Ulises Farinas Catches ‘Em All Just In Morphin Time For ‘Gamma’ [Interview]
For the past few months, Dark Horse Presents has been distilling, well, everything I like about everything. One of our favorite artists (and occasional CA commissioned talent) Ulises Farinas and his co-writer Erick C. Freitas have fused aspects of the Power Rangers, Pokémon, classic kaiju films and iconic toy lines into a story about one man’s fall from grace and… potential redemption? Maybe?
In the hilarious, awesome and hilariously awesome world of Gamma, a washed-up trainer called Dusty (a nod to Pokémon protagonist, Ash) takes punches for cash at a bar as profitable penance for turning his back on a planet overrun by monsters. Rather than slink back to the company of his ashamed wife to lick his daily wounds, Dusty continues to descend further and further into drunkenness and depravity until a shot at getting laid presents itself. Will Dusty triumph over his cowardly past and return to a life of something resembling heroism in Dark Horse Presents #20 on January 23? We got a hold of Farinas to find out.
ComicsAlliance: How did your initial inspiration for Gamma come about and at what point did you feel like you were on to something special?
Ulises Farinas: Gamma is an idea that was probably created when i was in 5th grade. I used to watch Power Rangers and Pokémon and Masked Rider, and a lot of those shows seemed to present more questions than they answered. Like what exactly do Pokémon eat (other Pokémon)? Why doesn’t Rita Repulsa just send all her monsters at once? It’d bug me so much, that I decided I’d just make a story to answer those questions. The monsters took over, the world ended, and all our plucky teen heroes became old losers.
CA: Erick C. Freitas was your co-writer on Gamma. Can you tell us a little about your relationship and your collaboration process on this story?
UF: Erick, i’ve known since almost as long ago as 5th grade. We’ve been friends since 7th grade, and constantly bounce ideas back and forth. We have some big projects starting in 2013, which I’m really excited to work on.
Erick and I usually yell at each other, insult each other’s ideas, and try to one up each other, until one of us finds something pretty funny or interesting. It’s pretty adversarial, haha. But generally, one of us will come up with a premise, and the other usually approves or says “That is stupid”, and then we figure out the nitty gritty
of how the plot will actually break down. He then writes the bulk of the script, we make small changes, and then i draw them.
CA: You wear your sources of inspiration on your sleeve in Gamma, while integrating them into an original narrative where they’re not just loud pop culture references. How did you work to strike a balance between creating a brand new story with its own voice and giving sufficient nods to the fiction it was informed by?
UF: I think one of the first things a fan wants to do, when they really love a show or something, is tell their own stories with those characters or in that setting. But i wanted to go beyond just fan fiction, because when you’re a fan for an even longer time, you can make fun of it. There are some really uncomfortable things in Pokémon, like the strange slave-master relationship that is depicted as DEEP FRIENDSHIP. Or how Power Rangers, are fundamentally incompetent. The Rangers have massive weapons of destruction, know the location of their enemies, but go to school all day and are SHOCKED when they are attacked weekly.
I love it all, just how silly it is. And so the main character, Dusty, is silly and incompetent and a pervert.
CA: Are there any specific memories from your youth that helped shape the way you presented the spectacular elements of Gamma‘s world? What was your relationship with stuff like Pokémon, The Power Rangers and Lego like as a kid and what’s it like now?
UF: I wasn’t allowed to watch Power Rangers as a kid. So I’d stand in the doorway, and listen to my brother watching it from my room. I would describe the different Pokémon to my father, as he just nodded indifferently. For me, there was such amazing spectacle in those shows, that no matter how many times i saw the same transformation sequences, i was floored. If the world was to end, I’d want it destroyed by Megazords and kaiju.
I think storytelling is how i play now. When i was younger I’d pretend to be a ranger, or play with Legos. But now i write stories about them for fun. It’s all pretend in the end.
CA: What was your research process like for Gamma? Did you discover or perhaps rediscover anything especially cool while working on the story?
UF: I rewatched Mighty Morphin Power Rangers through Turbo, Zeo, Alien Rangers, and In Space. Those shows are incredibly repetitive, and it’s interesting to realize that kids absorb stories in completely different ways than adults. I never even noticed that in some later episodes, three characters were only shown in long distance shots and had voices poorly dubbed in because they had already left the show.
CA: You’re known for massive crowd illustrations and infusing a ton of detail into your wider shots and panels. What makes you gravitate toward these kind of images? Are there any artists you find particularly inspiring with similar approaches (Martin Hanford, Geof Darrow)?
UF: For Gamma, i actually looked at a lot of the game art for the 1st generation Pokémon games. They have a simplicity and hand-craftedness that is missing from the newer series. For inspiration, i grab things from all over. I actually keep a tumblr, that i use specifically as my ‘cheat sheet’. When drawing lots of detail, i try to either use books that provide lots of reference images or I mentally walk through locations and try to picture all the activities that would go on there. Knowing how something works fills in all the blank spots.
CA: You handled every aspect of Gamma‘s creation (co-writing, pencils, inks, colors, lettering). What’s your favorite part of the comics-making process? Do you like having control over every aspect of a comic or are you interested in further collaborations down the road?
UF: Erick and I were childhood collaborators, so we’ll be writing together for a long time. On the art side of things, i find the separation of those tasks to be difficult. My pencils can be very loose. If I’m drawing a huge explosion or something, i just indicate with a scribble where it’ll go. But I’m definitely a bit of a control freak, and i feel a lot of times i gotta put on my ‘collaborating pants’ to work well with others, haha.
Coloring is something I’m not as excited about, but I’ve had trouble finding colorists that i fit well with. Owen Gieni on Glory by Joe Keatinge & Ross Campbell was pretty great though.
CA: What do you think your biggest challenge was while working on Gamma and how did you surmount it?
UF: Hmmmmmmmmm…I think coloring actually. I’m happy how it came out, but it’s definitely where I’m slowest and least confident. But by the last issue, i was coloring almost as fast as i ink, so it definitely was a crash course in coloring a full issue.
CA: The first Gamma story is 24 pages long total, split up into 8-page installments over the course of three issues of Dark Horse Presents that were spaced about a month apart. How did you vibe with the rhythm of the Gamma workload and release schedule compared to other projects you’ve worked on?
UF: I tend to work 12 hours a day or so, and it was actually quite useful to just do 8 pages per month, in addition to my other comics. It helps me to be able to switch gears to different things, and stay fresh.
CA: Speaking of other projects, what can you tell us about your other projects coming out in 2013?
UF: Currently, i have a handful of unannounced books, that I’m super excited for. But one that has been announced, is Catalyst: Agents of Change, written by Joe Casey and also drawn by Paul Maybury and Dan McDaid. That is going to be a really fun and goofy book. Me and Erick are writing a longer series, and a bunch of smaller little things, so I’m looking to bring more focus to writing in addition to drawing, in the next year.
It seems that 2013 will be the busiest year, so far, in my life, and I’m really grateful for that.
CA: Do you have any more stories planned for Dusty or the wider Gamma-verse? What can fans do to make sure they see more at Dark Horse?
UF: I really hope to show the ongoing morally inept adventures of Dusty in Gamma. I have some pretty fun plans involving a con artist and a wish-granting Holysaurus Rex.
If fans want to see more Gamma, they should go out and buy at least 20 copies of Dark Horse Presents #18, #19 and #20. And take pictures of these giant piles and tweet them to Dark Horse. I’m sure that would work. But really, go buy it and tell everyone you like it.
You can read an excerpt of four pages from Dark Horse Presents #19’s Gamma chapter below.