So without further ado, I give you the
man oí action himself, Chuck Dixon and artist extraordinaire EricJ!
Chuck Dixon has been a professional comic book writer for a number of years and has worked for every major comic book publisher. His list of credits is long, but here is a very brief example of some of the titles he has worked on: The Punisher, Birds of Prey, Nightwing, Richard Dragon, Iron Ghost, Batman, Evangeline, El Cazador, Way of the Rat, Catwoman, Green Arrow,
Wyatt Earp and now The Phantom! www.dixonverse.net
EricJ is a working sequential artist, and has been working professionally for over seven years. Almost the entirety of his professional career has been spent working on the series he co-created with writer Arvid Nelson, Rex Mundi, for which each, along with colorist Jeromy Cox, have garnered extensive critical praise. A short list of his other credits include: Revisionary (for Moonstone), The Phantom (for Moonstone), and Freefall (for Narwain). www.ericj-art.com
Lori G:† Thanks to
both of you for taking the time to chat with me. I need to ask both of you an important
question right of the bat:|
have you always been a Phantom fan, and if so, what was your first exposure to the Ghost Who Walks?
Chuck: One of the papers in Philadelphia, where I grew up carried the Phantom Sunday strips which I read each week. The dailies were carried in a cheap tabloid that my family didnít get so Iíd only see the daily strip when I visited my uncle who bought the cheap rag for the sports page. I also bought a Gold Key comic re-telling the origin of the Phantom which had a kick ass cover of the Ghost Who Walks on horseback.
EricJ: My first exposure to The Phantom was the cartoon Defenders of the Earth back in the day. I used to watch it religiously as a kid, and after that there was the movie of course. Iíve never lived anywhere that carried the Phantom dailies in the paper, so my only real exposure to him in print were the Marvel and DC versions of the character which were OK, but didnít grab me as much as the cartoon did for some reason. So, yeah, I have fond memories of the cartoon that led me to at least try everything that I saw that had the Phantom in it. Since I started researching him, though Iíve become a big fan. Iím having so much fun drawing him, and, it may sound silly, may not, but I think itís an honor to get to work on a character thatís nearing his 70th birthday and who predates both Superman and Batman. Top that off with getting to work with Chuck, a guy whose work Iíve really dug for more years than I like to think about andÖ well, it just doesnít get much better than that. Itís just very cool. If I had my way Iíd draw him for a good little bit.
Lori G: Chuck, what was it like writing this two-parter? It
is definitely an action-packed story; did you consciously set out to create an
adventure that the dear Phantom would not soon forget?
Chuck: Iíve been DYING to write a story about the slave trade in Saharan Africa ever since Iíve been writing comics. I love the irony of the female protagonistís motives which are based on fact. Also based on reality are the methods of the witchfinder in the second part. His little gag with the string is actually practiced by shamans and mystics in the employ of Ivory Ghost bullyboys. And Iíve always been a sucker for the naÔf in the wilderness kind of story. The Phantom has his work cut out for him here.
Lori G: Chuck, how long have you been writing comics and is this something you have always aspired to do?
Chuck: Iíve been writing my silly little stories for about twenty years now and itís the only thing I know how to do.
Lori G: So, Chuck have you written a lot of prose also, and if so what have your written? Novels, essays, short-stories, or have comics kept you pretty damn busy over the last 20 years or so? (Hey kids, for those of you that may not know, Chuck contributed to our brand new Kolchak the Nightstalker Chronicles short-story anthology!)
Chuck: Nope. That Kolchak story was my only fiction prose work ever. Comics are all I ever really wanted to write. But you guys can be very persuasive!
Lori G: Wow! I didnít know that Moonstone published the FIRST EVER Chuck Dixon prose short story, thatís pretty cool.
Lori G: Anyway Chuck, in what way was it different to write a Phantom script vs. sayÖ.a Nightwing or Birds of Prey script? Do you find it to be more challenging to write a script that focuses on an ďadventureĒ hero vs. a ďsuperĒ hero or vice-a-versa?
Chuck: I prefer the adventure hero. Readers of my work, particularly Birds of Prey, will recognize a lot of the style and pacing in this two-parter. Itís globe-trotting adventure and I think Iíve more of an attraction to that kind of stuff than the super-powered guys.
Lori G: Quick note boys and girls: Chuck is not kidding here, this two-part adventure is a great example of all-out action! After you read and thoroughly enjoy every minute of #9, just wait until you see the wham-bam of part two in issue #10, wowza!
Lori G:Chuck, how long did it take you to write this Phantom tale? What was your inspiration for this Phantom story and did it involve any research?
Chuck: Everything involves research if you want to do it right. I had collected a lot of material on the slave trade and efforts to curb it. The rest I just made up! As far as time involved, I spend a lot of time cogitating and very little actually writing. All told this two-parter probably took a full week to finish.
Lori G:†Eric, what
about you, what kind of research did you have to do for this story-arc?>|
>EricJ: Well, obviously thereís all the Phantom specific stuff. I checked out Deepwoods.org, which is a great Phantom site, all of the books Moonstone had published previously, as many dailies and Sundays as I could find, just to try and get a feel for various things. Thankfully, Chuck kind of eased me in with some new characters that I was free to define visually, and going light on the other staple characters. Itís made it easier to focus on The Phantom himself, how I wanted to draw him, on the action, and so on. That last part canít be stressed enough since this is such a different kind of book than Iím used to, and comfortable with, drawing. Truthfully, that was a huge reason for my wanting to do it, I was getting petrified of being typecast into the ďreal peopleĒ stories that I had done pretty exclusively before this.
As for the rest of the research, itís really been the same sort of stuff that Iíve done for my other books. Just trying to make sure that an AK-47 looks like an AK-47, what the .45ís should look like, trains, 50 cals, etc., etc. The main difference between this book, reference-wise, and, say, Revisionary or Rex Mundi, was the guns, Iíve never really had to draw a lot of guns in my previous work, much less specific makes and models.
thatís a good question. With Rex Mundi the watchword was ďsubtleĒ, and I kind
of got into a groove that was fine for that book, but not really good for,
basically, any other book Iíll ever be asked to draw, so starting with
Revisionary, and now totally with The Phantom, Iíve tried to break out of that
groove and kind of open it up, if that makes any sense. Just exploring
different camera angles, things like that. I really refocused on my
storytelling and design sense, going back and re-reading all the books I have
on the subject and trying to marry those theories and fundamentals with the
things that I really liked about my Rex Mundi work.
The most notable difference in the layout for this book from
Rex Mundi is that Iíve gone with a full bleed panel layout with more traditional
gutters to open things up and try to convey that larger than life thing. With
Rex I used the enclosed, continuous gutter, surrounded by black as an extension
of the overall atmosphere of the book, and to help with the claustrophobic feel
of the whole thing. With that the double page splashes and pages where I opened
up the borders seemed to pop more to me when juxtaposed against the other,
constrained pages. With this book the challenge early on was trying to get ďmyĒ
feel for the full bleed layout, and then how to make certain panels pop more
than others when youíre already on ď10Ē so to speak, so I started playing with
breaking the borders, more fun with circular panels than Iíve really done
before, and also just, again, going back to fundamentals, playing with the
dynamics in the interior art, both in terms of character action and page flow.
Itís been an amazing growth period for me, I think anyway,
and I have to thank you and Joe both for your input and feedback on the pages.
Itís been invaluable.
Lori G: Eric, your Phantom seems to have more in common with
Doug Klaubaís (Phantom cover artist) Phantom than the Phantom of the old
newspaper strips, was this a conscious choice or did it just happen to work out
so conveniently? It makes for a nice
package, the cover and the interior complementing each other so well.
EricJ: Well, thatís a good question. With Rex Mundi the watchword was ďsubtleĒ, and I kind of got into a groove that was fine for that book, but not really good for, basically, any other book Iíll ever be asked to draw, so starting with Revisionary, and now totally with The Phantom, Iíve tried to break out of that groove and kind of open it up, if that makes any sense. Just exploring different camera angles, things like that. I really refocused on my storytelling and design sense, going back and re-reading all the books I have on the subject and trying to marry those theories and fundamentals with the things that I really liked about my Rex Mundi work.
The most notable difference in the layout for this book from Rex Mundi is that Iíve gone with a full bleed panel layout with more traditional gutters to open things up and try to convey that larger than life thing. With Rex I used the enclosed, continuous gutter, surrounded by black as an extension of the overall atmosphere of the book, and to help with the claustrophobic feel of the whole thing. With that the double page splashes and pages where I opened up the borders seemed to pop more to me when juxtaposed against the other, constrained pages. With this book the challenge early on was trying to get ďmyĒ feel for the full bleed layout, and then how to make certain panels pop more than others when youíre already on ď10Ē so to speak, so I started playing with breaking the borders, more fun with circular panels than Iíve really done before, and also just, again, going back to fundamentals, playing with the dynamics in the interior art, both in terms of character action and page flow.
Itís been an amazing growth period for me, I think anyway, and I have to thank you and Joe both for your input and feedback on the pages. Itís been invaluable.
Lori G: Eric, your Phantom seems to have more in common with Doug Klaubaís (Phantom cover artist) Phantom than the Phantom of the old newspaper strips, was this a conscious choice or did it just happen to work out so conveniently? It makes for a nice package, the cover and the interior complementing each other so well.
EricJ: I donít
think it was so much a conscious decision as I just have more in common
stylistically with Doug than I do with, like, Sy Berry,
Graham Nolan, or Paul Ryan. I totally respect those guys and all the others
that have gone before me, but thatís just not the way I draw. I met Doug (along
with you as I recall) at the 2004 San Diego Comic-con, and I checked out
his art while I was loitering around the booth. His shot of The Phantom holding
his .45s across his chest just really, really struck me, and he was very cool
and gave me a print of it while we were there (thanks again for that, Doug!)
The thing that really hit me about it was that he painted the domino mask very
similarly to the way I typically draw them, sort of with some mass, not just
cloth, but most importantly what I saw in Dougís paintingís of The Phantom was
that he painted the eyeís as if the mask included lenses and I kept that for my
version as well, although as I refine my rendition the lenses seem to be
getting smaller. Anyway, it just made sense to me, and I think it was just one
of those happy instances where you just happen upon someone that shares a
similar artistic outlook! I think
thatís what it comes right down to, though, mainly - happy coincidence. I draw
in a semi-realistic style, so my rendition, complete with seams and 3D mask,
would have been there regardless of whether or not I had met Doug, BUT seeing
his renditions before I even thought of drawing the Ghost Who Walks definitely
informed and influenced my own natural tendencies, so blame it all on Doug if
you donít like it, Phans. |
Lori G: Eric, did you enjoy working on Chuckís script? Is this your first venture into the more traditional ďsuperheroĒ genre?
EricJ: Iím not sure if ďHoly crap, YES!!!Ē quite gets across just how much Iíve enjoyed it. Absolutely no disrespect to the writers Iíve been fortunate enough to work with previously, but this has definitely been the most fun Iíve ever had drawing a book. And, yeah, this is my first, published anyway, superhero work and I canít thank you and Joe enough for arranging it, and Chuck for agreeing to do it.
I remember reading Nightwing a few years ago, before Iíd broken in, thinking if Scott McDaniel ever, god forbid, left the title that I would KILL to be the replacement artist. It was THE book I wanted to draw back in the day. But that was just the start of, not my admiration of Chuckís work, that was earlier, but of thinking, like, I want to work with him someday. I remember one time in particular, Scott had posted a few pages from one of Chuckís Nightwing scripts as a part of a Wizard School thing that Wizard used to do on their website. As soon as I saw those script pages there I started to draw sample pages from them. If I remember correctly, that may have been the first professionally written script that I ever drew from.
So, um, yeah, Iím having a great time. A dream come true, you might say. I hope I get the opportunity to work with Chuck again soon!
Lori G: Chuck, knowing that you are a very prolific writer; did you have the time to look at Ericís pages as they were being finished? Has this project shaped up to be the type of Phantom tale you set out to tell?
Chuck: I was familiar with EricJís stuff from Revisionary and looked forward to working with him. I saw that he paid attention to detail and wasnít afraid to get nuts with angles and such. That makes my job easier as I know I can just throw anything at him and heíll make it work or die trying. Itís shaped up great, I think. A stylish-looking story with a movie-on-paper feel to it.
Lori G: Eric, you started out inking all of your own work
while working on Rex Mundi at Image, do you find yourself approaching your
penciling differently now that youíve been working with inkers?
(Peter Guzman on the Phantom and Revisionary
here at Moonstone and Jimmy Palmitotti on Freefall at Narwain)|
EricJ: Definitely. When I first made the switch working with Peter on Revisionary, I found myself doing even tighter pencils than I normally do. I didnít have a lot of material that Peter had inked to give me any kind of expectation of how he would translate my pencils, and Iím a control freak by nature anyway, so I wanted to make sure every line was, like EXACT, you know. Leave nothing to the imagination, I still do pretty damn tight pencils, but I feel like weíve been able to gel over the last few issues and Iím definitely comfortable enough to leave it a little looser than I did when he and I first started working together. Heís just been doing a great job on these last two issues. Iím really stoked on the results. Another thing that being able to gel with Peter has allowed me to do is reintroduce midtones and hatching into my work, which I had abandoned for a variety of reasons early on in my Rex Mundi run, one of those reasons being the time factor. Knowing that he can handle it, and handle it well, has allowed me to bring that aspect back in, so Iím drawing in a style now thatís more comfortable for me, and more fun. Iíve said it before, but drawing this issue feels like a direct connection to all those many years ago when I was furiously drawing samples trying to break in, dreaming of drawing, like, Nightwing for instance, professionally.
And that brings me to Mr. Palmiotti. With Jimmy, I mean, crap, man, heís been doing it, and doing it well, for a long time now. Heís one of the best inkers out there, and has worked over the best pencilers, so, rather than being intimidated, or doing seriously tight pencils, the Free Fall pages Iíve done thus far have been pretty loose for me. Still tight, donít get me wrong, I donít really know any other way to draw, but still, for me they were looser because I knew heíd do his thing and theyíd come out looking aces. The thing I wasnít prepared for was that Jimmy has ALSO done a lot of layouts, and for some of the best pencilers in the business, so I got a pretty good critique on everything the first few pages I sent to him, and it REALLY made me start thinking about my storytelling even more.
Actually, now that I think of it, these two books, The Phantom and Free Fall, have been just what the doctor ordered in so many ways because theyíve both combined to really force me way out of my comfort zone, which is what I was looking for, and working with these two veterans, Chuck and Jimmy, that I so genuinely respect and admire has been incredible. Itís just so cool when you can elicit positive feedback from guys like this
Lori G: Chuck, I would also like to mention your other
project here at Moonstone. Hopefully all
of your fans and all the Moonstoners out there are aware of your Western
mini-series right here at Moonstone:†
Wyatt Earp!† Can you tell me about
your western passion, is this something youíve always harbored?
What draws you to westerns as a genre?|
Chuck: Westerns and war stories are the bulk of my comics collection. Iíve loved the whole cowboy genre since before I could walk. The chance to do a ballsy western action story for you guys was too good to pass up. I know weíre planning a few more in the future and I canít wait to get at them.
Most people approach a western looking to turn the genre on its head. To me, I want to do the exact opposite. I like staying inside the western framework and explore it without defying the readerís expectations or busting the formula wide open. After all, itís a genre that encompasses every western from a Fistful of Dollars to Roy Rogers.
A lot of uninformed folks talk about ďrevisionistĒ westerns. They point to movies like Unforgiven as an example of this. That movie deserves its place as a classic western but is in no way a revision of the genre. Anyone whoís seen John Fordís The Searchers or any of the Anthony Mann/ Jimmy Stewart collaborations has seen these same themes explored. Eastwood was trying to return to that kind of mature-themed western.
To me, a western is only a western if the core problems of
the characters in the film are resolved with guns. You have to end with the
shootout. Wyatt Earp: Dodge City plays
with this premise a bit as the climactic shoot-out has none of the main
principles of the story in it yet the problems are all resolved. I wanted to
show that many times these gunfights were nothing more than simple homicides. |
I saw an old Dennis the Menace cartoon for the 50s recently that sums up my view of westerns. Dennis and a pal are leaving a Saturday matinee (in their cowboy gear, of course) and Dennis says, ďSame cowboy. Same horse. Same story. And thatís the way I like it!Ē
Lori G: Chuck, I know our western fans would like to know: what are some of your favorite western comic books, novels or short stories and why? Do you have favorite characters within the western genre that you find yourself gravitating to again and again?
Chuck: Thereís no room for the answer to that question! I think my favorite western comic of all time is Tex, a very long-running Italian comic. An edition of a Tex story that Joe Kubert drew has appeared her in the USA. But heís also been drawn by Alfonso Font, Alberto Giolitti, Jordi Bernet, Colin Wilson and many more. Bat Lash would be my favorite American western and I love Atlas (pre-marvel) westerns form the 50s. Characters like Arrowhead, Black Mask and others. I have a big collection of Dell western comics as well. Lone Ranger being my favorite of those.
Favorite western novel would have to be Gone To Texas, the basis for the Clint Eastwood movie, Outlaw Josey Wales. I also admire The Cowboy and the Cossack by Clair Huffaker which would Fargo series, a group of paperbacks from the 70s you have to haunt flea markets to find. The author was John Benteen and he was one of the best action writers in the genre.
Lori G: Chuck, there has been much talk of the much-discussed Wyatt Earp/Cisco Kid crossover at Moonstone.† Is that something fans can look forward to soon, and can you give us any hints as to the story?
Chuck: No hints, but I plan to start on it soon! I
promise, Joe! I promise!|
Lori G: sorry western fans, I tried to drag some info out of poor Chuck, but not yet Iím afraid. I promise I will do another interview with Chuck as soon as the first part of the Wyatt Cisco crossover makes its way to a comic shop near you!
Lori G:Eric, Revisionary is another project you worked on here at Moonstone. In what ways was that experience different than working on The Phantom? Revisionary was your first work to appear in black and white, up to this point all of your work has been published in color, did this affect how you penciled and inked the pages?
EricJ: Revisionary was a lot of fun, and a great book to do right after Rex Mundi because it was still the ďreal peopleĒ thing, but it felt very much like a bridge to me in a lot of ways. It was current as opposed to the period piece that was Rex, and I think I did as many action scenes in those two issues of Revisionary as I did in all 14 issues that I did of Rex. So, yeah, I think it made for a really cool transition from a book like Rex Mundi to one like The Phantom, and it was a lot of fun for me, and Paul is a nut, just a lot of fun to work with, and one of those oh so rare truly good guys. Itíd be great if we got to more of them.
As far as the art itself went, I tried to change the layout on the book away from what Iíd done on Rex Mundi, that was even more important to me on that book than itís been on The Phantom, because I was fresh off of Rex Mundi and I wanted it to be clearly defined that this wasnít the same kind of thing. As far as the B&W aspect goes, it was just fun to see. For a few years Iíd heard from guys like Larry Young, Steven Grant, and others, including several fans that theyíd really like to see my work in B&W, and I was anxious to see how the work would stand without the amazing safety net that is Jeromy Cox, my colorist on Rex Mundi. So I didnít change much in terms of my rendering style, especially on the first issue that I primarily inked, because I was really excited to see how it would come out, what the reaction would be, etc. I was really, really pleased with it personally. One major thing that did happen while drawing that book was drawing the psychic flashes in rendered pencils with the midtones juxtaposed against the stark high contrast ink work that I was doing for the rest of the book sort of reminded me of how my drawing used to look, and that led me pretty directly to what I was talking about earlier where Iím at now drawing issue #10 of The Phantom.
Lori G: Another question for both of you: what
project/projects are you currently working on or any new projects on the
horizon you would like to talk about?|
Chuck: Well, anyone can look for current updates at www.dixonverse.net. Iím currently working on a Transformers mini for IDW thatís looking very exciting. The artwork is by Ted McKeever. Itís very different for the Robots In Disguise but doesnít violate their continuity. I also have Team Zero coming from Wildstorm. A WWII story drawn by Doug Mahnke that looks to be the toughest thing Iíve ever written. Iím also adapting Robert Jordanís New Spring to comics form and writing some stories for The Simpsons at Bongo.
EricJ: Iíve got a few books coming out soon-ish here. Revisionary #2 should be in shops, and then weíve got the two issues of The Phantom with Chuck for Moonstone, and Free Fall for Narwain, which should be 5 issues. Thatís it for me for the time being.
Lori G; One more question, and then I will let you guys go, promise; if you could have one super-power what would it be and why?
EricJ: Heheh, well, from a professional standpoint Iíd kill for super-speed, but personally flight would be the best one.
Chuck: I want Bruce Wayneís cash. And if you think thatís not a super power youíre dead wrong.
Lori G:† Well guys, thanks a bunch for taking the time out of your hectic schedules to chat with me a bit!
Chuck: Itís been a pleasure! Great questions!
EricJ: Thanks, Lori.
Something NEW that you may or may not know about is Moonstoneís ALL NEW message board is up and running! Register to win an original piece of Phantom art from issue #9 by EricJ and Peter Guzman, go to the ďmessage boardĒ link on the top of this page to check out all the details. And while you are there, I have a special ďGal on the MoonĒ section, so if you have any comments or questions about this interview or others Iíve done, feel free to post them, so I can respond to them right away. Thanks for reading and until next timeÖ.
Moonstone Gal out!
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Sunday, April 20, 2014