Well we didn’t have to wait long to find out who has replaced Terry Beatty as artist on The Phantom Sunday strip!
Within 24 hours of Terry’s announcement of his retirement from the strip, fellow American artist Jeff Weigel had raised his hand, also using Facebook, posting his version of the Sunday splash panel and announcing:
Since today Terry Beatty officially announced his decision to step away from the Sunday Phantom newspaper strip, I guess it's now okay to tell you who's taking the helm for the Sunday Ghost Who Walks--ME!
I am incredibly excited and honored to announce that starting next week I'll be the official Phantom Sunday artist. I can't begin to describe how proud I am to be working on this strip! I grew up reading The Phantom in my hometown paper in Freeport, Illinois during Sy Barry's distinguished tenure. The Phantom is one of my favorite comics characters, and to have this job drop into my lap feels like I won the lottery!
I'm walking in the footsteps of a line of master cartoonists/illustrators who've made The Phantom a legendary strip over +80 years, and I have every intention of giving Mr. Walker the best I have to offer.
Many thanks to Terry for sending this assignment my way (and for the distinguished work he's been doing on the strip for years now), and to Brendan Burford and Evelyn Smith at King Features, who plucked me from Terry's line-up.
Also, a quick shout out to Mike Manley, who's doing terrific work on the Phantom daily. Saddle up Hero, let Devil off the leash--let's all head out from Skull Cave for some action and adventure!
So… who is Jeff Weigel?
And just as importantly… what sort of an artist is he?
The short answer is that Jeff is based in small town Belleville, Illinois, and has a history in graphic design, commercial illustration, graphic novels and comic books.
As has been the case for some of the finest artists in Phantom history, Jeff has worked extensively in advertising, creating promotional materials for books and magazines as diverse as Mad Magazine and Playboy, as well as working on product packaging, annual reports, national and local print advertising, story-boarding and corporate identity.
He is also a teacher, having instructed young and old alike in illustration, visual storytelling and graphic design. He's been an adjunct professor at Webster University, teaching Illustration, and at Maryville University, teaching advance level Package Design. He continues to teach regular comics classes through the nearby St. Louis's Center of Contemporary Arts (COCA). Jeff also makes lecture appearances at libraries and schools. On top of this, he wrote, illustrated and designed Stop Math, an interactive and educational children's storybook app for iPad.
Jeff is clearly a prolific artist, with an array of credits listed on his website. Much of this is award-winning or nominated work, going back to 1998 when he was nominated for the Russ Manning Award For Most Promising Newcomer in the comics industry. Most recently, he has been produced Dragon Girl: The Secret Valley, the latest in what has been a sequence of comics and graphic novels successfully aimed at a young teenage or children’s audience. Some notable titles from the last 10 years include The Monster Alphabet, Thunder From The Sea, and Atomic Ace (He’s Just My Dad).
He has also authored and produced a range of comic books, including The Last War Chief, Star Troupers and the unpublished Batman: White Lies.
As to his artistic style?
The first clue is in a teaser panel that Jeff posted on Instagram a few weeks ago. Captioned “Coming soon to a newspaper near you. Can't tell you more until a few more weeks pass”, the image would now seem to be clearly a very small snippet of an upcoming Phantom adventure.
Beyond that, a good indication would be for curious phans to read Dragon Girl: The Secret Valley, now being released as an online web comic here. The attention to detail, backgrounding, and anatomical work are all very promising for our hero.
We would also very much encourage you to browse through both Jeff’s colour and black and white galleries. As you can see from the images throughout this page, there has been a great deal of diversity in Jeff’s work, and so much of it is very appealing to the eye. It also suggests serious aptitude for capturing the spirit and humanity of The Phantom.
His comic covers are spectacular, and of particular note is the work on his Batman: White Lies proposal.
Putting all this together, and we get a sense of why Terry Beatty recommended Jeff, and why KFS picked him up for the role on the Sundays. All remains to be seen, however, and we are sure that countless Phantom phans around the globe will be waiting with bated breath for his first published Sunday, due on 15th May.