Phil Hester Talks Green Arrow 80th Anniversary Special!

Today we are joined by the ever talented Phil Hester to talk about his new story in the Green Arrow 80th Anniversary Special!

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Interview scheduled by Jeffery Haas
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Theme music by Ardus

Phil Hester – Interview

[00:00:00] Jeff: Hello listeners. A spoiler country today on the show. We have the amazing Mr. Phil Hester. How’s it going, sir? Good. How are you, Jeff? I’m doing so well, as I said, I’m all, I’m actually a big fan of yours from days missing and anchor and so many other great things that you’ve done.

Phil Hester: Thank you so much.

Jeff: I mean, have you had time to look back and think about just all the stuff that you have accomplished in your years of working in the industry?

Phil Hester: Yeah, it’s kind of, it’s kind of overwhelming sometimes because when you’re, you’re caught up in the middle of it, you’re just thinking about what you’re working on right now and maybe what your next assignment will be, and then sort of planting seeds for what you’re going to do in the coming years.

And sometimes you look back and you’re like, oh, this comic that I feel like I just did is 10 years old.

Like the co I did I wrote a book called the coffin that was drawn by my Huddleston. And somebody was asking me about the movie [00:01:00] rights for it the other day. And I was like, oh yeah, I should check AF I should check on that because it’s 20 years.

Jeff: Right. So, so does, does it mean the coffin movie?

Phil Hester: We optioned it right when it came out, we optioned it to a company called light storm.

And they bought it in perpetuity. So they have the rights to like, make it or not make it that’s James Cameron’s production company. And there’s been a treatment Guillermo Del Toro, or wrote a really awesome treatment for it. But I don’t know if it’ll ever get made, but we got paid and I, I live in the house that was bought with that money.

Jeff: Well, this was some good names attached, huh? Yeah. They’re great. Grilled Totoro. I’ve actually, I always get the name wrong, probably how I pronounce it, but I know the name Del Toro and he’s

Phil Hester: amazing. Yeah, it’s funny because I met him at a San Diego Comic-Con and it wasn’t any sort of official meeting or anything.

And this was right after I found out he was attached to write and direct [00:02:00] it. And I was looking like for back issues and like, this is back in San Diego, Comic-Con had comic book dealers. I was like just scanning back issues. And I looked up and at the, like the other end of the long box. Was Guillermo Del Toro doing the exact same thing.

So we, we, we said hi right then. And they were overwhelmed.

Jeff: So, Camaro

through conventions. I don’t

Phil Hester: know how we run into each other in a convention of a hundred thousand people, but we did.

Jeff: So, I’m on a, make me personally, I’m a writer, a very, very in the economy books and every time one comes out, I get very excited when, if it comes from the printer, having accomplished so many different comics yourself, do you still get that same level of excitement when a new one comes out, a new one hits print or at this point, is it just like, all right, I’ll just add it to the top.

Phil Hester: Well, emotionally and intellectually, I still get excited, but physically I put them on the pile because because my I’ve [00:03:00] been doing this so long that just my file copies are. Like three long boxes. Holy crap. So it’s like, you know, I’ve worked on like hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of comic books and they’re starting to take over my space, so I don’t know.

Well, but, and also you get busy and you stop in like you stop filing stuff. And so I’ve got like an open comps from like two years ago in a pile here.

Jeff: Well, if you had three long boxes, let’s see there’s 350 complex for a long box. You’ve eclipsed, a thousand over a thousand

Phil Hester: contracts. No, it could be, I don’t know.

I doubt it. I doubt it’s quite a thousand, but it’s, it’s, it’s a lot.

Jeff: See in my own, in my own personal narcissism, all the Chromebooks that I have, I have on a Vandy wall where they’re all putting like a, a top loader and put onto my wall. Oh, right. Yeah. If you did that with yours, I imagined you needed a different house.

Phil Hester: That’d be my, it wouldn’t be my wallpaper for sure. [00:04:00] You have a spinner rack that I keep for. Sometimes kids, I live in a small town and sometimes kids will drop by and I try to keep like the more kid friendly ones on the spinner rack that I can give away.

Jeff: So definitely not coffin. Definitely not a family tree.

I imagine. No, no,

Phil Hester: no. The soup, the Superman’s and the night wings and, you know, fire breather or stuff like that.

Jeff: Now that you’re a writer and also an artist, do you feel. A stronger attachment to those that you’ve written or created or ones that you’ve done the art for.

Phil Hester: I think you, you hit the nail on the head earlier in that sentence.

It’s the characters I created, whether I wrote them or drew them. If I had a hand in creating them, I feel a stronger tie to that character. You have to because when you’re working on a work for hire project, even if it’s one, you care about a lot when you’re done with that assignment, somebody else’s moving in, you know, [00:05:00] and it’s that marriage that it can feel like a marriage, but that marriage is going to end and your partner is going to find a new one and you’re going to be an ex.

So you can, if you care about a character like swamp, like I care about swamp thing, a great deal. And I drew that for three years. And then I was lucky to get, to write the character a couple of years ago for the Walmart giant books. So I’ve had a couple of rounds of being associated with that character, but, you know, they’re not going to stop making swamp thing comics because I’m done with the assignment, they’re going to keep doing it.

And so, you know, you got to get out the way.

Jeff: So when, when, when you for instance, we going to talk about green hour in a little while you co-created on a mountain Pia and for instance, with Kevin Smith and honestly that character the villain has shown up through far, you know, former often later on, do you feel that ownership of that character or once he was created, are you able to kind of back off and not like worry what’s [00:06:00] being done with that character since

Phil Hester: it’s pretty easy to back off because you get, like I said, you put your stamp on the character and then if you, if you get too uptight about like the way that character is handled, You’ll never rest, you know, like, especially in like a shared universe, those characters are going to be used in ways that you may not have planned.

All you can do is hope that your that your work makes such a strong impression on that character, that your version of the character is what people have in their minds. I call it Canon by quality. Okay. It’s like, there’ve been a million Daredevil stories, but because born again is so good that remains sort of like the holy writ of Daredevil stories.

And it doesn’t matter that, you know, Daredevil stories come and go where he gets a side back where he quits being a lawyer, all of this, all these crazy continuity things can happen at Daredevil. But when you come back down to it those Frank Miller issues are sort of the bedrock of the character [00:07:00] and that’s the best you can hope for just to do such a great job on those characters that people associate your version of that character with that characters, history.

Jeff: Do other creators ever contact you and ask for what your intentions were with the character that they’re using? No,

Phil Hester: not I think everyone, I think there’s this level of professional courtesy that people understand they’ve gotten an assignment and they’ve got a job to do. And I don’t think anybody takes it personally when somebody has to take a character in a different direction.

You mentioned automotive Pia, but I think the better example for me is the Mia Deirdre and version of speedy, which is a character I drew as me a Diridon for like 40 issues. And she only became speedy and like the last few pages of my song of my green arrow run. So like sometimes people will come up to me and ask me to draw.

Mia in her speedy costume. And I can barely remember because I only only drew it like four times. Right, right, right. So that’s a better [00:08:00] example of like a character that I like helped create, but once it’s created, you have to let it leave the nest and fly in and do its own thing.

Jeff: Well, yeah, I think w the reason why I don’t mind Pia kind of popped to my mind is that I, a few weeks ago, I actually just read the feature state issue of Catwoman from Ram V that has automatic Pia as one of the characters.

Right. And I was thinking, you know, once again, there’s a character who, I mean, I guess the. Issues or quiver or God, maybe what? 15 years old. Now, probably other than that, they’re older than that. They’re older than I thought they were like 15 or are they 20?

Phil Hester: Yeah, they’re

Jeff: about 20 years old. Ah, okay. I was like, like, that was the thing that after 20 year olds, again, there’s still like, there’s still another, there’s that character, once again, popping up being interpreted and I think a slightly different way from the original and future state, I might be a little wrong in that, but I’m pretty sure he’s a slightly interpreted.

And I was just wondering, do you, when you read, when you read like an a, I don’t know if you, so Ronnie current complex right now. Oh yeah. Oh, [00:09:00] okay. Do you, like, how do you feel like when like reading one of your characters popping up, like, do you kind of think,

Phil Hester: go ahead. It’s to me it’s exciting. It helps me get back to being a fan again.

You know, I, I I can put aside my ownership of that character and start to think about it as a reader again. Hmm. And so like I’m not offended at all when like a character is, is is changed by a writer or an artist when they have to adapt it for a different story. And in the future state case rhombi is a great a great writer.

So I certainly don’t mind what, whatever he decides to do with it.

Jeff: Yeah. That’s actually what I was reading. I actually interviewed Ramsey and he’s a really cool guy. Yeah. He’s a good dude. Are you, do you feel comfortable letting me know which Combolt’s you’re buying right now? Do you want to give them a quick plug?

Oh gosh.

Phil Hester: Well, I, I, my pull list is huge. But because of COVID, I haven’t been to my comic shop for a year. But I let them keep my credit card on file. So they just bill me, I’ve got this [00:10:00] huge, like I told them I was coming in to pick it up as soon as I get vaccinated and they were. They told me I better park close by, even though I keep up on I keep buying books.

I’m still probably years behind on books. Like, you know, I have every issue of Donnie Kate’s store, but I haven’t read any of them yet. Oh, fantastic. You know, I’m still getting through the Jason Aaron Thor run. The best example, this goes way, way back. But the best example of, of what my schedule is like is I, I read Y the last man, when the last issue came out, I read the whole, so that’s sort of what I do now.

I just read the whole, I wait and then read the whole series. The only thing I see, the only thing I’m like I’m not that disciplined about, I read a ton of image books, like a ton of image books. And then mostly I just follow creators. You know, I don’t really follow characters. The only book I’m not I’m not [00:11:00] very good about waiting for isn’t mortal hope.

I’ll read that. Like the second I get ahold of it, but everything else I’m pretty good about I’m one of those people you can’t call me a trade waiter because I buy the floppies too. But by the time I read them, I’m reading the trades.

Jeff: It’s kind of funny when you’re talking about. Talking to you about having comics that you come out that, you know, that are yours and seeing them in print and on the racks, because as you mentioned, Donnie case, I was remember I had I actually got a letter print it.

And one in, I think Donny case is store number. I think it’s 12. And to me that was so excited that, you know, I’m in the letters page. I can know what it would be like to actually have my name on the cover. Yeah.

Phil Hester: It’s pretty cool. Yeah. I mean, it is still exciting to me and I think that’s pretty awesome.

That’s pretty awesome to like, have that childlike wonder at my age, you know, and this, this job can help keep you young. So

Jeff: speaking of going back a little bit, so you’re a graduate of the university of Iowa, right? Did you go with the intention of going for comic books? Was there a different avenue?

You go like a backup plan that you [00:12:00] had?

Phil Hester: No, I did not have a backup plan. I went to get a fine arts degree and I did, I have a bachelor of fine arts degree. And at that time, if you wanted to get a comic specific education, your choices were pretty much down to school of visual arts and the cuber school, which were both east coast.

And I knew that wasn’t realistic for me. But I really wanted a F a well-rounded university education. So going to a big 10 school seemed like a w that had a really good art school seemed like the way to go for me. And it was, it exposed me to a lot of new ways of thinking about art that I don’t think I would have been exposed to had I just gone to a technical, you know, comics only, or animation only institutions.

So, I’m glad that it worked out that way because it expanded my horizons as an artist. And it also let me, you know, I was a relatively big school and. It exposed me [00:13:00] to a lot of other people that were into comics, you know? I met Paul Tobin, there who’s a well-known writer now. And we got together like our freshman year and started making comics together.

I met a bunch of other people that were in the comics at the time and, you know, they didn’t necessarily go on to do professional work, but we were making comics like, you know, we weren’t waiting to get hired. We were making comics for ourselves. And that was like the very best training I could have for my career.

I started working as a professional while I was a junior at the university of Iowa. So, yeah, th I didn’t go there looking for comics instruction, but I got comic instruction from the other people I meet. I met there.

Jeff: I feel like sometimes in industry there’s, I don’t know the right word is uncontroverted, but a discussion between getting.

Actual academic training on art or those who are self-taught. Do you feel having gotten in you know, in taught in an academic institution, do you feel like that gave [00:14:00] you either a wider range of ideas for as an artist or that they didn’t find too?

Phil Hester: I would have. I think I would have been a comic book artist either way.

Had I gone to university or had I just you know, gotten a day job and just tried making comics on my own, but it definitely changed the kind of artist I became. Like I said, it expanded my horizons when I went into art school, you know, my favorite painter was Frank Frazetta. And when I came out of art school, my favorite painter was mark Rothko.

So it, it really changed the way I thought about art and it expanded my horizons and made It really primed me to be able to see the changes that were coming to comics in general with the alternative comics scene and with vertigo popping up, I was ready for that stuff that was sort of on the cutting edge because my style isn’t, it was never quite clean enough to be a straight up superhero artist.

I had to I was, it was making [00:15:00] inroads sort of on the edges of mainstream comics industry. And it wasn’t until really until green arrow that I was seen as a superhero artist.

Jeff: So for our listeners who are into, you know, are one of the artists what is it that then you’re educated that you said you just cause you change who your favorite artists became?

What is it that you saw in art or were you trained to see in a work of art that made it that change? How you viewed it? Well, it’s

Phil Hester: almost like going to cooking school, like when you, like, everybody likes to eat. Right, right, right. You want to eat the things that are favorite things. But until you’re exposed to different types of cuisine, you don’t necessarily know what other things might stimulate you.

So, like if I, what I was eating when I was 16, I would be Pop-Tarts in SpaghettiOs, you know? And I don’t want to like denigrate Frank Frazetta by saying that like, he was pop tarts, but that stuff is like easily [00:16:00] accessible and it’s beautiful and it’s easily grasped and it was fun to look at and that’s the stuff that I was into.

And then when I got to art school, I was challenged by things that just didn’t necessarily like click with me right away. But because it was because it was part of my training, just study those things and why they were working. It was like getting exposed to these new cuisines. So I I was definitely, I still am.

Like, I love figural painting. Like I still love for Zetta. I still love John singer Sargent and George bellows. Those, you know, Marie cassette, those are all great painters to me. But I was also like exposed to like more abstract than art and it really turned me on because had never thought about that stuff before.

And so it sort of broadened my horizons and made me ready to look at not just fine art in a new way, but maybe look at comics in a new way so that when I saw Dave McKean come along with his collages I was like, oh, that’s Robert Rashenberg I, you [00:17:00] know, I know I studied that sort of collage stuff in school, and I was ready to see the integration of those kind of cutting edge, fine art explorations with the narrative form of comics.

And it was, to me, it was really cool.

Jeff: Well, one thing I love about your art is that I think you do a fantastic job showing your characters, emotions like their expressions. I think you’re very good with that. And I’m going to discuss a little bit later, or maybe we can start now such as there’s a scene in one of the recent issues of action comics.

I think it was maybe 10 29 where you have. The co the co Ken family sitting at the D the TV isn’t around the TV is a very warm, it’s, very warm looking image. And I think, and I thought to myself that I think is one of those understated training, trained types, you know, art to be able to pull that off, make it interesting, you know, grab and really display that emotion.

And I was wondering if once again, one, is, was that something that you do focus a lot on and to do think a lot of [00:18:00] w want to be artists forget to practice those types of, yeah.

Phil Hester: Well, you know, what’s really funny. I am looking at that page right now, the stack, there’s a stack of originals by my desk that I’m getting ready to ship out to people that have bought them.

And that’s at the top of the stack. I think it’s this is going to be a weird answer, but I do take that part of the storytelling seriously. And part of the reason I do is because I have to. Like other people can make, do on drawing talent alone. Like they have just such a, like a, a showy kind of broad view or a drawing style that they can, they, they can ride their style out, you know, like people will come to see them draw no matter what, and their storytelling doesn’t necessarily matter.

And I don’t think I have that kind of style. So I have to rely on good storytelling, a good composition to make my pages work. So I definitely put a lot of thought into like the emotional weight [00:19:00] behind scenes. And I try to make my characters act in ways that are recognizable to people. And they don’t necessarily even have to be realistic, but they do have to be recognizable.

And so yeah, that’s a, that’s a strength of mine. I I’ve developed, I think because I have to.

Jeff: Yeah. And I think a lot of people who talk about doing art spin, I think more maybe too much time doing pinups and not enough time doing like the kind of art that you’re doing. And I think that’s often a, I don’t know, like, is it, I think they get confused with what people, what makes a comic art is a combo card is I think it’s not the pin-up it’s those types of moments that really separate a amateur from a professional.

Phil Hester: Yeah. I that’s sort of a common thing you see in a, in a beginner’s portfolio is a lot of. A lot of pinups and not a lot of storytelling. And it’s because pinups are more fun, you know,

Jeff: they’re the pop tarts. So [00:20:00] as I’d read a little bit back on into your history I know that you did some storyboard work for things like the new Batman adventures and what am I a cartoon that I, I didn’t, I forgot until I read your thinking that I went back and I watched some of the episodes of a big guy in Rosie, the robot, the boy robot.

And what was that before your comic book career started over that? Did it happen in in at the same

Phil Hester: time? It’s right in the middle. I had about boy, I started working full-time in comics when I was 24. And then about when right before green arrow took off, I had this kind of like rough patch where like.

Vertigo, wasn’t closing up, but swamping ended. And then I was kind of kicking around from job to job. Oh. And I wound up working for kitchen sink on a bunch of Crow properties, the Crow, you know, and they went out of business, owing me a lot of money. And I was like in a really tough spot. And thankfully I knew Mike Manley, who’s a great cartoonist that I think most comic book fans know from [00:21:00] a dark Hawk.

But he’s also a really great, fine arts painter and really talented storyboard artist as well. And he, he suggested I try storyboard animation. And at the time I don’t want to say this is like 90 S like nineties, late nineties. So I was like, you know, like 10, 15 years into my comic book career. And yeah, I was about 12 years into my comic book or.

So I, and I was going, I thought it was going great, but I needed a little more steady paycheck. And animation came along and at the time Warner brothers was desperate for people that could animate action. Like up to that point, most of their storyboard artists were geared for humor and they really need people that storyboard drama and action.

And even though I had never storyboarded anything, I sent them at a couple of con copies of a comic I did called the wretch. Yeah. [00:22:00] And it’s very storytelling heavy kind of. In fact, the whole comic is basically a storytelling and experiment and that connected with the directors and they hired me to come on and work and work on those shows and that was coming in.

Right. It’s sort of the not the tail end of those shows, but I wasn’t willing to move to California to be on staff. So I was just like picking up scenes here and there where I could. And and that led to other animation jobs, like you said, I’m big guy in rusty and men and black. And I did a little bit of the spawn series at HBO also.

So I spent about a year doing that and I, it was a lot of fun and I, I really helped hone my storytelling skills. And I learned a lot from the directors and the producers of those shows, but the whole time I just couldn’t wait to get back to comics. And I still was making my own comics and dabbling here and there, but I didn’t have a regular assignment really until until a green arrow came along.

[00:23:00] Well,

Jeff: like I said, I just to show that you mentioned, I mean, I remember loving the spawn HBO. I love I, like I said, I almost forgot about the show, cause I don’t think it airs on streaming anymore, but the big guy in rusty show that, that was such a fun show that it was so smart for our kids to go to.

It really was.

Phil Hester: Yeah. It’s such a hard show to storyboard because you had to have Jeff’s character designs on model on your board as there. So because the animators couldn’t be you couldn’t trust animators, you know, at various levels of training to like pick up on the way Jeff draws storyboards had to be on model, which was tough because characters are like really intricate.

He was, he’s a born in the same city. I was by the way, but he Hey, I told them when I met him, I told him that I boarded the show and he, he didn’t kill me. So he must’ve been okay with,

Jeff: but yeah, I mean, I feel like like a big bottom rusty I think it’s like in the same kind of boat, like money max, where I feel like they like those, the studios [00:24:00] kind of forgot about the show, like all these years later and are not, and have this great show that they should be airing on TV still.

And I think they feel like they just kind of forgot about it. Oh

Phil Hester: yeah. There’s it’s like, there’s just such a voracious appetite for new content. They sort of forget about the gold mines they’re sitting on.

Jeff: Yeah. I mean, th th that’s show could eat entire elliptically. The show can easily be Elle right now with all the other shows right now, I think it holds,

Phil Hester: oh, and it would be so much easier to do with computer animation than to do that.

It was still hard. Like it was so hard to draw those characters.

Jeff: So th so you may not gonna be the artists in a future, big guy in rusty competition.

Phil Hester: You sorta have to be Jeff Darrow to draw that comic, you know, storyboard for that show. Well,

Jeff: let’s talk about,

 

The, some of the other stuff that you’ve, that you’ve done and looking back once again, you’re, you’re about to do the green arrows coming out green, our 80th anniversary.

And you said you did the first, I think 22 issues of the Kevin Smith run. Yes. So how, [00:25:00] how does that, I mean, did they come to you and say, because of that, Ron, we w we want you to work on the 80th anniversary. Did you have an idea that you were like, you know, I kind of had this story I want to talk about since you’re doing this, how did that play out?

Yeah,

Phil Hester: I will except for a couple of fill-ins I wound up doing like the, the first 45 issues of that run. So I did all of Kevin’s issues. And then all of Brad melters issues, then all of Judd Monique’s well, not all of Judd’s co the first year or so Judd’s run general clinics. And the whole goal of this 80th anniversary, special of green arrow is just sort of try to touch on all the signature areas of green arrow.

So there’s like, like there’s like a Neil Adams, Danny O’Neil take, and then there’s like a Ben Percy take and, you know, there’s all these different you know, areas of green arrow that need to be represented. And so they naturally came to us about doing something from that Kevin Smith revival era, [00:26:00] but.

Kevin’s too busy making movies and Brad’s too busy writing novels and Judd’s too busy with his his graphic novel series Hilo. So, they asked me if I wouldn’t want to take a stab at writing in drawing it. And luckily I came up with a story they liked and I got to write it and draw it. And it was a lot of fun.

So

Jeff: what was it like working with Kevin Smith on that original run mean? Obviously he was already a big name. Did he, did it seem like, did he have like an ego about this is my work or was he kind of like, this is something we’re doing together?

Phil Hester: Yeah, it was definitely like, it was differently collaborative.

Like at the beginning he was like, who do you want to draw? And I was like, well, I don’t want to like. Forced you to shoe horn in a character and he’s like, no, do you want to run? I was like, well, I’d love to try the demon. And, you know, we got the demon in by the fifth day, you know, that was cool. And, and, but Kevin, you know, [00:27:00] told the story you wanted to tell.

And we were both, it was like a pretty steep learning curve for both of us. Cause he hadn’t written a lot. He’d only written like Daredevil as a superhero comic before this he’d written some, some clerks and Mallrats comics, but and that’s how he knew me. I, I drew an issue of a clerks comic that he wrote.

And so we were both kind of like learning exactly how to handle the DCU and also just like how to physically make a comic together because his scripts are really verbose. And so sometimes like the. The word balloons can just sort of overwhelm a page unless you know, how to block a scene as a comic book artist and direct the eyes so that if the story flows naturally, and that’s like one of the few things that I am good at.

So, it was like a natural match for us to like, get after that. And I’ve been dying to work with Andy parks. We’ve been friends for like 15 years [00:28:00] and we’ve been getting eight assignments together at other places, but not at Marvel or DC, like Marvel or DC would hire us, but not together. So we kind of put our foot down and, and thankfully we had a really great editor in Bob Shrek that believed in us as a team and he put us together.

And thankfully I got Andy, I dragged him out of inking retirement to ink this 80th anniversary story too. And. We’re lucky to get, get it colored by Trish Mulvihill and letter by Clem Robbins. So it’s like a bunch of old pros that are like really great hands at handling superhero comics.

And it’s, it’s been a lot of fun to revisit that.

Jeff: Did, did, did he ever tell Kevin Smith to back off with the words a little bit to cut back on it

Phil Hester: or no, that wasn’t my job. Like, but that was Bob Trek’s job and brought, thankfully Bob Shrek had a big enough personality that he could handle Kevin. And a lot of people don’t remember this, but like, you know, everyone was kind of down on, on Kevin for [00:29:00] making books late, but grieving arrow wasn’t late.

And that’s largely down to Bob Shrek. Like making sure we had worked well ahead of time and, you know, kind of riding herd on Kevin and riding herd on us to make sure we were all on time. And it was, it was very productive, re it was a very productive marriage of talents. And that’s largely down to Bob Trek.

And,

Jeff: and I remember those issues. Those are the things with the first issues of green hour that I’ve ever purchased at the time. It goes, you know, green hour, I think originally was a character that much interest to me until I heard him the

Phil Hester: second banana. I like those kind of characters. Yeah. Like those are my favorite.

In fact, the third and fourth bananas are my kind of characters. I love the, the more obscure,

Jeff: the better. Oh, I agree. I actually had some of my favorite characters at DC or like the red tornado, which I think is tragically, underused. I don’t think anyone great character. And I don’t know why DC does it. He should have at least have had a few more series by now, but I feel like he’s so underused.

And, and the thing about like, to have a green arrow was [00:30:00] having Kevin Smith named Natasha green. I was always going to make it sell a lot of copies, however, It’s it was, it was so it’s still so well received, even now looking back as being with some of the more definitive stories of green arrow. And I was kind of wondering from your perspective as the artist, why do you think that run B proved so definitive beyond just the fact that the names of,

Phil Hester: Well, I think people forget that DC sort of cleared the deck for it.

They killed, they killed Oliver queen. Like, I don’t know if it was a full year before in his, he had a regular series going at the time and they brought that to an end. Just sort of clear the deck for the reboot. And even though it wasn’t a reboot, I mean, we spent the pretty much all of quiver getting all Oliver queen resurrected in continuity, you know?

So, so it wasn’t definitely not reboot, but it was sort of like a revamping and re-imagining of the character and putting him back in his. Classic costume. But perching with Kevin’s sort of not only his celebrity, but his very [00:31:00] distinct writing style that makes it memorable to people. And also face the facts, a lot of stuff that’s memorable to people as memorable because it came out when you were a certain age, like if you were 15, when quiver was coming out, that’s your, that’s probably your green, green arrow.

You know? My green arrow is, you know, Oneal and Adam’s green arrow, even though I was too young to read it when it came out, I was in, I was the prime age to buy it when it started being reprinted in like a nice Baxter paper collections. So I was exposed to that and I was like really into that. So, and then I was really into like the Trevor Vonnie mini series.

So to me, that’s my green arrow Neal Adams tripper need. But. It sort of just depends on how old you are as to what your green era is. Sort of like, what’s your favorite doctor who is basically your first doctor who, well,

Jeff: Hmm. But what, what do [00:32:00] you think makes a great green arrow story at his essence?

What do you think make your narrow work and why do you, cause I think we had one of those characters that sometimes has been extremely popular. Like Jeff Ramirez run became extremely popular and at times green arrow has been, you know, like I said, that it’s kind of like the list of that. No one’s paying attention to anymore.

When do you, like, when do you think green arrow hits and when do you think people get wrong about the character? It’s

Phil Hester: I think it’s largely down to like the talent involved. Do you mention it? Like Mike grill was a huge part of green arrow for a long time and Mike grills, green arrow could not be more diametrically opposed to Danny O’Neill’s green arrow, you know, At a certain point in my girls green over, he was like murdering security guards, you know, and, and Denny O’Neil’s green arrow quit because he accidentally shot a guy, you know, he quit green arrow.

So there can be all these different takes about there. You have to, you have to [00:33:00] sort of step back and observe them like mythical characters. You know, like Gilgamesh has been around so long. There are stories where he’s the hero and the heel, you know, same for Hercules is another great example of that.

He’s a villain in one story, he’s a hero in the other. If a character stays alive around long enough, he’ll create LOR that sort of puts a different lens on that character depending on the story. So none of these stories, aren’t valid, they’re all there and they all count. But there’s so many different kinds of green arrow stories.

You can start to take the ones that you. You can sort of become a cafeteria green arrow fan and just take the ones that you like that click with you. But I think at the core of all green over stories is sort of his rebelliousness and his hardheadedness and his humanism. So there’s like to me, every great, great green arrow story, he’s a hothead in, he does something stupid, [00:34:00] but he makes it right.

And he’s always centered on helping people and he’s not centered on himself. And to me that makes, that makes him one of the better superheroes in my mind. And also the fact that he doesn’t have super powers. To me that goes a long way. Like he’s, he’s sort of like a humanist Batman in that, in that regard.

And that’s why I was having a big soft spot for him. I,

Jeff: I do love that about green with, he always kind of has this I think more so than Batman has this kind of like liberal streak of like fighting against the system where Batman on some time, in some way, even though I think break mill, I think had an idea that he’s against the system, he sort of doesn’t have the same kind of perspective.

I think that green arrow does

Phil Hester: in that sense. Right. And and I’m hopefully that my short story kind of hits on that because I don’t, I’m not trying to spoil my story in any way, but my story goes a long way to showing what kind of prowess he has as a warrior. But in the end he solves the problem by laying [00:35:00] his weapons down, you know?

And I think that gets to the heart of green arrow. Plus I kind of make it in my short story is kind of a trip down memory lane. So you get to see a lot of familiar faces, like, like on a Monta Pia or in Connor Hawk. And And Mia Diridon. So, hopefully it’s it can stand on his own as, as kind of a classic green arrow story, but it’s also a nice nostalgia trip for people that are fond of my original run on the character.

Jeff: So your story’s going to take place within the time period of the quiver run, or is it going to be within continuity?

Phil Hester: It’s all these stories in this 80th anniversary thing are sort of like in their own continuity. So like if there’s a story taking place in the Jeff Lameer Andrea Sorrentino run.

That’s on it’s own little bubble and then there’s mine, that’s in the Kevin Smith bubble, you know, and then there’s a one in the Ben Percy bubble and one in the Denny O’Neil bubble, et cetera.

Jeff: So when does the 80th anniversary come out?

Phil Hester: It comes out at the end of June. [00:36:00] I think June 29th is that Wednesday that it’s scheduled to come out.

And I just, I just proved it today and it looks great. And I’m, I can’t wait for people to see it. I, you

Jeff: know, I think it’s amazing that you did the 80th anniversary at the same time. You were, you know, you’re working on, you know, you had action comics coming out and an issue from Superman and you’re doing family tree.

How the, how the hell are you budgeting your time in so many

Phil Hester: things? I’m not, that’s why family tree so late. Cause it’s so, well for one thing, the last issue is giant size. They’re all different drawing styles too. So it’s kind of hard to like shift gears between them, you know, like the Superman book looks like, you know, as that kind of clean animation style and then family tree is very itchy and scratchy, you know?

And so yeah, it’s switching back and forth is an easy, and the older I get, the harder it gets to you, like when I was 22, I could pull all nighters and I, I can’t anymore. So yeah, I’m trying to learn my limits.

Jeff: And, and, [00:37:00] and I must’ve made those, those, the tuition that you worked on with actual comics you met with Phillip, Phillip Kennedy Johnson.

Are those going to be the only issues you’re working on in that series or are you taking a break

Phil Hester: from it? And it’s the only ones I, that I was planned on working on. And but we had such a good time that we’ve talked about doing like an annual together or something at some point in the future. So hopefully we’ll get together.

And during the course of that runway, we found out we were that we’re actually cousins. Oh, really?

Jeff: I know that happened.

Phil Hester: Well I knew he grew up in and in Pella Iowa for a time. And at that time I was living in Knoxville, Iowa, and Pella Knoxville, or sort of like, apocalypse and near Genesis,

what was the apocalypse and, and the, and the new Genesis. It’s where all the rich kids live and all the working kids live in Knoxville. But at the time my wife was a teacher in that system. And I, so I was doing my comics there and, and so we knew there was this, like, [00:38:00] we were living in like eight miles apart at one point.

And so we started talking about that. And then he mentioned that he used back to visit his parents. And not as parents, but some distant relation in my hometown. Yeah. And it was like, oh, well, well, who is this? And who is that? And then we found out we’re related by I have a great, I have a great aunt.

That is his great aunt

Jeff: small world. Huh.

Well, Hey, it’s good. That Superman is bringing people together. Yeah. So I think one of the cool things about reading the Superman stories where it’s, because it features so heavily the adult Jonathan Kent. Yes. Looking at that one thing, I kind of thought to myself, What would I most, I imagine it’d be difficult for an artist is how to draw Jonathan Kent so that he obviously looks like Superman, but it’s still his own character.

Yeah. And how did you approach that?

Phil Hester: Well, there’s the ch the easy cheat [00:39:00] is it has unruly hair, so that’s one of the easy ways to do it. And he has long kind of unruly hair. Yeah. And also I tend to draw him slimmer in shorter. And his dad and my Superman is sort of like closer to the Bruce, Tim kind of Superman, where he looks kind of like a 57 Chevy, you know, he’s, he’s sleek, but he’s bulky, you know, and that’s sort of the classic Superman look that I’m going for.

And John is more a little more wirey, you know, and I, I tended to have John doing physically doing things like kicking or flipping. And those are things that I don’t have Superman doing. I have Superman punching and ramming, you know what I mean? So, they have different body languages throughout this story.

And hopefully people caught on that and that, and I had John be a little more emotional than, than Clark because, you know, Clark knows the score and this is new for John.

Jeff: I must say. I mean, I really did [00:40:00] love those two issues. I think they, I mean, they, they felt like the classic greats, you were man stories, you know, there there’s a wholesomeness to them.

There’s action to them. It felt like also something that multiple ages could also enjoy as an adult. I’d like to enjoy the complexity of it as a kid. You know, I think to myself, you know, this is just a fun story and visually it’s extremely appealing, especially. I mean, the, the breech aliens are amazing,

Phil Hester: you know?

Yeah. That was our goal. I mean, ideally what I mean, when I think about the comics that I read as a kid that I really enjoyed. I didn’t feel like they were aimed at me. I felt like they were just meant for anybody to read, but they were accessible to me at least on an immediate level. And then maybe the more complex stuff sorta get got revealed to me as a reader when I got older, but ideally really cool comic stories are accessible to at least superheroes comics.

I feel like should be accessible to all readers.

Jeff: And, and I also want to commend you as well with how you interpreted Amanda Waller. I felt like once again, you [00:41:00] got back to the, the, the real, you know, wall, you know? Yeah. And, and that was something that was also discussed in bringing kind of manual or back to like the basics of the character.

I know she’s had a, several interpretations over the years, which was, it seemed younger, seemed, I guess, thinner whatnot, but I think you bring it back to the way she was supposed to appear

Phil Hester: because she’s, I mean, she can still look good, but she’s her size. It has something to do with her character. And it’s why shy away from that.

You know, I mean, people come in all different body types and, and kind of like, making her young and slim sort of like, it sort of takes away from representation of, of older people or people that are heavier. And when I’d like to see all different kinds of people in a comic.

Jeff: Right. And, and I think the wall that you, that you drew, I mean, she looks like she looks like the bad-ass Amanda Wallace.

She looks like someone you don’t want to screw with. You know? And, and I think that has to do with the fact that she does [00:42:00] look older, she looks like she seen some shit, you know, And that it should be, you know, and I, and I kind of, it always bothered me that they tried to walk away from that person. And I was like, no, no, no, that, that his wallet while there’s a bath,

Phil Hester: right?

Yeah. That, to me, the, that, that John Ostrander, Amanda Waller is always going to be at the forefront of my mind.

Jeff: So, so was that, was that a discussion that they did see with DC comics discussing how you interpret it?

Phil Hester: I think I, to be again, it’s that whole idea. I go back to Canon by quality. Yeah. It’s sort of like, that’s no matter what they do with Amanda Waller, like the one that’s in everybody’s mind is, is the one from the, you know, John asked Andrew and looked McDonald comics, you know?

Well,

Jeff: like I said, I really do hope you do more. Those who at least, I really think those issues, they, they just felt. Like just like Superman stories, you know what I mean? I, I read them. [00:43:00] Oh, no, you’re welcome. I, I, cause I was reading them pacifically for I interviewed Phillip Johnson a couple of weeks ago and I saw both those issues too, you know, so I can discuss it with them, but it’s, you don’t always get to really enjoy the complex or reading for prepare for, into, with those comic books felt so genuinely Superman that, you know, I, I really wish your partnership continued

Phil Hester: further.

I think we probably will connect again in the future, but we share something in common, which is we take the assignment seriously. Like we, we feel like, like we have to represent Superman when we take a Superman assignment and we know what it means to so many different people and we’re not necessarily gonna fine tune it to everybody’s tastes, but we’re, we owe it to them to do the best we can and to like.

Present our take in the most like, high quality and respectful way we can.

Jeff: And as, as your readers, I think they appreciate that. I think they appreciate the attempt at making the [00:44:00] characters feel classic again, you know what I’m saying? Yeah. Yeah, I get it. And another and Alistair’s that we mentioned earlier that you’re wrapping up on his family tree, which I guess is one issue away from completion.

Yes.

Phil Hester: So we the last issue is that the printer about to come out, but yeah, it was it was a blast to work with Jeff Lameer for so many issues and to get to be aimed by Eric gangster. Who’s a local guy who’s sort of been my main anchor for the last few years and be colored by rang Cody and letters by Steve ones.

And it’s been a great experience for me because not only did I get to work on what I feel like is like a really moving story. It’s like, I mean, it’s a horror story. Yeah. It’s also really like the story of the family and how this family can endure through all different levels of trauma. I mean, they survive a personal trauma, which becomes sort of a global [00:45:00] trauma and they maintain their family hood throughout it and throughout a lot of suffering and a lot of death.

And you get to see how like familyhood can not only transcend that kind of trauma. It can transcend the collapse of civilization. It can transcend to the end of humanity. As long as these characters care and love about each other, which I, which is pretty incredible. And I think Just as a writer, I learned a ton from working from Jeff scripts.

He has just such a sort of instinct for making every scene count emotionally. Like I tend to think more technically I think that Jeff does mostly because I’m thinking about functions of pages as an artist, and I’m not, I don’t tend to think about emotional beats the way Jeff does. But after working on this, this family tree with Jeff, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about getting to the [00:46:00] emotional core of a story with every scene.

Like, cause when it started, I was like, oh, these treat people, how can I care about these treat people? And like the second issue I was. You know, getting choked up.

Jeff: So when, when just just Amir approached you about working on family tree. Yeah. Did he already tell you where the story was going? Like how it was ending?

Would you surprise with what he ended up doing? No, he,

Phil Hester: Yeah, because Jeff’s like, he’s a more spontaneous writer than I am. I try to plan things out and just sort of goes where the story needs to go. And he explores where it takes him. And then when he sees a natural ending to it, he pulls over and that’s the end.

And I think that’s what ha I’m a family tree at different different points in development. This was like a five issue story, a nine issue story, a 36 issues story. And then finally a 12 issues story because Jeff sort of, like I said, he feels his way in [00:47:00] and then. He knows when to get out. And it was sort of like, like one of my favorite of jest projects is a book called Royal city.

I don’t know if I have not actually, but it’s, it’s a book he wrote and drew and it, when it started, it felt like something he was going to write and draw for like forever. But it got to like issue 14 or 15, I think. And he thought, and he was like, this is a good place to pull the plug. And he did.

And that’s something else I have to kind of learn from him as to like, know when a story has like reached its peak potency. Yeah. No one to step away from it. And so sweet tooth is another great example of that. He knows exactly what kind of story to tell them what kind of scope to use for it. And I, I have had nothing but huge respect for For Jeff and, and the stuff he’s, even though he’s younger than I am the stuff he’s taught me on this, on this broad project.

So

Jeff: when we talked to is like, when, you know, there’s going to be a five issue series, then it gonna be a nine 10 or whatever. I mean, did he tell you like, oh, by the way, when you made a deal for five, we’re now up to nine, we’re now up to 30 and [00:48:00] then he’d come and give like, oh,

Phil Hester: here’s the news. It was just sort of open-ended when we agreed to do it, it was just sort of an open-ended project and it would be whatever.

And then it sort of changed as Jeff worked on it and it, and in fact, the flavor of the story changed. It became it took on a different scope as, as it went on. I don’t want to spoil it for anybody. That’s waiting to read it, but, you know, it starts out as a very kind of intimate horror story. And then it kind of turns into kind of a harrowing action story.

And then it turns into a very broadly apocalyptic story. So, And it jumps over several years of time in this family’s life. So, it’s, it’s a pretty huge, I think once people get it all in one volume, like if hopefully we’ll do like a nice hardcover of all 12 issues or something, but people reading it in the trades I think will, will feel satisfied by, by the scope and by the way we concluded it.

Jeff: And I think one thing that I found was very [00:49:00] interesting and I mean, I guess it almost, I mean, it was Chromebooks to be studied the way you did it is that the, one of the seminal moments of family tree is the transformation of Meg, which is very creepy, but not totally not overstated. But I think what I thought was most interesting about it was how you gradually stepped up the weirdness of it, know what I’m saying?

You didn’t get all at once. You didn’t kind of like blow your load at the beginning, you kind of like gradually let it build. Yeah.

Phil Hester: And that you sort of have to do it that way. You sort of have to have a credible. Reality before you can turn that reality on its head. So like the first few issues are, you know, we’re in a normal town.

I mean, my drawing style, you know, kind of warns you, that creepy things are going to happen because it’s my creepy horror style. And there are some creepy people kind of lurking around the edges of the story. But you don’t, you, you know, you get a taste of the body horror in that first story, but you don’t realize how [00:50:00] wild it’s going to get until you reach, you know, probably three quarters of the way through the series.

Jeff: And yeah, and I think there’s so many things like nuances in that series that I think really kind of speaks to you as an artist. And Alex, I think it’s something that I think new artists should be like studying. Once again, for instance, there’s the scene in issue without giving away too much where the soldiers are being flung around by the tree, which is inherently a tree is a stationary thing, but you can still feel the movement of it, you know?

Right. So how do you go about making something still on a page? So feel fluid

Phil Hester: it’s when you have to rely on compensation to do that, and you have to sort of find the rhythm on the page and explain that like, and it’s something that only comes with experience. You have to lay out a lot of pages over the course of many years, figure out the way to solve certain problems.

[00:51:00] And I will say I’m still stumped on every assignment. I still run into a page that I don’t know how I’m going to solve. And it means sometimes it means laying it out five or six times, and then coming back to it later, And you never know what that page is going to be. It can be a page that looks like it’s going to be a cakewalk when you’re reading the script.

And it turns out to be the hardest thing on the whole story. Other times you can read something that looks like it’s going to be very complex and it just clicks into place. You don’t know, but the more experience you have, the more solutions you have in your arsenal to solve storytelling problems and nothing will teach you like work.

So that’s the number. One thing I tell young artist is to not wait for somebody to tell you you’re a cartoonist start now make your own comics. Now just like I did in high school and junior high and, and college make comics with your friends. But make comics because the [00:52:00] more pages you make, the more it’s like working out, you know, The more reps you do as an artist the more fit you will be as an artist.

Jeff: And I will give a tip to my listeners, study the art of family tree. I think there’s so many moments where it just felt like it was something different about how you did it, but it just, but you know what I’m saying? And it worked because you did that. It’s like another scene with Loretta where you have her staring directly.

At the reader. Okay. And it’s such a defined bad-ass moment. I kinda was thinking that, that moment, like with Linda Hamilton, from like Terminator to that kind of, like I was saying that like that full hundred percent bad-ass you’re about to die. Look in her face. Jeff

Phil Hester: actually used those words in the script.

Jeff: Oh,

Phil Hester: Linda Hamilton in Terminator two. I’m like, okay, I get

Jeff: ya. But it felt that way. I mean, you, it, I can think of a lot of different artists who would probably go into that scene [00:53:00] and not be able to convey what you did in that and how you did it knowing like perspective, but even like the details, like the sweat and that kind of stuff that, you know, it wasn’t even like you made it because I think a lot of also once again to make it attractive, but you said you went of like, you felt a hundred percent just wrongness to it.

Phil Hester: Yeah. It’s the whole book. We tried to keep very itchy and spontaneous sort of to give the. Cause th th the overall theme of the, of the book is growth and decay and rebirth. And so we always wanted to give the idea that the shadows on every page were alive that like textures and wrinkles were sort of crawling over the characters and kind of in meshing them.

So to that point, I it’s like the first time I ever drew a comic without a straight edge. Like I didn’t rule out lines. Like even in perspective, I tried to eyeball everything cause I wanted to [00:54:00] keep it organic and intimate. And I’m actually a little bit closer to the way Jeff draws, you know, Jeff draws and very kind of like spontaneous way.

And I was inspired by that and I wanted to sort of see what a book would look like if I drew that way myself and I still get, I, I definitely get more bogged down in construction and like trying to follow the rules than Jeff does, but I think it, I think it had a little bit of that Jeff flavor where things were more spontaneous and more kind of they were their own language.

Like, you know, when you’re looking at family tree that you’re not looking at the real world, you’re looking like through kind of a twisted looking glass at a different kind of reality. And that’s what we, that’s where, and that’s what we were going for. Also with the colors with Ryan. Cody is like, we wanted like very muted colors that were like very flat Plains that weren’t, that didn’t have modeling.

And then we didn’t want like, to like, try to like, make things look shiny or, [00:55:00] you know, strong light sources. We wanted it to look very dreamlike. And I think we accomplished that.

Jeff: Well, like I said, I think what you did with Demetry was, was fantastic. And it likes, that was a great series. What can you tease our listeners about what’s gonna happen in issue 12?

Phil Hester: Well, the very worst thing you could imagine, but also because it’s a Jeff Lemurian story birth of hope at the same time. So, and if you’re familiar with Jeff’s work, you won’t be, you won’t be disappointed.

Jeff: So when does issue 12 come out?

Phil Hester: I don’t know. Oh, no, it could be any time now. I don’t have my, I usually get my comps about a week before the book ships.

And I don’t have my comps yet, so it’s probably a couple of weeks out yet.

Jeff: So. And what do you have coming up next for you?

Phil Hester: Oh gosh. Okay. I’m working on it. I’m speaking of Donnie Cates, I’m working on the issue of crossover.

Jeff: Ooh, that’s a great series. Yeah, we’re

Phil Hester: working on kind of like [00:56:00] a special, a special kind of pocket.

I don’t know what to call it, and we’re going, we’re going on an off ramp to chips that are ski world. Okay. So this is, is the story that chip and Dani collaborated on that is just focusing on chip and how chip sort of survives this new kind of crossover reality, like on the run and like having to deal with the characters he’s created in the past.

And it’s very, it’s very funny because it’s chip of course, and it’s also very heartfelt as well. And I’m just, I’m actually drawing the very last page of that today as we speak. And it has a, it has a cameo from really cool couple of comic book characters that from another successful image series which I won’t spoil and I’m working on a Mr.

Bone story for a future state special. Oh, wow. Which is a lot of fun because I liked drawing Mr. Bones [00:57:00] and gosh, what else? I’m writing a bunch of stuff that I can’t talk about. But I’m going to try to back off on drawing so much and write a little bit more because I’m, I don’t know how it happened, but I just wound up drawing a lot the last two years.

And I really like to get back to writing a little bit more.

Jeff: Well, I will say as a fan, if you ever want to revisit days missing or anchor, that’d be fantastic.

Phil Hester: I’d love to, I’d love to go back to both. I could have written anchor forever and days missing belongs to Roddenberry entertainment. So they get to call the shots,

 

But it was a fun to work on.

It was fun to work on that character and develop the property. I hope it winds up on television or in the movie someday because it’s, it’s got a lot of potential. And I’m the anchor, of course I’d love to get back to the acre someday. But yeah, I’ve, you know, me, I I’ve always got a million irons in the fire, so I’ll always have something new coming out.

I like it or not.

Jeff: I’m amazed that you can’t be [00:58:00] like Ron and Barry corporation. I’m Phil Hesser. God damn it. Damn days missing.

Phil Hester: You can’t really push the rotten Berry company around

Jeff: well, Mr. Hester was a fantastic pleasure to talk with you. I, like I said, I like what he did. I love we do the family tree.

I think I’d love to see more Superman from you with Phillip Tony Johnson. I thank you so much for talking with me. Thank

Phil Hester: you, Jeff

Jeff: was my pleasure. Thank you so much. Have a fantastic night. You too. All right.

 

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