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The Anchor–Exclusive Interview With Phil Hester & Brian Churilla

The Anchor. Holy warrior, unholy war. Freak of nature, beast of burden, hulking outcast, medieval prize fighter, Viking raider, God’s leg-breaker.

One thousand years ago a hulking outcast sought refuge in the crumbling ruins of an ancient monastery, offering in return the one thing he had to give–his fists.

Transformed into an immortal warrior monk standing at the gates of Hell itself to keep our world free from its invading armies, The Anchor is mysteriously tricked into centuries of slumber. But today, this holy warrior rises to battle all the unholy monsters unleashed during his slumber.

We had the chance to chat with Phil Hester and Brian Churilla, the creators of this exciting new series from Boom Studios! Here are the fruits of that chat.

TFAW.com: Phil, you’ve spent a lot of time writing complex, dark stories and The Anchor certainly looks like it’s going down a similar road. What can you tell us about the tone of the book? What’s it going to feel like?

Phil Hester (PH): In the same vein as The Coffin or Deep Sleeper, but with an emphasis on action. In the past most of my protagonists have been everyman types thrown into bizarre situations. In The Anchor, the main character is the bizarre factor thrown into our world. So, while I hope fans of my work find the same kind of thoughtfulness they found in my other books, there will be a lot of balls-out fight scenes. I’d say “teeth rattling” would best describe the feel of the book.

TFAW.com: Little saint, God’s leg-breaker? Is it safe to say that religion will play a key role in The Anchor?

PH: Only obliquely. The Anchor is a Christian monk, but we’ll see in the first issue that he doesn’t even know what a psalm is. His training, we’ll come to find out, is very unorthodox. As far as he knows his powers come from the almighty and that’s good enough for him. We don’t dig much deeper than that. There’s no time for navel gazing in his world or our funnybook. It relates to Christianity about as accurately as The Mighty Thor does to worshipers of Odin, but there’s certainly no effort to demean it at all.

As Chris Walken said in defense of The Prophecy when some interviewer bemoaned the idea of evil angels (paraphrasing): “I’m sure real angels are good. This is a film.”

The Anchor #2 (Cover A)
The Anchor #2 (Cover A)

TFAW.com: Starting a brand-new series and establishing mythos must be very exciting and exhausting.  What can you tell us about our hero and how’d you come up with his name?

PH: The Anchor doesn’t have a full recollection of his own identity in issue #1, so we’ll be learning along with him. I hate to spoil plot points, so I’ll just say that every time The Anchor kills a monster, he gets a little bit of his memory back. Here’s what we know: He’s basically Gandhi’s soul in The Incredible Hulk’s body, his soul is in hell preventing demons from invading Earth, the wounds he suffers in hell show up on his body on Earth, and he’s on a mission to destroy any demonic critters that make it to our world.

The name came from stumbling across the practices of Anchorite monks, who walled themselves up in the foundations of churches to prevent outside influence. That extreme commitment to a cause is both startling and inspirational. What kind of person does that? A person who has rejected the world as he or she sees it and is looking for something else. Also, we’ll see that our main character has other reasons for the nickname when we get a flashback in #2. In the end, it implies a rock-solid base, unwavering strength–that’s our guy!

TFAW.com: Has this idea been simmering for awhile or did inspiration hit you recently?

PH: It’s pretty recent. I cooked it up just for Brian to draw.

TFAW.com: How did you two come to meet and work together?

PH: I’d been an admirer of Brian’s work since I saw it in the Archaia book, The Engineer. I emailed him to buy some pages and we hit it off well enough to work together. I sent Brian my list of 20 or so unpublished proposals and he rejected them all! As I said earlier, my heroes tend to be average Joes, and Brian wanted to draw an iconic character. I was turning all that around in my head when I saw a travel special about anchorite monks at Lindisfarne. He seemed to dig it and away we went.

TFAW.com: Brian, you’re a relative newcomer on the comics scene, where have you been hiding? I mean, your art is pretty incredible. How is it that we haven’t seen a lot more of you?

Brian Churilla (BC): I’ve been around, cutting my teeth for a while now. I started out doing a graphic novel with Fred Van Lente called Watchdogs, went on to do The Engineer for Archaia, Dark Horse Presents, Rex Mundi, Creepy for DH and We Kill Monsters with Red5, to name a few. I’m definitely doing my best work in The Anchor because aesthetically, it’s smack dab in the ol’ wheelhouse, so I feel very inspired.

The Anchor #2 (Cover B)
The Anchor #2 (Cover B)

TFAW.com: How has the character design process gone?  Has The Anchor changed a lot since his initial inception?

BC: There have been some changes for sure, but overall, he’s retained his likeness since his initial design. There are a lot of monsters to design, a lot, and who wouldn’t want to draw monsters all the time?

TFAW.com: Anything else we should expect to find in The Anchor?

PH: I think there will be a more romantic bent to this than anyone might suspect looking at the previews and first issues. Also, I can’t help myself, even though this is billed as a punch-up kind of comic, it will get heavy and/or touching when you least expect it!

TFAW.com: Let’s say I’m a reader who’s on the fence about The Anchor. How are you going to push me over the edge?  What’s your used-car salesman pitch?

PH: There’s an under-served market in comics, and that’s readers craving smart action. We get plenty of dumb action from superhero comics and plenty of smart shoe gazing from lit comix. We’re trying to wrangle the best of both worlds. I think we offer thrills and spills coupled with plenty of emotionally resonant moments and witty dialogue. Imagine Michael Chabon writing play by play for a demolition derby. That’s us.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us about The Anchor, guys. We’re eagerly awaiting October 28th.

For those of you who’d like to see a bit more of the book, check out the First Look. The first issue is available for pre-order now, so hurry and get your copy while you can.

Phil and Brian were also kind enough to give us some signed copies, so be sure to pre-order The Anchor #1 or comment below and we’ll throw your name in the hat to get one of those coveted copies!

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