Today’s entry is written by Ian Astheimer. And it’s loaded with images! Slow connections, beware!
Today’s artist is a child prodigy turned Scream Award winner. (Archive.)
314. Sean Phillips
Most artists start putting pencil (and ink) to paper at an early age. Few of them are published by age fifteen, though. Even fewer go on to draw virtually every character at the big two.
While attending art school and after graduating, Phillips worked continuously on girls comics, like Judy and Nikki. His art took on a heavy Jaime Hernandez vibe at the time, but discovering Love and Rockets will do that to an artist.
Shortly thereafter, Phillips moved over to that staple of the British comics diet, 2000AD (and its sister title, Judge Dredd Magazine), where he drew a smattering of stories and co-created (with John Smith) Devlin Waugh, whom Wikipedia describes thusly: “a camp homosexual exorcist priest, employed by the future Vatican City, with medals in flower-arranging and Olympic high-diving, a bodybuilder’s physique and a cutting line in humour – and his main motivation was simply to do ‘Anything to offset the dreadful ennui of it all!'”
From slice of life girl comics to the fully painted adventures of a gay bodybuilder? I’m pretty sure that’s the very definition of “range.”
Phillips was also part of “The British Invasion,” working for Vertigo on everything from Hellblazer (with, among others, Jamie Delano and Eddie Campbell) to The Invisibles (with fellow Reason to Love Comics, Grant Morrison) to The Minx (with Peter Milligan). Each was trippier than the last, and Phillips’ evolved as well, becoming looser and grittier.
In 2001, Joe Casey tapped Phillips to handle the art on Wildcats, volume 2. Gone was the “Covert Action Team.” In its stead was a post-modern series about life after superhero-dom, about life without direction, about life without a mentor, about life without love. The themes were heavy, and Phillips captured them — and the frequent moments of action — with aplomb. It was a perfect meeting of minds, one of the best collaborations in comics. (And, man, is it tough to choose pages to show from that stellar run! Every page was outstanding!)
After ‘cats wrapped, Phillips segued into Sleeper and found similar synergy with Ed Brubaker. While depicting Holden Carver’s plight as a mole in a supercriminal operation, Phillips proved himself a master storyteller. The pages just flowed, man! Each page was anchored by an image or two, and the other panels were interlocking insets that mingled with the anchor to create perhaps the easiest comic on the eye ever. The design was, flat out, brilliant.
2006 proved doubly fruitful for the artist. Not only was he instrumental in bringing the zombie craze to a head, with writer Robert Kirkman, in Marvel Zombies, but he and Brubaker teamed again on the critically acclaimed Criminal, a pulp anthology of sorts. To the surprise of perhaps no one, Phillips was a natural fit for both series.
Criminal also features text pieces about inspirational noir works, a section that affords Phillips the opportunity to break out the paints and create pin-ups.
On top of drawing two series, painting covers for Criminal, and handling the art for the backmatter, Phillips also freelances as a cover artist. Currently, he’s painting covers for Vertigo’s Vinyl Underground.
Even his shot-down cover concepts are great!
Phillips acts as an inker on occasion, as well, most recently working over Rick Leonardi’s pencils on JLA Classified. Phillips even took a crack at inking Kirby for kicks.
Phillips has one art book out, Halflife, featuring life drawings, and one on the way, Intersections, featuring paintings, collages, process pieces, and other work, with Duncan Fegredo.
Finally (for now), I’d be remiss if I didn’t showcase Phillips’ process. He goes from loose thumbnails, to magic marker roughs (in blue above), straight to inks. There’s no pencil stage. All the fine-tuning and noodling, all the detail work, occurs in the inking stage. It’s incredible.
And, all that is merely scratching the surface of Phillips’ massive, impressive resume.