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Phil Hester on Vampirella's Second Coming

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This morning I am talking to Eisner Award-nominated artist/writer Phil Hester. 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 I can think of.

Currently he is writing Top Cow's flagship title The Darkness for the long-term as well as a four-issue series rebooting Vampirella (click here for our BF interview with Harris' editor-in-chief Bon Alimagno) as of 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: Phil, thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to investigate some of the details of my favorite titles of the moment. Did I miss an important announcement in the above list?

PHIL HESTER: Actually I'm done with Masquerade, but not the Project: Superpowers universe. There will be an announcement on that soon. I also have projects coming up from BOOM! and Archaia, but that's probably for a different interview.

BF: I just spoke to Vampirella's editor and he was very impressed by your ideas and especially the execution. What did you give him in order for him to be so enthusiastic?!

PH: A big shot glass full of Vampi's old synthetic blood formula from the 70s issues. Seriously, I can't thank Bon enough for trusting me to do what we did with the character. I think it will excite and maybe upset a few readers, but by the end of the mini I hope the wild twists and turns will be vindicated.

BF: What will the readers of Vampirella be left with, after you have rocked their world?

PH: Despite the changes we put her through I think what will be left after Second Coming #4 is a more iconic, purified Vampirella. I hope she will stand as a version of Vampi that will represent the best of her countless iterations of the past 40 years the way Paul Dini & Bruce Timm's Batman, or Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man encapsulated the very best of those iconic characters.

     

BF: The artistic qualities of the team are highly praiseworthy. The artist Daniel Sampere is handpicked by the publisher's editor and joined by color artist Romulo FajardoEd Dukeshire works his miracles on the lettering. How did the contact with the art team go down? What did you get back from them and, most importantly, did you like it?

PH: I think the sky's the limit with these guys. My contact was limited to me handing off my thumbnails for them to base the pages on, but from what I've seen they took my crude scribbling and turned it into something special.

           

BF: For your story, some of the best artists in the comics world have been gathered. Arthur Suydam, Joe Jusko, Jose Gonzalez and Ryan Stegman will grace the covers for the first issue and beyond that Suydam will remain the lead cover artist. I can only imagine that having these artists gracing your story must be a treat in itself. Maybe even an honor. But I might just be putting words in your mouth, so please...the stage is yours. Do tell me how you experience this!

PH: They are all beautiful. I'm spoiled. I only worry the covers will look so good people will forget to open the book and read it.

BF: Do you have a favorite yourself of all the #1 covers?

PH: I'm ecstatic about all of these, but being a kid who grew up on the black and white Warren magazines, the Jose Gonzalez one really blows me away. It's one of those moments, like drawing Superman or Swamp Thing for publication, that I have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming.

BF: When you found out the marketing plan of Harris was to set the price at $1.99, what was your first thought and might you have a different opinion on this?

PH: I think it's brilliant. There's a real groundswell of dedicated comics readers who are genuinely fearful about being priced out of their hobby. I had a good experience with Top Cow pricing my first [The] Darkness trade at five bucks, so any time we can lower the price to entice new readers I'm all for it.

BF: I know you cannot spoil in advance (we hate that) but could you tell me a bit on the path you are setting out for my favorite character in the comic world?

PH: I'm afraid we're going to get a little meta-fictional on you. Issue one seems to take place in our real world, a world where Vampirella is merely a comic book character and pin-up queen. We find there is a group of women strangely drawn to the image of Vampirella, believing it represents some higher calling to defend humanity. We'll follow these women on their quest to discover whether or not Vampirella is real and the frightening impact it has on their lives. Of course, there will be plenty of blood letting and demon fighting along the way, but #1 will throw a lot of people for a loop, especially the last page.

BF: The big villain is Gore, from the Vampirella storyarc that ran in Vampirella Quarterly. What is he up to?

PH: I wanted to make sure the book flowed directly out of Josh Fialkov's run, so I set it directly after Vampirella's battle with the mad god Chaos that took place in Josh's last issue. Gore is the captain of a group of Chaos demons, the mad god's subjects, who use the breach between dimensions to invade earth. He is a grotesque, obscene fellow who happens to carry a virus that will spread his carnivorous, cannibalistic impulses to humanity. Yuck!

     

BF: What do you want to realize with this story, over the course of four issues?

PH: I'd love to return her to her roots as an adventurer, but also dig deeper into what she means as an embodiment of sex, death, love, and innocence all at the same time. She's actually a pretty complex character and exploring her impact on a group of women inspired by her is going to be really interesting... I hope.

BF: Did you ever realize that most of the big-time comic writers and artists have been involved with Vampirella? I can think of writers like Priest, Alan Moore, Millar, Morrison, Ellis, Palmiotti, Busiek, Ennis, Sniegoski, Jim Valentino, Mark Waid, Brian Wood, Dan Jolley, Gail Simone, Brian Pulido, Justin Gray, Jay Faerber, Mike Carey, Joshua Fialkov, Brereton, Terry Moore...

I can also think of interior artists like Tex, Rick Mays, David Mack, Tim Sale, Michael Bair, Amanda Conner, Louis Small Jr.,
Mike Mayhew,  Quesada, Ethan van Sciver, Jim Balent, Steven Hughes, Joyce Chin, Liam Sharp, Stefano Caselli, Michael Golden, Eric Basaldua, Dorian Cleavenger, Patrick Zircher, Ed McGuinness, Gary Frank, Mark Beachum...

Do not even get me started on the cover artists!! Sorry... I guess a brainfreeze just happened!! Anyway, I just love that you are doing something special to her and I am secretly wondering how you feel about being in such an amazing line-up, since for a fan like me, this is just bliss!

PH: I'd definitely aware of the impressive line-up of creators who have worked on Vampi, and a little intimidated. Sometimes that fear-driven adrenaline can inspire creative writing. I hope it did in this case.

BF: In the Vampirella Halloween Special 2006 you first introduced a fluid costume. Vampirella's garment shaped at will. How did this new treat came to be? And did you use it again this time?

PH: Oh, yeah. Well, I was just looking for little ways to boost her powers without drastically changing her. Also, the costume is pretty impossible, as most models who have worn it will tell you, so I wanted to find a way for it to make sense. Having it be her life's blood, bright and out in the open, seemed like almost a crest telling you what she's about. We'll see it come into play big time throughout the mini.

BF: Is there anything you want to let the world know that I have not asked about... and feel free to burn me!

PH: No. I'm always leery of spoiling surprises. I feel like each issue of the series ends on a great cliffhanger and I can't wait to hear what readers think of it.

Thank you very much for your time, Phil and for all the readers of this website, be sure to check back soon for part 2 of this interview in which we talk about Phil's other projects!

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