Farscape #1, page 5Sometimes, the third time really is a charm.
For comics artist Tommy Patterson, tenacity paid off. Not only did he stick with his dream of being an artist for more than 10 years, but it took him three tries to finally get the job as penciler on Farscape, the comic book based on the Sci-Fi television show.
"I'm a newcomer to the industry, but I've been on the message boards and all that for going on 10 years now," Patterson said. "There are a lot of artists that I kind of 'grew up' with on the boards who have gotten jobs, so that kept faith alive. I'm 31, so I'm kind of a late bloomer, but I kept at it because I feel like it's what I'm made to do.
With the help of his friend, Marvel artist Ryan Stegman, Patterson got an agent and a chance to show his work to Boom! Studios as they were looking for someone to work on Farscape.
"I tried out for Farscape, and there were a few things they wanted me to work on, so I did," Patterson said. "And I tried out again. Then there were still a few things they wanted me to work on, so I kept working on it. And finally, I tried out one more time, and they liked what they saw and said I got the job."
Farscape #1, page 6The first thing Patterson did was study episodes of the Farscape TV show. "I'd watched the show a few times here and there, but I wouldn't have considered myself a fan until after I got the job and got caught up on the series," he said. "I've got two people I worked with at the print shop where I used to work, and they were really big-time Farscape fans. So as soon as I got the job, I went to them and got all their DVDs and stuff like that. And I started getting versed in the universe."
The artist said he quickly understood why the show has such a cult following. "I think it's the characters. They're all really likable," he said. "I like Rygel the best. He cracks me up. Crichton's your typical smart-aleck American dude. And then you have Aeryn, who's kind of the exotic female. But I like Rygel."
Farscape #1, page 7Now that he's into drawing the comic, Patterson said he's starting to really enjoy the Hynerians, as the comic explores their world in more detail. "They have a lot more Hynerians in [the comic] because there are no budget constraints," he said. "So you get to learn about those people a little bit more. The way they talk, which you see a lot in issue #2, they have a really funny beat to the way they talk."
Patterson has also gotten the chance to design some of the characters. "I'm so busy right now that it's kind of hard to soak it in and appreciate what I'm getting to do," he said. "Like the planet of Hyneria has never been seen before, and the first page of Issue #2 is a big splash of the Hynerian city. And I got to make all that up. And pretty much all I had to go on for that was looking at Rygel's sled that he scoots around on. And from that, I figured out what the city might look like. And I went with art deco with sci-fi tech in it. And his sled has a lot of hieroglyphic things in it, so I sprinkled that throughout the city too. And of course, water, because they're like frog creatures."
Farscape #1, page 8The fact that the Hynerians are portrayed by puppets on the show gave the artist a bit of a challenge translating that as beings who could be taken seriously in a two-dimensional portrayal, Patterson said.
"There were probably a few corrections on the first issue because there were things they wanted to tweak. Rygel's eyes, I drew really animated, with huge, open eyes. They thought it looked too cat-like, so I had to address that and make those smaller," he said.
The other big challenge for Patterson has been to mimic the movements of the actors' faces while maintaining their likenesses -- something important for a comic book that continues the story of a television show with the same characters.
"It's a little tedious. I don't mind it too much because it's going to make me a stronger artist in the end," he said. "I'll be honest with you: Faces are probably my biggest weakness. That should be one of the first thing that artists are good at, so this has really challenged me. And that's a good thing. When you see issue #3, you'll really see the improvement. My best face in issue #1 is my worst face in issue #3, if that makes any sense."
Farscape #1, page 9Patterson listed the biggest influences on his style as Michael Golden, Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri, Frank Frazetta, and Rob Liefeld, although he said he had to alter his style for the realistic look of Farscape.
"They really wanted the likenesses to match with the TV series. I consider myself more of a traditional superhero comic book artist, so I'm having to fight that quite a bit to keep the guys from getting too buff and the females from having huge comic book eyes and stuff like that," he laughed.
After Patterson's four issues of Farscape are released to complete the first volume of the series, his work will be seen next on the third volume of the title. "They'll start the next story arc with another artist," Patterson said, "then I'm going to come back and do another four issues. There's going to be about a month off after I finish issue #4, then I'll jump in to issues #9-12."
Patterson said the jump ahead to work on future issues will help alleviate the delays the comic experienced at first -- something the artist doesn't think will be a problem anymore. "The first issue got delayed a month because I was a bit of a rookie getting thrown into the fire, but I'm working at it. And the guy who's starting after me is already working on his," he said. "After that, it should be monthly. So the schedule should get on track now."
Now that he's well into the series, the artist hopes to continue to grow and give Farscape the type of art the franchise deserves.
"Even though it's my first book, I'm taking it seriously, and I'm not treating it as a stepping stone or anything like that," Patterson said. "I want the book to be all it can be. I consider this first four issues a little rocky here and there. That's all me, though, because Keith's scripts are great, and the characters are just like the TV show. The Hynerians crack me up; he's got their humor down.
"But while this has been a bit of a rocky start for me, I'm working really hard to make sure I do the best I can for this series," he added. "When I come back for the next four issues, I'm going to take it up even another notch now that I'm past fighting to get the likenesses down, fighting crazy deadlines and gathering up references. I'll have all that in place, and the art will reflect it. Now I'll just get to draw a kick-butt comic book."