided to have Liefeld take the team in a new direction: X-Force. 1 million copies of the first issue were sold. Liefeld became famous. The characters were cool and the stories were more action packed than the other X-Titles; the goal of X-Force was to seek out and attack the super-villains instead of waiting for them. Liefeld co-wrote and penciled the first issues.
In 1992, Liefeld decided to leave Marvel and create Image Comics along with some fellow artists (Jim Lee, Todd Mcfarlane, Erik Larsen, Jim Valentino, Whilce Portacio and Marc Silvestri). He founded Extreme Studios and created high selling books such as Youngblood, Brigade, and Prophet among others.
During this period he earned some detractors and negativity, including charges that he exhibited characteristics of someone whose only exposure to drawing came in the form of other comics. On a more practical business level, some titles arrived late or never shipped at all, angering dealers and alienating readers. Nevertheless, he continued to create titles that managed to attract fans. While at Image, Extreme Studios provided a spotlight for several young upcoming artists like Jeff Matsuda (Newmen), Stephen Platt (Prophet), Marat Mychaels (Brigade), as well as a strong lineup of inkers such as Danny Miki, Jon Sibal, Norm Rapmund, and Marlo Alquiza.
Liefeld then founded Maximum Press, separate from Image, to explore some new directions. This move would ultimately bring about his end at Image Comics, upsetting the other founders who thought the move damaged Image, leading to a vote by the founding partners to force Liefeld out. Liefeld and Image counter-sued each other for millions of dollars, resulting in an undisclosed settlement which neither party will comment on to this day.
In 1996, Marvel asked Liefeld and Jim Lee to help revive their iconic flagship series Captain America, Fantastic Four, Iron Man and the Avengers after the Onslaught storyline. Marvel created Heroes Reborn, an alternate universe retelling of the origins of the teams and characters. Liefeld worked on Cap and Avengers while Lee worked on the FF and Iron Man.
After 6 successful yet controversial issues, including the highest selling Captain America issues ever, Liefeld's run on the series ended. Marvel, in the midst of financial turmoil leading to the company's bankruptcy, attempted to renegotiate the terms of the deal with Lee and Liefeld, offering them a smaller amount of money for the projects. While Lee accepted the revised contract and continued his work on Fantastic Four and Iron Man, Liefeld rejected the new terms and his two titles were given to Lee's studio to complete.
Following the end of his Marvel return and Maximum Press, Awesome Entertainment was born. Jeph Loeb was a big part of it as well as emerging talents like Ian Churchill and Keron Grant. Youngblood and Supreme were revised by Alan Moore and Steve Skroce to critical acclaim. The Coven was a success as well with Churchill and Loeb. Kaboom gained some good reviews and sales with Jeff Matsuda as the artist. Liefeld was back at the pencils with the series Re:Gex and Fighting American. Fighting American had several well received mini-series including Fighting American : Dogs of War, written by Jim Starlin and drawn by Stephen Platt. Despite critical success and decent sales during the mid-late 90s downturn, Awesome was forced to close its doors after investors backed out once they saw a return on their capital, leaving some series without an ending.
Back to Marvel
Marvel asked Liefeld to come back again to work on Cable. He drew 3 issues during The Twelve storyline. He also worked on 2 issues of Wolverine some time later, in which he introduced some new characters.
Later in 2006 Liefeld worked on an X-Force mini-series pitting the team against Skornn, bringing good sales and earning him another Marvel project. This was Onslaught Reborn, a 5-part mini series which serves as a sequel to Heroes Reborn, and emerged from events in Marvel's Onslaught Saga, House of M, and Fatal Attractions. The first two issues sold out almost instantaneously, proving his lasting power and popularity in the industry once again.
In 2010 Liefeld drew several issues of Deadpool, his Deathstroke inspired creation for Marvel.
Arcade Comics hired Liefeld and Youngblood was back anew with Youngblood : Bloodsport. Mark Millar wrote and Liefeld penciled it.
Currently, Arcade's status with Liefeld's properties is up in the air as Liefeld has reunited with Image as a creator, not as a co-owner.
Liefeld is drawing art for the new Hawk and Dove, part of DC's New 52 revamp. Hawk & Dove will cancelled after issue 8 as it was revealed that Hawk & Dove was one of the six lowest selling titles of the New 52. In May Liefeld will take on three new creative responsibilities for New 52 as he will be writing and illustrating Deathstroke & plotting for Savage Hawkman & Grifter.
A new Youngblood is out, published by Image Comics for the first time in over a decade, with Liefeld penciling alternate covers for each issue. Youngblood: Bloodsport is also currently in the works as well as a new title, "The Assembled", which promised to bring together nearly every character from the Extreme Studios Universe.
Marvel has tapped Liefeld to work on a new Killraven series with Robert Kirkman as writer.
Liefeld has also recently shipped a seven part graphic novel series titled "Armageddon Now" about World War III.
At Image Comics he works on Image United and the comeback of some of his Extreme Studio series including Brigade.
No amount of writing ABOUT Liefeld's work can compare to actually seeing it, and seeing it in its proper context is crucial. Suggested readings vary depending on the source, but some links are better than others.
Departure from DC Comics
Rob Liefeld suddenly quit DC Comics on August 22, 2012, citing his animosity towards editor Brian Smith as main reason for leaving. Liefeld then took to his own Twitter account to expand upon the reasoning behind his decision and offered more reasons, such as frequent rewrites of his material by the editors of DC Comics. He stated his plans for the future would involve returning to write for his comic company Image Comics, such as Bloodstrike, Brigade, in addition to other creations not yet in production.
Creations of Rob Liefeld