Are You a Mignola or a Liefeld?

by ryankl

Been listening to the LET’S TALK COMICS podcast recently, catching up on a few eps — and if you haven’t scoped the show yet with your earholes then get on that because it’s ace for comic creators just idly chatting the super secrets of their process and humble origin stories.
So, anyway, I’m catching up and I’ve just listened to two very different eps with one featuring Rob Liefeld, and the other Mike Mignola. And in each ep we see how wildly different the two are.
Liefeld blew up the scene as a teenager, his style dynamic, his enthusiasm electric, but admittedly his craftmanship was lacking in certain respects. Regardless, he shot out of the stratosphere quickly and then soon splintered off from Marvel to start his own imprint with a few other mates which you might have heard of, Image Comics.
Liefeld’s star rises meteorically, the coin rains, but he has now supernova’d somewhat as his carcass is slowly washing up on the sandy shores of comics. Despite all this, Liefeld loves his work, loves who he is, and will only pause talking about himself and his designs to drop a Todd Mcfarland impression (which is, admittedly, pretty ace).
Then we look at Mignola and he admits when he started he put out some inking work that wasn’t superlative. Then he bounced around various Marvel projects, most of which I rarely see mentioned among the ‘classics’ and then he just dropped out of favour with Marvel. He was good, never great. This is how he saw himself, he felt alright about some things, he loathed others. He’s incredibly humble.
But then, Mignola comes out with Hellboy and begins a four colour journey that will take over two decades, multiple titles, a slew of insane creative talents, and will slowly but surely prove Mignola to be a modern master of the craft.

Reading HELLBOY IN HELL recently showed me how dominant Mignola is as a tone setter and a storyteller. Reading HAWK & DOVE or THE INFINITE did not do the same for me with Liefeld’s modern work.
I found it fascinating that one of these men was the clear break out success, and that man probably did get, and still has, more money then the other, but the other has become a respected titan in the industry and he did it slowly, with missteps, but then huge leaps forward – not in money but in craft.
So it got me to think – are you a Mignola or a Liefeld? Which would you want to be? How do you think you could be either? What steps would you take?
For me, Mignola is the clear winner. I want to chip away at the craft and process and finally do something of deep meaning, something that’s clinically amazing. Because while it’s fun to get paid I would absolutely hate to be a flash in the pan. I am in this to tell stories, money is merely there to help me do it, I’m not doing it necessarily for the money, y’know? It’s also worth noting that one of these stories features more initial failure, and self-doubt, and will take longer, and be a muddied path. It’s not for the lighthearted, but tell me it isn’t worth it.
Hurm, which makes me think, Frank Miller most definitely sits squarely between these two at present. Make of that what you will.
These are the career thoughts that plague me while I clean the kitchen. I hope you dig.

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