BOOM! Studios new ongoing series The Anchor debuts this October. Written by Phil Hester and drawn by Brian Churilla, The Anchor joins Mark Waid's Irredeemable as part of BOOM!'s line-up of ongoing original series. BOOM!'s E-i-C Mark Waid sat down with Phil Hester to talk to him about this upcoming book.
Mark Waid: In one jam-packed, knuckle-busting sentence, can you explain what The Anchor is about?
Phil Hester: The Anchor is a former medieval prize-fighter and Viking raider turned reluctant hermit monk who, through divine mandate or transcendental willpower, found his soul split from his body and cast into hell to battle demons while his apparently immortal body remained on earth to do the same, but was eventually tricked into some sort of slumber which allowed the demons he was barring to wander into our world which he now pursues with inhuman gusto.
Holy man does less-than-holy things to unholy monsters, Kirby-style.
WAID: I Hate asking this (and hate being asked this), but it's always what people want to know--what was your inspiration for this character, this series?
HESTER: I've been wanting to work with Brian Churilla since I first saw his brilliant artwork. He rejected every pitch I sent him and forced me to create something iconic for him to draw. I was thinking all this through when I stumbled on some travel show about ancient monasteries and The Anchorite monks who walled themselves into cells in the foundations of the structures to perfect their devotion. That idea is very potent and sends any writer worth his or her salt into a tizzy of daydreaming (read: my job). All I had to do was add my secret ingredient- monster fighting.
WAID: As Publisher Ross Richie handed me the pages for the first time, he suggested some similarities ot HELLBOY and THE GOON. Is that an adequate comparison?
HESTER: I think those are accurate, but somewhat superficial. It looks like both books because Brian is influenced by Mike Mignola and either Eric Powell, or the guys that inspired Eric. The story itself is quite different. I think people infer from Brian's cartooning that the book will have a humorous bent, and while there are moments of levity, the book is actually closer to my darker stuff like Deep Sleeper and The Coffin.
The Anchor is a man out of time with deeply held convictions that put him out of step with modern reality. In issue one he has lost most of his memory, and only slaying monsters seems to spark any flashes of his origin. That confusion coupled with his rock solid, unwavering dedication make for some nice contrasts, second only to the stark difference between his gentle nature and his artisan's mastery of pure violence.
WAID: Phil, talk to me about your artist.
HESTER: We're all lucky to be in on Brian's career at the ground floor. I keep saying he's like a cartooning golem created in a secret ceremony by Jack Kirby, Wally Wood, Walt Kelly and Mike Mignola. Every time I see a new page from him I'm blown away and inspired to find scenarios that will further spark his vision. He's definitely a keeper.
WAID: Why BOOM?
HESTER: BOOM! is the only publisher willing to offer us the level of creative freedom we needed coupled with the knowledge and ability to promote the book in such a hostile market. Ross and company seem to choose projects the way I would- pick a winner, back it up on the business end, and get out of the way on the creative side. I've never been so strongly supported on a creator owned project before. It feels nice!
WAID: Can you unveil some of your future plans for this monthly?
HESTER: The first arc will focus on The Anchor's origin and acclimation to modern life. The next few arcs will detail The Anchor's struggle to balance his mission with safeguarding those he has come to love in today's world, and a journey into the bowels of hell itself on a suicide mission to free a wrongly damned soul and slay the prince o' darkness himself.
WAID: ANCHOR is based in history and myth. What kind of research went into this, and how much of it is just out of your own insane head?
HESTER: I've been doing a lot of reading about northern Europe around 800 AD (the time of his origin), and some studying about the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the ancient church during his anchorite status, but all the monsters and stuff are coming right out of my ink-stained youth. Honestly, grab a copy of Bullfinch's mythology, a D&D manual from 1984, and two longboxes worth of beat up comics from when comics still had good guys in them, toss them together in a wood chipper and the spray pattern from the discharge chute would probably look a lot like The Anchor #1.
WAID: What sort of fans are you expecting to pick up ANCHOR?
HESTER: Anyone looking for smart, emotionally rewarding, white knuckle action.
WAID: Talk to me a little about the risks--and the benefits--of doing a book of this genre right here, right now, as compared to doing a mainstream super hero title.
HESTER: Well, Marvel and DC have the conventional super hero market sewn up more or less. Very few super hero fans look to indie publishers for their kicks. Hell, some Marvel fans won't even look at DC, and vice versa. Places like BOOM! and books like The Anchor or Irredeemable are the last best hope for comics that are both action packed and emphatically unconventional.
Maybe this is oversimplifying, but comics seems to be splitting into two camps; the top forty/Marvel & DC crowd, and the alternative lit-comix intelligentsia. Listen, I love both sides of that aisle and read both happily, but there has to be an island of complete and unrelenting awesomeness somewhere between Optic Nerve and Green Lantern. I'm hoping to plant my flag there. Let's run it up the flagpole and see who salutes.
The Anchor #1 ships with two covers by Brian Churilla and Rafael Albuquerque in a 50/50 split, and features a 1 in 10 incentive cover by Brian Churilla, carrying a Diamond Order Code of AUG090716.