Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Where have you gone, Aron Wiesenfeld?

There is a good chance that you have never heard of Aron Wiesenfeld. Let's fix that.

In 1993, Wiesenfeld gets his first work as a comic book artist for Continuity Comics. He then moves to Marvel and does the pencils for one of the two stories in 1993's X-Men Annual #2 and two issues of Cable from early 1994. Here's a page from that Annual:

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It's nothing special: standard Marvel house style, with some anatomy issues. Somebody at Image sees something there, though, and he is hired to do the pencils for the four-issue mini-series Team 7.

Team 7 is written by Chuck Dixon, and it unearths some of the history behind many of the characters in what would later become the Wildstorm universe. It is one of my favorite Image comic books at the time, but it never becomes a hit on the level of Youngblood, Spawn, or any of the original Image books.

Here's the first page:

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Again, fairly standard 90's Image look, especially since approximately four hundred of their books opened with a shot of dudes parachuting out of a plane. Still, Wiesenfeld pulls it off with some gusto and energy.

Here's a page from the second issue:

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Nothing too fantastic, but I think you can see that Wiesenfeld is getting more confident. Now here's a double-page spread from further on in the mini-series:

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I hope some of you are starting to get excited. I know when I saw this for the first time I thought, "Whoah. This guy is good!"

And that third issue is solid work all around. Here are a neat two pages that show off Wiesenfeld's ability to make the action feel nice and big:

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And hey, here's another one. A full page of Deathblow shoving a guy's face into the wall:

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There's some nice detail work in there.

It's good work. I think if something like this was being produced at Marvel or DC today, it would be well-received.

After that, Wiesenfeld does some pin-ups and covers for more Image books, but his next major work is in the short-lived anthology Wildstorm!


Here's where things get more interesting, I think. Wiesenfeld writes and draws a two-part, black-and-white story where Deathblow encounters a big warrior. Here's an example of the work:

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So yeah, Wiesenfeld's got some terrific drafting skills by this point. But in this comic, he starts to play around with storytelling. There are a lot of wordless panels showcasing the action, like these:

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From this moment on, I am not only buying anything he does, but I am actively hunting down his comics. Very few people in mainstream comic books at this time are turning out work like that.

In 1996 and 1997, he writes and draws another two-part story. This time, Deathblow gets to hang around with Wolverine.



And as with Team 7 and Wildstorm!, Wiesenfeld's work takes another huge leap forward. Here are the first two pages of Deathblow and Wolverine:

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HOLY MOLY! LOOK AT THAT DETAIL! It's Geoff Darrow-esque. And beautiful.

Now answer this hypothetical: two pages that look like this are published by Marvel today. Does the comic blogging universe go apesh*t? I say yes.

And those two pages aren't a fluke. Wiesenfeld keeps it up through the whole book. Here's a throwaway panel from one scene -- check out the background:

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Also note, more wordless storytelling.

But this isn't just Wiesenfeld-does-Darrow. It is also Wiesenfeld-does-Frank Miller-circa-Elektra Lives Again. Here are two fantastic pages:


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So now it's 1997. Wiesenfeld is clearly at the top of his game, but nothing he is working on is really breaking out. (At least, that's the sense I got. I haven't checked the sales data.) So what does he do?

He leaves comics. Goes to art school. Becomes a painter. Graduates in 2000.

He's not gone for good, though. Not yet.

In 2001, he returns with a short back-up story in Batman: Gotham Knights #17. It's written by Joe Casey. I think you might notice a slight difference in Wiesenfeld's art:

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What? That change in style is about as jarring as a knife in the chin. But still, something special, I think.

After that, Wiesenfeld does the pencils for the first two issues of the 2002 Image series Guardian Angel. Here's one page from the first issue:

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Wiesenfeld does strong work here, but he isn't given much chance to show off -- the book is pretty terribly written, and it ends after those first two issues. It never quite gets going.

For the rest of 2002, Wiesenfeld produces covers for the Vertigo series The Crusades. In 2003, he does a cover for Fables. In 2004, he does five covers for Y: The Last Man. They look like this:


But after July 2004's Y: The Last Man #22, Wiesenfeld disappears.

Poof. He's gone. Like Keyzer Soze. He hasn't worked in comics since.

So where is he now? It's not too hard to find him. Just head to his website: http://www.aronwiesenfeld.com/

It's for his painting career, his fine art. It looks like those Y: The Last Man covers, or that short story from Gotham Knights. But if you only knew Wiesenfeld from his pre-2000 work, you'd never know it was the same artist.

You can't find much about Wiesenfeld in the comic book internet. It's almost as if he was never here. There is one blog post about the use of panel borders that talks about some of his work, though. It states that "Aron Wiesenfeld was one of Image Comics only great finds, but for whatever reason he never found himself drawing Bendis comics for Marvel or Flash covers for DC, and this lack of recognition in commercial art apparently forced him to take a giant step backward into the world of fine art."

So that's where he is, now. Fine art. It looks like he's got a solid career as a painter. Solo exhibitions, even. I wish him luck in that career.

But the comic book world is poorer without him here.

18 comments:

  1. Today i don't even care about super hero comics, they might as well not exist, as far as i'm concerned. But 12 years ago I'd probably go crazy for this guy's stuff, as you did. Thanks for the post.
    Funny that as I outgrew that particular kind of comics he moved on to art that i actually enjoy today. He's great by my actual standards, but because of the amazing paintings (totally my cup of tea), not the comics history.

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  2. Thanks for posting this webpage! I had always wondered what had happened to Aron -- I first saw his art in GUARDIAN ANGEL #1 & #2, and it had an ad for issue #3 which had a GREAT cover... and then it never came out!! And so now I know that he moved on to do painting -- too bad in a way, I really liked his comic book work!

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  3. Wow, nice. I had never heard of this guy before, and you make a great case for him being one of those hidden talents that never made it big. If only he had come around a decade later, he could be huge today.

    I especially like those pages from the black and white stories, and the Wolverine/Deathblow stuff. That's some pretty gorgeous work there. And I had no idea that he did the Y covers for the Safeword arc; those were quite memorable. Huh, learn something new every day.

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  4. Thanks for pointing this guys comics career out.

    The massive scan of that Deathblow and Wolverine page is giving me vertigo, in a good way.

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  5. I've always wondered who drew that wolverine/deathblow crossover. Its breathtaking. I knew the name, but didn't know anything about him. Thanks for bringing me up to speed.

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  6. Geof Darrow meets John Romita Jr., that two page spread on the motorcycle is stunning.

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  7. I, too, would like to thank you for bringing this artist to our attention. The funny thing is that I remember those Team 7 and Y the Last Man covers (and remember liking them) but never would have guessed they were done by the same artist.

    It's fascinating to watch this artist evolve, from hints of Liefeld to hints of Jim Lee to hints of Darrow and Moebius.

    However, if Gaiman ever decides to pen another Sandman or Death story, they need to tie this guy in front of his board to paint some panels. Period.

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  8. This guy is awesome. I picked up the first issue of Deathblow/Wolverine a few years ago from a quarter bin or something because I'd heard something good about it. Only found the second issue a few months ago. The opening (I think) of issue two with dude's head getting cut up is intense.
    Too bad he stopped doing comics : (

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  9. I always was saddened that Wiesenfeld left comics just as he was doing his most beautiful work. Team 7 turned me on to him back in the day, primarily because of his great use of perspective. His work in the Wildstorm! anthology just floored me. I remember studying those panels for hours. Deathblow/Wolverine wowed me as well. That was the last I saw of his work until now. Both Wildstorm! anthology and Deathblow/Wolverine could have been throwaways if not for his art...the stories were really nothing to get excited about. I'm glad he's found a career and a way to express himself in fine art.

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  10. This was a great post. I love it when artists actually do research before they hit the page -- I mean, look at that motorcycle! He didn't even fudge the tread pattern on the tires. Thanks for showcasing this guy!

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  11. More links about Aron Wiesenfeld, when I was tracking him down at the beginning of the year:

    http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=19411

    There's a recent pic of him in there, too.

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  12. Thanks Augie. I'm kind of surprised that I didn't find your article when I was researching this post. It's weird how similarly we approached writing about Wiesenfeld.

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  13. He has an ongoing solo exhibition in NYC until the 9th of December at the Arcadia Fine Arts gallery, if you happen to live in New York...

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  14. Just stumbled across this great article showcasing Aron's work! I also share your enthusiasm for Aron's comic book work and went looking for him a few years back.

    I located him via his website and wrote to him expressing my liking for his work and asking if he had any comics-related originals for sale. I subsequently helped him sell off a good number of his pages including Y The Last Man covers and Wildstorm work.

    I purchased some of Aron's originals for my own collection which can be viewed here (the Union unpublished cover was a generous thank-you gift from Aron) - http://www.comicartfans.com/GalleryRoom.asp?GSub=37938

    I later managed to catch up with him at San Diego Comic-Con 2008 and had dinner with him together with my good friends Ben Templesmith and his wife, Lorelei - http://tinyurl.com/yeekacb

    Aron appears to be enjoying life as a 'fine art' artist although I too wish he would return to comics even if only on an occasional basis :) Best,

    Royd Burgoyne
    Perth, Australia

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  15. Team7 #1 has been my favorite comic ever since I traded a friend for it when I was like 8 years old. Weisenfeld will always be one of my favorite artists and biggest inspirations. It's cool to see his work recognized here by other fans.

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  16. Wow. Thank you for the introduction to this artist! (Forever ago as this was...)

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  17. I love those Wildstorm comics he did. They are amongst my most prized comics. I got rid of 90% of my comics, but I kept those two. And like you mentioned, I hunted for more of his work and bought the Wolverine one. I think of him from time to time, which is how I found this post. Thanks for recapping his career like this. Team 7 was one of my favorite series' as well. Totally wish he'd done more.

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  18. Have loved his work since the Marvel days and became obsessed with reading anything he did (same thing happened with Richard Bennett around the same time). Thanks for the article!

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