Everyone's favorite Irredeemable Ant-Man artist, Phil Hester, drops by to discuss Firebreather, Golly!, carnies, funny moments for writing materials and more!
Greg: Hello, Mr. Phil Hester! It's mighty awesome to have you on Face To Greg today. How are you doing?
Phil Hester: Smashing.
Greg: Now, like I ask many visitors, please tell us who you are to those who are under a cave.
Phil: I've been drawing and writing comics for twenty years and am still not rich. I've drawn Swamp Thing, Green Arrow, Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Ant-Man, Nightwing and many other beloved funny book characters. I'm currently pencilling El Diablo for DC.
I've written The Coffin, The Wretch (also drew), Deep Sleeper, 13 Steps, Antoine Sharpe, and many other relatively less beloved funnybook characters. I'm currently writing Firebreather, Golly, Masquerade and The Darkness.
Greg: Sheesh, man. How do you find time for all that? Especially since you're pencilling for El Diablo!
Phil: El Diablo's been done a while. I just thought itwould still be coming out at the time of this interview. I don't knowhow I have time for any of it.
Greg: Understandable. So, sir, as you may know I've been a big growing fan of yours over the past year when you released Firebreather with Andy Kuhn. Can you tell us a bit about that book and what inspired it?
Phil: About ten years ago Andy and I pitched a book to Marvel called The Crew, which was essentially our take on a Young Avengers team. We had a young Cap, Thing, Scarlet Witch, Wolverine, etc. Marvel reallyliked, and asked up to cook up some teen villains and one we dreamed upwas a humanoid, teen clone of Fin Fang Foom. Like I said, we got reallyclose with Marvel, close enough that it hurt when they ultimately passed on The Crew.
The image of this teen, humanoid dragon thing kind of stuck in my mindand Andy and I stepped back, retooled it, and cooked up Firebreather. Ithink the thing that sets it apart is the divorce situation betweenDuncan's human mother and his monstrous father, Belloc. Duncanresembles our Foom character somewhat, but actually shares more traitswith the teen Thing character we created for The Crew.
So, what we wound up with is the story of a kid who's born of a fretfulhuman mother and a humanity-hating, city-stomping Godzilla archetype.Once you wrap your mind around that relationship ideas for storiesfeaturing their son come bounding in.
Greg: That's very darn interesting. Something that keeps coming into my head whenever I read an issue of Firebreather andsee him talk to his parents, I always ask myself, "How the living heckdid his parents hook up? He's a giant dragon and she's, well... human."Will we ever get an answer to that or is that best left to ourimagination?
Phil: Well, Andy and I thought it would be funny to just leaveit to everyone's imagination forever, but the question kept coming up,especially with animation executives. Of course, love finds a way, andwe'll be revealing exactly how this unconventional love affairconsummated around issue 9 or 10.
Greg: What inspired the relationship between Duncan and his dad?It's a pretty darn hilarious relationship. Even though Belloc is analmighty dragon/monster, he still seems to love his son dearly. I lovethe scene when he's checking out Duncan's rear to see if his tail iscoming out.
Phil: Well, it's kind of the relationship every son has with hisDad. Most sons look at their fathers with a mixture of admiration, loveand fear. I don't mean fear of physical harm so much as seeing what thereal world does to adults, what kind of sacrifices it asks of parents.At a certain age you figure out that path awaits you, too, and youwonder, am I up to that? Will those compromises I'll have to make formoney or love or prestige make me a monster? I guess that's deeper thanI originally intended to go, but there it is!
Greg: That's awesome. Another thing I really like aboutFirebreather is his social life. Despite his looks, what made youdecide to have Duncan have so many friends and not be an outcast? Sure,there's a few folks who mistrust him, but he has a lot of friends.
Phil: It seems like even the most downtrodden of high schoolstudents seems to find a group of buddies. Plus, high school girls seemmore evolved than boys, so I think they would be quickest to overlookDuncan's physical differences.
Greg: Heh, any chances then of Duncan getting laid?
Phil: This isn't Invincible!
Greg: Ha! So tell me, how do you come up with some of the humor for your books? I crack up tons reading Firebreather and your other Image book, Golly! I especially loved the stuff with Duncan and his mom about his birthday cookies.
Phil: When something happens to me or someone I know that reallyseems odd or funny I tend to remember it forever. The cake thing camefrom my wife telling a tale of her Mom laboring to make a reallyspectacular choo-choo train cake for her to take to school on herbirthday, but she was too mortified. So, note to my friends- Don't doanything embarrassing around me or it will wind up in my books.
Greg: Haha! Dude, you just answered my next question. So anyspecific personal embarrassing moments of yours we'll be seeing in oneof these issues?
Phil: I may relate my first date with my wife story, but it's probably too far out even for comics.
Greg: Now you're teasing. Well, Phil, since I've mentioned Golly!, one of my new favorite current on-goings, do tell these feeble minds what this book is about and what inspired it.
Phil: Golly! is something I cooked up to pitch about ten years ago to Vertigo,but I think they got cold feet when they saw how stupid it was going tobe. The basic concept is that the biblical Apocalypse has beenpostponed indefinitely, but there are still some hellish critters whodon't know that and want to start some trouble. Earth's guardian angelselects a human, almost at random, to become our guardian against Hell.Golly Munhollen, a part time racer and part time carnival riderepairman becomes that guardian. The angel insists, that from aheavenly perspective, trying to pick a competent human is like ustrying to pick a competent paramecium from a pond. So, Golly gets a fewmiddling powers and enlists the aid of his carnie friends; Vaughn, awise cracking tattooed man; Pig, a former fat lady turned strong woman;Miguel, a genius, acrobatic, dog faced boy; Claude and Claudette, thehalf-man half-woman; and Satan, the creepy slob who may or may not bethe actual prince of darkness. They all stumble ass backwards throughthe soft underbelly of America fighting off things like obese vampires,were-hogs and sentient clouds.
I like to think it's both genuinely scary and genuinely funny. The art by Brook Turner gets more gorgeous with each issue, too.
Greg: Yes, I agree. It really is a funny and scary book at the same time. I have to admit before interviewing you, I re-read the Golly! issuesbefore going to bed and had some slight nightmares. You messed me upthat night. I had to get outta my bed and sleep in the living roombecause I had dreamed something about Hester writing some demons to spyor sneak in my room or something like that.
Didn't you have some experiences with carnies or something? Was that an inspiration to this book?
Phil: Not really, other than I live in small town America and we get a raggedy, brokedown carnival coming through here once a year. It's like ade-romanticized version of "Something Wicked This Way Comes". So forone weekend a year a local farmer can expect a pig to go missing, alocal junior high girl will get herpes, greasy mullets will flow,prison tats will glisten in the sun, and meth will be plentiful. On theplus side, the rides, fireworks and fried food will abound. I actuallylove it.
I guess I did see the carnies roasting a hog one early morning on mypaper route and thought that roasting a pig at 4 AM seemed odd. That'swhen the seed was planted!
Greg: Ha! Did you get a piece of that hog?
Phil: No, I ran!
Greg: Heh. Okay, the characters, man. Like, I know most of themain characters of the book is pretty much a given when you go tocarnies, etc. But where did you come up with their characterizations?It's definitely the characters I keep coming back each issue to read.
Phil: Tough to say. I guess I wanted to pick characters thatwould put our titular redneck in awkward social positions. Golly is aredneck, but he's got a modicum of self awareness, so giving him ablack best friend and a masculine love interest at once challenge thehick in him, and also demonstrate his existing humanity.
I've heard that every character is just an aspect of the writer'spersonality and that's true to some extent. Golly is my ineptitude andgoofy positivity. Vaughn is the cool customer I wish I could be. Pigdisplays all the courage, discipline, and strength I fail to musterevery day. Satan is my humor and sloth. The angel is the wisdom Iaspire to. You get the picture.
Greg:Ah, definitely. Now that you mention Satan, I'm damn curious. What'shis deal? Will we learn more about him? Is he really THE Satan?
Phil: You'll have to read on. I like the idea of Satan beingreal, but having nothing much to do because either humanity has lappedhim in terms of depravity, or that he's given up at trying to beat Godand just decided to smoke and screw until judgment day.
Greg: Heh heh. So tell me, the lingo on this book, what theheck? Many times I find myself having to put the book away to crack up."Life's a bitch, but she's a bitch that deserves a vigorousfucking."/"There he is. Living proof that butt secks can lead topregnancy." Where do you come up with these?
Phil: I'm just cutting loose, I guess. I don't talk that way,but I keep my ears open around certain people in my life or at least inmy home town that do. I have a good memory. I confess the whole "life'sa bitch..." thing was my life affirming response to one of my highschool buddy's lamentations about life's hardships.
Greg: Oh boy! Haha. Lately I've just fallen completely in lovewith your work. If you don't mind me asking, what inspires you as awriter?
Phil: I don't know how to answer that. I suppose writers arepeople who can't think on their feet and need to scurry home topractice conversations they may or may not ever have. I look at mybooks as a way to say things I think should be said, but never losesight of the need to entertain.
I think the world is pretty terrifying at times and offering each othersome form of comfort, be it through courtesy, kindness, charity or evenentertainment, is probably our highest calling. Comics is the languageI grew up on, so all my sermons come with monster fights or dick jokesor spaceship crashes.
Greg:Heh. So the same type of high you get from your writing, do you feelthe same with your art? How do they differ or have similarities to eachother as a creator who ventures on both fields?
Phil: Yeah, when I'm really "on" with art it's better thanalmost anything. Physically gratifying, actually. It is more taxing,though. Writing requires a lot more down time for quiet reflection. Ihate to be glib, but writing is much easier from a sheer workloadstandpoint. I can only draw one book a month, but I can write threeeasily.
Greg: What other books are you working on? Can you tell us about them?
Phil: I'm writing The Darkness for Top Cow, which I'm sure most people know is a supernatural mob thriller. Top Cowis really letting me take some chances with it and I hope folks wouldcheck out the insanely priced $4.99 trade of my first arc when it shipsin late January. Art by the brilliant Michael Broussard. I'll also be drawing two issues of it in the near future.
The first six issues are a self contained arc that take place in atiny, central american country that Jackie Estacado (formerly a mob hitman) has usurped and rules as a narco-dictator with his Darknesspowers. Of course, the wheels come off and he has to deal with rebels,corrupt partners, and an uprising by The Darkness itself.
The next six issues detail Jackie's falling out with The Darkness, therise of his arch villain The Sovereign, and his eventual reclamation ofThe Darkness. It's a more crime oriented arc than the first. In themiddle of that we have a special anniversary issue (#75) drawn by greatartists of Darkness past.
My goal is to take a book that too many potential readers dismiss outof hand as shallow and show them the deeper, more complex storiespossible with this character.
Golly! & Firebreather we already covered.
I'm scripting a Masquerade mini series with super creator Alex Ross for Dynamite. Art by Carlos Paul. Masquerade hasbeen a blast so far. I'm grateful to Alex and Jim and Nick for givingme the chance to resurrect an underutilized Golden Age character likeMiss Masque/Masquerade. It's fun playing in that sandbox and it doesn'thurt to have Carlos Paul illustrating and Alex Ross kicking out covers. It's a ton of fun.
I'm working on an untitled horror graphic novel for Desperado with Dennis Hopeless and Patric Reynolds that's about half done.
I'm writing another franchise's "reboot" that will have to remain under wraps until NYC.
I'm writing a new ending to the cancelled Antoine Sharpe series that will see print as a complete graphic novel from Desperado.
A couple of other deals are in the pipeline, but can't be mentionedyet. I imagine I'll have a pencilling gig to announce sometime soon,too.
Greg: Sheesh, man! Busy man! You've also mentioned earlier about the cartoon Firebreather coming up. What are the stages with that? Any cool news for Firebreather fans?
Phil: All I can tell you is what I've seen and read. There is ascript for the pilot movie which is pretty much an adaptation of thefirst mini that both Andy and I are very happy with. We've also seenanimation treatments from two different animation houses that are justlights out.
Greg: I forgot to mention that I have a slight feeling thatBelloc was a dragon that seem to have gotten around. Any ideas of halfsiblings for our boy, Duncan?
Phil: Stop it!
Greg: Okay, okay! How'd you get in touch with the team doing Lil' Firebreather? Their back-ups are hilarious and cute to the bone.
Phil: I've known Josh [Hale Fialkov] and Tony [Fleecs]for years. Both are really talented guys committed to the craft ofcomics. I think it was Josh's idea to do the shorts and I'm always upfor any opportunity to expose readers to Josh and Tony. I think theydid a fantastic job and hope they come back for more.
Greg: Now my last and final question: if you ever met Jackie,Duncan, and Golly, what would you say to them? Do you think they'd allget along?
Phil: To Jackie: Nothing. I would avoid him, but if I had to absolutely say something it would be along the lines of "Grow up."
To Golly: Hang in there. You're deeper than you think.
To Duncan: I'm proud to know you.
They would not get along on any level.
Greg: Ladies, gentles and freaks everywhere, that was the greatPhil Hester! Thanks for stopping by, Phil, and readers make sure topick up an issue of either Firebreather and Golly! Both series are at#3 with small story arcs, so jump on by. Also, be sure to check out thefirst Darkness trade from Hester which only costs $5 at your LCS. So besure to get it ordered!
Posted originally: 2009-01-20 19:55:25