Beyond Deadpool: A Few of Liefeld’s Other Character Designs
Well, it’s happened: Deadpool is a certified movie star. It was only a matter of time, thanks to that peculiar mix of charm, snark and psychosis spilling out of our boy Wade. But there’s another weapon in Mr. Pool’s arsenal: that killer set of threads he sports. Oh sure, it’s red for a reason, but that’s not all. It’s memorable, it’s sleek, it’s tactical and it has the cool factor out the wazoo. Originally created by Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld in 1991 and making his debut in The New Mutants #98, Deadpool started climbing the mountain of celebrity and never looked back. And it’s safe to say that his costume greatly increased his appeal.
Now it must be mentioned that Rob Liefeld has historically been a controversial figure in his chosen field, but that’s not what this article is about. Rather, let’s take a look at some of Liefeld’s other character designs from the (general) time of Deadpool’s creation and compare their looks with his striking little black and red number. Are they ready for their close-up as well, Mr. DeMille (or Tim Miller)?
Well yeah, I had to put Cable in first, he’s gonna be in the sequel (fingers crossed for Keira Knightley). He’s also got a lot going on. For starters, the whole left side of his body is living metal from the Techno-Organic virus, so he’s kinda like half-Terminator (and he’s from one of those dystopian futures that are so popular). He’s got the whole battle-scarred old soldier look going on, like Clint Eastwood if he had an awesome cybernetic eye implant. Also: lots of heavy weaponry, large shoulder pads and plenty of pouches to hold stuff (yeah, it’s an old joke about Liefeld’s designs, but it kinda works for a soldier to have utility belts all over himself). Cable’s design is a pastiche of ideas that are strong on their own, but add up to a strange whole. His design is visually interesting but doesn’t have the symmetry or color of Deadpool’s. Still, can’t wait to see him in the sequel.
Every superhero universe has to have an expert archer, and Rob Liefeld’s Image Comics imprint Extreme Studios was no exception. Thus we have Shaft, who only WISHES he had a theme song as fantastic as Richard Roundtree. But still, he does have a bow that fires its arrows by magnet power instead of a string, so he’s got that one up on the rest of the “outdated projectile weapons” crowd. Beyond that, he has a face-encircling headgear that calls to mind Gambit, among others. His initial design was not short on bandoliers and pouches, though the ability to carry gear around seems fitting for a master archer (are any of these characters ever shown fishing around in these pouches for anything, or do they always remain decorative?). Shaft’s color scheme is red and white, making him look slightly like Aquafresh toothpaste without the green part. It’s a somewhat interesting design that works, but it still doesn’t quite have the wow factor provided by the interplay of red and black in Deadpool’s look.
Another founding member of Youngblood, Badrock is the big bruiser on the team, even though he’s just a teenager. His look is mostly about showcasing his stone-like hide, but he did wear some serious shoulder pads in his first appearance and beyond. One striking aspect about Badrock’s look is his jutting lower jaw, giving him that determined underbite shared by The Iron Giant and Vin Diesel (hmmm…). Beyond that, Badrock’s actual costume(s) have consisted of various tight spandex that emphasize his bulk but don’t lend themselves to attention-grabbing designs of their own. Much like Ben Grimm or Concrete, the character’s body that resembles natural material IS their look, and that’s what springs to mind when they are mentioned.
Domino is another character that is memorable more for a physical characteristic than for what they wear. Created by Nicieza and Liefeld during their run on The New Mutants, Domino is another of those deadly super-weapon experiments which governments just never get tired of financing. While for clothing Domino generally wears form-fitting black (sometimes with purple accents) tactical gear, it’s that black spot over her left eye that contrasts so well with her chalk white skin and really sticks in the reader’s mind. Such a simple characteristic, but powerful in the way it resonates with her codename. Her luck generating powers, her mysteriousness and even her deadliness are all suggested by the spot over her eye. It’s a solid bit of character design.
The coolest Diehard that wasn’t married to Demi Moore is this guy, actually a series of artificial bodies that carry the consciousness of the original hero. His look is the closest to Deadpool on this list, at least in the fact that they both possess the same featureless full-face mask that suggests something other than human might be underneath. Diehard’s version is white with a dark stripe down the middle, giving it that pleasing contrast and increasing the cool/scary ratio. The rest of his suit’s color scheme is a little busy though, with both gold and red added to the dark blue and white. In my opinion, that degrades the unity of his look a bit in relation to Deadpool’s solid black and red motif. A cool design but just a bit off balance.
Liefeld was a busy guy back then, helping create the early ’90s like that. There’s love for his work and there’s criticism, but it’s simply a fact that he created a hefty body of work in a relatively short time. While in my opinion Deadpool is one of Liefeld’s more successful co-creations, there’s a good chance that these characters will have their own moments to shine before a larger audience (and not just Cable, who we know is on his way). I wouldn’t mind seeing Domino pop up in the X-Men franchise, and Youngblood could make for a cool team movie if handled correctly. Sure, they may not be as pretty as Deadpool (really though, who is?), but that doesn’t mean they can’t get the job done.