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Artist Sean Phillips on His Many-Sided Craft, from Comics to Criterion Covers

Artist Sean Phillips on His Many-Sided Craft, from Comics to Criterion Covers

Combining the expressive power of a great storyteller with the skill of a master craftsman, Sean Phillips is an artist we’ve come back to time and time again at Criterion. From Sweet Smell of Success to On the Waterfront to The Flight of the Phoenix to the upcoming Buck and the Preacher, Phillips is responsible for some of our most memorable covers, showcasing a dazzling array of styles and techniques while always being recognizable as the work of a singular artist.

Like many artists, Phillips has been drawing for as long as he can remember. But unlike most artistic kids, he was getting paid for it. “Me and a couple of friends used to make comic strips when we were maybe ten or eleven,” he remembers of his childhood in the United Kingdom, “and we had a strip in the local newspaper when I was twelve. It only lasted a couple of months. That sort of made you realize that you could actually get a job drawing.”

Then, at age thirteen, Phillips enrolled in a night-school art class taught by a local comics artist, Ken Houghton. The class was intended for adults, but Phillips and a friend talked their way in, and soon he found himself “ghosting” pages for his teacher. The UK comics business at the time was divided into “boys” comics such as Crisis and 2000 AD and “girls” comics such as Judy and Bunty. It was the latter two titles that published some of Phillips’s earliest work—stories featuring “ballerinas or gymnasts or girls and their ponies or wicked stepmothers,” as he puts it—pushing him outside the comfort zone of the Spider-Man and Conan comics he loved as a boy.

Top of page: art for Sweet Smell of Success; above: art for Blast of Silence
Art for In the Heat of the Night
Art for Night of the Living Dead
Art for On the Waterfront

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