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Scared of The Darkness?

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Broken Frontier is still 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 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 of September 2009, he will also kickstart the new Archaia series "Days Missing" and last but not least the Dynamite Entertainment title "Masquerade"...

BROKEN FRONTIER: When you started out with writing The Darkness, you immediately took it somewhere dark and twisted, making The Darkness into a druglord, creating drugs and also letting Jackie create a female Darkling, to fulfill his carnal desires. Your rebooting of The Darkness was filled with such intricate yet immense details. How did you approach this first story and how did you get away with it (I mean this in a positive way of course)?

PHIL HESTER: I got lucky. I think the powers that be at Top Cow were ready to see something new out of the book and I hit them with a pitch that was really out of left field. Thankfully, they decided to jump off the cliff with me. The same thing is happening with Vampi[rella] now. Bon [Alimagno; Editor In Chief at Harris Comics] is letting me really play with the toys and maybe break them a little before I put them back.

As for Jackie, I simply asked myself what I would do in his position. If I were basically an evil Green Lantern by moonlight would I be satisfied with being a mob hitman, or would I take it to the next level? That first arc was all about Jackie exploring limits and eventually paying the price for exceeding them. It's the theme of my entire run on the book, actually. Jackie is growing in a two steps forward, one step back kind of way.

BF: After the betrayal of the force known as The Darkness, we can see that this Dark Force has been given a separate character. Can you tell me a bit more about what you are establishing here and working towards?

PH: The Darkness is a curse, an elemental force that can only find a place on earth through humanity, so it has a definite love/hate relationship with its hosts. That conflict between Jackie, who yearns to be free of the power, but loves what it can do for him, and The Darkness, who must reside within humanity, but hates the humane, will be at the core of the book for as long as I write it.

BF: In reaching The Darkness #78 (yay for the renumbering!!) you are also bringing the Foreigner into the frame. A former bearer of the Darkness. How can that be, since the history will only mention the Estacados?

PH: The Foreigner is REALLY old, like thousands of years old, before there was a true Estacado line, or maybe even a part of that line- who knows?

BF: Seeing addictive cold-turkey signals from the Foreigner, you seem to have a master plan. Is that something you can relate to? Not the addictive side, but my ideas on you having a master plan?

PH: There's definitely a plan. The Foreigner pops up over the next few arcs to prod and educate Jackie in how to deal with The Darkness. He sees in Jackie a chance to change the status quo of The Darkness forever and will push him toward that goal no matter what it costs.

BF: Can you kiss and tell a bit about the upcoming Blob/Swamp Thing-character and how it was/is to also be the artist again?

PH: IT's called BOG and it's about a fallen god who is cursed to be merged with the swamp and guard his former temple until the end of time. That temple happens to hold a relic that Jackie must find to defeat The Sovereign, so- this being comics- they fight!

It's a blast to draw my own scripts. That has always been my goal. I want to grow up to be Frank Miller and write and draw all my work. I see this as a chance to go back and show readers how I wish my Swamp Thing run would have looked had I been a better penciller and had my buddy Ande Parks inking it.

BF: You are currently more a writer then an artist. Are you a writer first, artist second or is it the other way around?

PH: I see them as part of the same continuum. Comics are about telling stories visually, so writing comics is, in a sense, also drawing them, or at least selecting the images that will be drawn. I have never written anything that I didn't see playing out in my mind as I wrote it.

Again, my heroes are Eisner, Miller, Kirby, etc.- writers and artists. I always wrote and drew my own stories as a kid, it just so happened that I got work professionally as an artist first and made a nice career out of that for twenty years. Writing more now is almost like starting a second career and it's just as exciting and frightening.

BF: How do you handle the scripting/writing when handing it over to an artist? Can you elaborate about your writing style?

PH: I take notes for about a week or so and just roll scenes or lines of dialogue around in my head until things are ripe. I may sketch out certain sequences or images. I then write a very stream of conscious script that is mostly dialogue and timing beats. Again, as I write this I see it all playing out in my head. In the end I have almost a Marvel style plot. Very basic page descriptions with lines of dialogue. I then make a small thumbnail of each page, drawing the panels, basic figures, sometimes spotting blacks, and always spotting word balloons. I hand these off to the artist who is free to use or discard the information. These thumbnails also contain more explicit character descriptions and panel directions. I don't always work this way, but it is my preferred method.

BF: With Top Cow your main artists are Jorge Lucas and Michael Broussard. I know I would feel fortunate, but can you tell me a bit about these artists (and their differences) yourself?

PH: I am spoiled to have both. Michael is very gifted, especially when it comes to fantastic imagery, so for him I tend to write more high adventure or magical stories. Jorge has a hard, gritty, dark edge, so we try to use him on the street-level, crime oriented issues. Like I said, I'm very lucky to have both of them turning my chaff into gold.

BF: How long do you plan on dedicating time on The Darkness and what are your plans for this title in 2009 and 2010?

PH: I hope to be on until issue 100, which is about two years away. I have big plans for Jackie that culminate in a real game changer on the anniversary issue. With reader support I'll get there!

BF: Thank you for taking the time to answer some burning questions and to the readers; check back later for more on Hester in regards to Archaia's "Days Missing" and Dynamite's "Superpowers".

 For more on The Darkness check out the official Top Cow site here.

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