Local comic book artist collaborates on Batman


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A seemingly common man sits outside Java House on a fall afternoon. Unbeknown to many, he has a secret identity.

Well-known comic book author Phillip Hester has drawn and written comic books since he knew how to pick up a pencil.

“ I never really grew up; I’m still a kid at heart.” He said.

Hester derives his inspiration from his inner child. He remembers his teacher from high school catching him in the act of drawing instead of taking notes. The teacher had told him, “I can tell this is what you want to do with your life — keep your grades up, and you can draw in my class anytime you want.”

“That was the first form of adult validation for my career,” Hester said.

This turning point marked the beginning in Hester’s career of a comic book artist and writer.
Hester first worked for the Silverwolf publishing company. He also worked for the The Daily Iowan for two years while he attended the University of Iowa from 1984 to 1988.

“It was natural for me to tell stories with pictures and express myself,” he said.

As an independent contractor, he has worked for almost all of the major comic-book publishing companies. Currently he works with Marvel and DC.

Hester’s notable work includes Swamp Thing, Wonder Woman, Firebreather, Green Arrow, The Wretch, and The Bionic Man, just to name a few.

One of his most recent works, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, is not like the everyday comic.

Hester said he changed Batman’s costume to create a more modernized look similar to the movies. DC Comics, the publisher of the new chronicle, is trying to make some inroads with the digital delivery of comic-book stories.

“It is different than the everyday comic or your timeless batman stories,” he said.

The story takes place in Gotham City, similar to the well-known Batman tale. Slam Bradley, the main detective, teams up with Batman to take down evil crime lords, such as the Black Mask and the Joker. Hester’s artistic style is evident with the high contrast in the comic’s images. There are dark and heavy shadows and darker superheroes.

Hester says some of the changes are due to the remake of Slam Bradley, who is from the very first issues of Batman in 1940.

“He hasn’t been seen in comics very often, so we thought it would be fun to revive him in our issue,” he said.

Although Hester has written and drawn more than 300 comics, he said Batman was one of his favorites to work on. In collaboration with writer Josh Fialkov, the two worked for six months on what is similar to a screenplay with dialogue, stage directions, and camera angles to describe the scene. The script was then turned over to the artist who is to take the screenplay and turn it into a storyboard.

“If there is a good relationship with the writer, it is collaborative,” Hester said.

Fialkov said his and Hester’s writer-artist relationship is ideal.

“He is a genius,” Fialkov said. “Few people in comics have the complete package, but Phil is one of them. He is a brilliant, genre-defining artist.” 

Fialkov has worked for Marvel, DC, Dynamite, IDW, Image, Top Cow, and Random House. Working from Los Angeles, he helped write the issue of Batman with Hester.

“I’m driven to tell stories the way junkies are driven to heroin,” he said. “It’s something that’s so deep inside me, I don’t know that I could ever stop.”

Eric Gapstur also worked on the new Batman story. He was the inker — a person who uses inking to add artistic energy to a comic. The art of inking can add shading, energy, and texture when done well.

The Belle Plaine, Iowa, native met Hester at a comic-book store while in college at Iowa State University, where he was an art and design major. Hester had noticed a quality in Gapstur’s work and asked him to consider inking comics professionally. Since then, Gapsture has inked Hester’s “pencils” such as Green Hornet, The Immortals, and Green Arrow.

“Batman was certainly the most exciting,” Gapstur said.

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