As a student studying trumpet performance and jazz studies at UNT, Phillip Kennedy Johnson ('03 M.M.) was struck by a Neil Slater quote on the jazz studies board that said "Every day is an audition." And he remembered what wind studies director Eugene Corporon always liked to say, "You never know who you're sitting next to."
Those words constantly reminded Johnson to do his best.
And he's done just that. He is a trumpet player and sergeant first class in the prestigious U.S. Army Field Band of Washington, D.C. He also is a comic book writer and graphic novelist whose book Last Sons of America will be made into a Netflix show starring Peter Dinklage. The book explores two brothers who serve as adoption agents after a biological attack makes it impossible to conceive children in the U.S.
"Every storyteller wants their story told to as many people as possible, and the potential for millions of people to experience Last Sons is a dream come true, especially since it deals with real-world issues I care a lot about," he says.
Johnson learned to read from comic books as a child and began writing comics when his brother Bill Hensley pursued a career as an illustrator. They researched how to make comics and attended conventions, leading Johnson to write Last Sons, which eventually led to writing for Kong: Gods of Skull Island, Aquaman, Planet of the Apes, Batman and more.
His two careers share several similarities.
"Every voice in a combo plays an enormous role in shaping the product, and replacing any one person completely changes the music," Johnson says. "Every creator in a comic's creative team plays an enormous role, and in an ideal creative process, everyone's work is affected by everyone else's work in the group. Both mediums are inherently collaborative, which allows for much more creative and spontaneous work than any artist could create alone."