Continuing our occasional interview series, today we're talking to Chet Phillips, who has just completed "Kaiju Baseball," an homage to Japanese Menko cards of the 1960s and the kaiju monster demons from the worlds of Godzilla and Ultraman.
The Baseball Card Blog: Tell us a little about your background as an artist.
Chet Phillips: With a BFA in painting and drawing, I worked as a commercial illustration with traditional tools for a decade. Clients included ad agencies, design firms, publishers and corporations. In 1992 I purchased my first Mac and switched to digital art, using the natural media software program Painter (I still use it to this day). A highlight for my commercial work came in 2000 when I was hired by Warner Brothers to illustrate 100+ pieces for the Harry Potter merchandising style guide.
In the late 90s, I began a new chapter in my career, creating my own merchandise to sell online. It started with a handful of cigarette card–inspired sets of monkeys as WWI generals, steampunk monkeys and dogs and cats as famous authors, artist and musicians. I also have produced a number of limited-edition books, hand-bound by my wife (she's a professional bookbinder). I still do occasional commercial jobs, but spend the bulk of my time creating my own work for online sales, conventions and art galleries.
BBC Blog: Did you collect baseball cards as a kid? Or do you still collect?
CP: I did a little baseball card collecting when I was young, but gravitated more towards collecting comic book type cards. I was a big fan of Norman Saunders and collected his Batman series. I was never able to collect the entire original Mars Attacks! set, but did a trade with a schoolmate once for a dozen or so that I still treasure to this day.
BBC Blog: What led you to kaiju, baseball, and Menko?
CP: I've always loved the look and feel of Japanese printmaking. Over the last two to three years I've explored creating my own version of artwork with a similar feel. This series includes an alphabet book of kaiju monsters of my own design titled "Land of Kaiju," and a series that placed pop culture characters engaging in childhood activities, each with their own hiaju poem ("Childhood"). "Kaiju Baseball" was inspired by the look and feel of vintage Menko baseball cards with a parody mashup of kaiju monsters from the Godzilla and Ultraman universes.
BBC Blog: It's interesting that you chose to create a stand-alone baseball card set as part of this project. Did you have the intention to create a card set all along? Or was it borne out of the process of creating the art?
CP: This was intended to be a card set from the outset. Unlike past sets that I've created, I decided to take the idea further and produce an 18 x 24 poster of the group and also produce a cloisonné enamel pin.
The set is divided into four teams that I devised, each with nine players. The set also includes four team cards for a total of 40 cards. Each card includes the team name, character name, team number and field position on the front in Japanese with the portrait. On the reverse I've included the same info in english along with a few basis stats.
The card backs include a symbols for rock, paper and scissors as well as a fighting number system (for use like the children's card game War). Cards were professionally printed on sturdy 100-lb premium uncoated card stock. Each set comes in a green handcrafted Japanese-styled paper portfolio. The Japanese characters for the words "kaiju baseball" are stamped in gold foil on each label.
BBC Blog: What's your next project?
CP: With our 6th year of exhibiting at San Diego's International Comic Con coming up next month, I'm putting the finishing touches on a book of characters and stories of my own invention that will be in the tradition of American tall tales. This, along with the new card sets, posters and pins will be available at my Small Press table (O-01, across from Oni Press.)
Check out Chet's Etsy shop if you're interested in purchasing the set or viewing more of his great stuff.