In between their various projects, (it's staggering how much these two are working on) fan favorites, Phil Hester and Brian Churilla found some time to chat with us about their BOOM! STUDIOS project, THE ANCHOR.
SEB: So, how did the two of you come together to create The Anchor?
Phil Hester: I'm a fan of Brian's earlier effort, The Engineer. So much so that I sought to buy a few originals from it for my collection. That started a conversation in which we learned of our mutual admiration. The rest is history!
Brian Churilla: Truth be told, I bribed him with said originals. And hookers. And cupcakes too, donít forget the cupcakes. Hooker cupcakes.
SEB: Hooker cupcakes? Lil' Debbie what has become of you!!??
Who is the Anchor?
P.H.: Problem is, he doesn't know for sure. We can surmise that he's a monk, more specifically an anchorite monk. Anchorites were monks so devoted to monasticism that they literally walled themselves off from humanity in the foundations of churches and monasteries.
Well, our guy seems to have done that, but during his centuries long meditation while an anchorite he seems to have gained certain powers, including a nearly indestructible body and the ability to project his soul into hell where it spends every second fighting the armies of the nether realm. The Anchor himself is steadfast and strong, but his personality is gentle and caring. That contrast is the real joy of the character. All that said, there's a huge backstory that we haven't even touched that will come to the fore ground in around issue 5.
B.C.: Heís also a colossal slab of scar tissue that beats down on no good otherworldy ne'er-do-wells.
SEB: I love the idea of his soul on a separate/same mission in Hell as his physical form is on on Earth. Whatís the story there?
P.H.: As I said earlier, he seems to have become a monk around eight hundred years ago and gone into his isolation with relatively little formal monastic training. We'll learn that The Anchor made his living through violence for most of his life and that the only thing he believes he has of any value to offer God is his fists. We're never going to quite nail all this down, but it seems as though the big guy accepts this gift and uses The Anchor to make hell an even more awful place for the demons who rule it, while at the same time letting his earthly body patrol our world for any stray evil beasts.
SEB: How in sync are Clem and his soul?
PH: He can always feel it (since he suffers the wounds it acquires in hell), but it is autonomous for the most part. They can communicate as they did in #1, and as we'll see them do so again, but they can function separately.
SEB: Itís already been compared Ė and rather favorably Ė to comic legends old and new, such as Mignolaís HELLBOY, Powellís THE GOON, and KirbyísÖeverything. Were these kind of things creative influences of yours?
P.H.: That wasn't necessarily our goal, although I admire all the works and artists mentioned a great deal. I think a lot of that comes from the look of the book, especially since the preview most folks saw was colored by Dave Stewart of Hellboy fame. I believe we've staked out some territory of our own. It's more rooted in the real world around us than Hellboy, and played less for laughs than The Goon. We've got big monsters, and a messed up looking hero, but in the end I think readers will find a more human story behind it all, plus more romance than expected.
B.C.: I think Mignola is the best living/working cartoonist, and he was a huge influence to me starting out. Kirby is a god. I think I get compared to Powell a lot because we both have organic, brush-heavy styles. Heís an amazing artist, but I canít really count him as an influence artistically.
SEB: All comparisonís aside, youíve created a book with a very unique feel to it. It has some heavy concepts and an overhanging darkness, but its fun too. How hard is it to keep that balance?
P.H.: That's sort of the theme of being alive, isn't it? Some heavy stuff, but still pretty fun. A lot of the fun factor comes from Brian's ability to make things look lively, no matter how macabre they are. I mean, in #3 The Anchor fights a giant centipede that is composed of the rotting corpses and bones buried in the catacombs beneath Rome, but he somehow makes that rollicking and not disgusting.
The Anchor's mission is deadly serious, but throwing an 8th century monk into a 21st century world is going to lead to some funny.
B.C.: Graphically marrying cartoonyness with the right amount of darkness helps.
SEB: I have to askÖthe first issue takes place in Iceland. While Bjork, Lazy Town, and giant monsters from Hell make perfect sense to me, what was it that made Iceland the perfect starting locale?
P.H.: I wanted to do monsters that had some tie to the locale they were in and Iceland seemed like it would give birth to a cool glacier/geyser creature. Next up is Scotland, then Italy, then back to Iceland for a shocking conclusion. So... I have no valid reason. Enough comics happen in America already, right?
SEB: True that! The Anchor is filled with all sorts of nasty beasties, how do you come up with their appearances?
P.H.: The overarching villain in this story is a demon called the Breeder who plants his seed in the spirit of a specific location, giving birth to monsters. The flavor of the locales is the source of their look and power, but I'll leave the rest of this answer up to Brian.
B.C: Itís an intuitive, stream-of-consciousness process of combining aesthetically pleasing shapes.
SEB: What can readers look forward to seeing in the future?
P.H.: More monsters, some from unexpected sources, a horrific personal sacrifice by more than one character, the loss of another, and the origin of The Anchor.
B.C: Giant, exploding faces, serpentine amorphous soul-sucking pig pythons, and a special appearance by the lederhosen-wearing robot gazpacho Gestapo. And by all that, I mean what Phil said. Only with more monsters. And a skosh more horror. And a dash of paprika. And a table lamp. And some twine. Some magazines. A pair of stirrup sweatpants. An ashtray, and some personal, long-term goals.
SEB: I WILL be looking for that table lamp! [laughs]
When Mark Waid interviewed Phil for NEWSARAMA, there was a storyline mentioned that would bring The Anchor into Hell. Did that mean his Soul-Self, or will Clem be making the physical Journey into the Abyss? And, if so, will there be a ďteam-upĒ between Clemís Soul and Clemís Self?
P.H.: Hey, you're spoiling my comic! But yes, look for a Marvel Team-Up issue soon.
SEB: While I've got you, are there any other projects either of you would like to do a quick shout-out for?
P.H.: Oh, boy. Still working on Firebreather and Golly at Image when they come out. I write The Darkness regularly, and will soon take on Black Terror, too. Also starting Gen 13 shortly.
B.C: The Engineer collected hardcover comes out this month from Archaia. Itís a fun, pulpy sci-fi book for fans of Dr. Who, Douglas Adams, or anyone who is a fan of immense, steam-powered pipe organs, horrifying crab monsters, pan-dimensional travel, giant bat creatures, undead hordes, witches, willful reality manipulation, archaic esoteric devices, sentient beings devouring the space time continuum and gigantic stone ticks should pick it up. Itís a 140 + page hardcover for less than ten bucks. Also, We Kill Monsters is still out there, so go buy it! Itís a fun story with art by myself, published by Red5. The title says it all, really. Okay, Iím done with the shameless shilling.
SEB: That's a lot to look for! Itís been an honor and a pleasure to talk with you both. Thanks for making time for us.
P.H.: It's been a blast. Any time!
B.C: Thanks, duder.
PFB reviewed THE ANCHOR # 1 HERE.
The issue sold out within days of its release and is already set for a second print. Read more HERE.
Last edited by SebastianPiccione; Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 08:30 PM.
"Living Robert Venditti's Plan B!"