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Conversations with yourself #11: Phil Hester edition

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Rain Partier

Postby LOLtron » Fri Jun 20, 2008 7:18 pm

ImageThats right hemopheliacs Phil Hester took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss everything from his work with Kevin Smith to Robert Kirkman, how he got his start in the industry and just how tough it is to write a title like the darkness and a little indepedant Image book by the name FIREBREATHER.

Read on!

Eric: My first question is actually probably the most asked: How did you get your start in comics?

Phil: I was always a big fan as a kid and when I wasin art school the black and white explosion of the mid-80's was in fullswing. If someone could draw at all back then it was easy to get workat at least a tiny start-up company. I sent copies of my work to everycompany that printed their address in the indicia. I lucked out andstarted working regularly as a penciller when I was a sophomore.

Eric: So your start was more indy based then? What was your first book that you had published?

Phil: Yeah, I worked for every tiny company around.My first regular book was called 'Port for Silverwolf Comics.Surprisingly it didn't win any Eisners.

Eric: So what was next for you? Did you start gettingthe writing bug this young into your career or did you feel like you'dcontinue penciling?

Phil: I always wanted to do both. When I did my ownmini comics I wrote and drew. It's just that I got more work as apenciller, so that's what most people saw from em early on.

Eric: Well I can see why you got a lot of work as a penciller, your work is strong and original. Who inspires you as an artist?

Phil: Mostly dead guys. Kirby, Krigstein, Eisner,Wood, Toth, Kurtzman, Boyette. Among the living; Miller, Ditko, Staton,Wrightson, McKean, Nowlan, Salmons, Grist, Wagner, Mignola, Timm,Mazzucchelli... look this list never ends.

Eric: But its amazing list, I can definitely seehomages to a few of the artists on that list in your own artwork.Moving on though, which big name company did you work with first? Anddo you remember the book?

Phil: It depends on what you call a big name company.First hired me to do back-ups in Nexus and Badger when I was in myearly 20's. In my mid-20's Bob Schreck hired me for a mini at DarkHorse called Freaks' Amour. At the same time I was doing weird littlevisual poems for Taboo, Negative Burn and Deadline USA. When I was 24Marvel hired me to do a Namor back-up at a con, which was pretty rarein those days. A year or so later Brian Augustyn hired me to do a Flashannual which was a big thrill and my first real work for DC. Rightafter that I did a mini called Argus that spun out of that Annual. Inever got to finish that mini because Vertigo, by way of Stuart Moore,hired me to be the regular penciller of Swamp Thing.

Eric: It seems like you stayed with DC for a fewyears right? Eventually moving on to what fans usually recognize as afan favorite run on green arrow. How was it working with Kevin Smith?And just how much freedom did you have on character designs as I'veheard that a lot of mia aka speedy was yours?

Phil: Kevin was great. He was just having a blastplaying with all these DC toys. His dialogue was really spot on. I wishhe'd come back and write a Batman gig- actually the plan was for us tojump ship after Sounds of Violence and do a Brave and Bold book, whichwould have been cool as hell and made me very rich, but movies luredKevin home. I'm sure DC would have rather had a big name on the bookwith Kevin, but he and Schreck fought for me and Parks. I had to takesome abuse at the beginning of the run as my style might be a littlejarring for traditional super hero fans, but I think most people warmedup to Ande and me by the time we left 45 issues later. The onlycharacters I got to design were Onomatopoeia and Speedy. DC let us rundo our thing. The only thing they changed on Mia was making the arrowsymbol on her chest open, exposing her skin, rather than the red arrowI pictured.

Eric: The red arrow design actually sounds prettyinteresting, I wish they would have let you stuck with it. It wasn'ttill recently that I personally picked up kevin's green arrow run andenjoyed the full thing. I think my favorite stuff that you drew duringthe run involved "heaven" and the conversations between ollie, ollieand hal. Your artwork definitely resonates in my mind at least.

Phil: Funny, because that's one of the few times inthe book I ever had to redraw anything. We drew the extra creepy,skeletal version of Deadman in those scenes, but DC said no, draw thehealthy acrobat.

Eric: My next question though moves on to your marvelwork on marvel team up's best arc in my opinion "league of losers" howmuch fun was that? Where else can you draw speedball, terror inc anddarkhawk all in the same book? And if I may elaborate on the marvelteam up book a little more, you became the lead artist on the bookright after skott kollins left, was pressure added or did you just keepthat out of your mind and just have fun with it?

Phil: I actually only did covers on that run. Kirkmanand I already had Ant-Man in the works, so this cover gig was just asort of transition between Nightwing and Ant-Man.

Eric: And after marvel team up, you continued to workwith Robert Kirman on the irredeemable ant-man. Was this purecoincidence or did you want to continue working with kirkman? And howmuch did you enjoy working on a book that starred a guy like EricO'grady?

Phil: Kirkman sort of recruited us. Ande and Iweren't crazy about Nightwing and working with Kirkman at Marvel seemedlike a nice change of pace for us, so we jumped.

Eric: Oh I was talking to my comic book guy today,his name is Dave. I mentioned the fact that i'd been talking to youand he was like "plug the store" (Edit:Tj's collectibles in Milford,MA happy now Dave?) Without him I would have never known about firebreather though,which is actually one of my favorite books. The original miniserieswhich is in trade form now actually came out at the same timeinvincible did. Was your schedule hectic at that point and thats why itoriginally started as a mini series? Or was the plan always to pick itback up a few years later?

Phil: Well, we wanted to be a monthly, just likeInvincible, and initially our orders were pretty much the same, butKuhn and I are much older than Kirkman, Walker and Ottley. Thoseyoungsters could live on Cheeto dust and tap water while their numbersgrew, but we had families to support and could both make better moneydoing books for big publishers, so we bailed after the mini. We alwaysplanned to keep doing it and Andy finally had an opening in hisschedule, so we jumped back in. Glad you dig the book.

Eric: I'd honestly call the book Image's new sleeperhit and for a kid who's half dragon he's very easy to relate to. Ican't wait to see what the future has in store for us readers.

Phil: Thanks. We're trying to hit the right superhero notes, but still offer some unexpected stuff, and I think whathappens in the next 4-5 issues definitely qualifies.

Eric: And speaking of future's it doesn't look likeJackie Estacado's is going so well at the end of issue 3 of thedarkness. How'd you get the gig on the book?

Phil: Rob Levin and Filip Sablik were fans of TheCoffin and Deep Sleeper and invited me to a sort of open casting callfor the position. Thankfully, I hit them with something different fromthe rest of the pitches, then wore them down with my charm andescalating bribery.

Eric: And do you take all the previous material to work with? And did you play the game?

Phil: Yeah, I was an off and on reader of the bookbefore, so I was familiar with the Ennis and Jenkins runs. It didn'ttake long to bring me up to speed and figure out just how many toys Iwas allowed to break. I only have a Wii, so I've yet to play the game.It looks cool as hell, though.

Eric: Do you find it easierin your writing to write for a character who's so in the grey? He's notreally good or bad but more inbetween?

Phil: No. I find it incredibly difficult. So far most of my books havefocused on characters who are seeking redemption in some way, ortranscend their past sins. Jackie doesn't really give a shit aboutthat, so I'v got to find ways to grow the character and keep him prettymuch a bastard.

Eric: And if I may ask it seems like the book hit a snag, like it missed a month or two in shipping, is everything back on track?

Phil: Michael Broussard is immensely gifted, and his work is labor intensive.His pencil to paper time is just higher than other artists'. I have alot of scripts in the bank, so when the first arc ends things shouldroll out monthly for a good stretch.

Eric: And finally what elseis coming up for you soon Phil? Please plug away so that the readers ofmy column know what else to be expecting from you.

Phil: As an artist: El Diablo from DC. As a writer: The Darkness from TopCow, Golly and Firebreather from Image, Antoine Sharpe fromDesperado... and more to come!

FireBreather and The Darkness are both monthly from Top Cow and Image Comics.

Posted originally: 2008-06-21 00:18:54

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