Like the legendary hip-hop group, Whodini, said back in 1984, "Friends, how many of us have them?" I've got a few. And you're about to meet one of them right now.
I first got to know Joe Phillips years ago, 'Nation. I won't embarrass him or I by telling you how many years — just know it was a lot! We were both drawing at the time. I clearly remember Joe, me and four other buddies sitting around on his living room floor drawing. And drawing. And drawing (though I've since become more art lover than art maker).
Even then, Joe was really good and already an entrepreneur in his own right. He had his own small comic book company, his own characters and super team — the whole nine. We were all like, “Daaamn!”.
Fast forward a few years, and Joe's working in comics full-time. A year after that, he co-founds a very popular Atlanta-based art collective, Gaijin Studios. Oh yeah, and he starts ballin' outta control (my words, not his).
He's penciling tons of mainstream comics (Green Lantern, Justice League, X-men), doing crazy trading cards, and straight makin' bank. It was the well-documented era of the early '90s known as 'The Speculator Boom'. And of course, it didn't last.
But Joe did.
He and I fell out of contact by that point. And as he shares in today’s interview, he ended up leaving the studio and starting anew by “going west, young man”. Over the course of the next decade plus, it was t-shirt designs, an apparel company, a magazine, illustration work, animation, calendars, and yes, some comics here and there. Dude kept busy!
Now, all the stuff that happened in between the highs and lows (there was a lot) kinda gets covered in our conversation with him. Kinda. Our chat with Joe was very much just that — a chat. Old pals reconnecting. It's not in any way formal, so do your best to keep up.
I saw Joe again recently for the first time in about 15 years. It was at this year's Dragon*Con. And it was all good. Obviously, we'd both changed a bit, but he seemed to be enjoying his time back home.
I told him right there on the con floor, that while I had proudly followed all of his successes from the sidelines — the comics, The Heretic, the Joe Boys stuff, the national ad campaigns — I never stopped thinking of him as anything other than my boy. That same talented, but humble kid sitting on the living room floor drawing and cracking jokes. 'Cause in my mind, that's where it all started.
Friends. How many of us have them, indeed.