Phil Foglio - Cartoonist Extraordinaire
I try not to let my obsessions get the better of me, but sometimes I slip up, and before I know it I'm an avid collector of a particular person's work or a genre. In my past, I have collected Dungeons & Dragons rule books and modules, Dragonlance Novels, Apple ][ software and frogs. Current obsessions are material related to The KLF, and the cartoon works of Phil Foglio.
So who is Phil? Hey, he's just this guy, y'know? But he draws a pretty funky cartoon, and has a wicked sense of humour. I'm not the only person to believe he's pretty special, since he won the Hugo Award for the best Fan Artist in 1977 and 1978. (He then stopped entering, to give other artists a go!)
(Incidentally, Foglio is pronounced "Foal-ee-oh", [or Fō´lē-ō´, if your browser can handle the text encoding.] It's Italian. OK?)
I first became aware of his work through his What's New? (with Phil & Dixie!) strip in Dragon Magazine. There was no doubt about it, I was exactly his target demographic: over-sexed teenage role-playing freak. Whenever a new issue arrived in the post I always turned to the back of the magazine to read What's New before I did anything else.
A few years later, I got to read the Starblaze editions of his Myth Adventures and Buck Godot comics. (Starblaze unfortunately ceased trading around this time, and so I wasn't able to pick up Volume 2 of Myth Adventures until years later.) I had also read the Myth books by Robert Asprin and really enjoyed them, but I have to say, I can still re-read Phil's comic today and really enjoy it, whereas if I re-read Robert's books, I feel like I'm a little bit too old for them.
Buck Godot was/is an excellent series too. Zap Gun for Hire and PSmIth are incredibly "complete" pieces of work. Phil doesn't just write a comic, he creates a whole world then writes a comic story in that world. His characters are never one dimensional, and you always feel like there's a whole history that has been worked out for each and every one of them.
Next (for me) came the book Illegal Aliens which he co-wrote with Nick Pollotta; a grand sci-fi comedy which I will never tire of re-reading. (Nor will some of my friends. Thankfully they're managing to track down copies of their own in second hand stores so my copy won't get too much more worn. You can only buy it second hand because TSR Books never did a reprint as far as I know.1 Phil does have a knack for making his stuff collectable in this manner.) It was while reading Illegal Aliens that I think I went from somebody who enjoyed Phil's work, to being a fan. (That's a big step in my books.) One thing I particularly liked about this book was that for the first time I had ever come across an American (or at least, a pair of Americans) that were able to produce a non-clichéd Australian character. There was no overdone accent, no references to the sheep station in the Outback where they grew up, just a hard-nosed, efficient, female officer who happened to be Australian. (After putting up with so many terrible American Sit-Com "Down Under Specials" over the years, this is a big thing, believe me!)
Things were quiet for a while then. I managed to find some of his old stuff in Comic stores around Sydney, like Stanley and his Monster, Angel and the Ape, and the original black-and-white Myth Adventures, but this soon dried up, and there wasn't much new coming out (This happens a lot with Phil. He's not a prolific creator of his product. He takes time and care to produce stuff.2), and what was coming out was difficult to get hold of in Australia. [Actually, now I think about it, he was probably just busy doing art for Magic: The Gathering, which I just wasn't into.]
But eventually came the Studio Foglio web site (and its adult equivalent, XXXenophile Online), and eBay, to really allow me to get into collecting his stuff. Which I did, much to the distress of my bank balance. (Actually, it's not that bad.) And here's what I've ended up with:
My most prized Foglio work to date is a small bit of original art I managed to grab off eBay. I got up at 4 in the morning to be on-line while the bidding closed, and lucky I was because it was fast and furious there at the end. It's a colour rough that Phil did of a Dragon Magazine cover that never got commissioned. Here it is in all it's glory. (Well, as much glory as a 50k JPEG can provide.)
Now, in 2001, Phil has started a brand new comic book series, Girl Genius. Yay! I get to have my fix every other month!
Now if he'd just visit Australia at some point...8/8/2001: Well, my condition continues to get worse... Here's the latest addition to my Foglio Portfolio:
Yup, a full-sized piece of original art. I'll have to get it framed and take a better photo though.
23/10/2001: I still can't control myself! Studio Foglio had a half-price sale and I just had to grab a piece that I had been eying off for quite a while. It's another Buck Godot cover, and I just had to have it because of the wonderful detail in all the background faces, not to mention that every home needs a big Winslow on their wall!
Now all I need to do is save enough money to be able to afford a house so I've got somewhere to hang my wonderful purchases!
Footnote 1: This is no longer true. Nick Pollotta was very keen to see his work return to print, and so you can now buy brand new copies from Wildside Press. Unfortunately, this version no longer has Phil's interior illustrations, but it's still a ripsnorter of a good read.
Footnote 2: This is also beginning to change and Phil is producing much more stuff these days. I feel the reason is either getting married to Kaja and having her organise/assist/nag him, or having kids and Phil looking ahead to the expense of college funds and wot-not!