10 Questions for Phil Hester

Phil HesterComicsCareer.Com is asking professional comics creators to answer 10 questions. Our first featured creator is writer/artist Phil Hester. Phil is based in small town Iowa, and his credits include Swamp Thing, Green Arrow, The Wretch, Nightwing, Superman Confidential, Ant-Man, Taboo, The Coffin, The Darkness, Firebreather, Golly, and much more.

Look for his current pencilling work in El Diablo (DC) and his writing in The Darkness (Top Cow), Golly (Image), Firebreather (Image), and Masquerade (Dynamite).

You can find out more about Phil and his work at shocktraumastudios.com

Question 1: When did you first decide that you wanted to create your own comics for a living?

Probably age twelve, maybe eleven. I had all those crazy Marvel stickers from the 70’s plastered on my dresser and after countless hours of idle gazing it dawned on me that each was drawn in a different style. I started paying attention to the credits in comics and began to daydream about being there myself.

Question 2: Who has had the biggest influence on you outside the comics industry, and how did they affect your life?

My wife for never questioning what I was doing with my life even when she probably should have. Her constant patience and support give me a safe harbor when the comics business kicks me in the ego or wallet (Hint: often).

Question 3: Who has had the biggest influence on your comics career, and how has that person changed your work?

My inker partner Ande Parks. I was very shy at the beginning of my comics career and had to be prodded into talking to other pros. Ande’s a very confident guy, at least he projects confidence, and he sort of pushed me into doing things like going to New York to look for work or chatting up editors at cons.

We also have a shared aesthetic that grew out of our collaboration and pulled me toward a more minimalist, high contrast style than I would have developed on my own. My early, early work looks like a feeble imitation of Mike Ploog, but after working with Ande for twenty years I’ve honed a modern, hard edged style with its roots in the old school economical ideals of Toth or Wood. All that said, I think spending countless childhood afternoons soaking up Kirby comics might have made the most indelible mark on my artistic mind.

Question 4: What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

I stop working. I work a lot, so taking a day off really clears my head.

Question 5: Describe your typical work routine.

Kids on the bus at 8. I try to write until noon or so, then switch to drawing until the kids get home at 3:30. I go back to work, usually drawing, from 10 until I can’t stay awake. I quit caffeine a year or so ago, so that’s usually 1 AM at the latest.

Question 6: What writing, drawing, or other tools do you use?

I don’t have any kick-ass writing tools. I mean, I have a template that I print out so i can draw little thumbnail layouts to accompany my scripts, but I don’t have any cool screenwriting or comics writing program. Does anyone?

I draw on smooth Strathmore 400 series bristol. Ply matters not. I do small thumbnails then sketch directly on the board with non-photo blue (Staedtler), then do finished pencils with a plain old Dixon Ticonderoga #2 school pencil, Bruynzeel Design F, or mechanical pencil with a Pentel .5 mm F or HB lead.

Question 7: What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?

I love storytelling, so the thumbnail stage is always my favorite. I am not a big fan of my draughtsmanship skills, so everything looks its best before I start pencilling proper.

I enjoy writing and drawing short stories a lot, so whenever I get the chance to do that (like in The Wretch, or Postcards) I’m most in my element.

Question 8: What has been the most rewarding project in your professional career – in or out of comics – and why?

As a writer probably The Coffin with Mike Huddleston or Firebreather with Andy Kuhn. As an artist probably the Daredevil vs Magdalena crossover I did last year. As both writer and artist probably the short story I did for Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened.

Question 9: We’ve all met very talented newcomers who are trying to get their first professional projects. What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard given to a promising new creator?

Don’t wait for anyone’s permission to do your thing. Just go. Make mistakes. No one’s keeping score. Nothing teaches like work, so put yourself to work. Now.

Question 10: Time to get philosophical: What’s the most important “big idea” that you’ve learned in life – in or out of comics – and why is it important?

Be sweeter.

Which is a simpler way of restating that old saying of Plato’s “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Or Jesus’ “Do unto others…” Or Vonnegut’s “God damn it, babies, you’ve got to be kind.” Being alive is sometimes very scary and very discouraging, so the best thing we can do for each other is offer comfort, either through art (doesn’t mean it has to be comforting art, just engaging), friendship, good works, whatever. I forget all this immediately in traffic.

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