Hester talks Archaia and Dynamite

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Broken Frontier continues its chats with Eisner Award-nominated artist/writer Phil Hester today. His pencilling credits include Swamp Thing, Brave New World, Flinch, Ultimate Marvel Team-Up, Clerks: The Lost Scene, The Crow: Waking Nightmares, The Wretch (nominated for the 1997 Eisner Award for Best New Series), Aliens: Purge, and Green Arrow. He has been working for various if not all publishing houses and has done almost every genre you  can think of.

Currently he is writing Top Cow's flagtitle The Darkness for the long-term as well as a four-issue series rebooting Vampirella (click here for our BF-interview about this title) as off September 2009 and he will also kickstart the new Archaia series Days Missing and last, but not least, the Dynamite Entertainment title Masquerade...

BROKEN FRONTIER: Speaking about titles...you are also busy writing for Dynamite Entertainment and its Project: Superpowers spin-off Masquerade. How did this happen? I always get curious about the machinations behind this!

PHIL HESTER: I've known Jim Krueger- Alex Ross's partner on Project: Superpowers - for a long time now and we've always wanted to get together on something. PS came along and was a big hit for Dynamite, so the idea of doing spin-offs came up. Jim was too busy with the main series and Hollywood stuff, so he, Mr. Ross, and Nicky Barrucci let me have a go at Masquerade.

BF: What is your approach to this Golden Age character and what is it that you want to establish?

PH: I really wanted to contrast the Golden Age to today and point up how difficult a transition from 1949 to 2009 would be for a character, not to mention a crime fighter. Also, she has no real powers (until she comes out of the urn), so I wanted to show her using her wits to be the equal of all these other god-like beings flying around in the Golden Age. She's basically a plucky rich girl with a gun, so I wanted to give her some sort of impetus to becoming a crime fighter. Luckily, her origin was pretty much uncharted, so I got to go back and add a little mystery and tragedy to her past that forced her to become a masked crime fighter.

BF: The character seems to be a really strong one. Before you took this character to another level, you must have thought about what you could do to make her more up to date. What is it that you liked about this character and how did you approach the update?

PH: That's the thing. I didn't want to update her. I wanted to make her a woman out of time. The time in the urn hardened and changed her, but it's an unwelcome change. She longs for the almost naive kid she was, but at the same time, her intellect is so keen that she can adapt to our world pretty quickly.

BF: Is your approach for every character/title you write the same or do you have brainstorm sessions with others or with yourself?

PH: It's almost always different each time. That's what keeps the job from being boring! I love getting feedback from artists, so if there's an element they want to change, or an avenue they want to explore, it can lead the story into unexpected, satisfying territory.

BF: I know Project: Superpowers was also laid down with Alex Ross at its helm. Did you had any contact or feedback on this spin-off?

PH: Oh, yeah. Alex is definitely hands on. This is his baby. He knows way more about these characters than probably anyone on earth and he takes great pains to make sure they are treated with respect while at the same time updating them and making them relevant to today's readers. Also, his images inspire prettily readily.

BF: What is the coolest thing you did with Masquerade?

PH: I think establishing a mystery inside her origin that she doesn't solve until sixty years later, and the emotional impact that has on her. I hope it catches the reader by surprise and they find themselves touched by the end of the series.

BF: Again there are awesome covers available for this project and I even noticed a Frank Cho cover. Which is your personal favorite for this series? And why?

PH: Come on now! You know it has to be the John Romita Sr. cover. It's Johnny Romita! Another pinch myself moment. They are all great, though. What can I say? I'm an old man.

BF: When I Google your name, one of the things that seem to pop up is a series called Days Missing, which will be launched from Archaia in August. The story focuses around a mysterious person called "The Steward", who is able to remove full days from history and who does this  in an effort to shape the course of human events. The first issue will be written by you and illustrated by Frazer Irving...can you tell me a bit about this project, because it seems very exciting!

PH: I think you nailed it. The Steward is basically equal parts Dr. Who and The Watcher. He watches over humanity for moments of dire crisis, then swoops in, saves the day and lifts it out of our collective memory, so we never know how close we came to annihilation or exactly how we were spared. He's the unseen wind that blows into the sail of mankind over history.

BF: How is Dale Keown involved in this? You work with him via TopCow already. Was it different this time with Archaia?

PH: He designed The Steward and did the covers. I think he's brilliant. Any time he graces a project it makes it a joy to work on. Now we just have to clone him so we can up his output.

BF: The premise reminded me about a cool independent series called The Gift, written by (now) Zenescope's Raven Gregory. I am sure that this is something else entirely, but I was curious if you have heared about this title or even read it.

PH: I know Raven and dig his work, but I think this is something a little more sci-fi and real world oriented. Trevor Roth at Roddenberry really wants all the plots to be plausible on some level, so it's much more grounded in what's happening in the headlines of today.

BF: Will #2 be picking up where you left off or is the set-up for this series more of five one-shots?

PH: Five one shots that are tied together with loose continuity. Like snapshots of The Steward at different points in history that, when put together, give a clear picture of what he's all about.

BF: Roddenberry Productions is a powerhouse of ideas, so it seems. And apparantly you are too, seeing the very diverse genres you have been handling over the years and momentarily even at one time! How is your involvement with Roddenberry Productions?

PH: Rob Levin, who hired me at Top Cow, suggested me for the gig and Trevor gave final approval. Trevor has been very generous with his baby by basically spelling out the rules and letting us run with it. It's been fun... especially when I see Frazer's pages!

BF: Thank you so very much for your time, Phil. It means the world to me! Is there anything I left out, forgot or you feel the readers should really know about you and your projects?

PH: Oh, Gosh. Well, I'm still writing the oft-delayed Firebreather, and Golly for Image. Firebreather is going great guns at Cartoon Network and we're hoping the TV movie will hit screens in late '09 or early '10. I've got some stuff coming up from BOOM! that will be announced soon and some more indie work coming down the line. I'm staying busy. Thanks, Richard!

BF: Is there a website I can promote for you?

PH: It's rarely updated, but folks can contact me through here: www.shocktraumastudios.com

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