Artist: Phil Elliott
Company: Marvel UK
Joe- Hi Phil, could you tell us a little about your background as an artist? What are some of your earliest memories of creating art and how did that interest in drawing evolve into a lifelong career in comics?
Phil- I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember and have always had a love of comics, starting with Beano, Buster, Sparky and other British humour titles. For some reason The Eagle passed me by and Look and Learn was too “clever” but I enjoyed the mix of adventure, sports, crime and school stories in The Hotspur and Commando with its war stories (the Second World War was still very much in the public conscious). I was vaguely familiar with the Alan Class reprints of American comic strips but it wasn’t until Fantastic, Pow and Smash appeared in the late Sixties that my love of US comics and Marvel Comics in particular, began and this was cemented when Mighty World of Marvel was published in 1972 when I began building up my collection of the original US comics and started drawing my own comics.
My initial comics were pastiches of my favourite comic, Fantastic Four, drawn in school exercise books in the style of Marvel’s Not Brand Echh.
I moved onto creating more “serious” comics…
And in 1974, with my best mate, Paul Chester Ditto Comics was formed! Ditto Comics was the UK publishing house that history forgot. It’s not surprising that its comics were bypassed as they were only read by a select few, mainly family and friends. Publications included Borak-The Barbarian Zombie, Drak-The Space Vampire, Marm of Our World to Come, Throw-up and CITY which was set in a post-apocalyptic Chelmsford (which actually gained its City status many years later, in 2000).
Life moved on and I went through the usual channels of contributing to various fanzines and publishing my own to reach a wider audience and eventually finding myself in the offices of Marvel UK speaking to one of their editors, Richard Starkings.
Joe- How did you begin working with Marvel and which other titles besides Ghostbusters did you draw for?
Phil- In 1988 I decided to approach Marvel UK with my portfolio (I had done commercial illustrations for some well-known magazines and shared a weekly comic strip with Eddie Campbell in Sounds which I thought must count for something). In the end I never got to show my portfolio as Marvel UK’s editor-in-chief, Richard Starkings was already aware of my work, a fan of it, he said.
I’d seen the Ghostbusters film, of course but wasn’t familiar with the comic but when Richard asked whether I thought I could tackle drawing a story I said “Yes” without any hesitation. He gave me a script there and then and I headed home. As I was walking to Bayswater tube station my head was buzzing with thoughts and by the time I’d got home I’d formulated an idea for a story. I began pencilling the script Richard had given me (Egon’s New Invention , which appeared in issue 9 on July 16th 1988 (Yes, I had to look that up online!)) and approached Richard with my idea and he said to go ahead, but could I illustrate another script first.
I worked flat-out on Real Ghostbusters for a couple of years illustrating over 100 pages but times and editors changed and I fell out of favour, but not before I’d drawn Glenn’s Dakin’s The Man From Cancer for Marvel UK’s Strip magazine and later doing illustrations for Pannini’s (who took over Marvel UK) Power Rangers.
Joe- You have a very distinctive artistic style and one that other artists including Tony O’Donnell felt worked well for Marvels Ghostbusters series. Were Marvel happy for artists to stay truthful to the way they usually drew or were they a little stricter about sticking to the reference material and look of the characters?
Phil- My editors seemed happy for me to add my own touches to the stories, with relation to backgrounds and supporting characters and ghosts but as far as the Real Ghostbusters themselves and their equipment it was very strict and one had to stick rigidly to the style sheets. The licensing people would pull you up very swiftly if you strayed, prompting one of them to ask why the artists didn’t just trace the style sheets.
Joe- Which other Marvel artists did you know at the time through other projects, fanzines and companies?
Phil- I’m afraid I didn’t really mix with many of the other creators apart from the likes of Ilya, Bambos Georgiou, Nick Abadzis and Glenn Dakin who I knew from Fast Fiction and self-publishing. I wasn’t based in London with a young child so it was difficult to get to any of the Marvel social gatherings but I’m sure our paths crossed at comic conventions.
Joe- Your first ever contribution to the comic was the story “Egon’s New Invention” which featured in issue #9. What was your reaction to your first story? Were you pleased with how your pages came out?
Phil- “Egon’s New Invention” was a good story to start with as it was short and featured only one character! It was completely wordless which meant I could have fun with the sound effects.
Joe- After that you provided art for the cover of issue #11 and continued to be a regular artist for the comic. Did you enjoy drawing Real Ghostbusters stories and was the frequent work from Marvel something you appreciated at the time?
Phil- I only drew a few covers but the one I was most pleased with was the one that was comissioned and pencilled but never used, featuring the Real Ghostbusters as characters from Wizard of Oz. There is a special skill to designing covers that unfortunately I don’t possess. Look at the Brian Bolland’s covers!
Joe- In issue #13 you wrote and pencilled a fun story for the Sports Aid ’88 charity event called “Speed Demon”, which sees Winston sign everyone up to run in the “Race against time” in an attempt to keep them fit. Did you request to write that particular story or were you asked to?
Phil- You know, I can’t remember how that came about…it was a long time ago!
Joe- It wasn’t often that a penciller got to write their own story but I know you were well versed in doing both. Do you enjoy writing just as much as drawing?
Phil- I know how hard it is to come up with ideas for new stories which is why, on my independent work with writers I always try and split any money 50/50. I wasn’t that prolific as a writer but occasionally I’d have an idea that I’d submit to the editor and as I said earlier, I did that soon after visiting the Marvel UK offices and the story, The Spooked Suit appeared in issue 15 (my small claim to fame is that I not only wrote the script but also penciled, inked and lettered the story (these days I’d have been capable of colouring it as well)).
Joe- It seems that a fair few artists at Marvel inked their own work if they had the time to do so. You obviously did the same on a number of stories but are there any stories that you did absolutely everything on including things like lettering?
Joe- Which of your covers did you enjoy working on the most?
Joe- When not inking your own work, which Marvel inkers did you prefer to have working on your pencils?
Joe- Of the many stories you drew, which were your favourites?
Joe- You drew a number of 5-6 page stories which were always slighter more fun to read as they were longer than the usual 2-3 page shorts we saw in the comic. Which of your longer stories did you find the most time consuming to work on?
Phil- Some stories were certainly more time-consuming. In “Culture Shocker” it was fun creating the octopus-armed contraption that Ray wears but then you realise that you’ve got re-create this every panel and from different angles! Having to draw the proton-guns and all of the Real Ghostbusters’ equipment and the rooms etc was a bit of a chore to start with, constantly having to refer to the style sheets but it soon became second nature. I had similar “problems” when drawing books like Illegal Alien, Bluebeard and Contraband…trying to keep likenesses the same, let alone drawing styles (all those three books are different in content as well as stylistically. Drawing Gimbley is so much easier!
Joe- Which was the most fun to draw?
Joe- Which of the Ghostbusters characters did you find the easiest to draw and which (if any) did you find more difficult?
Joe- Looking back on your time on the comic, what were some of the highs for you and would you have done anything differently if you could go back and do it all over again?
Phil- I thoroughly enjoyed drawing Real Ghostbusters. As any comic creator will tell you it’s always great to have regular paid work, especially if it’s fun to do. The high still has to be meeting Richard Starkings, discovering that he already knew of my work and walking home with a script in my hand. I can’t think of anything I’d have done differently.
If you would like to own any of Phil’s remaining original artwork from the Marvel Real Ghostbusters comic you can do so either by contacting Phil directly via email for prices ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) or by becoming a patron of his over on patreon: https://www.patreon.com/pelliott