He is also credited as a pioneer of the '90s Anti-Hero. Many stylistic advents in superhero comics of the 1990s are inaccurately attributed to Liefeld, such as the sharp, thin-lined Crowquill inking style that he (and others) cribbed from contemporaries such as Dale Keown, Todd McFarlane, Art Adams, and Jim Lee.
As with the confrontational splash pages, Liefeld's approach to character and costume design was shocking excess in the wake of a fairly conventional period in superhero comics. This initially impressed comic-book readers as a powerful creative energy many likened to that of Jack Kirby (some still do, infuriating others).
Unfortunately, efforts to quickly develop numerous properties for Image Comics to compete for shelf-space with the established mainstream publishers resulted in a glut of Liefeld-style designs and many artists suddenly working in the Liefeld/Lee/Silvestri "Image Comics" style. It was too much. Contrasting Liefeld's own crude work to that of so many (often more polished) artists working in similar styles stripped the wunderkind of his mystique.
That most Image Comics titles also eschewed using dedicated writers didn't help matters. Though there were exceptions, and writing quality varied, the rottenest apples are best remembered.
Massive Hype Backlash followed, which gave Liefeld the distinction of being one of the most influential and successful comic artists, and one of the most broadly disparaged. Suffice to say that in recent years he is heavily parodied◊ and mocked.
Despite this notoriety, several of the characters he created have gone on to become long-running mainstream A-list properties (most notably Cable and Deadpool), and he continues to find (or create) regular work in the comic-book industry.
Tropes exhibited by Liefeld and his works:
- Author Appeal: Aside from his love of drawing highly deformed women, this also extends to male characters, for example, this◊.
- Boobs-and-Butt Pose
- Captain Ersatz: Numerous. Some based on other characters he also created.
- Deadpool: Original co-creator with Fabian Nicieza, began as a Captain Ersatz of DC's Deathstroke the Terminator for the Marvel Universe but quickly grew into the loon we know and love.
- American Agent, interim stand-in for Captain America (using unpublished art from a Captain America project) while Liefeld negotiated rights to reprise Fighting American. Fighting American was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for a different company, but went satirical after a couple of issues when they started giving the otherwise-interchangeable Communist spies names like Hotsky Trotsky. This affair resulted in a lawsuit, resolved by the court ordering that Liefeld eliminate certain similarities to the Captain America property (among other things, Fighting American was not allowed to throw his shield).
- Newmen: Similiar to original X-Men squad.
- Doom's IV: Similar to the Fantastic Four.
- Youngblood: Teen Titans, began as a related project for DC, became more Expy under the writing direction of Alan Moore (along with Moore's Supreme, an Expy of DC's Superman).
- C-List Fodder: Most of his characters are like this. He created so many characters during his early New Mutants and X-Force run that it was inevitable. One-note idiotic characters like Sumo were killed quickly, while most of the Mutant Liberation Front were either depowered or killed over the years.
- Dark Age of Supernames: Liefeld's character names and book titles often had some form of "blood," "death" or "kill" incorporated.
- Darker and Edgier: He tried very hard to be this. Too hard.
- Eyes Always Shut: Nine times out of ten anyway. When they're open they quite often have no detail and are pure white. The technical term for this is "Youngblood's Disease", as coined by Linkara.
- Gag Penis: One critique mentioned that most of his male characters have what appears to be a snow shovel shoved down the front of their pants.
- Guns Akimbo
- Glowing Eyes of Doom: Even on the "good guys."
- Hands in Pockets: Seems to have an aversion to drawing feet.
- Heroic Build: Yes, it's rather standard for a comic book artist but Liefeld has the noted tendency to just throw muscles everywhere.
- Impossibly Cool Clothes: Pads, plates, mullets and pouches. Cooler than parachute pants or flannel shirts... maybe.
- Male Gaze: Oh so much.
- Most Common Superpower
- Ms. Fanservice: Practically every female character. For most people they are Ms. Fan Disservice - unless wondering where someone keeps her internal organs and how she makes her knees bend backward is your thing.
- My Nayme Is: It's Liefeld. Not "Liefeild"
- The '90s: When he was the most successful and at his peak of popularity.
- '90s Anti-Hero: Many of his characters.
- Only Six Faces: While his faces could vary — often the same character would look different from one panel to the next — certain design implements kept showing up in his work. Aside from the infamous pouches, almost all of his characters possessed gigantic plumes of fire-like hair, and an incredible amount had something around their eyes. FOUR characters — Domino, Deadpool, Wildside and Reaper, all possessed round circles around at least one eye, and debuted literally within a few months of each other. Cable had one glowing one and one scarred one. Shatterstar had a star-shaped mark around one eye as well. That "Liefeld's Forty Worst Drawings" linked up there has an entry featuring headshots of two women. They're completely identical except for their hairstyles. Then, just for fun, it challenges the uninitiated to try and figure out which one is supposed to be Hispanic.
- Our Weapons Will Be Boxy in the Future
- Shoulders of Doom: Sometimes only one of them.
- Signature Style
- Stripperiffic: All the girls he draws.
- Super Hero Packing Heat: One of his signature elements, which he helped popularize for the '90s Anti-Hero.
- Too Many Belts: With pouches on them.
- White Hair, Black Heart
- Xtreme Kool Letterz