Announced Friday at Comic-Con International in San Diego, in October BOOM! Studios will unleash “The Anchor,” a monstrous new ongoing series written by Phil Hester with art by Brian Churilla. The series stars a lumbering, powerful hero fighting demons on two planes of existence simultaneously. CBR News caught up with Hester and Churilla to discuss the project.
“I’m going to be coy here because one of the main plot points of the series is that The Anchor himself is not quite sure who or what he is. All he knows is that he was born to kick the ass of any monster, demon, or nether-worldly hump that crosses his path,” Hester said. “Here’s what we know for sure: he’s really, really tough, he’s about one thousand years old, his soul is in hell fighting demons and the wounds he suffers there shows up on his flesh and bone body here–hence his perpetually black and blue state.
Meanwhile, as his soul fights demons in hell, his body is busy doing the same topside. “The Anchor is on earth fighting all the hell borne critters trying to invade our plane of existence. Part of his undisclosed origin leads to his soul being placed in a realm called ‘The Borderland’ between heaven and hell, where he is tasked, either as reward or penance, with destroying the armies of hell as they try to invade earth,” Hester said. “His body walks our world catching the demons who slip through and busting their jaws.
“Our first issue finds him wandering Iceland looking for monsters to fight and finding them. He is aided by the bright and brave librarian/aid worker, Hofi Eriksdotter,” the writer continued.
The San Diego preview comic sees the Anchor fighting on behalf of a boy he calls Little Saint, whom Hester said was not intended to go beyond the series’ initial pitch. “He’s the ghost of a demon attack victim who can be seen by The Anchor because of his half astral, half mortal nature. It turned out everyone who read the teaser loved the kid, so we’re working him into the book proper by issue #2,” the writer explained. “He’ll be The Anchor’s ghostly little buddy for a while.”
Part of “The Anchor’s” promotional tag line has the protagonist described as “God’s own legbreaker.” We asked Hester under what circumstances the Lord would require the services of such a person. “When you’re fighting the damned, turning the other cheek doesn’t cut it,” he said. “The Anchor is a holy man willing to do unholy things to keep us safe.”
Hester gave credit to artist Brian Churilla for not only bringing his characters to life, but also breathing life into “The Anchor” as a project. “Brian actually inspired it,” Hester said. “We’ve been trying to collaborate for a while now and I sent him my long list of unpublished projects… and he rejected them all! He politely told me he wanted to work on an iconic, singular character rather than the everyman type of protagonists I tend to use. So, I thought about Brian’s style, the kind of stuff he wanted to draw, and came up with ‘The Anchor.’ BOOM! fell for our sweet talk and here we are.”
The writer added that Churilla’s art should be a big draw for the series. “I think the best way to sell this book will be to get it in front of people. Once they see what Brian is capable of they’ll wonder who’s been hiding him from the world at large for so long,” Hester said. “It’s like Mike Mignola, Jeff Smith, Jack Kirby, and Wally Wood got together and created some unstoppable golem with a sliver of each of their life forces. He’s going to be big. We’re lucky to hook him right now.”
Missing from Hester’s account of the origins of “The Anchor” is the fact that he and Churilla were strangers at the time of their initial discussions. According to Churilla, Hester emailed him to compliment the artist for his work on “The Engineer” at Archaia. “He was interested in buying some ‘Engineer’ pages, and commented that if I ever wanted to collaborate on something with him, he’d be game,” Churilla recalled. “So blown away was I that a guy of Phil’s stature not only knew who the hell I was and had bought my book, he actually wanted to BUY art from me, I subsequently sent him the better part of a dozen originals (which in hindsight was a bribe of sorts, I mean, he’d have to feel like a colossal heel if he recanted his offer to collaborate after receiving that much free birdcage liner, right?).
“Phil sent me myriad elevator pitches that had been on his back burner. I really wanted to do something with a hulking, brooding protagonist fighting monsters,” Churilla continued. “None of the stories he pitched to me fit this criteria, so he concocted something from scratch. A week or two later, he sent me the synopsis.”
Churilla said he has fun with “hulking, brooding” monster-type characters because “no one is going to call you out on whether the proportions or anatomy are incorrect. It’s all free game.
He continued by noting, “if you’re doing a monster book, you sometimes get to draw a lot of peripheral monsters to fill in space in certain scenes, which is fun. Not a whole lot of thought going into them, which is actually relaxing and more like recreational drawing than work. I’ve done ‘talking head’ books, which are fine, but it’s not very inspiring. It doesn’t keep me engaged.”
Given that Hester is an artist as well, having illustrated “Green Arrow” for several years along with numerous other series, we asked whether Churilla and Hester put a lot of discussion into “The Anchor’s” visuals or whether Churilla was given free reign to cut loose. “Phil is awesome, but he’s the last person to say so. He’s self-deprecating to a fault. I mean, he’s worse than me, which is saying something. It’s very typical that when a page is finished, I can’t stand looking at it and usually box it up with the others,” Churilla said. “Phil has let me do whatever I wanted for the most part, as it pertains to designing things. He may have suggestions here and there but I’ve been able to get away with a lot. He’ll describe something in a very brief way, for instance, ‘…this guy’s an Unknown Soldier-type,’ and then I take it and run with it.”
Churilla did joke that he prefers to work with larger images, and this need was not always catered to. “I like big panels. Big panels are fun. Big drawings,” the artist said. “Phil about broke my wrist on the first 7 or 8 pages of the first issue. Inking all these tiny panels with a brush…”
“The Anchor” debuts in October from BOOM! Studios.