Sean Phillips has drawn superheroes, zombies, crime, the supernatural and now neo-noir with The Fade Out, but with all of that the British artist wanted to try “something different.” That “something different” turned into a science fiction story set in deep space on a prison ship titled Void.
“I haven't really done much sci-fi since 2000AD and I wanted to push myself into doing something new,” Phillips told Newsarama.com. “Delcourt and I talked about a few different genres, and settled on Void.”
Written by Herik Hanna and originally published in French back in 2012, Void focuses on a prison ship named Goliath 01 which is adrift in space after its entire crew – prisoners and guards -- is murdered by its captain, save one prisoner – John. This sole survivor is not tasked with finding a way to escape a prison floating in space and avoid his fellow prisoners’ fates.
When it came to depicting the interstellar ship and it’s forboding interiors, Phillips looked to industrial elements of major cities and underground subway systems for influence – but there’s one thing he avoided completely.
“Firstly, I just wanted to make sure it didn't look too much like Alien,” Phillips revealed. “I didn't look at any films or books that might influence me, and tried to draw how I always do and just let the story dictate the look. I did some picture research into things like subways tunnels and abandoned factories for some of the interiors and commissioned Andrew Glazebrook to design the exterior of the space ship.”
Phillips’ near trademark use of shadows and shapes is on full display in Void, but what some long-time fans of his work might be surprised by when they look at the sequential pages is the dense amount of panels per page, contributing to the confining aspects of a prison space ship.
“I drew a lot of shadows for atmosphere, but mostly it was the sheer amount of panels on a page that added to the claustrophobic feel of the book,” the artist explained. “European books are written much more densely than U.S. comics and even with the bigger pages there's only so much space to fit it all in.”
Although Phillips isn’t that known for his futuristic sci-fi work, early in his career the artist worked on such things as the aforementioned 2000AD and characters like Judge Dredd and Devlin Waugh. Readers have seen Phillips jump between genres with ease, but the artist states that science fiction isn’t one of them.
“I'm a fan of reading science-fiction, but I'm not a natural at drawing it,” admits Phillips. “All that techy stuff is always a struggle. Mostly I just like drawing people...”
That being said, Phillips said that he and Ed Brubaker have plans for a “sci-fi book” as part of their unique five-year agreement with Image, tentatively planned to begin in 2016.
While Phillips enjoys his work at Image, he finds Titan Comics’ new push into comics – and especially translation of European books like Void – is important for the comic industry and comics fans; he’s even looking out for one of Titan’s upcoming books himself to read.
“More diverse comics from more publishers is a good thing and with Void and their new Elric book, it's great to see Titan translating more European books into English,” Phillips states. “I've got a large collection of French and Italian albums it would good to get to read one day...”