Welcome to CBR’s fourth installment of ARTISTS ON THE VERGE, a five part series running all this week.
Yesterday we interviewed Jim Mahfood about his rise from self-publishing to The House of Ideas.
Today we talk to Brett Weldele, an artist who is creating a buzz in the industry and his first comic book isn’t even published yet.
Tomorrow be sure to stop by and read our final installment of ARTISTS ON THE VERGE where we’ll interview one of the hottest comic book artists on the ‘Net.
Twenty four year old artist Brett Weldele will be the first to tell you that breaking into the comic book industry today is no easy road. However, he’d probably also tell you that anything worth doing is worth working for.
Hailing from Montana, Brett received his BFA degree in Sequential Art from the Savannah College of Art and Design. He started out doing pretty humble work in comics.
“I did some work on the ‘Confessions of a Cereal Eater’ series NBM put out, and I penciled and colored the mecha drama ‘Wanderlust’ for Chiseled Comics,” Weldele told CBR News. “If you really want to reach back to high school, I did a back up for ‘Vortech the Wonder Mule’ #2 from Black Peke. My creation was called Xafrini and the Funkateer Union.”
To date, most of Brett’s work has only been available on the web. “I collaborated with Vertigo alum Andrew Dabb on a webcomic project of his (“Slices”) over at OPI8.com,” said Weldele.
But, recently, Brett’s received a chance to reach a larger audience with his unique art style. In August, when Brian Wood’s “Couscous Express” hits the stands, many fans will have their first look at Brett’s exceptional artwork.
From here, Brett hopes that he will be able to lend his skills to other projects in the future. He’s even set his sights on a few specific titles that he’d like to start with next. “Like everyone else, most of the Marvel catalogue, with Spiderman out on top,” said Weldele. “Actually just about anything, I’m not picky.”
The idea of someone like Weldele working on a big name title like Spider-Man or X-Men isn’t all that far-fetched in today’s comics market. With artists like Mike Allred, Jim Mahfood and Kaare Andrews finally getting more mainstream work at The House Of Ideas, this could be just the right time for Weldele to dream big.
“I’m finding it most amusing seeing all these hard-edged Vertigo people writing all these mainstream superhero books,” said Weldele. “I never thought I’d see Milligan on X-force.”
Still, he understands that to see growth in today’s comic book industry, it’s going to take a lot more than just new blood. “Comics have never been better. Too bad no one’s reading them. It’s partially a marketing problem, and partially a financial one. Word of mouth is the greatest tool we have to sustain readers and bring in new ones. In the early 90’s, books were being cancelled if they weren’t selling 100,000. Today, you can only hope the top sellers will reach 100,000. I see what some of the numbers are for the books I really enjoy, like Vertigo, for instance, and it makes me cringe.”
Weldele’s style is a far cry from the glossy, polished artwork usually found on most mainstream books. But, it’s his courage to find and develop his own unique style that many fans find most appealing about Weldele’s work. “It’s always an interesting proposal, ‘How would I approach the look of so and so?’ I spend a pretty decent amount of time doing my versions of popular comic properties,” said Weldele. “I got an email from someone that said I even made Witchblade look interesting. I enjoy mail like that, breaking down people’s preconceptions.”
Surprisingly, Weldele’s loose graphic style owes very little to the world of comic books. When he finds inspiration, it’s “Typically a cool shot in a movie. It’ll be lit a certain way or the perspective will be different and interesting. It challenges me to keep growing.”
In fact, Weldele’s love for film sometimes inspires him to create comic book versions of some of his favorites, just for fun.
“I just enjoy the process of adaptation,” said Weldele. “I’m not much of a writer, so I find it interesting adapting other people’s work. I love films, and I’d really like to try my hand at this some day. I did a little bit of “Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!,” “Desperado,” and “Fistful of Dollars” a few years back. That was fun. I also did a few literary adaptations.”
When he’s not creating comic adaptations of his favorite film or literature, you’ll probably find Weldele hard at work in his other passion- Music. “As far as music goes, just like painting, I like texture and layers. I record, sequence, and sample everything on my Mac these days, but I still use my four track for roughs, kinda like thumbnails. Some days I’ll write industrial hardcore tracks, while others I’ll explore slack-key bottleneck styles on my resonators. Depends on my mood really.”
Yet even as Weldele’s renegade style is born out of a passion for music and cinema, it’s his love for the classic comics that brought him into the game. “I adored John Buscema’s Conan run,” said Weldele. “Absolutely the coolest. I’ve never met (Buscema). I couldn’t bring myself to do it in San Diego. Made me geeky nervous.”
But, as you might expect, Weldele also had a love for some of the more unusual comic books also. “I read a lot of strange Marvel books like Rom and Power Pack. They had the most bizarre villains.”
When it comes to his favorite artists, Weldele’s taste, as you might expect, is firmly on the indie side of things. “I like Templesmith, Canete, and Mahfood. I empathize most with Templesmith. We have similar interests, goals, influences,” said Weldele. “Anybody who hasn’t seen Chris Brunner’s stuff yet, will. He’s brilliant. Other than that its David Choe, Farel Dalrymple’s pretty good too.”
When it comes to making a name for yourself in today’s comic book industry, Weldele encourages young artists to just do four simple things.
“Talk to everyone. Make yourself known on the web. Wear a rabbit’s foot and cross your fingers.”