Wake Up And Smell The Coffee: Sean Phillips, The Uncanny X-Man

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Sean Phillips is the ongoing penciler of Uncanny X-Men!

That’s right. No, it’s not some new announcement from Marvel or a scoop I managed to land… it’s a fact sitting right in front of us. Sean Phillips is the regular artist of Uncanny X-Men and has been for sometime now. Marvel has tried to convince us all otherwise, but I’m not an idiot. Let’s look at the facts, shall we?

Since beginning his run on Uncanny X-Men in May 2002, Joe Casey has gone through no less than 12 artists - Ian Churchill, Sean Phillips, Mel Rubi, Ashley Wood, Tom Raney, Thomas Derenick, Cully Hamner, Matt Smith, Eddie Campbell, Javier Pulido, Ron Garney, and Aaron Lopresti - in just 10 months. That’s the most insane thing I have ever seen. Do I blame Casey? No, of course not. It’s not his job to book artists, or at least ones that can manage 10 issues out of a year… but we’ll get back to that in a moment. Sean Phillips, previously known for his well-received run on Wildcats (vol. 2) with Casey, has worked on 5 issues of Uncanny to date. In comparison, that’s 1 more than Ian Churchill and 3 more than Ron Garney. Sure, Churchill took off after only 3 issues… and again, we’ll get back to that… but in the 5 issues Garney has been scheduled as the new regular penciler, he has managed 2. That’s the same amount Sean Phillips will have recently completed, just 2 out of 5 issues under Garney’s run. But when you look at what Phillips has done in the last year, he’s contributed to 5 out of 9 issues since Churchill’s departure. That means he’s headlined more than half of them, which pretty much places him as the regular artist, no matter how Marvel feels otherwise. Heck, Phillips is almost as consistent as Frank Quitely is on New X-Men, which brings us to our next discussion…

New X-Men has three regular artists. THREE! Not two, but three. By the end of his first year on the book, Quitely will not have close to the initially targeted 8 out of 12 issues a year. Between the two regular “fill-ins”, they will have finished more issues of Morrison’s run than the headlining penciler. At this point, the style of the interior art changes every two issues. They’ve even stopped having Quitely do the covers. The only consistency to the book is its inconsistency! I’m not sure what the editor of these books is trying to prove, but I’m having a hard time believing that the art on the core X-Men titles are taken all that seriously anymore. This kind of activity has never been considered responsible. It not only effects the overall quality of the product, but this dependency on fill-ins and rotating art teams is becoming more and more erratic. I’ve actually lost track of how many times the fill-ins have required fill-ins of their own. This is what has caused shipping dates to hurdle themselves off roofs. Honestly, how many people do they think is enjoying this nonsense?

What is their specific problem anyway, when the art on the rest of the X-line has been relatively calm? Salvador Larroca manages 13 X-Treme X-Men issues a year (including the annual), Igor Kordey hasn’t missed an issue of Cable even while doing other work, and Mike McKone has only needed a few fill-ins on Exiles. This is not an impossible task. Unfortunately, editorial has continued to hire last-minute replacements or entirely new artists ON TOP of the ones they already have. It’s almost as if they’re in fully incapable of making the necessary sacrifices to get the job done, as in hiring/firing the right people. If someone can’t manage more than 6 issues a year, it is time to get someone who can. If you hire a regular fill-in, make sure he can do the job. There’s a reason why writers and artists used to have to work on smaller projects before getting the top titles, you know. They had to prove they could actually manage work under pressure. They just don’t seem interested in taking these necessary steps, instead just rushing right into it. Again, this is one of those instances where the publisher has gotten entirely too comfortable with the current reader base. They forget that there used to be people, new readers especially, who would move on rather quickly when finding such irritations. If Marvel is going to continue these practices once their film franchises pick up (Spider-Man, X2, etc), they’re going to be in for a rude awakening.

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