Twice I have seen this, in maybe 30 years - somebody improving at such speed it belies belief.
The first time was Chris Weston, a year my junior. I landed a job as assistant to the late and very great Don Lawrence when I was 17, just edging out Chris. A year later Chris replaced me, and a year after that he was working for 2000ad. Today he's one of the finest comic strip artists in the business, as well as the best storyboard artist I have ever seen.
The second time was Ben Wolstenholme.
Don't get me wrong, Ben already had chops. He is an incredibly talented guy - and way too good looking for my liking too. He formed Moving Brands (a progressive, distinguished and award-winning branding agency) right out of college. He and I were both art scholars at the same school - he seven years my junior and following in my footsteps. He used to come round for drawing tips, and I'd draw him a Batman, or Judge Dredd, then get rid of him with a ruffle of the hair and head off down the pub.
Now he's my CEO at Madefire. Deeply annoying.
Yet this isn't about his achievements in general, it's about his sequential storytelling. Ben is, as I said, very talented - but his art was very idiosyncratic, and a little rough around the edges. His figures were squat, tending towards the ugly. His linework distinctive and characterful, but unresolved and sometimes directionless. He was not, in my opinion, ready to jump into a major narrative sequence alongside some of the most formidable names in comics.
But over the weeks, then months, then couple of years it took for us to pull all our resources together and get Madefire going in earnest, something happened - You see, something else Ben is extremely good at is listening to advice! I pointed him at great storytellers, classic inkers, the best of the industry stylists. The first few pages he drew were ripe with character, but were not - yet - professional level. They felt illustrative, but tentative. However, they had a quality, a charm, that made it clear the work was going to be all right. It was going to work!
Literally five or six pages later and Ben was producing some of the most wonderful drawings I'd seen in comics for quite some time. His panorama in MONO episode 1 (check it out - it's free, right here on dA in the new Motion Books section) is, quite frankly, gob-smacking. And everything after it drips with panache, style, energy, and a will to be brilliant. It's like Clemente Coll mixed with Frank Miller via Barry Smith. It has the pure class of Gary Gianni, with the solid, weighty storytelling of Richard Corben.
I envy Ben. I envy the fact that he has come into this with a youthful will to be the very best he can be. He's untarnished by decades in a work-heavy, under-appreciated industry. He has the eye and wisdom of experience, but the energy you only get in those first few years as a pro. I wish I had that patience still. I long for that level of concentration, that concerted drive to make every. Page. Count...
I am also honoured to be the one writing his scripts for the motion books. Seeing my words come so vividly to life is thrilling. I can't wait to write more. And I know that whatever I throw at him he'll be able to handle. He really IS that good.
Go check out his dA gallery and say hi! benwolstenholme.deviantart.com…