Rob Liefeld tells EW about his mysterious new character, coming soon to a Marvel Universe near you
“Welcome to this interview, Blackshot!” Rob Liefeld says over the phone. This iconic comic writer/artist’s decades-long career includes co-founding Image Comics and introducing several Marvel superheroes in the early ‘90s — including Deadpool, Cable, and Domino — that now feel more popular than ever thanks to their appearances in movies and video games. As an homage to Liefeld’s influence on culture, a “What’s your Rob Liefeld Name?” meme recently emerged on the internet. Like others of its genre, this meme is a name chart; by plugging in your first and last initial, you find out what your name might have been if you were a superhero character created by Rob Liefeld. By that rubric, this EW interviewer’s Liefeld name is Blackshot, while Liefeld himself is Blastblaze.
“I know my way around a good character design, it’s something I’m proud of,” Liefeld tells EW. “I made my name creating tons of characters. It was out of necessity: I had a book that needed a shot in the arm, so I gave it a shot in the arm and we changed the culture. But the opportunity to put a bunch of new X-Men toys in the sandbox does not lose its excitement.”
The reason that excitement hasn’t gone away is that Liefeld’s not done making new characters. EW can exclusively announce that Liefeld is writing a new Marvel comic miniseries called Major X. The series will be six issues shipping twice a month from April through June, and will focus on the arrival of the title character, a mutant warrior from another realm, into the Marvel Universe.
“To me the X-Men have always thrived on big ideas, crazy ideas. So I figured, let’s just go for it,” Liefeld says. “Major X introduces a new character who is certain to mix up everything in the X-world. He hails from another existence, which is called the ‘X-istence’ — a mutant Shangri-La, a safe haven that has been a realm where mutantkind has lived in peace and harmony. They escaped there following a tragedy that befell mutantkind, and built this community. There are some familiar faces that he has forged this other society with. But then a terrible event happens within the X-istence that causes Major X to cross over and land in the Marvel Universe that we know. But he doesn’t land in the spot he was hoping, so in the first issue he is in 1991. We progressively get him where he needs to go. By the conclusion of the story, we catch up to modern-day Marvel.”
In other words, Major X arrives in the Marvel timeline sometime between two of Liefeld’s most famous stories: The first appearance of Deadpool in New Mutants #98 (February 1991) and the reformation of the New Mutants into a Cable-led strike force in X-Force #1 (August 1991). In addition to bringing the new character face-to-face with the ’90s X-Men, Liefeld is also reteaming with one of his peers from that era. While Liefeld was writing and illustrating X-Force back then, Whilce Portacio was illustrating Uncanny X-Men. He and Liefeld would later go on to co-found Image Comics together, alongside Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri, Jim Valentino, and Erik Larsen. Portacio is sharing art duties on Major X with Liefeld and Brent Peeples (Titans).
“When we were coming up with the team, I said look, back in 1991 I was jamming with two guys: Jim Lee on X-Men and Whilce Portacio on Uncanny X-Men. We were the three engines running that office in the early ‘90s when all the launches happened,” Liefeld says. “So I just reached out and said Whilce, I’m having a party, it’s called Major X, could you join? I sent him the plot, and we got him for a key chapter in the story. I’m a giant Whilce Portacio fan, fans were jamming on him and the stuff he was doing on Uncanny in the ’90s, and when he sent the pages, I could not be more thrilled. It’s 1991 again, I’m jamming with Whilce, we’re making X-Men comics. It’s myself, Brent Peeples, and Whilce. We are handling the art. I’m the bookends, and then Brent and Whilce are the middle chapters. There’s a pride of ownership when you go this is my team, we’re gonna introduce Major X and these new concepts. Marvel gave me six issues to tell the story, and I’ve seen three so far. It’s explosive, it’s jam-packed.”
Not much else is known about Major X right now, since his identity is a mystery and his costume shrouds all features in a motorcyle-like outfit draped by big X symbols. Liefeld loves mysteries, and sees them as integral to the mythology of the X-Men.
“I love motorcycle helmets. I love helmets and masks that obscure identity and create mystery. The X-Men franchise I understood as a kid was built on mystery,” Liefeld says. “As pretty as the artwork was, the Chris Claremont/John Byrne team created fantastic mysteries. The number one mystery that really carried the book for me was Wolverine. I’ve said this time and again, I was obsessed with creating the next Wolverine. When I introduced Cable, Deadpool, Domino, all of them, it was always, ‘am I gonna get the next Wolverine? Can I nail the landing and create the soap opera mystery?’ I had mom and sisters who watched soap operas, and those are all about mysteries. As a kid I got sucked into all of the Weapon X mystery with Wolverine: How old is he? He looks 30 but he’s really 100? Mind blown! So when I was writing those books with Cable and Deadpool and Domino, I doubled down on mystery and big twists. Each of those characters had one or two big reveals. I loaded Cable’s story with all kinds of twists and turns that we would reveal slowly. I know my soap operas: Double identities and mystery, mystery, mystery.”
The first issue of Major X is set to hit stores in April. Check out an exclusive preview of the cover above.