Kate (and Dan) interview Phil Hester

For this installment of Kate (and Dan) Read Comics, we are very lucky present an interview with industry veteran Phil Hester. With an exhaustive resume as both writer and artist, Phil has worked on titles ranging from creator owned projects like The Wretch and The Coffin, to more mainstream books like Swamp Thing and Wonder Woman.

We are very grateful to Phil for taking the time for this interview.

What project(s) are you currently working on?

I’m drawing a digital Batman story for DC written by Josh Fialkov and inked by Eric Gapstur. I’m writing Bionic Man with my co-writer Aaron Gillespie, and I’m writing a secret project at Image.

Is the Batman story your first foray into digital media? What sort of adjustments do you need to make for a comic that will be read on an e-device instead of a traditional comic?

Well, we’ve sort of had to give up on the traditional vertically oriented comics page. Things have to fit on a landscaped iPad for the DC Digital books, so it’s formatted more like an old Sunday strip. We’ve had to sort of give up on the idea of the page as a meta-panel, or at least the whole page.

I’m doing some other digital/pad stuff also, but as a writer. It’s all secret.

What do you feel is the future of comics: print or digital? Will future readers still have joy of digging through the quarter bin?

I think so. I foresee a time when “monthlies” are purely digital, but collected into paper hard copies. But really, who the hell knows? I know I prefer paper as a reading experience. It’s quieter, I guess– more intimate.

At what point did you realize you could make comics your full-time job? What sort of work were you doing at the time?

I was an ad designer and paste-up/layout artist for a small city paper. I’d been working in comics part time, but when I hit age 23 or 24 I got a gig at Marvel and walked out the door, never to return to the day job lifestyle. Work! Who needs it?

You’ve had quite a career. What was your debut work? Was it writing or drawing?

I penciled a black and white comic in 1986 called ‘Port that I hope you never find.

At what point did you branch out into the other?

I always wrote and drew stories, even when they were just little self-printed fanzines for friends. I never saw them as separate activities. I was just lucky enough to be able to get employment as an artist first.

Which one is your favorite?

Well, I know which one is easier, at least physically. Honestly, when you’re really productive they both feel equally rewarding.

You have a very distinctive art style. Who or what do you feel influenced your work the most?

I love weirdness. As a kid, I was always drawn to oddball comics, so I guess my work has always had this creepy bent to it, but at the same time, I loved lively, cartoonish stuff. I guess my work is the unholy hybrid of those competing impulses. EC meets Joe Staton.

Much of your work seems to lean to the horror/supernatural. Do you consider yourself a horror guy who does capes, or vice versa?

Probably. I’m definitely more comfortable in the dark corners of the super hero universes. Creepy super heroes are my favorite.

As an Iowa resident (Midwest, represent!) has not living on the East or West coast ever proved to be a challenge to your career?

It was at the beginning, but in the age of FedEx, Internet, Skype, conventions, etc., you can get your work in front of editors very easily.

Kate (and Dan) Read Comics is a comics-oriented blog, written by folks who love comics for people that (hopefully) love comics. In the spirit of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” and the Bernard Pivot questions asked of every guest, we have our own comics-related questions we ask of every interviewee.

What was your favorite moment in comics? The moment that when you read it on the page, you smiled and said, “That was so cool!”

When Daredevil fought the Hulk during the McKenzie/Miller run. I mean, I had always dug comics, especially Kirby, but that issue hit me in the gut and made me realize they could go a lot deeper.

It was the first book that made me realize comics could be something more than just “cool.” Being cool is enough, but the way the creative team showed off their skills in the telling of this tale really awakened the storyteller in me.

What was the moment that made you say, “Working in comics is amazing”?

Oh, every day I get away with it.

Our standard Beatles or Rolling Stones question: Superman or Batman?

Batman. C’mon.

Normally, our interviews are kept at ten questions, but for you we go eleven. We know you’re a big baseball fan. At what point did you become a Red Sox fan?

I lived in Quincy and Brockton from 1st through 3rd grade, and you know what they say: Your team at 10 is your team for life. I remember going to Fenway as a kid and seeing the Yaz, Fisk, Lynn, Lee, Tiant, Rice, Evans era team beat the Indians.

You can follow Phil on Twitter @philhester.