DEAD MAN'S PARTY 3: Phillips talks "Marvel Zombies 2"

The DEAD MAN'S PARTY began last week with a chat with "Marvel Zombies" editor John Barber about the origins of the popular undead epic, and continued yesterday, when CBR News spoke with writer Robert Kirkman about some of America's favorite four-color flesh eaters. Today in Part III, we talk with series artist Sean Phillips about how he brought all the horrific humor and visceral violence of "Marvel Zombies 2" to "life."

Already revered for his work on "Sleeper," "Hellblazer" and "Criminal," Sean Phillips finds drawing the sequel to a top rated miniseries and one of the best-selling Marvel graphic novel collections of all time to be only lightly daunting a task. "Robert has the difficult job," Phillips told CBR News. "I just draw what I'm told."

That the Marvel Zombies' made an exodus into the cosmos at the end of the first series means that "Marvel Zombies 2" finds Phillips drawing many more science fiction characters and concepts than ever before. "I get to draw outer space, so out comes the white paint for all those stars," Phillips remarked. "I haven't really drawn any sci-fi before, so I'm finding it quite difficult. I hate drawing technology, so I try to get around that as much as I can. The story is set 40 years after the first series, so New York is now rather overgrown and I get to draw a lot of vegetation instead. I treat this story more as a comedy, so drawing Firelord missing his jaw with his tongue flapping out makes the humor easier to get across. There's some gross stuff happening, too. More of the same really."

The 40-year gap between "Marvel Zombies 2" and the original series afforded Phillips the opportunity for quite a bit of design work. "Well, everyone who was left on Earth at the end of the last series is now 40 years older, so that was fun, updating them," Phillips said. "New characters include T' Challa's grandson, and he is a nice contrast to the rest. He's about 12-years-old and has grown up in this strange urban jungle, treating it like his own adventure playground. All the zombie characters are wearing my favorite versions of their outfits -- except for Giant Man, who I'd much rather was wearing his first Goliath suit. Oh, well, I had to follow Greg Land's lead on that one. Some of the zombies also have replacement robotic or alien limbs which was fun to draw, too."

Some of the characters in "Marvel Zombies 2" will experience a variety of extreme emotions, including regret. Their decaying physical forms proved to be an artistic challenge for Phillips, who had to make his characters emote. "No lips does make some expressions harder," the artist confessed. "But I'll manage."

Another challenging aspect of "Marvel Zombies 2" for Phillips is the aptly named Deadline. He frequently finds himself drawing at the same time both "Marvel Zombies 2" and "Criminal," his acclaimed true-crime series with writer Ed Brubaker. However, illustrating such a crazy, over-the-top series like "Marvel Zombies 2" whilst creating a gritty, realistic series like "Criminal" does have some enjoyable side effects. "'Marvel Zombies 2' is like a vacation away from drawing 'Criminal,'" Phillips said.

Readers interested in catching early glimpses of Phillips's work on "Marvel Zombies 2" or any of his other projects are invited to visit his blog, where the artist regularly posts in-progress pages and other pieces.

The Dead Man's Party is winding down, so come back tomorrow when CBR News concludes its look at "Marvel Zombies" by chatting with the man responsible for the series' literally eye-popping covers, painter Arthur Suydam.


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