Guests at the Amazing Las Vegas Comic-Con included such big names as Stan Lee, Jim Lee and Greg Capullo, but organizer Jimmy Jay introduced Rob Liefeld as "absolutely my favorite." The Image Comics co-founder's panel was billed as an "Extreme Conversation," a nod to his Extreme Studios imprint, but it turned out to mostly be a spotlight on Deadpool, culminating in the writer/artist performing a re-enactment of the Deadpool movie test footage.
Liefeld started out by giving a brief overview of his career, from his childhood as a young comic book fan ("I was really into violence") to his early days in the industry, starting with his work on DC Comics' "Hawk and Dove" and then his stint at Marvel working for the X-Men office. He recounted that when Bob Harras first called him to work on "X-Factor," he didn't believe it was real, and made Harras provide his number so Liefeld could call back and verify that the call was really coming from Marvel Comics. Offered the chance to work on "X-Factor," he declined, not wanting to follow the work of the legendary Walt Simonson. Instead, he took over "New Mutants," a book on the verge of cancellation. "They were all dressed like bad MTV teenagers at the time," Liefeld recalled. The 19-year-old creator seized the opportunity to redesign the characters and create some of his own, including Cable and Deadpool. "Looking cool matters," he said. "Deadpool looks cool."
Liefeld helped the sales of "New Mutants" rise to a million copies with the 100th issue, and then launched "X-Force," in which Deadpool was again prominently featured. Liefeld said Deadpool was so popular that while he was drawing the first issue of "X-Force," Harras asked him to go back and insert Deadpool into "New Mutants" #100. "Sometimes you just get something and it clicks," Liefled said. "Deadpool clicked."
Liefeld closed his intro by describing his move from Marvel to Image Comics in 1992. "What do you do when you've peaked at 21, 22 years old?" he asked. "Me and six of my really good friends, we became business partners -- bad idea." Still, he professed nothing but affection for his various collaborators. "I love the people who make comics, because we are all crazy," he said.
With that, Liefeld opened up the floor to questions, saying, "I've seen a lot of crazy stuff. I won't talk about all of it, because that will get me in trouble." He offered up two Deadpool medallions for the best Deadpool costume and the overall greatest fan in the audience.
The first question was, of course, about Deadpool. A fan asked Liefeld's opinion on the Merc with a Mouth's perpetually delayed movie, and Liefeld promised that at the end of the panel he would re-enact the three minutes of test footage he's seen. He's seen it multiple times and has been extremely impressed. As for the potential R-rating (which is usually cited as the primary sticking point in getting the movie made), Liefeld said, "Whatever the guys who wrote it and directed it want, I support." (That would be director Tim Miller and screenwriters Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese.) "I think they're trying to hold for an R-rating, and I think they should," he said. "The script is fantastic."
A very young fan asked Liefeld at what age he started drawing. He said that he started at age 5. "I was 9 years old when 'Star Wars' came out, and that's when I knew I was an artist." He and his friends all went home from the movie and drew Chewbacca, and his was the only one that looked like the character. His own kids all draw now, and his 9-year-old daughter "wastes" his sons with her talent.
The next question returned to Deadpool, with a fan asking if DC's Deathstroke was an inspiration for the character. "Absolutely not," Liefeld said. "Let me tell you what inspired Deadpool: 100 percent envy of Todd McFarlane." McFarlane was drawing Spider-Man at the time, who was always seen wearing his mask. "What's the hardest thing to draw?" Liefeld asked. "The face. I was drawing a team of seven people with faces." So he set out to create his own version of Spider-Man, a perpetually masked character. "What would make Spider-Man better? Knives, swords -- done." The name was inspired not by Deathstroke, but by the 1988 Clint Eastwood movie "The Dead Pool."
The next question was about Liefeld's opinion on the evolution of Deadpool over the years. "The Deadpool that I prefer is the one you guys like the best," Liefeld said. "I like him when he's got a little edge to him." At the same time, he said, "I think there's a Deadpool for everybody."
Keeping with the panel's ongoing Deadpool theme, the next fan asked why Liefeld had made the character so insane. "I wanted a sinister Spider-Man," he said. "Spider-Man was always the funny superhero." Deadpool's personality was actually inspired by Danny DeVito's character in the movie "Twins," the idea that one twin had gotten all the good qualities and the other had gotten "all the crap." Liefeld thought that if Wolverine was Weapon X, then Weapon IX would have been a failure, "the one that didn't work out." Even so, Liefeld said other creators took the idea further. "I can't take credit for the wackadoodle."
Asked what his favorite Deadpool story to work on was, he cited his story in "Deadpool" #900, written by Joe Kelly. When Marvel asked who he wanted to collaborate with for that issue, he said, "I need to work with Joe Kelly before he dies," citing Kelly's acclaimed work on the character. Liefeld said his favorite part of the story was showing what was inside all of Deadpool's pouches. He named Kelly and Rick Remender as his favorite Deadpool writers, mentioning the two-part story from "Wolverine" #154-155 in 2000 as his favorite Deadpool/Wolverine interaction.
Briefly moving on from Deadpool, the next question was about Liefeld's inspiration for creating Youngblood. "Everybody's got a team," he said. "At the time, nobody had done the media version of if the Avengers really exist," and how they would be treated and handled in the real world. "If there was a guy who could leap buildings in a single bound, he'd be on camera 24/7," Liefeld said. In that vein, he believes "Youngblood" would be a perfect found-footage superhero movie, with all the cameras they have mounted on all their weapons and following them everywhere.
The next fan asked about the status of "Image United," the crossover series Liefeld was working on with his fellow Image founders. So far, the series has shipped three issues of a planned six and hasn't had released a new issue since 2010. "'Image United' is the best worst idea that ever existed," Liefeld said. "We overdid it," he admitted. "'Image United' should be respected for the experiment that it is, but loathed for the failure that it's been so far." But he did have some good news, promising that he would be bringing pages with him to Comic-Con International in San Diego this summer, that issues four and five would be out in 2014, and that "the trade paperback will be amazing." "We should've done the whole thing first, but we got kind of excited. And I apologize."
Returning to Deadpool, the next fan asked Liefeld's opinion on the portrayal of the character in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," and who his ideal actor would be for the part. "I thought when Ryan Reynolds was Wade Wilson for 10 minutes, it was awesome," Liefeld said. "What they did with him at the end was awful." He recounted a conversation he had with one of the movie's producers, who only cared that Gambit was in the film and didn't have any interest in Deadpool. When Liefeld was taking a meeting at Fox, he showed executives a drawing of Deadpool in full costume and attempted to convince them to add a post-credits scene showing the character taking off his mask, but to no avail.
As for the casting, Liefeld praised Reynolds as the perfect actor for the role. "He is Deadpool," Liefeld said. "If Ryan Reynolds got hit by lightning tomorrow, I've always thought Jason Statham would be a great Deadpool," Liefeld added, joking that studios are only interested in casting Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in everything now.
The final few questions came in quick succession. Asked why he made the ability to regenerate Deadpool's main power, Liefeld said, "Because I was literally copying Wolverine." Asked what was his least favorite project to work on, he cited the 1995 "Glory/Avengelyne" special, a project he himself originated. "Ten pages in, I was like, 'I don't draw these women very well." And finally, asked about the "hubbub" surrounding his departure from "X-Force," he said it was an amicable split. "Image Comics was not like, 'I'm leaving!' It was like, 'I think I'm gonna do something else.'"
After awarding the Deadpool medallions to the two fans in the audience wearing Deadpool costumes, Liefeld closed the panel, as promised, by re-enacting the entire Deadpool test footage himself, including one-liners, action beats and fight scenes, with play-by-play description. He ended by promising again that Deadpool fans will not be disappointed if the movie ends up getting made. "Trust me, this is not 'Wolverine Origins,'" he assured the crowd. "This is Deadpool."