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vol 4 - issue 01 (sep 2001) :: untapped
UNTAPPED TALENT: PHILLIP GREGORY
interview by debbie

IF IT SEEMS LIKE DEBBIE AND COMIC ARTIST PHILLIP GREGORY GET ALONG REALLY WELL. THAT MAY HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH THE FACT THAT BOTH OF THEM MAKE AND APPRECIATE FABULOUS WORK. AND THEY KNOW A LITTLE SOMETHING ABOUT INDEPENDENT PUBLICATIONS.

debbie: Have you ever been interviewed before?

Phillip: No.

d: No? Not at all, huh? Alright. Well, I heard you just went to see Pearl Harbor. Was it just me or did that movie suck dick?

P: You didnít like it either?

d: I hated it.

P: I thought it was too Hollywood. I think when you do a movie about something as important as that, it deserves a little bit more respect. But, if thatís the way theyíre going to go about telling their story, they have every right to do it. I just would have told it differently.

d: Like with no Ben Affleck or Cuba?

P: Yeah. I thought it was miscast all over the place.

d: At least it had Spud from Trainspotting in it. Remember, he was the ugly guy who stuttered?

P: Yeah.

d: You see, there were ugly people in war. But, now, I guess we should talk about Darklanders, since itís your book. I mean, we can mention it.

P: If you want to.

d: (laughs) Where did the idea for the comic book come from?

P: I started working on it in college, but it wasnít Darklanders at the time. I didnít decide to do Darklanders until I was out of college for about a year. We were working in one of the illustration classes and we had a whole semester to play around with the concept of Alice In Wonderland. Everybody came in with all these really cool, different concepts. I had done a really plain concept. I went home and was like, ď I canít do that. I gotta change it.Ē I was really into Star Wars and Star Trek, so I thought, ďIím gonna do a science fiction version of Alice In Wonderland. So thatís what I did over the semester. But since then itís completely warped out of anything even close to that. Thatís what I wanted. I didnít want the same old Alice In Wonderland kind of story. As the book goes on, youíre not gonna see any similarities at all.

d: One of the cool things about the first book is that the story draws from a lot of classical themes, like the whole idea of a young leader whoís unsure of himself. But you add a little twist to it by having him totally fail. In the end he loses everybody, including himself.

P: One of the things I was trying to get across was that Iím not afraid to kill people off in the story. I think a big problem today is that a lot of comic books are so character-based that, even when theyíre put in a life and death situation, the reader isnít that concerned about losing them. So, thatís one of the things I wanted to get off right away. Iím willing to build up a character and kill them for storyís sake. I think thatís fair to the reader. How many different titles does Spiderman have? Yeah, right. Like theyíre gonna kill him off. When Superman died I was like, ďOkay. Just wait a few months or a year.Ē Itís kind of pathetic.

d: So I take it youíre not a big fan of superhero comics.

P: Not really. When I was in high school, I used to read up on all kinds of garbage like that. It gets old after awhile. I donít really read that many comic books. Just whatever people trade me at shows.

d: Have you always been interested in comics as an art form?

P: Iíve always intended to do some kind of comic-oriented artwork because Iím really into character creation and storytelling. The best way I can do that now is through comics. My plan was to get a job somewhere and work for awhile. While I was there, I would learn and perfect techniques. Then, I would get into doing my own title down the road. I had a portfolio and was showing it around to all the studios. But, then I had a fire in my room and my book was destroyed. So it was at that point I said, ďOkay. Iím just going to do the book.Ē

d: Jesus Christ. Howíd the fire get started?

P: A faulty stereo. I was living back home so everything I owned was in my room. This was right after I graduated from college.

d: Itís cool, though, that everything getting burned led to you jumping right on your own comic.

P: Well, you donít have much of a choice. The way I looked at it was, I could take more classes, build up a new portfolio and ask somebody else for a job, or I could work for myself.

d: So you never thought to try and get your book published with someone like Marvel or DC?

P: Not really. I never really looked into it. I may, if things get bad financially. Anything could happen.

d: When you set out to do your book, how did you get started?

P: When I decided to do Darklanders, I didnít have a clue of how to go about it. I didnít know anybody who did comics. I had never taken any classes on it. There was a lot on the Internet about publishing. I had to call the printer and ask him about color, because I had no idea whether the colors were gonna come out right. It was lots of research, basically.

d: So how long did it take for you to be ready?

P: I just learned as I went along. Originally, I was gonna do a series. As time went on, I thought, ďYou know what? There is no way Iím gonna be able to put a story out every month.Ē So I had to rewrite the story. I thought, ďIíll introduce different characters, make short stories about this particular world, and link them together.Ē

d: The art in the book is really interesting, in that it relies mainly on outline, silhouette and flat color, rather than in-depth inking. How did your style reach that point?

P: Well, I think my biggest influence was a couple of guys I knew that worked for Disney. Of course, if youíre gonna do a portfolio for Disney, itís gonna be based in line. Theyíd try and play off line.

d: Is there anybody else out there now whose work you dig?

P: (pointing) Yours.

d: Aww, shit.

P: I am not kissing up either. My admiration for your line work is almost to the point of being jealous. But I have a lot of art books with different science fiction and fantasy artists in them, too. I keep those out for design purposes or color ideas. But as far as line work or comic book art goes, I donít really look at too much.

d: Do you ever get inspired by movies or good music?

P: Sometimes. I used to listen to a lot of movie soundtracks.

d: Whatís with all us comic illustrators listening to soundtracks all the time?

P: The whole purpose of that is to create a mood for a movie. If youíre looking for a particular mood, what better way is there to get that out of you?

d: My friends and I are obsessed with T-NBC. You know, shows like One World, Hang Time and City Guys? Are you a fan?

P: No! I donít really watch much TV. I actually used to watch X-Files, but I havenít seen that in two years. I canít keep up with it. Itís getting a little bizarre.

d: Well, you know Mulder is having Scullyís fifth baby, and aliens have kidnapped President Bush and they want their pimento loaf back.

P: Oh, now Iíll have to buy the DVDs when they come out, because that sounds pretty good.

d: What do you do with your time besides avoid god-awful television?

P: I watch movies and read. I also work.

d: Where do you work?

P: I work at a pool supply store. Itís just a small, locally-owned store. It has been incredibly slow lately. So I sit there and do nothing for four hours or so.

d: They wonít let you draw while youíre there?

P: When the owner is there, everybody just kinda acts like theyíre doing something. Iím afraid that if I take artwork in there, heís gonna walk in and see me working.

d: And what? Send you to the principalís office?

P: Iíve been sent to the office for drawing before. I was in study hall doing artwork for art class, and I was sent to the office.

d: Thatís bullshit! Where does that teacher live? Iíll go to her house and break her legs! Are there dogs in the Darklanders world?

P: There probably are dog-like creatures somewhere.

d: Alright. In your amateur opinion, do those dog-like creatures have lips?

P: (laughs) Um, there is a breed of Darklanders dogs that do have lips.

d: Just this one breed?

P: Yes.

d: So the other breeds donít?

P: Thatís right.

d: Wow. Thatís like a half-and-half answer. I donít think weíve ever gotten one of those before.

P: Cool.

d: I figured something out this morning. Free pizza is the answer to all the worldís problems. Think about it. When youíre a little kid, youíll have pizza parties at school and get so excited. When youíre a teenager, you get involved in these extracurricular activities, and how do they get the kids organized? By giving them free pizza. Then, in college, the kids in the dorm will want to have some kind of dorm-related thing. What do they get? They get to watch movies and eat pizza on the school's account. Look at us now. We're out of school. But if someone wants us to help or attend something, they offer us free pizza and we're there. Have you ever noticed that?

P: Nope. It never crossed my mind. Actually, I remember in school everybody was asked, "What's your favorite food?" Everybody kept saying, "Pizza." I said, "Mashed potatoes."

d: You like mashed potatoes a lot?

P: Actually, I really go for those boxed potatoes-- the ones with the spices and stuff. Those are awesome. I could eat those cold.


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