There and Back Again: The Story of Philbo

I immediately became enthralled by the blue demon, the metal man, and the metal- clawed man that adorned that cover. As I turned the pages, I opened a new world and never looked back. The wondrous writing of Chris Claremont complimented the sequential art storytelling of Byrne like no other team in comics. I was never a kid who enjoyed reading at all, but I dove into that book with an enthusiasm I had never felt for literature, and make no mistake, comics are a form of literature. No other medium mimics the frame-by-frame storytelling of movies like comics, or as people used to refer to them, ‘the funnies’.

Comics never got the respect they deserved and were often looked down upon, but to me, it was a portal to new, exciting worlds. In those books, imagination came to life; fiction became reality. Back then, the thought of creating my comic book was limited to chicken scratch drawings on looseleaf paper sheets stapled together. Becoming a comic book creator and writer was as beyond my reach as my becoming a movie star.

Flash forward thirty years, and my dreams became a reality. My name is Phillip Russertt, and I own Philbo Publishing. I am a writer, character creator/designer/editor of my line of comic books. Before I get into those books, let’s return to what sparked the passionate fire that burns white hot in my soul.

It was December 2020, and a vision of a female figure with a Greek tragedy theater mask came to me out of nowhere. Striking red hair and bladed weapons appeared in my head. I didn’t think much of it then but must have held it in a deep mental recess. Two weeks later, I came down with a life-threatening illness that had me in the hospital for seven days and bedridden for six weeks. I lost 60 lbs. and was on a four- liter oxygen regimen. I lay in that bed night after night, and that vision came to me again. That character would become my flagship title, Tragedy. I overcame my intimidation of writing and wrote issue one over nine hours. I didn’t have much writing experience or idea of how to draft a comic book script, but I didn’t let that stop me.

I handed the script to my wife for her opinion, knowing she would always be honest with me. I was nervous, to say the least, but upon finishing reading the script, my wife breathed a sigh of relief and said, “It’s good!” Tragedy was born, and I never looked back. To date, I have written scripts for twenty-seven issues and produced and published the first five issues to crowdfunding success and great reviews. When Chuck Dixon, Peter David, and Howard Mackie all say something is well-written, I tend to believe them. It’s incredibly humbling to have three legendary writers in this industry respect my work, and it gave me much more confidence in myself and my creative abilities.

You may ask, “Hey Phil, what theheck is Tragedy about?” Tragedy is an ongoing series that tells the tale of young Grace O’Connor. Once the innocent daughter of a mob boss, she now serves as an assassin for that same mafia. Her father kept her from that world, but upon his untimely murder, his loyal right-hand man Seamus adopted Grace. At seventeen, Grace was sent away to train for two years with a military tactician, followed by a ten-year pilgrimage to China, parts unknown, to train in martial arts. Chapter One picks up a year after Grace’s return to Seamus to act as his primary assassin and bodyguard.

Rival mafias, assassins, metahumans, and mystical beings all pose threats to Grace and the world she lives in. If you like ‘Big Trouble in Little China,’ ‘Kill Bill,’ and ‘The Boondock Saints’, you will love Tragedy. I based Grace on my wife. I have never met a woman who is confident in their strength and beauty; my wife is no different. She was my inspiration to create a character who is a woman on a journey to find herself. Grace O’Connor is no different than all of us in the sense that she faces a life she doesn’t want while struggling with her inner demons.

A true hero doesn’t have things come easy and wants to quit but doesn’t. They stand in the face of adversity and ask the gods what else they can throw at them. Tragedy became an instant success on Kickstarter with over 220 backers and over ten thousand dollars.

Writing sparked something in me, and I had many new story ideas. The thought of them only being in my head was torture, so I created Philbo Publishing and produced a line of comic books with different genres for all readers to enjoy.

As my creative juices flowed more and more, I started writing The Dynamics, a comic book that revolves around a family of super- powered people in the vein of ‘The Incredibles’ and ‘Power Pack.’ This family-friendly, all-ages book has humor, heart, and action like a comic book should. The title Dynamics refers to the intricate nuances of familial relationships and the fact that all characters wield dynamic abilities. This book is based on my family but with superpowers. It captures my relationship with my wife and kids while exploring my youngest’s feisty personality and my oldest daughter’s cerebral approach to situations. They always say to write from what you know, and I always do.

From there, I needed some catharsis and wrote a collection of seven short stories titled The Devil Is in the Details. These short stories deal with the spirituality, theology, and internal crises many of us struggle with daily. The book is a nice blend of science fiction, fantasy, and spirituality. It explores the basic concepts of good and evil while addressing family, faith, and growing old in a brutal world without answers. There is a lot of me in this book. As I approached fifty years old, I had many questions about the abovementioned topics. I started writing stories that reflected my inquiries and the possible answers that we don’t often consider. The first of the stories is Withered, which I continued as a comic book series with issue one successfully crowdfunding in March of 2023.

Withered is a tale of angels and demons with a twist never seen before. If you’ve wondered why God allows the world to be so cruel and challenging, this book answers that question. Following the protagonist, Joshua Brightson, we discover that God isn’t in charge. Time isn’t a construct of the human mind or a measurement. It is an evil yet omnipotent being that waged a great war on God and his angels and won. Time holds God imprisoned, and only three of the seven archangels remain. Satan, the first of the fallen, does the bidding of that which shall never be satiated (Time) and bides his time as a lackey while he plots and plans as only the great deceiver can. Joshua, now an angel as part of Archangel Michael’s recruitment campaign, adjusts to his new “life” while missing his earthly family and facing real demons. Another great war is coming, and the fate of humanity and all that is good is at stake.

I have always been intrigued by the basic premise of good and evil, and even though there is a gray area, sometimes it is black and white. The best villains, though, are the ones who are morally gray. We may disagree with their methods, but we understand their reasons. Though it is not a religious work, it does explore many theological themes as well as faith, hope, and spirituality.

While we are on the demon subject, let’s talk about the new horror anthology magazine Diary of Dread. I enjoy the occasional horror stories but was never deeply interested in them. One day, a horror story with a great twist came to mind, and I decided to write it with the thought of it being a one-shot. I was scrolling through a streaming service and ran across the program ‘Creepshow’, and new story ideas flooded my brain. Diary of Dread was born. This horror magazine contains five stories, including one ten-page tale, reminiscent of the old EC comics like ‘The Vault of Horror’ and ‘Tales from the Crypt.’ There will be a full-color and a black-and-white version for true horror fans. The beta readers all said that I either was a closet psycho or had an affinity for horror storytelling. Which it is, is still up for debate. Look for this annual publication’s premier as it launches on Kickstarter on Halloween 2023!!

Most independent comic books don’t make it to a fifth issue because of budgets, minimal fan support, and lack of marketing. Philbo Publishing has published five issues of Tragedy, a notable landmark in my life. As I had said, this was an unheard-of dream for nine-year- old me. Here I am, making it happen and thriving as a special thanks to the supporters of Tragedy. As a personal celebration, I have launched a collected volume with much additional content that fans will find fun and exciting. The Tragedy trade paperback is a 220-page compiled book with added content. There is also a 280-page edition with the new Tragedy Manga issue #1. We are very excited for this launch and want to celebrate with everyone.

I decided to produce a collected volume of our issues to introduce people to the extraordinary tales available through us. Philbo Publishing Presents collects Tragedy #1, Dynamics #1, and Withered #1 all in one volume for those looking to jump on board. Our publishing company hires the best artists in the indie community and the biggest names in the industry. We have covered Whilce Portacio, Bill Sienkiewicz, Chris Bachalo, David Mack, Tyler Kirkham, and many more.

Philbo Publishing is just starting, and many new titles are scheduled for production. Poppa, Arcane Syndicate, Displaced, Shaman, Diary of Dread Volume Two, Tragedy Villain One Shots, and more are coming. We also accept submissions from creators of their own IPs and publish upon acceptance. Some titles like Knight, Fumigator, and Apollo are also part of the fantastic Philbo lineup. The company is growing, and soon, we will have a distribution deal through Diamond and possibly Lunar so that we may be in comic stores across the country. Our goal is to become international with distribution and produce a universe of titles that connect as well as alternate reality stories and various stand-alone stories. Near and dear to my heart is a 110-page graphic novel I wrote called Poppa. This story is a tribute to a person in my life dealing with a life-threatening illness. This person has requested that I complete the book and get it in his hands while it’s still possible, and I hope to deliver.

You may wonder why the name “Philbo”? It’s simple. I am a huge “Lord of the Rings” fan with large furry feet, so my wife lovingly refers to me as Philbo. If you want comic books with no agenda other than to entertain, stories with characters you can relate to and cheer for, and tales told with heart and the passion of a forty-two-year comic book fan, then we are the publisher for you. We won’t tell you how great we are. We will just challenge you to try our books and tell us yourself. You can find us, as well as all our publications at www.philboentertainment.com and Philbo Publishing on FB and @philbo_ publishing on Instagram.

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