By Jim Beard
THE TWELVE represents a golden opportunity to showcase a bevy of the most unique characters in comic books today. In the 12-issue limited series, super heroics exist side-by-side with a particularly edged look at costumed champions of the past coming to grips with a frightening future.
Such a singular project demands a singular artist; enter Chris Weston.
"[THE WELVE is] the first 'character piece' I've ever drawn which required the development of a whole new set of comic-strip storytelling muscles," reflects Weston. "Here in England, I made a bit of a reputation for myself as the artist who draws 'weird stuff,' like 'Killing Time' and 'Cannon Fodder' for 2000 AD. However, as irony had it, I'm now considered to be someone with a more sober, realistic style and Silver Age story-telling sensibilities."
As a boy, the British-born illustrator cut his teeth on the comics of his native country before moving onto success in both the U.K. and U.S. Weston's large body of work and wide range of artistic experiences set him up perfectly for the parameters of a book like THE TWELVE.
"The key to making THE TWELVE work is to put the emphasis on the characters: their expressions, their body language, their clothes," explains the artist. "You've really got to show what's going on in their minds.
"The 'real life' scenes in the book are hardest to do; they require a lot of patience. But getting them right is the only way to make this series work. And I do get a sense of reward from tackling the difficult scenes."
Weston feels great pride over his re-imagining of such 'forgotten' champions as Captain Wonder, Rockman, the Witness, and the Phantom Reporter, regarding them
as blank slates on which to sketch.
"I've never put so much care or attention into the characters of a story before," he enthuses. "I've tried hard to make them easily distinguishable from each other, and convey their internal conflicts. I think the effort has paid off."
Acclaim for THE TWELVE supports the artist's view of his efforts. The four issues to date have sold out and both writer J. Michael Straczynski and Weston have been lauded for their reinvigoration of the series' 12 Golden Age heroes.
"I've been delighted by the praise my art has received on this book, and in particular I'll cherish the kind words given to me by [writer/artists] Dave Gibbons and Jerry Ordway," notes Weston. "I admire both of these creators immensely, and they were both in the forefront of my mind when I approached the series. I aspire to their solid storytelling and realistic figure-work
and characterizations, so to get their 'thumbs-up' meant a lot to me.
With a dozen costumed crimefighters to play with Weston resisted the urge to play favorites outright, but when prodded gave voice to those of the Twelve who rise to the top of his opinion:
"It's a bit like asking which is my favorite child," he admits. "I love each of them equally, despite their faults and eccentricities.
"[However] I think Dynamic Man in particular is gradually evolving into one of comics' more compelling and challenging characters. He's just so punchable, but I love his smug indifference to the others' personal problems. And I like the way he's not afraid to spell out some home truths. He can certainly dish it, but can he take it?"
As THE TWELVE continues to progress through glimpses of both the heroes' origins and their wrestling with the pressures of the present day, Weston
remains as much a fan as anyone, eager to discover what comes next.
"Things don't improve for any of the characters; in fact, they just keep getting worse and worse," he reports. "Where does it end? I wish I knew. I'm as much in the dark as your average reader!
THE TWELVE #5, due on May 7, opens a dossier on the haunted figure of...the Witness! Find him, or he'll find you! For more Golden Age goodness, hit up Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited!