An Art Career as Enduring as his Jacket: The Lifework of Wee Tian Beng
Every artist has their own signature style that is unique to their lifework, and this goes beyond their artwork aesthetics. Return of the Condor Heroes comic artist, Wee Tian Beng, who is known for drawing characters with lifelike facial expressions, powerful gestures, and detailed garments, can be easily recognised by his trademark fashion. More often than not, Wee is seen decked out in a black hoodie jacket over a plain coloured shirt – a look that he has worn ever since his first appearance in the local media in 1991, as Singapore’s pioneer professional comic artist.
As enduring as his jacket, Wee’s long-standing art career began in 1989 while he was still a secondary school student. He submitted a four-page comic to the local press for publication, leading to the creation of his very first full-length comic The New Frontier. As a comic creator, Wee prides himself in being both and artist and writer, taking on both roles of illustrating and storytelling in his own work. Being a pioneer in the local comic industry meant that he had to single-handedly pursue avenues for artistic growth in his field. His years of hard work and experience has enabled him to develop an unrivalled sensitivity and skilfulness in script-writing, storyboarding, and character design. Over the decades, his lifework in comics had continued to evolve and expand, becoming a cult classic in the local comic scene.
Wee began his journey with Return of the Condor Heroes in 1995, when he worked with Asiapac Books’ founder, Lim Li Kok, to adapt Chinese writer Louis Cha’s renowned classic Chinese literature into a comic series. The process of adapting and creating a full-length comic series is a long and arduous one. In addition to familiarising oneself with the original narrative and its plot elements, the artist was tasked with various specialised creative processes, such as creating thumbnail sketches, character and costume design, background art, special effects art, and even comic lettering. With his years of expertise and dedication to his craft, Wee’s comic adaptation had greatly inspired and impressed an international audience, including the writer himself.
Today, Wee continues to work on his comics full-time, at The Creative Zone (TCZ) Studio, which he founded in 2001. In addition to Return of the Condor Heroes, his other widely acclaimed works include the bestselling comic book adaptation of Ni Kuang’s Adventures of Wisely, and two long-running series, The Celestial Zone series and NEO ERA. To date, he has created more than 200 comic books, which have won international awards, sold more than 5 million copies worldwide, and have been translated into more than 10 different languages in print and digital medium – all under the faithful companionship of his black jacket.