Confessions Of A Teenage Fanboy – Issue 1

After an eight year hiatus I recently decided to actively start collecting comic books again.  Though I still have a significant chunk of my original collection tucked away upstairs, I had sold my collection of X-Men related books and figures about 15 years ago to fund purchase of a bed because I was sick of sleeping on the floor like a tramp. Soft, I know. Anyhow I was back in Margate over the summer with some time to kill and ended up, as I often do, in a comic book store. Rummaging through the long boxes has always been a type of therapy for me, so I hit the X-Men back issues with a vengeance, determined to start filling the gaps in my reborn collection. That’s when I saw it again. X-Force Issue 1. In polybag. With trading card. Not a rare book by any stretch, but one that stirred up some very strange feelings….

Now I know I am setting myself up for a world of abuse and trolling but stay with me guys. Back in the Summer of 1991 I was a 13 year old dork with a bad hair cut and a face full of acne. I had no interest in girls which was just as well because they sure as hell had no interest in a guy like me. Things were not great at home or school and as a result I was developing a taste for siphoning off my dads booze and cultivating an enormous chip on my shoulder. Things were grim. The one light in the dark was my abiding love for comic books.

It was during this particularly difficult time that I became enamoured by the work of a young artist whose style and over the top ‘action movie’ approach to comic art blew my mind, that artist was named Rob Liefeld. I ate up Liefelds work for the same reason I loved Albert Pyun movies like Cyborg, Nemesis or Knights. Sure it was over the top and ludicrous and it made no sense… buuuut it looked cool and it was FUN as Hell.
I  knew very little about story telling, panel structure, narrative arcs and the greater complexities of comic book craft  but at that time in my life I didn’t really care too much about that. I just wanted to taken away from my shitty reality. I wanted to see exactly what Liefeld was spewing out. Brash smart mouth, tough talking heroes with ambiguous morality. New characters like Cable, X-Force and Deadpool were exploding onto the splash pages of the books I was reading, armed to the teeth with enormous guns, knives and bristling with a boatload of bad attitude.

Once Liefeld started to make some waves in the comic scene, it became increasingly popular to bash him and god knows there were plenty of reasons to do so. In hindsight, sure the dude could not draw feet for shit. His hyper-sexualised depiction of female characters were rightly criticized for it’s leering propensity for objectification and most of his own original creations were derivative to the point of caricature.

That said, I always felt like Rob was a victim of his own rapid success and circumstances. He was a young punk barely out of high school who landed a good gig early in his career. One minute he’s working on Hawk & Dove over at DC, a third tier title if ever there was one. Next thing you know he’s drafted in to pencil the last few issues of the New Mutants (X-Men juniors for those who don’t know) which was always a somewhat mediocre book at best. But Liefeld’s energetic style, new looks and big attitudes for the surviving characters and the introduction of some big changes upped New Mutants popularity considerably and provided the launch pad for its successor book X-Force. A book that sold four million copies of its debut issue. Have you ever sold four million issues of anything? No? Didn’t think so.

When you sell four million copies of your debut book at 24 years of age and you are rolling in dough and hanging out with Eazy E  I would imagine  ‘Hey perhaps I should learn to draw feet correctly’ is pretty low on your list of priorities.

extreme-photos-smallIn hindsight and with adult eyes that are a little more well schooled in art than I was back then, I can see where Rob’s many detractors were coming from. And here’s the thing. Rob, Jim Lee, Todd Mcfarlane and the other guys who binned off Marvel to create Image Comics tapped into the zeitgeist of the time. In the wake of the British Invasion and its heavy themes and brooding existential crisis, the fanboy favourites took comic books back to being over the top, loud and most importantly FUN.

The British Invasion led by Moore, Morrison, Gaiman etc had elevated comics to another level in the mid 80’s. With dark and intricately crafted stories complimented by phenomenal artwork, and that was excellent. They drew me in and made me realise how compelling and moving a story can be no matter the form it takes. There’s good reason that Dark Knight Returns, Sandman, Watchmen, V For Vendetta etc are regarded as classics. They changed the game and they continue to stand up years later.

Every so often we see a similar effect in hardcore culture and underground music, as the trends cycle round the next thing to come along is usually a reaction to whatever preceded it. The British Invasion was like haute cuisine, a Nick Cave record or Apocalypse Now, real pinacle shit.  The Rob Liefelds and Jim Lees that followed them were more like the buzz you get from the first swig off a cold can of Coca Cola or a slice of good pizza at 1am or a last call hooker. Is it bad for you? Kinda. Did it hit the spot? Abso-fucking-lutely.
Sure I can get snobby about comic books with the best of them. I will wax on about the literary genius of Waid and Bendis and Claremont to anyone who cares to listen. I can gush on and on about the quality of George Perez pencils on Crisis and Teen Titans and  blah blah fucking blah.

Let me get to my point. One of my pet hates is when people turn their back on the things that once meant the world to them. It’s a behaviour I see often within the underground music scene I grew up in.You get these people who were so obsessed with straight edge or espousing punk values but will abandon those principles as soon as the next bandwagon comes rolling along. They reinvent their style and values to fit the expectations of new social groups and then waste time and energy belittling those who still get a kick out of whatever it was they were sweating last week. That speaks to me of a weakness of character, an inability to accept the gradual process of personal evolution or to acknowledge where you came from. We don’t play that game here at Corehammer. This website is a testament to self acceptance, a celebration of the things that made us who we are.

So yeah, I know it’s ‘cool’ to make fun of Rob and X-Force. I know it’s cool to mock his art and be snide about his writing but you know what man…Fuck you. Rob Liefeld’s books managed to put a smile on my face at a time when nothing else did. They gave me the courage to push through all the bullshit that life was relentlessly throwing at a lonely 13 year old kid with a headful of faulty wiring. When you are in a bad place it’s important to grab a hold of something, anything, that can keep you from falling further down that horrible spiral of self loathing and doing something stupid to yourself. Ridiculous as it may sound but for a while at least, X-Force was that one thing.

Fuck the haters Rob, I still love ya.


1 thought on “Confessions Of A Teenage Fanboy – Issue 1

  1. Loved me some Shatterstar back then. I did the classic move of getting X-Force 1 never having seen it before, and then hustling to get New Mutants back issues to seem like I knew what was going on all along. Of course I was getting them pretty slowly on a 12 year olds disposable income.

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