Joe Phillips is a force of nature!
Joe is an American comic book and animation artist who has worked for both Marvel and DC as well as many independent and self-produced projects. His artwork is included in Speed Racer for Now Comics, and a slew of DC and Marvel comics including Justice League of America, Silver Surfer, X-Men, Legion of Super-Heroes, The Incredible Hulk and Lobo. He also penciled a couple of issues of Wonder Woman, filling in when George Perez retired and before Jill Thompson took over. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Joe has also been involved in many erotic and gay themed projects. I had the pleasure of speaking with this incredibly talented, tenacious and driven man.
Rickey: I’ve been familiar with your art for a while now, but I must confess I did not know about your professional career. It is quite the honor getting to interview you! So, tell our readers, Who is Joe Phillips? What is your secret origin?
Joe: Well basically I’ve been drawing comics in some form since around 1984. I used to do a comic strip for a weekly magazine back in Atlanta, Ga.
Rickey: When did you first start drawing?
Joe: I first started drawing as soon as I could hold a pencil as my mom tells it. I drew all through high school for the school paper and created sets and costumes for school plays, I went to a performing arts school and studied theater.
Rickey: I have a theater background as well. Acting side.I was doing some research to prep for this and all I can say is “Wow!”
Joe: My first comic work was in a fanzine called Pyran. I drew the art for a couple of “issues”. My first published work was for the local “things to do in town” magazine called The Creative Loafing.
Rickey: In Georgia?
Joe: Yes. My first work in traditional comics were for an independent comic called Tales for the Southern Knights and Ex-Mutants before doing Interview with the Vampire and then moving on to Speed Racer.
Rickey: I have a memory fragment of seeing Southern Knights, I think. I started collecting Marvel comics in 1970 but I would look at some of the independents. That was a superhero series, right?
Joe: Yeah. Lord knows what they were about! I can remember how excited I was to draw it but can’t recall a single thing about the characters.
Rickey: I get it. How did you get your first break in the comics industry?
Joe: I’d go to comic conventions and shop my work around, learning from other pros and editors. I would show them stuff and get critiques and then send art off to them and finally got work.
Rickey: That’s not easy.
Joe: A friend of mine, Lamar Waldron, was the writer on Speed Racer and when their artist left, they had me do a fill-n issue.
Rickey: I used to watch the cartoon back in the 60s!
Joe: Well, I was hungry and tenacious at the time.
Rickey: Certainly helps! What is it like to be a queer creator in the comics industry and how has that changed over the course of your career? I was organizing some of my comics recently and I saw you had done work for Class Comics. I think I saw your Joe Boys there.
Joe: mmm complex question.
Rickey: Ha! OK, I imagine it doesn’t come up with the big companies like DC and Marvel.
Joe: I’ve never hid being gay and it rarely came up as an issue. Comics are not a drop in the office type of job, so your personal and private life isn’t part of the mix unless you bring that up. I guess if you have the male “Gaze”, you can see my men had more attention to detail and more handsome faces. But I’ve always put some gay sensibilities in the work.
Rickey: Were you doing the erotic art at the same time as the pro stuff?
Joe: Sure, I’m a multitasker.
Rickey: You have a beautiful style. I especially like the pagan art.
Joe: Thanks, it’s a combined passion. Art, Men, and Magic!
Rickey: I was looking at your website and saw the retro style film posters you made. Are you a fan of old movies?
Joe: Huge fan. Ted Turner had this station that showed all the old films back in the day on channel 17 in Atlanta and I fell in love with the golden age films.
Rickey: We cover a lot of old sci-fi, horror, and fantasy films and tv shows at Comic-Watch. When did you move to California?
Joe: 26 or so years ago. I was moving out to San Francisco to start a new life with a new boyfriend at the time. Well, that didn’t go as planned. We broke up by the time I got to Nevada. So that didn’t happen. And I eventually wound up in San Diego.
Rickey: When you moved to SD, is this when you worked with the Adult Video guys? I saw you won some awards for your work. How different was it to make an animated film? House of Moorecock, right?
Joe: well, I worked with a guy that did the web sites for Kara’s adult Playground and they wanted an original cartoon, so I thought they wanted it animated and I created Cum Quest a spoof of Star Trek for them.
Rickey: I saw that on Wikipedia.
Joe: They loved it and said that they had a gay site that they wanted a cartoon for, so I created The House of Morecock, a spoof of Tales From The Crypt, but with Jonas Morecock a cute horny Monster hunter. The cartoons ran for about a year before the company was shut down by the feds.
Rickey: Is that something that happens often? Were you involved with all the animation? I imagine it must be very different than doing still artwork for comics.
Joe: It was all new, but I always am up for a challenge. We were using a program called Flash. We were ahead of the curve and at that time you could talk to the programmers and get help with the program. so, me and my brother learned how to animate. They paid super well so it was worth it.
Rickey: Did you have to do a lot of drawings or was the animation limited? Your Wiki stops about 10 years ago. What have you been busy with lately?
Joe: Yes, the animation was limited but we learned from the old Hanna Barbera cartoons as to animate what’s needed and don’t sweat the small stuff, it’s just porn.
Rickey: I loved the old Hannah Barbara stuff! Especially ones like The Herculoids and Space Ghost.
Joe: I’ve done a lot of invisible corporate work, it pays well but not in the public eye. Yes
I’ve done several JoeBoy books, I have done my own Tarot Cards and created The WitchBoys as well as 3 children’s books and a dinosaur book. I’m also launching a new comic book this summer called “I Married A Superhero”.
Rickey: Will that be available from some place? Like, who is your publisher?
Joe: Still working that detail out. I have a few options but I want to be 4 issues in the can before I launch it.
Rickey: Makes sense. I like those tarot cards you mentioned. I was looking at some when I was researching. Looks like you are up to 9 cards (the superhero ones)?
Rickey: Will those be available from you? I would like to include a link to where people can buy your stuff. Should I just direct them to your website?
Joe: Folks can get my books on Amazon, my cards and prints and two shirts are on www.witchboys.com. the super hero stuff aren’t going to be cards, they are a separate project.
Rickey: copyright of course. Or can you use Marvel & DC?
Joe: No of course not
Rickey: I know typing can get tedious, just a couple more then I will give your fingers a break! Are you still working in the clothing industry?
Joe: Not really, I still do spot projects from time to time.
Rickey: I was wondering, who are some of the artists that inspire you? And what would you consider your crowning achievement? What you are most proud of?
Joe: I’m most proud that I’m still alive after a foot amputation and Kidney Failure. I love Gustaf Klimt, J.c. Lyendecker, Alphonse Mucha, Norman Rockwell. In comics, John Byrne, Walt Simonson, and Mike Mignola and Jack Kirby.
Rickey: I’ve been reading your posts. Gotta be hard going through all. I can certainly leave that out of the interview for your privacy. I want to use some of your work in the article. Is it OK to use a some of your art from your Gallery on the website?
Joe: As far as the artistic achievements, I think that our film, Stonewall and Riot was a huge success, because me, and my brother taught ourselves how to do CGI animation, creating all the backgrounds, creating all the characters learning how to rig and color, and create music and editing for a project, which was huge, took us three years to do it, and it was the first of its kind. I think also, the tarot deck was a nice achievement because I actually got to go from start to finish creating the box art the cards booklet and just doing all the research to make sure that it was appropriate for the project.
Rickey: I bet. You are absolutely amazing in all your achievements! I had no idea that the comic book in Queer As Folk was a real one you created! I was a little jealous, as back then I was working on my own gay superhero called MadKat which I was a National finalist in a comic book competition at comic con.
Joe: I totally forgot that LOL.
Rickey: I should probably let you get back to your life. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you taking the time to do this interview. It really means a lot to me. Is it ok to use some of your pictures in the article?
Joe: Sure, use of whatever you like.
Rickey: You are a very impressive guy, Joe. I wish you the best of luck in your health and your continued success in your art endeavors. I will let you go now. Thanks again! And keep up the great work!
Joe: My pleasure.
If you would like to support Joe Phillips or would like to buy some of his art, please visit his website at Home (joephillips.com).
You can also help Joe out with his considerable medical expenses at Fundraiser by Joe Phillips : Tight spot (gofundme.com).
LGBT+ Artist Spotlight On Joe Phillips
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