Updated: Jan 25, 2020
Phil Hester is one of the most talented creators in the comic book medium today. Not only does he dazzle us with is dark and shadowy art style but he amazes us as with his superior wordsmanship.
Since entering the comic book scene he has worked on numerous books, such as SWAMP THING, BRAVE NEW WORLD, FLINCH, ULTIMATE MARVEL TEAM-UP, CLERKS: THE LOST SCENE, THE CROW: WAKING NIGHTMARES, and THE WRETCH (which was nominated for an Eisner).
It was his work on GREEN ARROW though that really garnered my attention as a teenager. When he joined Kevin Smith on the title he helped created one of the definitive GA runs in history. On the title he co-created Mia Dearden and the villain Onomatopoeia. He went on to collaborate with Brad Meltzer and Judd Winnick on the title. It's a run I'll never forget.
From there, it seemed as if his art took more of a backseat and his writing prowess cam to the forefront. He worked on THE BLACK TERROR at Dynamite and wrote WONDER WOMAN based on the notes and outline by J. Michael Straczynski, after Straczynski left the title.
He's currently working on STRONGHOLD over at Aftershock Comics and is set to team up with Jeff Lemire on FAMILY TREE. No matter what he's doing, writing or illustrating, you know you're getting some of the best this medium has to offer.
COMIC LOUNGE: What was your first experience with comic books? PHILLIP HESTER: Probably reading my uncles' books. I have a set of uncles who aren't that much older than I am, so I got to pore over their copies of X-MEN, SWAMP THING and WARLORD on family visits. I always liked comics and had a small collection that I built from about age 9 to 12, but when I moved from a bigger city back to my small home town I was suddenly more isolated. Comics, as corny as it sounds, were sort of my support system. I started to live in that world more and more. I found my identity in my new school by making little mini-comics spoofing the teachers. These comics became popular with my fellow students who asked for more. All through junior high and high school I more or less ran a small mini-publishing empire, making all sorts of books; humor, horror, super-hero, even a mild sex farce. I think I became a cartoonist as a kid, and then simply progressed toward making that my career through high school and college. Luckily, the black and white explosion took place while I was a sophomore in college, so I began working for the new wave of indie publishers even before I graduated.
CL: Who were some of your favorite creators growing up? PH: Oh, gosh. Kirby, of course. Even pretty early I loved storytellers like Miller, Kubert, and Eisner-- sort of atypical for a 13-year-old. I still dug the fan favorites like Byrne, Grell, Golden and Perez, but was always drawn to the slightly off-kilter or dark stuff when I could find it; Wrightson, Colan, Ploog, Marshall Rogers, Corben, Frank Robbins, Ditko's oddball stuff. I have to say the first cartoonist that really grabbed me was Joe Staton, especially his work on E-MAN. That brand of liveliness is always at the heart of my work, no matter how dark and serious I try to make it. CL: What was your first major project? PH: I got to pencil SWAMP THING in my mid-20s, which was pretty amazing to me, as that was always a favorite of mine as a kid. I felt very lucky to be working on such a historical character and with such great writers as Morrison and Millar. I got to meet Berni Wrightson during my run on the book and was a nervous wreck, but he couldn't have been more gracious.
CL: I first became a fan of your during your GREEN ARROW run. What was your experience like on that book? PH: Pretty heady. I had always been a "tweener," meaning I was too indie-flavored for mainstream super-hero books, but too super-hero for indie books. I sort of kicked around the fringes of the comics industry doing work on edgier books at Vertigo, Oni, Dark Horse, Kitchen Sink, and the like. Luckily one of those books was for Bob Shreck at Oni, who teamed me with Kevin Smith on a CLERKS book. When GA came up, Kevin asked for us to team up again.
So, I went from a guy who had a hard time getting super-hero work at Marvel or DC, to doing the #1 book in comics. I learned so much about comics, about writing, about the way the business works. Even if the book had not been a hit, it would have been an amazing experience. I also finally got to work with my long-time inker Ande Parks on a mainstream book. We had been collaborating for years, but had never been put together on a big book before this. The stars really aligned.
CL: Are there any characters, you haven't worked on yet, that you would like a chance at? PH: Oh, yeah. I'd love to draw Doom Patrol or Ragman, really any of the off-kilter DC or Marvel heroes. I'd love to write Fantastic Four someday, too.
CL: Not only are you an amazing artist but an extremely talented writer as well. What do you love most about writing and illustrating? PH: Thanks so much! I just love telling stories, and since I could also always draw a little, it seemed natural to combine the two tasks. I was born to make comics. I love that in comics there is very little between your vision and getting it in front of thousands of people. I feel very privileged to have been given so many opportunities to show my comics to the world.
CL: What have some of the most memorable moments of your career this far? PH: I have to say all the friends I've made. Often they've started out as collaborators or even fans, but soon became like family. I have the convention scene to thank for that. I've been able to travel all over the world and meet all kinds of people, 99.999% of them being incredible. But actually, the best thing comics gave me was the ability to work at home and raise my kids. I wouldn't trade that experience for a million best-sellers.
CL: Are there any projects you're currently working on that you can talk about or tease? PH: I am writing STRONGHOLD for Aftershock with Ryan Kelly on art, Dee Cuniffe on color and Simon Bowland on letters. Along with my inker Eric Gapstur, I'm drawing a book called FAMILY TREE written by Jeff Lemire that will start coming out this fall from Image. I'm also helping out with odd jobs here and there at DC, writing fill-ins and helping young artists with their storytelling. It's been quite rewarding. I also have a mini with Oni that should come out some time in 2020, I think.
CL: What advice can you give to aspiring creators out there? PH: Start now. Remember earlier in the interview when I talked about making comics in junior high? I became a cartoonist THAT DAY, not the day I earned my first comics paycheck in college, not the day DC signed me to SWAMP THING, not the day GREEN ARROW hit #1, not the day I saw my name in the credits of a Marvel movie. It happened the day I put pencil to paper in 7th grade. Don't waste any time waiting for anyone's permission to create the kind of stories you want to see in the world. Don't be an aspiring
cartoonist (or writer, or colorist, whatever). Be a cartoonist TODAY.