ECCC 2016: Conversation with Steve Lieber and Robert Salkowitz

Steve Lieber and Robert Salkowitz at ECCC 7 April 2016

Steve Lieber and Robert Salkowitz at ECCC 7 April 2016

There’s one moment I love, among many, in this panel discussion with master cartoonist Steve Lieber providing nuggets of wisdom. When asked to expand upon the mechanics of writing for comics, Mr. Lieber offers up the books, “Panel One: Comic Book Scripts by Top Writers” and “Panel Two: More Comic Book Scripts By Top Writers.” With that suggestion alone, explanations on technique, a window into a career, and just a whole world of comics is opened up. The first book will show you the nuts and bolts of Steve Lieber’s breakout work, “White Out,” drawn by Lieber and written by a then relatively unknown Greg Rucka.

Steve Lieber is an ideal example of a life working as a comics creator. When asked in first grade what he wanted to do when he grew up, Lieber said he wanted to either be a cowboy or a “comic book maker.” His favorite comic book as a kid, in fact his first, was Namor the Sub-Mariner, drawn by Marie Severin. In this panel discussion, Lieber goes on to share getting to meet his idol, Marie Severin, at a comics convention. He walked up to her and explained how her work had inspired him to become a cartoonist. In mock horror, Severin pleaded, “Oh, I’m so sorry!”

Robert Salkowitz proved to be a wonderful interviewer for this conversation. Mr. Salkowitz is the author of “Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture.” If you are interested in a behind the scenes look and expert analysis of pop culture today, this is a most highly recommended book. It was a hand-picked panel by Salkowitz that stirred some curiosity at this panel. It displays a romantic liaison with a man in a mask. What is the story behind this? Ah, it’s the origin story for the Mirage! Huh? Well, you’ll have to read “The Superior Foes of Spider-Man.”

The Mirage origin story in "The Superior Foes of Spider-Man"

The Mirage origin story in “The Superior Foes of Spider-Man”

So, anyway, a life as a cartoonist is not for the weak of heart. As a cartoonist myself, I can attest to that. To undertake such an endeavor for the long haul, requires more than stamina. You build your own belief system. Lieber took his calling seriously and, early on, embarked upon a professional career by studying at The Kubert School. Back then, circa 1990, it was Joe Kubert at the helm. Lieber got to learn firsthand how to draw comics by a legend known for drawing in the comics genres, Westerns, Cavemen, and War Stories, and the character, Hawkman. When Lieber graduated in 1990, he said rather jokingly, that he got picked up by Marvel Comics to draw Westerns, Cavemen, War Stories, and Hawkman.

By 1998, Lieber said, he had hit his stride with his own distinctive style which is demonstrated in “White Out,” the graphic novel drawn by Lieber and written by Greg Rucka. It originally came out as a four-issue story published by Oni Press.

By 2009, Lieber continued to evolve with “Underground,” a graphic novel with Jeff Parker, published by Image Comics. I recall reviewing that over at Newsarama and saying, in part:

Jeff Parker (Agents of Atlas) can be relied upon to create fully realized characters and entertaining stories. Teamed up with none other than artist Steve Lieber (Whiteout), Parker takes you down a terrain that is decidedly offbeat for an action adventure in “Underground.” The action takes place primarily inside a multi-chambered cavern full of spooky dips and turns, stalagmites jutting out here and there. It’s all the result of a surprising chain of events that finds two young lovers fleeing for their lives from a group of desperate men.

Clearly, Lieber enjoys a thrilling story where characters are tested to their limits as in confronting forces of nature. And, sometimes, nothing is as formidable as a villain. Libber’s favorite form of villain involves those of a particularly nasty narcissistic stripe. This segues to more recent work. It was in 2013 that Lieber embarked upon, with writer Nick Spencer, on the 17-issue run of “The Superior Foes of Spider-Man,” with Marvel Comics. It proved not only to be excellent work but also pretty hilarious to boot.

THE FIX by Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber

THE FIX by Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber

Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber have taken their chemistry in working together to another level with “The Fix” which just debuted as an ongoing series at Image Comics. This is the story of Mack and Roy, a couple of corrupt L.A. cops. It is also about scheming mobsters, and corrupt politicians who run Los Angeles, “real human garbage,” as Lieber puts it. For instance, Mack and Roy figured robbing a retirement community would be a good idea. But their luck, if you can call it that, won’t hold out forever, not if a drug sniffing dog named Pretzels has anything to do with it. And for more details, be sure to visit Image Comics right here.

If you are heading out to Emerald City Comicon, be sure to stop by Booth 1214. There you will find Steve Lieber and many of his studio mates at Periscope Studio. You can also check out another interesting conversation moderated by Rob Salkowitz. That one will cover the origins of comics and is set for Sunday, at 2:30 pm.

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Filed under Comics, Periscope Studio, Robert Salkowitz, Steve Lieber

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