Babs sits down and talks to the writer/artist about 'Days Missing' and 'The Darkness'
Let me start off by saying first that to me, this was a real honor. I absolutely love Phil Hester's work so I will admit I was a bit nervous about this interview. I found that he did a superb job writing the first issue of 'Days Missing,' and he has been consistently brilliant on 'The Darkness.' Thank you again to Phil for taking a minute to talk to me, as well as the folks over at Archaia for helping me to arrange the interview.
I have included some of the transcription below for those of you interested in reading the questions and answers. Enjoy!
Comic Vine: First of all, Happy Birthday!
Phil Hester: Thank you!
CV: I'm a big fan of your work, particularly Days Missing for Archaia. I absolutely loved that comic, it was phenomenal and well written, but I'm sure that you have heard that before.
PH: Well, it doesn't get old!
CV: I wanted to ask you a couple of questions if that's okay, about Days Missing and then a couple of other things too. So for the listeners that my be unfamiliar with the title, can you tell us a little bit about 'The Steward'?
PH: The main character is the steward and the perfect way to describe him is "he's the watcher who does more than just watch." He keeps track of humanity...when he sees we are about to hit the rocks, he is the one who inspires people to do the right thing during the crisis...He's not messing with our records and our history, but he is violating it....We have no memory though of anything being changed."
CV: How were you approached to work on 'Days Missing'?
PH: My former editor at Top Cow who hired me to work on ' The Darkness' picked up some work for Archaia, and he wanted to put together a team to tackle Days Missing...We all sort of got together with Trevor Roth who was the creator of the character and Roddenberry and kicked around ideas for a few months and then eventually split off to do our own thing..
CV: You wrote the first and will be writing the last; was it your choice not to write the issues in-between?
PH: No I think it was always...I think they were just all going to take an issue and do just one. I think the people at Roddenberry wanted the first and last issue to sort of function as...number 1 to function as an intro and 5 to function as a launching point for a future story. So, I did no 1 and they liked what I did with number one so they trusted me with #5.
CV: How much input did you have on the other issues?
PH: I think we all got to leave each other alone which was pretty cool. We all had the same ground rules and we all agreed on the same ground rules of what the character could and couldn't do, or what his voice should sound like, how he should look...and then we all were left to our own devices. It was fun to watch everyone do their own thing with their individual issue. The great thing about that character is that you can drop him at any point in history. In the first issue we dropped him before human history, and so all the other artists and writers picked out different times in history to do their story; so it's sort of a great thing about the character.
CV: Yeah I'm a huge history buff, so for me it's like the perfect story...going off of that, you have so many points in history to draw from to implement into Days Missing, how did you decide on the events you chose? Why Hammurabi, for example?
PH: Actually, those were all my pitches for other issues. I wanted to do a whole issue that was about Hammurabi's code...and they were like that's a cool idea but we need something contemporary to sort of play out the introductory first issue...help people identify with what's going on. But they didn't kill my baby, and I got to plug that in there. I think that people think history began 3 to 4 thousand years ago but it began way way before that...all sorts of things...
CV: If you could go into any other moment in history, what would it be?
PH: Th other guys did such a great the awesome little corners of history to incorporate into the story...I feel like they really upped the ante..like I can't just pick one at random...I can't just pull that out of the air because the other guys really thought about it...My last issue is actually a little bit into the future...
CV: What you're saying is that he can time travel a little bit?
PH: No I am not saying that! I'm saying we are doing the story from different periods in his life, but he is not necessarilly time travelling. We are trying to write it so it will be conteporary when it comes out. Now that I thought about it, the other time period I really wanted to a story set around the birth of Confucious, and how an interaction with the Steward be the thing that inspired him to ____ propriety...that was one of my pitches but I don't think they thought that would be action packed enough. (laughs)
CV: What did you love the most about working on Days Missing?
PH: I got to work with Rob again and I got to work with Frazer...As everyone knows by now that Frazer's next project is 'Batman & Robin,' we are really lucky to have him. I am lucky to have him on both my issues.
CV: You yourself are an artist, do you feel it's hard to separate yourself as an artist from a project you are writing?
PH: Sometimes I'll write something and it will be like, "here's how I view it," and then you get things back from the artist that are not necessarilly how you pictured. Well, the good news is that it's usually better. Most of the time seeing a different take on what you had envisioned is really gratifying. When it doesn't work out, I can live with it. Also being an artist, I've been on the other side of the equation a lot so I try and respect the artist's choices...because I know what it feels like on the other side.
CV: Do you feel you are more understanding or more demanding of the artist because you yourself are one?
PH: Yeah, I definitely fall in the more understanding part of that equation.
CV: Can you tell me how in depth your directions were for Frazer Irving on the first issue of Days Missing?
PH: It's funny actually. I'd say abut half my work now I thumbnail for my artists. I do little mock ups of the pages and very rough layouts and placement...this is one project I didn't. I wrote a full script. In some ways this was more laborious for me because I think so visually that when I write a story I want to draw it out. It just seems natural for me. Panel descriptions to me seem very foreign. But it is time consuming to do the thumbnail and I know that I can't keep doing them for the rest of my career, so I had to write what we used to call BC style...and Frazer is good so he caught every nuance I wanted to get in there and he made the storytelling really work.
CV: Kind of on the art question, you are set to write as well as draw for issues 80 and 81 of Top Cow's 'The Darkness,' do you feel it is more liberating or more difficult when you have that much creative freedom?
PH: It's liberating for me. I can make changes on the fly and don't have to answer to anyone...I can cheat a little and play to my strengths. I haven't drawn very many of my creator owned projects. In fact, I've only really drawn one, and that was back in the 90's. Sometimes I just don't feel like I'm right for the story. So when I know I'm going to write for myself...I did a Magdalena crossover about a year and a half ago, and did stuff that [I like] like creepy, crumbling buildings, very noirish Frank Millar-ish...This time around I played to my strengths and can draw a bunch of monsters...so I'm definitely cheating a little...and not giving myself scenes that take place in a football stadium with a thousand people in the background.
CV: Last question few questions! So you were co-creator to Mia Deardon/ " Speedy," was created by you in the ' Green Arrow' series. Back in 2004 it was revealed that she was HIV positive. Was that something you originally anticipated for her character?
PH: When you say co-creator that's a strong word. I designed her, and to me it's Kevin's character, and when Judd came on board it became Judd's character. I loved designing the Speedy costume. She was a teenage prostitute, so it shouldn't shock anyone that she was HIV positive...We see her in Green Arrow and she's already involved in a violent relationship with her pimp. It's a logical extension of her character, and I thought it was a neat move by Judd.
CV: So, are you planning on watching her on Smallville?
PH: Yeah I guess its going to be weird! I have to tell you the weirdest moment not this year's SD, but last year's, I took a taxi right to the convention center, and I got out and the first human being I saw was a woman in a mia derden Speedy costume, and that was a surreal moment. I couldn't even be like "hey I made that costume," cause she would be like "get away from me, perve!" So I didn't even say anything, I was just like, I'll chock that one up for weird moments in a comic book career.
CV: It's got to be so cool though to see something you created transcend into a different medium...
PH: Definitely! The Smallville guys really follow comics. I want to say I did a 2 hour interview for the season 6 extras for the GA season...and I have to admit I haven't watched the extras yet. But I am there, so those guys really know what they are doing. I trust them to make that work.
CV: Well, I can not wait to see what's next for 'Days Missing' because it's just fantastic, and I also love your work on 'The Darkness.'
PH: I really appreciate that, I feel like we are really trying hard.
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