The comic book industry is an ever-changing business. From the bright-eyed optimism of the golden age to the dark and overly serious tone of the silver age, comics have continuously changed to fit the times. Not many characters can endure those changes, and very few writers can also change their style. So, for Rob Liefeld to create one of the biggest characters in the Marvel universe, continue to write quality stories, and build out that world is a remarkable feat.
Deadpool: Badder Blood is a sequel to Deadpool: Bad Blood and is an excellent read for fans of the character or anyone who enjoys a good action-comedy. The story is fast-paced, humorous, and the artwork is stunning. The Merc with a Mouth is a complex character, and the book does a great job of exploring his past while still fleshing out his world with both old and new characters. In this interview, Rob Liefeld discusses what went into this story, why it’s essential to the future of Deadpool as a character, and teases what fans can expect from Deadpool 3.
MICHAEL THOMAS: You released Deadpool: Bad Blood in 2017, introduced Thumper, and used that as an avenue to build out that Deadpool universe with new characters and stuff. What was your creative process for that?
ROB LIEFELD: You know, I look at Deadpool, and he feels like a character that I don’t know what the general operating procedure, when it comes to him, was, from all the different creative approaches. But I mean, I was sitting there, I was watching, I was observing, and it just seemed to neglect the fact that he really deserves his own rogues’ gallery. And if you look around, so many of these— especially at Marvel, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, they’re the top two rogues’ galleries at Marvel, easy. Then obviously, at DC, you’ve got Batman.
Deadpool needs his own. Like, who is Deadpool’s Sabretooth? Who is Deadpool’s Joker? Who is Deadpool’s Green Goblin? So I figure, I’ll do this, I’ll jump into this, and back when we did that Bad Blood, the original graphic novel that launched this entire series of stories, I was really, really, determined to give him a dedicated nemesis. And, of course, what makes the nemesis more resonant is some personal matter, some emotion involved. So, I went back to his middle school days, Wade Wilson, and introduced a kid who idolized everything he did, the way he told jokes, the way he hung out with his friends, the way he played sports, whatever. We established that he was really obsessed with Wade Wilson, and then followed him, in fact, to the Weapon X program to be the next subject, or another Weapon X subject somewhere along the line, and was very bold about, “Make me bigger, better, stronger than whatever you did to Wade Wilson.”
So, I mean, they’re going, “Wow, we got a great, like, Frankenstein here.” Of course, in Bad Blood, we established that they’ve encountered each other through the years, and Wade wasn’t quite sure of his identity, but in Bad Blood, we pull back the curtain, we establish their involvement, and then we just go from there. But by the end of Bad Blood, he is still at large and quite formidable, and now is building a criminal empire, given that Thumper has realized his rage is at an all-time high. But his agenda now is beyond just a personal vendetta with Deadpool. He’s tired of being manipulated by so many different parties, and so his goal and his agenda is to create this giant crime operation and become this global crime lord. So Deadpool and Cable and Wolverine are in the middle of all this, trying to stop him as we begin the story, which everyone seems to have enjoyed very much as we sold out in the first day in a matter of hours.
People are on this ride with me, so I’m so excited because, again, I just think it’s digging our teeth deeper into this world. And as we go, and as you continue to take this ride with us, you’re gonna meet more new players in the Deadpool world that I hope catch the favor of the readers and the people who love Deadpool. And again, several issues in, you’re getting a couple more in issue two, you’re getting a new twist on maybe a new character in issue three – oh, yeah, holy crap! And then a whole build-out of some characters we glimpse in issue one. So yeah, I’m just trying to give Deadpool a rogues’ gallery, and I don’t really have a whole lot of competition because up until then, as I’ve stated very blatantly, these exist, they were giving him kind of other people’s wacky character. He was getting the Howard the Duck rogues’ gallery. I mean, Doctor Bong? As much as I loved Doctor Bong when I read Howard the Duck in 1977, I thought, “We could do better, we can do better than Howard the Duck’s villains for Deadpool,” and that’s basically the impetus and the driving force behind this.
Yeah, I really love that not only are you building his rogues’ gallery, but you’re also incorporating Cable and Wolverine. You’re kind of harkening back to the classic team-up of those three, as well, and just fleshing out Deadpool’s side of the Marvel universe, right? Like you were saying earlier, Spider-Man has his own corner on lock, right, with his rogues’ gallery and New York City and all that stuff. It’s really great, and I think that’s why it’s resonating with the fans, right? Selling out in mere hours is because you are now making Deadpool, not just that fun character on the side, he is a firm constant in the Marvel Universe, and he deserves that same treatment.
LIEFELD: Yes, and what I’m trying to do at the outset with Thumper is, you know, open up this giant 11-page action sequence where he is going toe-to-toe with Wolverine and Cable. So we saw him interact and go toe-to-toe, and literally, Deadpool unload everything in his arsenal to defeat him, and of course, Domino was assisting him in Bad Blood, but this time I wanted to just kick right in and go. Thumper is a major threat to Cable and Wolverine. Cable is an A-class mutant power, the fans know how formidable both he and Wolverine are, so it was like immediately telling the reader, “Look, this guy is a big deal.”
And like I said, I get the benefit of doing this interview with you after, you know, 24 hours of incredible sales and response, and fans who are digging this, and I just go, “What do you know? People like the character when the creator puts his imperator on him.” In my opinion, the Fantastic Four was never better than with [Jack] Kirby, Spider-Man was never better than with [Steve] Ditko and [Stan] Lee. So I sit there, and, you know, I kind of feel like the guy who brought him into the Earth, and introduced him to the biggest sales he’s ever had in the first place, is probably not the worst caretaker you’re gonna find. Nobody has as much emotion and passion invested in Deadpool. I mean, I literally gave birth to them. I’ve got a message from Ryan Reynolds once where he’s like, “Deadpool came out of your… you know, sliced his way out of your–” I don’t know, it was a very vulgar way of me giving birth. But anyway, that was an email that caught my attention a couple of years back.
But look, here’s the deal, I’m just really happy that people are happy and are going along for this ride. And always very thankful that Marvel just kind of lets me play in this sandbox that I created with him or this wing. I’ve said before this, you know, the X-Men franchise, that house is built by Stan and Jack, and then a giant add-on, addition to the foundation was all the stuff that [Chris] Claremont did. But I’m really proud of young Robby Liefeld, who went in there and kicked down the door and said, “I’m building a wing right here,” and it fit, and it worked, and it still works.
Yeah, it works incredibly well. One of the things that I really enjoyed when reading this first issue – the press got a chance to read a little further ahead than the audience, but I’m not gonna spoil it too much – I really enjoyed the collaboration with you, Chad Bowers, Jay David Ramos, you guys really put the work in. The art’s fantastic, the colors are fantastic. What was that creative process? Because you are the creator of Deadpool, this is your baby.
LIEFELD: Here’s the deal, here’s the deal; these are my stories, just like in New Mutants and X-Force. I never shared a story credit. Your readers should understand that is a separate line item on a payment. It has its own pay structure, story is its own pay structure, script dialogue is its own pay structure, and if you do both, then they combine. But because of the Marvel method, whereas maybe Stan would come up with the story, and then Roy Thomas would script it, or Len Wein would script it, this was the methodology, and I understood it early on.
For me, I’m always way more comfortable creating the plot, the story, the interaction, the twists, the turns, the motivations. All of the story falls on me. But I know that when I can work with the very best dialogue and scripters, and I have throughout my career, I mean, whether it was Jeff Loeb and I jammin’ there in the ‘90s as we did so often on our Captain America work, Fighting American. After that, we did Onslaught Reborn, and for the last better part of, I mean, gosh, eight years, Chad and I have been jamming. It started on Deadpool: Bad Blood, and then they asked me if I was comfortable with them, and I had read the work. Again, because the great thing is, I get to pick my creative teams, which is no different than 1990. I had three people submit to me who wanted to script over my story, and I made the choice, and I always make the choice. I’m at the point in my career, I decided about 2012, 2013, I wasn’t gonna– I’ve kind of had success as a storyteller, and I’m just gonna tell my own stories. I’m tearing a page out of Jack Kirby’s playbook. When he left Marvel and went to DC, he did not draw another person’s story for the better part of, you know, the rest of his career, maybe, or maybe a one-off here and there.
I’ve gotten to collaborate with all the great talents that I wanted to collaborate with, so now I love creating these teams. Chad was part of a team with Chris Sims, they combined and provided script and dialogue… Because, again, readers see “script” and they think a movie script. That’s not what script means in a comic book, script means dialogue, it means banter, interaction, the word balloons, for lack of a better word. But when I give my books to Chad, I then write out copious notes of what’s going on in every page, occasionally. Like, “I need this said, I need this said, play with this. This is what should be going on here. Give him some room.” He followed me over to Snake Eyes, another day one sell-out three years ago Snake Eyes: Deadgame, number one, we kind of roared back with G.I. Joe. He did my one-shot 30th anniversary X-Force: Killshot with me, and now he’s doing this.
I am perfectly comfortable and love working with Chad more than anybody I’ve worked with in the last two decades. So we have a great camaraderie. Occasionally he tries to get me to change my mind, and he can tell you that he has had zero success with me, going, “Hey, what if we swap this here and here?” Nope. And look, here’s the deal, I will then call him up, as I had to do with this story, and say, “Hey, dude, there’s something coming in issue four that you should know, that informs what’s going on in one, two, and three. This is not how it appears, and there’s gonna be this reveal, and you need to know that ahead of time to give yourself enough advance warning so that I’m not shocking you to the point that we have to go back and backtrack.” And I’m very reluctant to do that. Ask Marvel, in the competitive business that is comics, I trust no one. I’m like The X-Files, I trust no one, and I am not about to give away my trade secrets.
When New Mutants #100 happened, my editors found out that Strife was connected to Cable when they got the page where he took his helmet off. And they’re like, “Wait, what? You didn’t tell us this!” And then, on the way out the door when I left, my editor, Bob Harris, said, “Rob, I think you saved the best twist for last. I can’t believe that Domino, in issue 98, has been a doppelganger this entire time.” I’m like, “Yep, Deadpool was there to just kind of clear the path for nobody to notice Domino, and to get her in there,” and I revealed that the real Domino is at the bottom of a pit, the hostage of Toliver, who’s the crime boss. And again, that’s part of entertaining your audience and taking them on this journey. I learned it from soap operas. Thank you, General Hospital and Days of Our Lives from the ‘80s when I watched it with my mom and my sister all during the summer, and their crazy storylines. And also, I think so was Chris Claremont, I think Chris Claremont was watching the same soap operas because I’m like, “Ah, X-Men is very soap opera-y!” Again, because I speak fluent– Man, some of these crazy soap opera storylines always had the twists and the turns, so I just try to apply that to comic books, and it’s been a successful formula, and I’m thrilled again that people are enjoying the ride.
That kind of leads to a question I have for you. As a creative and not really wanting to compromise on your ideas, which I admire, it makes it stronger, and I’m glad that you had that reassurance once that twist was revealed in that story. I kind of wanted to get in your head a little bit; when you’re creating characters, like Deadpool, like Thumper, like everybody we see in Bad Blood and Badder Blood, what is your inspiration? What plays into the creation of your characters for you personally?
LIEFELD: Well, I’ll tell you, I don’t know when I talked about this, I don’t know where I addressed it, maybe it was on my podcast – plug for my Robservations podcast. But anyway, the bottom line is, with Thumper, I feel like there were times I knew a Thumper growing up, and I was a Thumper growing up. There was a kid in school, and he talked cool, he had phrases, you know, he was like the cool kid in school. I mean, I followed him around to the point where one time the pretty girl in our junior high was like, “All you ever do is repeat what he says,” and I’m like, “Oh man, is it that obvious?” Like, she got me. And in his presence, I’m trying to be that sidekick.
Later in life, I got my own Thumpers, and you go, “Oh man, everything I’m doing is being mimicked by this person.” Well, we’ve seen the most sinister version of that in movies like Single White Female, and so, somebody asked me, “What was your inspiration, and was there an actor?” And I’m like, “Yeah, and he can’t play Thumper because it’s Vincent D’onofrio in Full Metal Jacket,” because that’s all I thought of when I was doing it. He just became… just the amount of insanity and crazy that he imbued into that performance as he transformed throughout the movie, and when we knock away his helmet in Bad Blood, you see that he’s bald and much more disfigured and hideous, and much larger than Wade Wilson.
In my world, again, I’ll get an actor, I’ll attach that in my head. It doesn’t need to be a photo, you know, I feel like you don’t automatically get the photo rights to those characters, so they just kind of have to be stylized in your head. But again, it’s somewhat my real-life inspiration, having been a Thumper, having known Thumpers, experienced them, and then I just gave him a more sinister bend. I thought it would be a fun twist if you could make it more personal, and have him have this connection, then it’s gonna create more emotion for the reader, as well, because there will be a minute when that gun is at the temple of Thumper’s head, and Deadpool has to decide, “Am I gonna pull the trigger?” Or Thumper is choking the life out of Deadpool and is kind of having a flashback to as a kid where, you know, “I used to admire this guy. Why am I killing him now?” That only happens if you establish that.
I don’t always slow down, and I don’t always pump the brakes, but I had to in Bad Blood, and I had to give those backstories. I mean, at one point, they’re battling amongst the lockers of their old middle school in Bad Blood, and you’re flashing back. And so, I mean, if you have a personal experience and then you can heighten it, that’s always gonna be the best-case scenario. But upcoming, with characters like Kill Bill, that is my personal homage to Arcade and Murderworld. I was introduced to Arcade and Murderworld in 1976, ‘77 when Claremont and [John] Byrne originally featured him in Marvel Team-Up with Captain Britain.
I love those stories, but then, as you grow older– Then there’s a seminal X-Men story where Arcade took them all on, and the bottom line is, in 2023, Murderworld is a trillion-dollar enterprise. These underground labyrinths of death that are giant theme parks. I mean, I’m not sure Elon Musk can pull this off. I just read again today, he’s the richest man in the world again today. Well, I’m not sure he’d stay the richest man in the world if he kept building Murderworlds. So I decided, “Hey, I’m gonna get to there with virtual reality, VR technology,” and I have a character who is connected to Arcade.
Again, so happy I didn’t do the Murderworld thing because I would have just kind of torn it down to build it up, and now I have a character who’s like, “Murderworld, it’s not a realistic business model, okay?” But Kill Bill creates that opportunity, and issue three of Deadpool: Badder Blood and issue four are some of my favorites. I call them the most comic bookie comics I’ve ever done. They are an absolute blast, a twist and turn, and I just feel like they move at hyper speed. Again, I’ve leaned into big, bold visuals, and in a time where I gotta tell you big, bold visuals in comics are harder to find than ever.
I feel like there’s a lot of “samey” product out there, and rather than conform, I’m just doing what I always do. I’m trying to push the envelope, and you know, people with issue one are like, “Oh my gosh! I turned this book sideways twice!” I’m like, “Yep, that’s because you’re having fun.” And I’ve met editors that are like, “You should never have to turn the book!” That’s stupid. I say to that, “Poppycock,” and I am an infamous comic book page-turner-sideways, double-page spreads. And really, I felt disappointed that there weren’t bigger moments in issue one, and that’s why with issue two and issue three, I told Marvel, well in advance, “There are four double-page spreads in here. I’m just telling you ahead of time for your ad placements, for your layouts. I’m gonna need, you know, four times,” and they’re like – and I knew it – the email was like, “Four double-page spreads, really?” I’m like, “Really. Just, all systems go!” So they’re on board. Everyone’s having a fun time.
And look man, at the end of the day, we can get into character and emotion, and all that crap, and there’s people doing that every day in comics, but you know, I’m not sure if everybody’s having as much fun as they should. Comic books are, first and foremost, an exercise of fun, they are an escape. I know that comic books have become a place for people to show off their screenwriting prowess, “Look, I can be a showrunner!” Then go be a showrunner. Get out of comics. Let’s do comics. Comics are different. You can’t film my comics, my comics aren’t meant to be storyboards for a movie. My comic books are supposed to be a comic book.
I’ve told you this before, with my visuals and with my pages, I am negotiating with you from the shelf to the register. I want you to pick my comic up, and I succeeded. I won. Issue one was heavily ordered and sold out day of, and I knew this because as the day went by Twitter people, Facebook people, Instagram people, “They’re sold out, they’re sold out. I’m going to three stores. Every store in Florida is out of them. Tallahassee, gone, Arizona stores…” and I’m like, “Wow, people are picking this up. It’s a $5 book, it’s not cheap.” But, you know, I’m probably being helped by a lot of “samey” product, and I’m like, “I know how to do this. I understand it.”
Again, my spiritual guru…is Jack Kirby, and having wined and dined with Kirby, having been at his house, looked through his drawers, sat at his historic drawing table where he drew pages, walked with him out in his pool, I mean, multiple visits. I tapped into that DNA, and I just know exactly Jack and his unapologetic approach. Today on my podcast, I covered his 2001: A Space Odyssey issue’s splash page, double-page splash, ends with a splash, four splashes. His Black Panthers were the same as Captain America’s, he just had a visual language, and I’m trying to bring a visual language. And as time goes by, it’s kind of all of the approaches that we had to ‘90s comics – that worked, by the way, as a sidebar, that worked – have been abandoned. That doesn’t mean there’s not an appetite for that stuff.
Well said, well said! I think that’s why this book is so beloved already and why it’s sold out so well, right? It is unequivocally a comic book. The press were given digital versions, but as you said, I’m still over here turning my iPad over and over, looking at the wonderful art that you guys have done in this story. It’s a unique experience that you don’t get from any other medium, and I appreciate that you understand that and respect that and take full advantage of it.
LIEFELD: Well, thank you. And yeah, I also want to say, look, I work with some of the best. Deadpool: Bad Blood was colored by Romulo Fajardo Jr., all 100 pages, and then he colored the new pages when we split them up into singles when Marvel had this plan to reintroduce Bad Blood as singles last year for the people who missed out on the graphic novel, which was out of print, sold out, and a $25 book more expensive. But they put these out as singles last summer, through fall, and then by last Christmastime, you had the new trade paperback, and I worked with Romulo – we call him Rom. He was kind of new to the scene when I hooked up with him, and he pushed the limits of what he could do, and you can tell from page one to page 100 he just got even better, and he felt that freedom that I pushed on him, and just said, “I want you to push yourself. You have the freedom to play here.”
Then on a couple of other projects, there was a guy who did my Snakes Eyes, his name is Federico Blee. He did every page of that, and he pushed the envelope, and we went and had that same camaraderie. And then Jay David Ramos, who told me that Rom was one of his earliest influencers and instructors in the Philippines, Jay has taken on the mantle with me. And again, these guys know the kind of freedom that they’re allowed when they work with me, and they also tell me how much they like the big, bold visuals, and the page designs. And so, you know, I try and give these guys something exciting, and maybe opportunities that they don’t get on other pages. But ultimately, it’s just that most of these guys, you can go, “How many changes did Rob ask you to do?” “Zero, zero.” You know, I jus get it back in, I kind of give them a hint of what they’re gonna do, they send it back to me, it’s brilliant, and I’m like, “Dude, thank you, thank you for pushing the envelope here.”
I’m just so fortunate I work with these great talents. And I still work with Rom, you know, he colors covers and short stories, and stuff like that. But when he did Bad Blood, he blew up and got so popular, and then I kind of was like, “Who’s this Jay Ramos? He’s really good!” So about five years ago, I had him start coloring my covers, and here we are, and he’s crushing it. Like you said, everybody who’s contributing is just doing the most amazing work.
Yeah, it’s fantastic. I’ve just got one more question for you. You mentioned that a lot of your stuff can be unfilmable, right? But we are on our third Deadpool movie. How excited are you for the film and is there anything you can share?
LIEFELD: [Laughs] Yeah, I see what you’re doing there. Yeah, everyone’s in for a real treat. I’m just happy that everyone is gonna get to experience this again, go down this road. It will have been, I think, seven years. I think probably the appetite for it is gonna be fairly severe given that we’ve not had— I mean, the funny thing is, Deadpool, after being in this long gestation period, not getting filmed, the studio bosses not making it, suddenly, you know, there were only two years between films, 2016 Deadpool, boom. And trust me, I would be on the Fox lot, they would call me up there, and they’d be like, “Rob, Deadpool’s our highest priority. It’s our biggest grossing picture, dollar for dollar, pound for pound, that we made.” The first one was $50 million, made $800 million, more when you go to the DVD market and all the other ancillaries. One day, I drove on the lot, and the Julie Andrews and The Sound of Music painting was gone on the main wall, and it’s Deadpool now. I’m like, “Oh crap! I am driving on the lot, and Deadpool is now on a giant four-story wall!” So, they knew what they had, they got it back together, and I think Deadpool 2 was equally perceived, beloved, they love the expanding of the world.
And look, all we want, right, is for Deadpool and Wolverine to jam together. And I always think it’s a very sweet… there’s something sweet, and I told Hugh [Jackman] to his face, when I was fortunate enough to meet him on his Greatest Showman tour, I said, “Look, Hugh, I’m gonna tell you, A.) there is no MCU without you as Wolverine, period.” [Robert] Downey Jr. deserves his due, but if Wolverine doesn’t work, it’s over. 2000 X-Men, you have no idea. I mean, we’re going back, you know, 23 years from the summer that was produced, but to get that in front of cameras, to get that filmed in 1999, and the battle and the belief that had to be instilled to take this shot because people thought I would be in studios. I would be at Paramount, I would be at Universal, I would be at Sony, “Nah, nobody wants anything Batman, nobody wants any comic book movies.” Only Superman and Batman had worked, it was really the only thing that they had invested in.
And a team concept? No way. People would go do this dance, I could have had a Youngblood film in 1993, and it would have been atrocious because they did not understand. They kept telling me how they were gonna make it like Batman over and over, and I’m like, “Youngblood’s not Batman!” I’m like, “I’m seeing James Cameron, The Abyss, Aliens, Terminator, that’s what I see when I see Youngbloods! Why do you keep telling me Batman?” Because that’s all they knew, that’s all they knew. So X-Men works, but what makes X-Men work is you have to have the most popular character in the X-Men work, and Wolverine had to deliver, and I love that Hugh got the job because Dougray Scott couldn’t do it because he was locked into Mission: Impossible, and that went over, just a great story. But here’s the sweet part, Hugh becomes so popular as Wolverine, they give him his own spinoff movie, and as a producer – that movie has issues, for sure – but as a producer, he is part of the process that hires Ryan Reynolds. Hugh Jackman is the guy, one of the voices that had to sign off on Ryan Reynolds being Wade Wilson, being Deadpool, and I said to him, “Thank you for choosing Ryan. Thank you for elevating him,” and he’s like, “Hey, you’re alright! Thanks, mate, thanks.”
The Wolverine thing, they’re like, “Hey, we don’t get to the MCU without you.” So, you got X-Men before you got Tobey Maguire, Spider-Man. X-Men put Marvel movies on the map in this millennium. It was a big risk. People did not think that movie was gonna work. Trust me, they anticipated pretty much a bomb. That movie worked, got that incredible X2, which gave it legs, and then I know it was scattershot, but Fox found it. Deadpool, 2016; Logan 2017; Deadpool 2, the R-rated space, fantastic. And now we’re gonna finally get them together. People are gonna– What I know will melt your face, and that’s all I’m gonna say. People are in for a great ride, period.
We can’t wait, we can’t wait to see Deadpool 3, and we can’t wait to get back into Deadpool: Badder Blood because you got us excited about what’s to come. I know our listeners, our readers, are gonna be so excited to finish up that series as well. Are there any plans for a third book? A Deadpool: Baddest Blood?
LIEFELD: Hey, you know what? The day-one sell-out certainly helps. So let’s see what we can do. And I certainly am– There’s no shortage of where Deadpool: Baddest Blood will go, but boy, are we excited about it! So, you know, let’s see. Let’s see if I can survive getting to this fifth issue because I have been grinding, I have been grinding and getting all this stuff done, and I always over-commit. I’m way over-committed, but I’m so glad that we talked and we were able to catch up.
You can buy Deadpool: Badder Blood at your local comic shop or digitally on Amazon.