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Interview with Silvestre Szilagyi (Moonstone Artist)

With Moonstone’s Phantom issue Silvestre Szilagyi becomes the series new on-going penciler. In the lead up to #16’s release we sat down with Silvester to talk about his career, how he came to draw The Phantom and all manner of important topics…

ChronicleChamber: G’day Silvestre, thanks for joining us here at Starting with issue #16 (out this month), you’ll be taking over as on-going artists for Moonstone’s Phantom series. Although we’ve seen a few samples of your work, you are a fairly new name to Phantom fans. Could you tell us a little about yourself and your previous work?

Silvestre Szilagyi: I’ve been drawing comics since I was thirteen, as an amateur, for fun. Of course, I wrote my own stories that had to do with spy world and DC Silver Age superheroes. When out of high school, at 18, I took samples to the local publishing companies, and they sent me to study comic book art: I landed with Alberto Breccia for two and a half years. Once Lito Fernandez was around looking for somebody to help him and he liked what I was doing on the practices, so he hired me to ink backgrounds, later for some ghost penciling, which brought about my main stream for years; every now and them I go back that way. While ghosting, I began working on my own for Columba publishing (the main company those days here in Argentina). Later I worked for every local publishing company, till they went out of business, around the mid-nineties.

Also, simultaneously, I began working for Italian publishing Eura, later also for Universo, plus some works for Great Britain (IPC) and Basteii of Germany. I did all kinds of stories: romance, detective, adventure, war, science fiction, and historical themes.

I’ve drawn some thirty pages per month (penciling) and inking some twenty of them, as an average for quite a number of years. I’m working much slower now, trying to focus on better story-telling and better general drawing.

I’m married, and have a daughter…and a bunch of feline monsters.

CC: As I mentioned fans have seen some samples of your work already. From those few images alone fans are already comparing your art to the great Phantom artist Sy Barry. Everyone seems very excited for issue #16 and your art looks to be a big factor in that. Are you pleased with the fan reaction to your work thus far?

SS: Let’s hope they like it when they read the whole story.

CC: Fair enough. As I’m sure you are aware The Phantom comic has a huge history and many, many artists have drawn the character. Did you do any research on him or look at any other artist’s work while drawing the Ghost Who Walks?

SS: The Phantom was one of the daily strip characters that had been generously edited by local companies. I know the character and love him from the days when we were receiving Lee Falk/ Wilson McCoy’s Phantom (in black and white!). He was the best at telling the story visually. Some time later, we got the colored edition (from a Chilean publishing) of Gold Key’s Phantom, with the original painted covers and interior art by Bill Lignante. I still love his work quite a lot.

Then came the astounding Lee Falk / Sy Barry, and for years they stole the thunder. I sold the Lignante and McCoy comics…Little by little I got them back. I look upon the three of them. Try to get some shadings and story telling of McCoy, the mood of Lignante, especially his facial expressions, and some general touches, mainly in the black and white, of Sy Barry. (I also admire his inking over Infantino’s Phantom Stranger and early Alex Toth works.)John Carter, local fellow artists, Travis Charest,…I could go on. Let’s add Vermeer, Leonardo’s drawings, most Italian painters from Renaissance, Van Gogh, and Seurat.

Movies: Fohn Ford, Sergio Leone, Phillipe de Brocca, Robert Bresson, Kubrick, John Frankenheimer, early Kurosawa (in Black and white!), Riddley Scott, Eisenstein, D.W.Griffith, William Wyler, some of Clint Eastwood, Carol Reed, Henry Hathaway, John Badham, Fritz Lang, Buster Keaton, TV Invaders (the Quinn Martin show), TV T.H.E. Cat (By Boris Sagal, with Robert Loggia)…Plus Hamilton-Matt Helm novels, Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles and some other early works, Graham Greene, Alistair Mac Lean, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Salgari, Jack London and his dogs and wolves, some old legends (Mahabarata, Illiad, Odyssey, American legends, Scandinavians, mainly mythology, Sumerian pages, well you get the idea.), plus Gardner Fox, John Broome, Otto Binder, Bill Finger…And lots of drawing from real life.

Of course: these are some influences, and then there are those whom I like and enjoy. Sometimes they are the same ones.

CC: Wowzers, that is a lot! It’s a well known fact that every artist puts their own personal touch on a character when they draw them. Are there any aspects of The Phantom’s character, costume or personality you really want to explore with your version of the character?

SS: On drawing a story, I try to get as near to the writer’s conceptions as I can. So, it’ll be up to Mike to see how the Phantom gets on. I like the “classic look” on him.

CC: Moonstone has gone through quite a number of artists on their Phantom series. How long do you plan on staying with the book?

SS: If the readers/ editors/ writers like it, for a long time.

CC: You mentioned you’d read the Phantom comics and strips, but have you seen the 1996 film or any of the cartoons?

SS: I’ve also got some of the Charlton run by Aparo, and seen the 1996 movie on TV. (I didn’t like it very much). All this was long before it crossed my mind to have something to do on The Phantom

CC: Tell us how you landed the role as on going Phantom artists.

SS: Joseph Gentile asked if I’d want to do the Phantom #16 as a fill in, then something happened to Carlos Magno’s schedule and …here I am. Still jumping to the ceiling with joy.

CC: Are there any Phantom projects outside of the on-going series lined up for you such as Legacy Man-Eaters

SS: I don’t know. Maybe Mike Bullock can tell you.

CC: Can you give us any hints, art or story wise, as to what might be coming up after issue #16?

SS: Again, Mike might have the answer.

CC: Other thanThe Phantom, do you have anything in the works?

SS: There is one of Twilight Crusade books already finished (story by Joe Gentile), and when I have some extra time (which I don’t have now) I work with fellow writer Ricardo Ferrari on some stories for Italian Eura. (Most recent one was about Samurais)

CC: Well, that about wraps us up. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us, Silvestre. Are there any final messages you’d like to send to the fans before we close?

SS: Yes. Remember that comics also involve writers, editors, colorists, inkers, letterers, proofreaders, the guys at the print, distribution…and fan pages.

Finally, I hope readers enjoy the book as much as I do while drawing.

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