We wrap up our week of Creative Visions columns with writer Eddie Robson talking to the subject of the book he most recently put together: The Art of Sean Phillips. Through three decades of drawing, Phillips has made a name for himself largely as a definitive artist of crime comics, frequently working alongside writer Ed Brubaker. In the art book that takes readers through his history, you can start with his personal doodles and move all the way up to the work that made him a success.
Robson and Phillips chatted for a deeper look into that work.
Eddie Robson: Has working on The Art Of Sean Phillips changed how you think of your own work?
Sean Phillips: Looking back over more than 30 years of professional work has mostly told me I've drawn a hell of a lot of comics! There're comics in the book I made with friends back when I was 12, and I can't quite believe I still get to make comics for a job. Some of them have even been with those same friends and that is something I never thought would actually happen.
Working on this book has made me think that maybe I haven't wasted my life! As most artists probably do, some days I think my work is great, and some days I think it's awful. Seeing it all together has made me re-assess work I remember as being horrible, as OK really, and work I really liked when I did it still has something about it I like too.
Robson: How did you go about selecting the pieces? Was there anything you included because, although not a favorite, it represented a particular moment in your career?
Phillips: I'm lucky that I've rarely thrown anything away, so I was able to select a wide variety of my art, not just comics but fine art and logos and the odd job I've had outside of comics and art I made when I was a child. I wanted to show something from most projects I've worked on, and I've managed that in most instances. I tried to choose the best page or cover from most of my books, although space was limited. I wanted everything to be a full page and it was really hard deciding which ones should be smaller so I could actually fit your 60,000 words of text in! In fact, I've posted 50 rejected pieces over on my blog in the last few months.
Robson: Is there anything in the book you’d forgotten about until you dug it out?
Phillips: Some of the comics I made when I was a child with my friends David Holman and Pete Doree. We did a few issues of something called Looney Bin starring Captain Looney when I was about 12, which I had no memory of until David showed me the actual comics. I also found a 3 page story in one of those girls comics I bought that I still don't remember drawing and I was probably 25 by then!
Robson: Is there anything you’d like to have included in the book, but couldn’t because you didn’t have the artwork anymore?
Phillips: Not really. I wanted to show as much work as possible scanned from the original artwork, but if that isn't available anymore, I've tried to get the best scans I could from the printed comics. I've spent a lot of hours retouching those scans of old comics to make them look as good as I can. The only stuff I couldn't include was more of the girl's comics I drew back in the 80s. I don't have the art or the printed comics of a lot of that stuff, but I did manage to find some on eBay that I have included. None of that stuff has ever been reprinted or even seen outside of the UK, so I wanted that in the book.
Robson: Can you pick a single piece in the book that you’re most proud of?
Phillips: I'm always hoping that the next thing I do will be the best I've done, but I suppose one of the most recent things in the book is my favourite. Pete and I were massive Robert E Howard fans when we were kids so to actually get the chance to do a real Conan story for Dark Horse was an absolute thrill! Pete wrote a great story and I poured every effort into making the art the best I could. If you'd told us 35 years ago that we'd get the chance to do that we would have thought you were mad!
Robson: What else have you got coming up?
Phillips: Ed Brubaker are still working on Fatale for the forseeable future and already discussing what project we'll do together next...
Eddie Robson is the writer of Dynamite's The Art Of Sean Phillips, as well as Doctor Who: Skyjacks! and Captain America: Living Legend (both with Andy Diggle) and forthcoming strips for 2000AD. He also writes radio comedy for the BBC - his series Welcome To Our Village, Please Invade Carefully is available from iTunes and Audible - and Doctor Who audios for Big Finish Productions. You can find him on Twitter: @EddieRobson