Click on the interview entitled "Walking Phil Phillipson's Dog" to check it out or read a copy of it below.
BY JENNIFER M. CONTINO
Phil Phillipson called his God the Dyslexic Dog series "[a] cosmic 'What If story' with a psychedelic twist." One thing's for sure, it's not a funny animal book. Phillipson, his son, Brian and artist Alex Nino are trying hard to make this tale unique and fresh. "I wanted to create a 'Dog' centric universe," he said. "Very similar to what Carl Barks had done with Duckburg. Only expanding it to, not only their world, but exploring animal religion, remembering always that this a fictional "what if" premise."
THE PULSE: For our readers who have heard the name "God the Dyslexic Dog" but just thought of it as some kind of comedy series or a funny animal book, tell them a little bit about what God the Dyslexic Dog is truly about, please!
PHILLIPSON: If you had to attach a label to it, you could place it in the bin for cosmic "What If Stories" with a psychedelic twist. In our story we have God as a dog. Our hero is a boy named Nez, who quickly finds out that not only has he adopted a great and loyal dog, but also God on leash. By volume 3, Nez will need every ounce of Divine power to help save the world.
The catalyst for our adventure is the moody Immortal God of wine and revelry -Bacchus -who is bored with life and wants to commit suicide but can't. Since he can't kill himself he figures the only way to end it all is to destroy everything that is god and man. The Mayans worship Bacchus and construct a calendar in his honor to help him fulfill his death-wish, coinciding with the designated ‘Doomsday’ year of 2012.
We also have Pandora’s Box being re-opened and the creation of the newest god in the pantheon, Dar-Win and his evolution, taking over Heaven. All of mankind’s old Gods (like Zeus and Ra) come back to Earth looking for new worshippers as well, but the problem is, no humans believe in them anymore, so if they can't have human followers they will settle for the animal kingdom. As the story unfolds, we bring together all of these absurd and off-beat concepts and reveal who will get their heart’s desire and who will end all of existence. It’s your typical ‘feel good’ kind of story.
THE PULSE: Out of everything you could have done in comics, what was it about this concept that really made it something you wanted to flesh out and create in the sequential art form?
PHILLIPSON: They say that timing is everything and I'm a firm believer in that. [My son] Brian was in his senior year at San Diego State and had come up to LA for the weekend. I was flipping through his writing journal and came across this incredible concept for God the Dyslexic doG he had been sketching out. With new technologies for printing and distribution unavailable even 5 to 10 years earlier, I thought that this would be a great time to do an independent comic on our terms. God the Dyslexic doG was the perfect concept to develop for the new millennium and the perfect project for Alex Nino to do his magic with. I had always wanted to do comics since high school but instead went into animation seduced by a fat weekly paycheck. So after 40 years of animation it was time to do what I had always wanted to do.
THE PULSE: How did working as a background painter on animated projects at Disney and for the Discovery Channel give you a better eye for how to lay out your comic panels and fill in those blanks?
PHILLIPSON: On the "surface" there really is no relationship between background painting and comic books. But if you look again there is a lot of similarity, in that painting helps you stage the action and control drama with mood and lighting and most importantly helps you control where to look. I'm kind of old school when in comes to spotting blacks and Alex is a master at it, so I'm constantly after him to share. With the new digital age where it's possible to do almost anything it is a real temptation to forget the basics so I'm very conscious about preserving that.
THE PULSE: How was working on a comic book series both similar and different from working in the animation industry?
PHILLIPSON: Don't forget a comic is very much like a story board for a film. Each is telling a story using graphic images. The main difference is that the comic book page has a design factor unto itself that a story board does not. The other secondary issue is in film there are more frames of a specific action that most comic book pages do not. Comics may have one or two poses per action while film may have four to six of course, always depending on the circumstances. Plus if you consider 20 years of TV Animation and 20 years of Feature work and add a lot of love for the medium, it was pretty easy.
It also gives me chance to use some of the things that I learned, while working down the hallway from Alex Toth when we were both at Hanna- Barbera between 1968 and 1975. I have to admit we never worked on the same series together, but I always got a chance to pop my head in and see what he was doing, which was good enough.
Alex Nino was also another great influence; the man is an incredible genius. He shifts between mediums so seamlessly when we were at Disney together I was constantly trying to pick his brain for the "secret". I think I discovered the secret was nothing more than being born with a photographic memory and an incredible work ethic and a touch of magic.
THE PULSE: What surprised you the most as you worked on the first issue of GTDD and learned some of the inner workings of the comics industry?
PHILLIPSON: The biggest shock was how handicapped Small Press is. If you’re not Marvel or DC most stores won't carry you. I get why the store owners don't carry the small press books, it's usually because they don't sell very well and they have to pay the rent. You have to bring a quality product to the market place that people will enjoy, the trick is to get them to sample it and give it a try.
THE PULSE: I know your son works with you on this and is the co-creator, but how did Alex Nino come to be a part of your creative group?
PHILLIPSON: In 1985 I left Disney for about nine months over money (what else is new). During that period I got a job over at Marvel Animation. Alex had been there for a while when I was assigned to the same series that he was working on. I had always been a big fan of his from the Warren Publishing days. His art work in Creepy, Eerie, was incredibly unique. This gave me a great opportunity to watch him work. I am always fascinated with how every artist attacks their assignment. I love to get inside their "head" and see how each choice is made.
Flash forward to around 1995 or 1996 he gave me a call one day just to touch base and I informed him that Disney was out looking for really talented people and that he should bring his portfolio in for an interview. We were working together at Disney Feature until they shut down the 2 D division which was around 2003. We were both out of work and that's when I thought it would be a good time to get back to comics as a team . What better way to get into comics than to work directly with someone I so admire.
THE PULSE: How tough is it to get noticed when you're working on a new property in comics? How did you get people to pay attention?
PHILLIPSON: Harder than you could ever imagine. This is where comics and film are very similar. It is very much like taking an independent film to a film festival and trying to win the grand prize. You hope someone will be curious and take a chance and buy your book. But you will never know until you try. All you can do is try and put the most quality into the property and let the project stand on its own.
I'm very much a believer in the "Build it and they will come" philosophy.
THE PULSE: What have you found the most creatively freeing about working on a project like GTDD?
PHILLIPSON: That is easy. There are no multinational corporations to answer to from a creative point of view. Of course, once you want your product to go to the market place, you have to switch hats and deal with very real business issues concerning your book. Again just like in film, you have "show business" the business part, is raising financing for your film which has very little to do with the creative side or the "show" side. But they have to work together, that's one of the reasons it appears to be schizophrenic at times. Comics have some of the same aspects just on a smaller scale.
THE PULSE: Are you a Christian? If so, did you feel any trepidation about creating a work like this?
PHILLIPSON: I didn't feel any trepidation since this is not a religious graphic novel, just an imaginary universe and purely fictional.
THE PULSE: Aside from dog being god spelled backwards, what was the other reason you wanted to make a dog the star?
PHILLIPSON: There is a very definite reason. I wanted to create a "Dog" centric universe. Very similar to what Carl Barks had done with Duckburg. Only expanding it to, not only their world, but exploring animal religion, remembering always that this a fictional "what if" premise. We also wanted to play off the different characters reactions and beliefs in the fact that their almighty god is a dog.
THE PULSE: As someone who worked in the animation industry for over twenty years, what do you think about the closing of Disney's 2 D Division? I mean, aside from losing your job, do you think it's a good idea for Disney and other places to move away from the traditional cartoon format?
PHILLIPSON: Upset. Not only because of my job but for the short sightedness that they thought there was now only one medium to tell stories in. I don't think any medium should be discriminated against just because it would appear to be out of favor for the moment. Just for the record, since the purchase of Pixar they have since reopened the 2 D department back up again, so hopefully some variety will be coming back to the feature animation again.
THE PULSE: What do you think of 3D animation style?
PHILLIPSON: I have to give my caveats up front. Since I was young boy I have always hated puppets. So with that out of the way, in most cases 3 D looks like puppets unless the lighting and design is executed brilliantly. Of course there are always exceptions, Such as Pixar's products. The short answer is I don't care for it.
THE PULSE: I know you were working on Tutenstein for the Discovery Channel, what other projects do you have now that that's wrapped?
PHILLIPSON: At the moment I am concentrating on getting our brand new Vol. 2 of God the Dyslexic doG ready for its premiere this July at the San Diego Comic-Con. It will be in Diamond Distribution’s September catalog and on local comic book store shelves early this holiday season. After that I will be working full time on redesigning our web-site for our book and Brian’s working on the GTDD movie script. As far as other animation work, I have nothing lined up at the moment, but I'm hoping to connect with a show of some sort this summer.
You can learn more about God the Dyslexic Dog, Brian and Philip Phillipson by visiting the official website here: http://www.godthedyslexicdog.com The second volume will be in stores this summer.