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Badder blood, even worse planning: how you just can't fault Rob Liefeld for missing his own panel

It's just impossible to be upset with him! He's too nice!

Rob Liefeld at San Diego Comic-Con 2023
Image credit: Rob Liefeld

It’s hard not to snicker a bit when the guy sitting behind you says, "Well, no Rob then. Let's go to Jim Lee. Same kinda thing and he probably showed up."

Friday evening at San Diego Comic-Con 2023, we were sitting in Room 5AB waiting for the start of the Rob Liefeld: Badder Blood panel, which the program described as “Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld discusses his return to Marvel Comics with the new five-issue series Deadpool: Badder Blood and its successful sold-out launch in June 2023.” The problem is, we waited for close to 45 minutes and Rob never showed up. Even the most devoted of fans started to get restless around half an hour in.

The real joke here is that if you've ever had the pleasure of interacting with Rob Liefeld, you'd know that he holds the same intensity that we've come to recognize from other founding figures of the early Image Comics scene, but accompanied by a delightful labrador-like enthusiasm for anything and anyone with which he comes in contact – particularly, and let’s face it, rightfully, when it comes to his own hype. The cherry on top of even that, of course, is that his followers still manage to hold onto the macho-ness of the work and embrace the oddity of the running joke that he 'can’t draw feet' – a joke that falls flat when you sit down and figure out that feet are just rubbish to draw for anyone and who needs them, anyway?

Nevertheless, no one likes to be stood up, least of all the panel managers of San Diego Comic Con, whose message delivery about Rob’s perceived tardiness becomes slowly more and more deadpan with each announcement. From an early "Hey everyone! We're running a bit late! Thanks so much for your patience!” to a heaving sigh and "In case you missed the last announcement… 30 minutes ago… we can't find Rob. We're sorry for the delay.” Yet somehow the faithful remained, determined even for the last 15 minutes of the would-be panel time making sure they wouldn't miss a chance to see The Rob.

To be fair, they had a good reason: earlier Marvel panels that day had included two teaser images using Liefeld art for two previously-unannounced: one featuring his Major X character, with the caption “Time to Kill,” another pairing Cable with the original X-Men and the caption “First Contact.” Both bore 2024 dates, but little other information. Surely a Rob Liefeld panel would be the perfect place to learn more about what was going to happen! Back when we all believed the panel was going to start on time, the room was abuzz with the possibility of a major announcement about to be forthcoming.

The hype from Liefeld himself was apparent – again, not at this panel, even though it had been on the schedule for two weeks leading up to the convention dates – but through his Twitter account, where, upon checking to make sure that he hadn't tweeted an excuse for not being in the room, I saw he'd been retweeting quote tweets of excited fans about these mysterious teaser images. Fans who, again, were probably tweeting from the very room that was waiting for him.

Nevertheless, we persisted.

Eventually the wait had to end, however, and the wonderful and exhausted people on the panel team told everyone that it just wouldn’t happen… although they did add, “There is a panel right after this one where everyone is ready to go”, which was met with cheers and applause.

It was later revealed that Liefeld himself wasn’t even aware of the panel, and had no say in approving it prior to the convention dates. In true Rob form, a warm apology was made and there was an enthusiasm for the possibility of another panel in the future. Despite the 39-minute wait, it’s hard to fault the man, because he really does display an earnestness and eagerness to make his fans happy that just can’t be denied. Hell, at the time I was waiting, I was already planning to write a jab at the man for not showing up to his own panel, but he took everything so gracefully and with good humor that I just can’t bring myself to do it.

What I will say though, is that maybe there needs to be a better system for the busy folks just trying to please their fans to know where they’re supposed to be, and what’s been promised in their name - something to make sure that nothing like the Badder Blood panel that wasn’t ever happens again. Because, otherwise, this could have easily been a piece proclaiming 'I got stood up by Rob Liefeld and I didn’t even get a lousy t-shirt.'

Read all about SDCC with all our articles from San Diego Comic-Con 2023.