Back in the late eighties when I was just out of college and doing substitute teaching, I was also an aspiring artist and a gamer. I loved to create characters. My main source of inspiration was a dictionary, which could be found in most of the classrooms in which I taught. Most lesson plans left for me included the words, “Press play,” so I was often left to supervise a few dozen kids who promptly went to sleep when the lights went down. This meant lots of quiet time to create characters! I searched the dictionary for cool words and latin roots that could be turned into superhero and supervillain names. I came up with some pretty good ones, too. It turns out, though, that I was not as smart as I thought because the new wave of characters being created didn’t require that much creativity. Rob Liefeld showed me the way.
The first Liefeld character I noticed was Deadpool, recently portrayed by Ryan Reynolds in X-Men Origins: Wolverine." “The Dead Pool” was a Clint Eastwood movie featuring the character Dirty Harry, and it was released just three years before the character first appeared in New Mutants #98. There was never really any good reason for an assassin to be named Deadpool, so I just chalked it up to an homage. Then, when Liefeld’s Youngblood was released just a few years later, a pattern emerged. It wasn’t enough that his group was named after a bad Rob Lowe movie. Characters named Shaft, Diehard, Vogue, and Riptide appeared, confirming his method of creating many character names: Just steal them from popular movies, songs, and horrible Stephen J. Cannell TV shows! At the next gaming session I attended, I suggested that during the character creation process that we just play the “Rob Liefeld Name Game.” Hilarity ensued.
“I’m the Rockford Files,” urged one player.
“Lethal Weapon,” offered another.
“Material Girl,” said the female among us.
“We can gather to form…the A-Team,” said yet another.
Almost twenty years have passed since those halcyon days and thousands of movies, songs and television shows have been brought forth. What would Rob Liefeld name his characters and superhero groups today?