I feel like I say often "so and so is a really cool person" when referring to comic creators, but the lovely truth is I've had the good fortune to work with and befriend more excellent folks in this business than jerks.
That said, I hope it still has appropriate impact when I say Phil Jimenez is a really cool person. Seriously: really cool.
I have great relationships with a lot of creators, but Phil is a guy I can truly say is my friend. I've actually hung out at his apartment and grabbed dinner in the city with him, so that's the litmus test right there. Heck, my wife complains his Facebook feed takes over her page, so that's friendship.
It's always neat when I get to meet and in some cases get to know artists and writers whose work I remember from my childhood, and such is the case with Phil (and I don't feel bad saying that because the handsome devil doesn't age). I totally remember him as the guy who used to do the awesome fill-ins on Robin for Tom Grummett and who crammed a zillion people into that issue of Guy Gardner: Warrior where Guy opened the bar. Before I had any idea who George Perez or even Jack Kirby was, I thought Phil Jimenez had invented the crowd scene, and if he didn't, well, he packed so much detail into his that he may as well have.
While I can't quite remember how I first met Phil voice-to-voice and then face-to-face, I'm sure it was around Infinite Crisis time, as that was one of the first big deals I was intimately involved with covering for Wizard; most likely Geoff Johns made the introduction.
What I do remember was how taken aback I was by not only how nice Phil was, but how inquisitive he was and how he genuinely seemed to want your opinion on everything. He's for real a guy who just loves soaking up what everybody thinks about everything and applying it to what he does; nobody's take doesn't matter to him.
Phil is also ridiculously smart and knowledgable on just about everything, from comics to literature to architecture to theater to medical oddities (those last two comes from Wizard World Philadelphia 2006, during which Phil took me, Megan, Sam and TJ out to an amazing Italian lunch and was the life of the party, seamlessly switching from talking Wonder Woman and zombies with TJ to musicals with Megan; at the end of the meal, he recommended the girls check out an exhibit on medical oddities at the Mutter Museum because they were bored). He can regale you on pretty much any topic for as long as you've got to listen. I've had awesome conversations for hours with Phil on comics, but I'm pretty sure if I called him to talk European history he'd still manage to hold both our sides of the exchange.
It was around early 2007 or so that Phil called me very excited about an idea he had for a Wizard feature. Since Infinite Crisis had wrapped, he had been laying low a bit, recuperating from that epic, doing a gorgeous issue of 52 now and again and looking for his next project. Since he had not settled on said project quite yet, he told me he wanted his fans to do it for him.
As reality shows were (and are) all the rage, Phil wanted to run via Wizard one of his own after a fashion in which the readers helped him select what comic he should draw next over the course of several months. He had thought a lot about it, saying he could come up with a list of characters he was interested in, do up sketches, we publish them, then fans respond with which they liked best. Each month, we eliminate a project or two, and he does more sketched of the remaining characters; wash, rinse, repeat. There would also be an opportunity for folks to suggest their own ideas (though I think that would just be a courtesy; Phil wasn't going to completely surrender his professional destiny and end up drawing Amethyst or something...though as I type that I realize Phil would probably love to draw Amethyst).
I don't remember any of the characters from his initial list other than Green Arrow, who I believe was his example, so maybe he really was pulling for that one.
I loved the idea and also mentioned that we were trying to get some more heat on our web site at the time, so perhaps we could post more frequent updates there, including each sketch, selected reader feedback, polls, and maybe even some video with Phil. He was game for playing around with the format and finding what worked best.
My editors were also keen on the idea, we just had to cross some T's and dot some I's from a legal perspective to make sure it was all kosher. Unfortunately, when you're talking about something as ambitious as what we were, that kind of due diligence takes time, and of course Phil needed to work. Still, I thought we could make it work.
Why not? Because somebody gave Phil a job first.
It's a shame there was so much manuevering necessary to get the pieces in place for this, because I think it not only would have been real fun not to mention awesome to see Phil drawing all these characters, but also because you'd have virtually a stone cold lock for a hit book off the "fan-selected" angle, I figured.
It didn't work out, but Phil is still awesome; he owes me a Nova sketch though.