by Coffee Joe
With thanks to Psy, Haterade and Chooch for their help with the interview!
Phil Jimenez is arguably one of the hottest and most-respected artists in the comic industry today. Known for his classic takes on characters, his work is often compared to that of the great George Perez, who Jimenez has often cited as one of his influences.
Jimenez entered the comic industry at the youthful age of 21 with four pages in the DC miniseries War of the Gods. Since then he's made quite a name for himself, including helming the Tempest miniseries in 1996, serving as artist and writer of Wonder Woman from issues 164-188, and drawing the bulk of the artwork for Infinite Crisis (along with George Perez and others).
In 1992 Jimenez came out out of the closet, having his first open relationship with Neal Pozner, the man who, among othe things, is responsible for creating the blue camo "ocean warrior" Aquaman. After Pozner, who also hired Jimenez for DC, passed away from complications from AIDS in 1994, Jimenez dedicated his work on Tempest to him, even modelling Tempest's costume after Pozner's work on Aquaman. Since that time, Jimenez has been nominated for the GLAAD Award for his "gay-positive" comics works on Grant Morrison's Invisibles.
An extremely likeable and approachable guy, Phil was gracious enough to accept my Facebook friend request. After seeing our previous interview with Walter Simonson, Phil was all too happy to agree to take time out of his increasingly busy schedule to sit down and answer a few questions for us, too.
And so, without further ado...
Nine Questions with Phil Jimenez!
CM: Why do you think so many creators have a hard time giving a focus to Wonder Woman? Seems like she's re-focused and or rebooted every 2 years. Are there problematic aspects to her character?
PJ: Ha! I’ve gone on at length about this in other interviews, but I think her “problems” stem from a number of areas – the character’s gender; the character’s culture; the character’s role and function in the DCU; the fact that the characters, as I perceive her anyway, is inherently political in nature; how women have been treated historically (and I mean, literally, through the decades!), and how that reflects in creative treatment of her; the mythological aspects of her world; as well as a genuine difference in character POV that has surfaced between writers and often reflects their personal politics about not only women but our world, and how someone like Wonder Woman would act/react in it.
Gender, politics, history, function, purpose, coupled with some bizarre creative choices in the past, have all conspired to make Wonder Woman a very tricky character to write. That said, I actually love all the aspects that make her so difficult for some to wrap their heads around; I find her among the most human and human characters in the DCU, despite the fact that some find her so distancing and difficult.
CM: Tempest is a character that seems to be very near and dear to you. Would you ever like to return to that character? How do you feel about the way he is currently being treated -- i.e., crowned King of Atlantis, then killed and turned into a Black Lantern -- in the DCU?
PJ: Tempest was a character I really loved and “got,” i.e. understood – but I know that his more passive nature and his extensive powers made him a difficult character for other creators to connect with. My hope is that whatever happens to him, he continues to grow as a character, and I hope he keeps his power/skill set. I’d love to work with that character again, but separate from Aquaman.
CM: How difficult is it to crank out the pages on one of those mega crossovers like Infinite Crisis? What was your favorite "HOLY SHIT!" moment of that series and, conversely, what was your biggest "That's weak, but I'll draw it anyway" moment?
PJ: Infinite Crisis was only difficult in terms of scheduling problems, especially toward the end. I probably had the most fun drawing the Golden Age Superman and Wonder Woman, as well as the decapitation of Pantha (which I thought was kind of hilarious); looking back on it, Geoff wrote some really amazing material for me, so it’s hard to complain about much in terms of “weak” story moments (I just wish some of the scripts had been ready sooner!).
CM: You are under an exclusivity contract with Marvel Comics. What made you decide to go over to the House of Ideas?
PJ: I actually went over to Marvel because I always think it’s good to take a break now and then, and to work on other properties, and get a fresh perspective. The Marvel clan has been AWESOME to me; it’s just been a matter of finding material I “click” with. That, of course, seems to be Astonishing X-Men with Warren Ellis, who’s one of the few writers in comics who seems to know exactly what to write for me!
CM: You've just kicked off a run on Astonishing X-Men with Warren Ellis. How does this compare to/contrast with your previous X-Men work with Grant Morrison?
PJ: Both writers know how to craft scripts for me; both of them seem to know what I want to draw and write stories about things that I’m good at drawing. They focus on teams and give their stories a great sense of scale, and they write the female characters with sass and panache. It makes me very happy. That said, it’s essentially the same team, minus Jean Grey – so they’re not entirely new characters, except for Armor, whom I love, and Storm, a character I’ve longed to draw in comics for 25 years.
CM: If you could take any character(s) from any universe(s), who would you most like to work on? Is there any title you haven't worked on yet that you'd just love to get your mitts on? Why?
PJ: I’d love to work on Wonder Woman again. I’d also love to draw some sort of DC/Marvel crossover, but I don’t think there will be another one.
CM: What comics out today are you really digging? Conversely, which ones do you just not get? Why?
PJ: Gosh, most of the comics I read now I read for work reasons –- that said, I’ve been very interested in Blackest Night and Matt Fraction’s X-Men stuff. The stuff that continually makes me happy is the stuff I read before I got into the industry. I’ve been reading much of Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men run, for example, in those black and white Essential reprints, and I’m blown away at how unbelievable some of the visual storytelling is (particularly during John Romita Jr.’s run). That stuff is unbelievable to me, and the stories throughout those years were so engrossing to me. I wish I could tell stories that were as compelling as those were to me back then!
CM: You've gained a lot of recognition for your artwork. What advice can you give to someone who wants to try to break into the industry as an artist?
PJ: Timing and polite persistence. Have a great portfolio ready. Know your target audience. Do your homework. Find a young editor who will be your champion. Never quit.
CM: Are there any upcoming projects of yours you'd like to share with us?
PJ: I’ve been waiting for months to find out if one particular project is going to land. If it does, I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops!
And there you have it! A HUGE thanks to Phil Jimenez for agreeing to humour us madmen!
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