Man, will you look at the negative
influence Rob Liefeld had on the industry, and left behind, when
he was on the loose plying his trade in Marvel comics!
Cable/Nathan Summers has never struck me as much of a character,
and neither has this sample of his own costume, one of the most
oversized monstrosities I've ever seen. You can practically tell
that he must be tired having to hoist those huge shoulder pads,
armor and firearms around, including at least one shoulder
mounted gun he's got smoking there, even though it's not often
he's depicted with them. Though that doesn't make him any more
interesting character-wise, of course.
we're on the subject of Rob Liefeld, I think it's worth
presenting some of his worst output as an artist. I can't say
his art was that great to begin with, and over the years, it got
progressively worse. It was at Image Comics in the early 1990s
that he really plummeted into jaw-dropping awfulness, yet
inexplicably enough, he kept getting jobs. And one of the most
notorious assignments he got was Marvel's ill-advised "relaunch"
of at least 4 titles in 1996-7 as Heroes Reborn. Jim Lee, who's
much better an artist than Liefeld (but has since devolved into
an awful publisher at DC), did the art chores on Fantastic Four
and Iron Man
(although Scott Lobdell, an otherwise bad writer himself, may
have done the writing), while Liefeld himself did both the art
and the writing, if memory serves, on Avengers
and Captain America
And if there's anything that disastrous step, a precursor to
Marvel's destruction of its universe under Joe Quesada in the
following century, will be remembered for besides the pedestrian
writing, it's the astoundingly poor quality of Liefeld's art.
Badly drawn torsos that are off-balance, neckless bodies and
even crummy costumes, more on which anon. It was a pure
Here now are two examples, Liefeld's rendition of Scarlet Witch
in volume 2 Avengers, and Steve Rogers sans costume in volume 3
Captain America (today, there's only so many relaunches it's
pointless to count them all). What's ghastly about these is how
Liefeld makes Wanda look masculine and Steve look feminine. GAH!
Wanda looks like a transvestite and Steve looks like a tomboy
(and yes, by that I mean a woman with a short-cropped
hairstyle). What kind of mindframe was he in when he did this?
Did I mention just how awful the nod to one of Wanda's early
costume designs from the Silver Age really is? Liefeld is truly
It gets worse with some of the following. Take a look:
So in that next panel, Steve is implausibly much taller than the
guy carrying his shield. I guess we really are confusing him
with someone else, because the "guy" we see in the other panel
is only a head taller than the one confronting "him", and not as
towering as Liefeld drew him in the first. What happened, did he
take some of Hank Pym's massive growth formula that turns him
into Giant-Man and it went bonkers? Steve looks even more
disturbingly feminine in both that beanstalk-picture and the
cafeteria scene in the middle, where, by contrast, he looks
quite the normal size, yet isn't even as muscular as the
super-serum experiment made him way back in the Golden Age. This
is a glaring example of Liefeld's inconsistencies from one panel
to the next.
I can guess why this initially got past the main editors at the
time: basically, Marvel farmed out the books to "hot"
writers/artists to do with as they pleased, Liefeld inexplicably
being one of that kind of bunch. Frighteningly enough, the books
may have had fairly good sales results at first, though they did
plummet soon afterwards. In any case, Liefeld was thankfully
taken off the books and let go, and the relaunched volumes were
canceled and given to better writers to relaunch again in ways
that fans would recognize. An interesting note: Marvel had
attempted to renegotiate its contracts with Lee and Liefeld to
cut their salaries. Guess what happened? Lee agreed, whereas
Liefeld refused. Isn't that amazing when the better artist turns
out to be more sensible as well and not make it look as though
he's only interested in money, while the poorer artist can only
think of greenbacks. I guess I might also mention that Liefeld
has also signaled he's a leftist, and since 2009, he's really
alienated me politics-wise as well as art-wise.
A classic case of having to suspend one's
disbelief, namely, at how the character shown in the picture on
the side can possibly introduce himself to earth's residents in
the goofy garb he's wearing!
During the Bronze Age period, Superman sometimes featured an
otherworldly superdoer called Vartox, who first debuted in Superman #281 Vol. 1,
November 1974. He was a hero from the planet Valeron, and
sometimes assisted the Man of Steel with several of his cases.
Trouble was, this guy (whose design must've been drawn from Sean
Connery and his role in the 1974 sci-fi movie Zardoz
where the setting "the vortex" must've served for drawing the
character name from), was kind of old for the role of a
superhero, which was one of the main reasons why he once
traveled to earth to ask the Man of Steel for help after his
powers for paralysis came up short during one crimefighting case
he was working on. But old or not, his getup was truly
embarrassing, and as time went by, the way he was written kept
getting worse with each consecutive appearance.
Now the vest he's wearing is okay, but the knee-length boots,
and the very skimpy pair of underwear/jock-strap are exactly
what do in his outfit, since it comes very, VERY close to making
him look like...well, you get the idea.
What was the talented Curt Swan thinking when he
came up this monstrosity? It wouldn't pass muster even in the
World Wrestling Federation, which I couldn't stand when I was a
youngster anyway. It does seem to have been [un-]inspired by
such foolish baloney, though.
Vartox was later reintroduced post-Crisis
in 1999 in a book called Team Superman,
and while my
knowledge on how he was reintro'd then is insufficient, I
certainly do hope that they gave him a better costume, and, come
to think of it, they probably did anyway.
Ultra-mold setting on!
The following character, Captain Ultra, seen (assuming it's
possible to do that, of course) on the left of the page,
appeared as a joke character in Fantastic Four #177
(he first appeared as an
attempted applicant to be the fourth member of the crooked
Frightful Four, but was rejected after he turned out to have a
problem with fire and smoking. He subsequently became a hero,
and was better off that way). And seeing him, well, you could
very easily wonder if the color on the pages - and on Captain
Ultra himself - faded to yellow over the years. The "bib" on his
chest appears to boast a letter U, though it's hard to tell if
the black or the yellow are what to look for. If anything, this
reminds me of a joke involving C3PO from Star Wars in MAD
magazine: "I gotta start using a sunblock!"
Oh yeah. And I gotta start using a pair of sunglasses to view
this ridiculously drawn character. He is so headache-inducing!
It's possible that he may have appeared in a couple of other
Marvel books as well during that time. Today, however, he's been
Separated at birth?
Mike Grell did have some good ideas for costume designs when he
first began his career in the mid-1970's by penciling the Legion
of Super-Heroes back then. But there were also quite a few
embarrassments, as this Cosmic Boy outfit shows. Good gosh, it
looks almost as if he'd been fooling around in his girlfriend's
underwear drawer, or was so dizzy after a night of heavy
petting, that he looked through the wrong clothes drawer when he
woke up! All the accessories he's got on are practically female,
for pete's sake! Is he modeling a futuristic line of swimsuits,
maybe? Umm, Cosmic, please leave that to Dream Girl to deal
with; you're not the one who's meant to be doing it, you know.
Or, if you are, then it should be the male swimming trunks
you should be modeling, not
that wretched ballerina-style getup you've got on there. Yikes,
what an embarrassment!
Then, there's Tyroc, an Afro-American Legionnaire, who wore a
similar costume, with chains included! And if you ask me, that
outfit too is quite an insult. The white gloves aren't much help
Cosmic Boy was lucky that by the time the Iron Age came around,
artists Steve Lightle and Ernie Colon gave him a new, full-body
costume that was certainly an improvement over the one he'd been
wearing during the Bronze Age. And the one he's been wearing
since Mark Waid and Art Thibert took over the writing for the
Legion in 2004 is certainly an improvement too. But even so,
this does come as a real embarrassing moment in Grell's career
as an artist. Maybe that's one of the reasons why, since the
mid-80s, he's drawn so little since then?
As for Tyroc, I'm not sure, since I don't know enough about his
appearances post-Zero Hour,
but I expect that even he too has been given more respect than
Grell ever did when designing him.
They took their clothes from the wrong drawer in the
More nuttiness can be summed up in the guise of the Red Seal, a
Golden Age hero who appeared in Target Comics in 1941. His
costume with long sleeves and bare leg fittings could work on a
woman, but on a man looks ridiculous with the long sleeves,
which Robin didn't use (and neither did Golden Age Atom Al
Pratt, seen higher above). Next to that is an outfit worn by
Aqualad in the 1990s a short time before he changed his codename
to Tempest, that looks like one of Ms. Marvel's costumes with
brighter colors. I just can't comprehend why some artists want
to use costume designs that look more feminine on male
protagonists. It's not like it's that hard to differentiate from
those worn by other notable heroes!
A thorn in the side
Another gem from the 1990s, when bad costume designs really
peaked. Sub-Mariner, while frequently going bare-chested macho
as a hero, had a pretty decent design when he was originally
created in 1939. But in the mid-90s, a really bizarre new look
was introduced, and was it ever waterlogged and messy!
Why all the long, unkempt hair around prince Namor's head? And
the sharp fin-style pointers on his legwear just don't fit the
bill either. They make it look like his legs are covered with
seaweed. Thank heavens this goofiness didn't last long.