Comics
Published May 24, 2023

Legendary X-Men Artists Pinpoint the 'Epicenter of All the Excitement' in 90s Comics

At Marvel Unlimited's 'X-Men: 60 Uncanny Years Live Virtual Event,' artists Rob Liefeld and Marc Silvestri recalled some of their favorite moments from working on the X-Books in the 90s.

The X-Men's 60th anniversary celebration continues with legendary artists Rob Liefeld and Marc Silvestri, whose iconic work defined the team's look during the 90s and beyond. At Marvel Unlimited's X-Men: 60 Uncanny Years Live Virtual Event, Liefeld and Silvestri recalled what it was like to become X-MEN artists as longtime fans of the characters. They also discussed the "honor" of participating in crossover events, the fan response to their work, the creation of Cable, and so much more.

"Look, I was in my twenties. I was working with the biggest writer in comics, on the biggest book in comics. It rarely gets any better than that, and I was just happy to be there and work with Chris [Claremont]," Silvestri shared. "Chris was a great collaborator and very open to my visual interpretation of whatever characters he was going to throw my way."

"I think Chris is very respectful of the artists he's working with. I think that shows in all the work he's done, which we all know spans a lot of years and a lot of artists," he continued. "I think he's always had a way and the X-Men have always had a way of bringing out the best in what we do, and I think Robbie [Liefeld] can attest to that as well. There's something about those characters and the way that they are written by some of the best writers in comics that just brings out the best in us as artists."

On the subject of taking over NEW MUTANTS and building X-FORCE, Liefeld said, "They're my favorite period of my entire career. That was a tremendous growth, tremendous energy, tremendous opportunities. Again, you know, when it came to the NEW MUTANTS, they were open to all sorts of new ideas and they had asked me if I would come up with some new designs, some new characters, that the editorial team wanted to have a new leader. I, as a fan of the group, felt like the team was in sore need of something, of a fresh voice, because the X-Men really had Xavier and Magneto populating that world and, while they had both gone in and out of the NEW MUTANTS book, the New Mutants didn't really have a voice of their own that was connecting."

"I'm in my twenties, my young twenties, so I jump at the chance," he recalled. "Look, I could have put forth characters that people rejected. I was fortunate. I was on the same wavelength as the fans because I was such a fan. They totally dug everything that was going on with Cable. Because of the success of Cable and the response to Cable, Marvel editorial just entrusted me with the future of the franchise."

"We started discussions, I'd say, five issues in, because I really honestly, what all these guys had—that I was terribly jealous of—was an X in their title, okay? X-MEN, X-FACTOR, even EXCALIBUR worked an X in there, right? ...and Wolverine doesn't need an X. He rises above all of it, so it goes without saying. But in all honesty, I wanted an X in the title and so we knocked around those names and we settled on X-Force," he explained.

"Like you said, we were able to wedge in there and catch—right away, I mean, every month, I would go to store signings during that period and get the feedback straight from the fans and the crowds were getting bigger and bigger. Mark and I did a shared appearance during that time and I pulled up in Southern California—just mobs of people outside because, again, the X-books were just what were rocking the comics world. They were just the epicenter of all the excitement," he concluded.

NEW MUTANTS (1983) #94 cover by Rob Liefeld
NEW MUTANTS (1983) #94 cover by Rob Liefeld

Silvestri also weighed in on his involvement in fan-favorite crossover events, particularly INFERNO. "Those crossovers were not just another day, right? They were an honor to be part of, quite frankly," he shared. "It was just a lot of fun. INFERNO, for me, was one of my favorites, because you had these other books involved and other talents involved. It was just great to see what other people were doing with all the same characters."

"What Chris had written was just so crazy anyway that all the rules were basically off, so I could have just fun creating things that normally you just wouldn't do: you know, mailboxes eating people, elevators eating people," he recalled. "You don't get to do that in comics, especially back then; now you can do whatever you want, but back then it was like pretty stringent, so as far as like a Super Hero comic, you're doing Super Heroes."

"So INFERNO was really kind of liberating, right? You got to do these out-there versions of all of everyone's favorite heroes—the evil, dark version of Wolverine, the evil, dark version of Havok, you know? It was a wonderful experience, and I sign a lot of those are conventions, obviously," he said. "Every time I see a copy of Inferno, I get this little smile on my face. That was my personal favorite, as far as event crossovers and such. INFERNO, I'd have to say that. Look, I loved it all, but INFERNO is this much higher above the others, experience-wise."

Additionally, Silvestri addressed one of the most challenging (but fun) aspects of drawing comics. "That was one of the fun things about comics, was being able to bring in different skill sets that people maybe don't recognize," he explained. "I was never in the fashion business, but I always appreciate good design and I always thought the best of fashion incorporated really good design."

"The best in Super Hero comics and Super Hero characters, they all have elements of design that just work and they become evergreen, right? Every version of that character over the decades literally is a version of whatever the look was that worked the best from way back in the day," he continued. "So it was just fun! I mean, Rob, you obviously created so many characters—a huge part of the fun is you get on the drawing table, you just start sketching ideas, right? It's a process of elimination."

"Sometimes it happens immediately; it's like, 'Boom! There it is!' Sometimes it's like, 'Oh, that sucks; erase that. That sucks; erase that. Ooh, I like that little piece of that one character—it's about that much of the shoulder.' And suddenly, your design starts to grow from that and you get that design language in your head and it all comes together," he said.

"We're all blessed in this business as creators that we can do that," he shared. "As comic book people, we wear all the hats. We're the set designers, we're the production designers, we're the directors as we tell the story. Where else do you get to do that? Nobody can really tell us no, because no one's putting tens of millions of dollars behind us like you do in a feature film. It costs a few bucks to make a comic book, so we could kind of do what we wanted to. Still to this day, that holds true."

"I tell people all the time, because I dipped my toes in all kinds of media—so has Rob, and Rob, see if you agree with me on this—but compared to all other media—I don't care what it is: television, film, video gaming—the most direct, the most unfiltered, clear path to your voice as a creator and getting your idea out there is comic books," he concluded.

Did you miss Marvel Unlimited's X-Men: 60 Uncanny Years Live Virtual Event? Check out more panels from the event: Editors Jordan D. White & Lauren Amaro | Chris Claremont, Walter Simonson, & Louise Simonson | Grant Morrison & Jonathan Hickman

Want to find out more? Explore over 30,000+ comics on Marvel Unlimited today!

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