An DCU:NG Telephone Interview
Sean: Let's start with the usual stuff. What first got you turned on to comics, both as a pro and as a fan?
Phil: Being a big fan of the Super Friends cartoon, I always had a passing interest in super heroes. But I've always been a big fan of soap operas, and I remember reading my first X-Men and being stunned not only by the characters and the costumes and the powers but by the ongoing drama and the cliffhanger. I'm a big fan of serial, of that need to find out what happens next. That was one of the most appealing aspects of comics.
Sean: What was your first pro work?
Phil: The first thing I ever had printed was four pages over George Perez's layouts in War of the Gods #4. The first work I ever did was a Cyborg story in Showcase '93, I believe. It came out in November of 1992.
Sean: You mentioned George Perez -- and I was going to ask this later, but I'll go ahead and jump in here. Most people compare your art to George Perez's. You both draw huge numbers of characters and even the styles are similar. Do you get tired of hearing that or do you consider it the ultimate compliment?
Phil: I have a very strange feeling on that. My bigger concern is not for me but for George. People are starting to go up to him now and ask him questions about my work. And I think it's starting to irritate him.
Phil: George Perez is obviously the big influence on my work, bigger than any other artist in comics before or since. His work remains the inspiration for mine. The thing is -- and I might just be deluding myself, but I don't think I am -- that what I'm trying to do is carry on a tradition in comics. It sounds kind of pathetic to equate this, but back during pre-Renaissance and Renaissance art, various artists had assistants and apprentices, and what they did was perpetuate a particular art style. They learned how to paint by copying the master in question, and then went on to produce their own work, which was highly influenced by the master, but still had traces of their own style. And it wasn't that they were trying to cash in on the style. What they were doing was perpetuating a style of working -- which is sort of how I look at it. There are very few people who work the way George Perez does, with the hyper-detail and 87 characters on a page, and I think it's a very valuable, worthwhile style that we don't see a lot of in comics. My whole take on it is that I'm basically using him as a template, then bringing my own stuff to the table, and just carrying on a tradition.
Sean: One of the things I really like of your art and George's -- and there are a few other people whose art is like this -- is that there's a sense of grandeur to it. There's a sense of magnitude.
Phil: Right. That's very important to me. I think a lot of that gets lost in comics. It also goes back the fact that I'm not a great anatomist, but what I got from George and picked up on my own, is that I'm a naturally good storyteller, and part of storytelling is creating that sense of size and scope. So, I'm happy that I picked that up along the way because I don't think you see that a lot in comics now.
Sean: I'm more a words guy, and I tend to follow writers more than artists --which probably makes me different than many fans -- which leads into the next question, since you've done both. Which do you like better -- writing, drawing, or doing both on a story?
Phil: I like to plot. My very favorite part of the work is always the breaking down of the story, figuring out panels and pacing and things like that. And when I say plot -- the way I plot things is to take a piece of graph paper, trace it to be the size of a comic book page and then I draw the story out very loosely on that paper then I blow it up and do the artwork on a normal-sized board. To answer your question, I think my favorite parts of the process are the plotting and the pencilling. I mean I do like to write, though I don't necessarily consider myself a 'writer.' Over the past couple of years, I've had the good fortune to work with character who the writing came naturally for and it worked. For instance, I don't think I could ever write Superman. I just don't have a million stories I have to tell.
Sean: So you think your writing will be mostly miniseries and one-shots
Phil: I have one project I've been trying to pitch for a little while. People are hesitant to do it because it's kind of a big series and it's not tied to any particular universe like the Marvel or DC universe. I'm hoping to write and draw that. I'm having a meeting with the DC people to review the proposal and what they liked about it and what they didn't like about it. So, hopefully I will be doing some more writing with that.
Sean: When you actually are writing something that you're not going to be drawing, do you tend to script it out or still work from the plotted panels?
Phil: That's happens very rarely. I think I've only written one or two stories that I didn't draw. And one of them I did the layouts for.
Sean: Which one was that?
Phil: It was an Aqualad prequel in Showcase, sort of a prequel to the miniseries, and it came out way to soon. The miniseries was suppose to immediately follow it, but it didn't come out until six months later. I don't even remember who the artist was on that. But I actually did the layouts for that, and he did tighter pencils over those layouts.
Sean: Well, let me ask you this. You mentioned characters you've been able to work with. Which ones would you most like to get a chance to work with, either Marvel, DC, or any publisher?
Phil: Doing JLA/Titans, I basically getting to play with every character I've ever cared about ... a lot. And I'm doing this X-Men mini-series so there's no one left that I haven't drawn that I've wanted to draw. The fact that I'm drawing Wonder Woman and Donna Troy, as well as Batman ... there's literally no one I haven't drawn. You know, I get to draw Bumblebee even.
Sean: That puts you in a small crowd. Not many people can say they've drawn Bumblebee.
Phil: (laughs) Nor will a lot of people say they want to draw Bumblebee. It's just me. I'm kind of crazy that way.