Friday, September 9, 2016

No. 81 Chris Weston

First Prog: 596
Latest Prog: 1889 (+ a magnificent poster in the 2016 Sci-Fi Special)

First Meg: 214
Latest Meg: 325 (on the cover); 222 (interior strip)

Total appearances: 110
-including bonus points for a couple of strips he has written and drawn himself.
And let’s hope he’s back again soon, too! I’ve a feeling he might be.

Creator Credits:
Indigo Prime
Canon Fodder

And Weston's/Millar's version of Mycroft Holmes:
by far the nastiest piece of character design I'd ever laid eyes on at the time.
Words by Mark Millar
Other art credits:
Judge Dredd
Rogue Trooper (both Fr1day and not)
Robo Hunter
Nemesis the Warlock
Downlode Tales (but not Sinister Dexter)
Nikolai Dante
A handful of one-offs

Notable character creations:
Barry Kuerten
Winwood and Cord
Canon Fodder

Standard issue (?) bowlhead haircut on Judge Kuerten.
Impish manifestation of evil impulses optional.
Words by John Wagner

Notable characteristics:
Super-tight artwork. Wild, fantastical and frankly disturbed imagination. Gurning, grimacing faces. Something of a plastic feel to skin. No fear of bright colours and a commitment to clarity. All the foreground, background and mid-ground detail you could ever ask for. Being super chatty.*

Presumably the writer's instruction (if any - this was for a text story), was simply 'draw a collection of weirdies'. If that's your panel description, you've gotta jhope it's someonw of Chris Weston's calibre at the other end.
Context by John Smith
On Chris:
Weston has a pretty classic 2000AD narrative: budding young artist gets a couple of future shocks, a handful of Dredds, proves to be a unique voice with a lot of talent, if a bit ropey in places. Lands a full serial, nails it, becomes instant legend, develops some stunning covers and a new super memorable character, gradually disappears from the Prog to work for US publishers, with a neat sideline in film concept art and storyboarding, then comes back to Tharg intermittently, each time a little better than before.

I mean, it’s British comics careers made straight, right?

But there are some key differences to pull out. I mean, I guess tastes always vary but I can’t see anyone denying what an astonishing draughtsman Weston is. His style is basically that of a covers artist, composing magnificent single images – yes, not a million miles from one B. Bolland or C. Robinson – but somehow he makes that style work for every panel of a strip, without sacrificing the storytelling.

And he’s done his fair share of cracking covers, too.





It helps that Weston has another trick up his sleeve – having a pretty solid writing instinct, as seen specifically in a few one-off tales that he’s written as well as drawn. But it’s also no secret that he had quite a big hand in the storifying of what might be his fondest-remembered 2000AD series, Killing Time.

This back cover poster/trailer got me so excited for the series; you don't even know.

It’s no coincidence that this is one of the most penetrable efforts from John Smith, and coming during a period in which he was being pretty elliptical with the likes of Revere or Danzig’s Inferno.

And let’s not ignore Weston’s key affinity for picking a very particular moment in time in his panels, chiefly in terms of facial expressions.

Winwood's face goes from sombre concern to intellectual delight to plaful curiosity. Cord remains impassive.
Why are the purple? Well gosh, hy not? It marks them as ethereal, for one very good thing.
Words by John Smith
Canon Fodder - the cahracter - is perhaps a special case, as he’s meant to be a dull-witted blowhard, and the series itself is meant to be outrageous and over the top, but even within that, Weston pulls no punches with the facial contortions of our man. There’s also, to my mind, a passing resemblance to ex Prime Minister David Cameron. Something about the puffed up jowls and general pained expression of confusion backed by self-righteousness.**

Canon's mouth at full rictus
Words by Kek-W

Features set to maximum contempt
Words by Kek-W

And Weston's version of Friday gurned his way through a bunch of covers, too...

How Tharg restrained himself from a strapline that said 'pucker up!' I'll never know.
Bonus points for background gurnage

This is the pose Donald Trump pulls to psyche himself up every morning.

Weston’s work isn’t photo realistic in the same way as folk like Arthur Ranson or Clint Langley, but it is pretty real. I imagine he spends a fair bit of time pulling faces in the mirror. But his best trick is matching up those faces to a specific emotion, or to a single phrase in the speech balloons (which may or may not be rewritten after the fact to suit better!).

There's so much going on behind those two faces I can ahrdly stand it. Weston is perhaps 2000AD's most overtly sexual artist, or at least, he brings that out in me for whatever reason.
Words by John Smith
And my God, the details!

One of Weston's earliest pieces for Tharg, and although you can tell he's not quite there yet, he's certainly not skimping when is comes to costume texture, background machinery or, of course, a vat-full of worms.
Words by Alan Grant

 Time for a potted history:

Full imagination on display right from the get-go with his early Future Shocks.

Actually, this might well be from a later Indigo Prime episode; I can't remember

 Seeing out the original Rogue Trooper:

Blending photo-relaism (ish) with dynamic action
Words by Steve Dillon

Babies that look like babies - not a trick many comics artists can manage
words by Steve Dillon

A mean but playful streak evident on Dredd.

Weston is on record as hating his work here, but I love it. You can really feel that machine press pushing into the dude's face. And those lips on Judge Kuerten - horrible!
Words by John Wagner

There's that plastic-looking flesh again. And another hit of sexual frisson.
Words by John Wagner

Instant superstar status with horror classic Killing Time.

Let's enjoy the colurs, shall we? You may recall, this was the era of fully painted whatnot, and other artists being colured in by professional colourists in the early days of that craft. Weston did it all himself, and it wasn;t like anything else. And yes, there's a lot of red in these panels for a reason.
Words by John Smith

Despite the affinity on gore and outlandish set dressing, not quite working on Nemesis the Warlock, and definitely not really working on RoboHunter.

Full marks for rendering Torquemada as a rather squalid little torturer; but sadly only half marks for Nemesis. I know it's folling existing models, but he's too fleshy and humanoid for my taste.
Words by Pat Mills

Nothing wrong here with the craxy killer robot designs, it's just a curious tonal iteration of RoboHunter.
Words by John Smith
Giving Friday, the new Rogue Trooper, a much needed kick up the arse, for the all the good it did the character. I suppose it helped move the whole thing away from the soul-searching of the War Machine, which had destroyed any hope for Michael Fleisher’s boy’s own romps.

Weston's Rogue is made of muscle and anger.
Words by Fleisher/McKenzie/Tomlinson

Weston's version of Rogue Trooper, cool original flavour.

Making everyone laugh with Canon Fodder – and it’s perhaps only around this point that his style seemed to settle down. For all the glories that had gone before, you could sort of see that he was learning and refining his trade. Nerve-wracking for the artist, no doubt, but often fascinating for the reader.

In some ways a rather broad and obvious joke but Weston helps sell it
with more neat character designs and facial expressions.
Words by Mark Millar

'Nuff said.

Vibrant fun on Sinister Dexter, a series that, perhaps more than any other, relies heavily on artists who can conjure up fully-relaized and idiosyncratic characters and sets.

A slight development in style, somehow a bit looser to allow for a greater sense of motion.
No letting up on the detailed costume and hair designs, of course! Or the bright colours.
Words by Dan Abnett

Since then, he’s been too busy for full serials, but Weston has scattered the Progs with one offs every now and then. Most recently, with some he’s written himself, showing that the comedic but mean streak is part of his writing as well as his art.

Weston's personal vision of Hell?
Words by Chris Weston

Yes, he's making a joke about how much he didn't like the 1995 Judge Dredd film.
On the far right, he's also, I think, scoring a lovely homage to Ron Smith, the great unsung Dredd artist

Most recently, he delivered this poster in the 2016 Sci Fi Special. There’s something different about it – it’s more painterly, without that plastic feel, and looks like it took bloiody ages to create!

Deserves to be seen at full size!
Let’s have some more from the man with the deviant mind, please.

More on Chris Weston:
He blogs
A neat interview on Sneaky Mag
A three day special on Covers Uncovered
-but I'm somewhat surprised not to find anything more recent.

Just a hint of Weston's full vision of Heaven and Hell
Go read Canon Fodder if you want to see how he drew God and the Devil,
two visual reveals up there with the best of anything Tharg has offered.
Personal favourites:
Judge Dredd: Crazy Barry, Little Mo; The Great Little U-Front disaster; Six; The Heart is a lonely Klegghunter
Indigo Prime: The original Future Shock; Killing Time
Rogue Trooper: Enfleshings
Canon Fodder: for the art, the whole bleedin’ lot.
Downlode Tales: City on Fire
Future Shocks: The Godfish; Green Pedestrian Palm; Counts as one choice

*I’ve never met Chris Weston, but I did once sit in the same train carriage as him on the way home from a Bristol comic con many years ago. He was sat next to Matt Smith, and regaled him with anecdotes and opinions for the entire journey. The typically taciturn Smith got about four words in edgeways. I had a blast earwigging. – like a great comics podcast, about three years before they actually existed.

**Sorry, that’s almost getting a too political for this blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment