Aric Hutfles, our featured comic artist, has drawn comics pretty much all his life and it is his dream to break into the comics business. Let's hear about his work in his own words ...
I actually submitted school reports in comic format. Almost all of the comics I read are sci-fi or action/adventure. I like sci-fi in all formats, movies, TV, novels, and comics is just another format for enjoying sci-fi.Aric's work represents one of the reasons for people to create, not just fan comics, but fan productions in general. That question, why would someone do something and then give it away, is one that has occupied much of my attention over the years. I mean, what drives people to go to the lengths they do to create something that, in the case of a fan film, could cost them thousands of dollars and years of their spare time?
ST:TNG Damaged was pretty much just an excuse to draw the Borg. It is also a comic version of a 'bottle show.' A bottle show is an episode that takes place mainly on the ship to save budget by only filming on standing sets. Damaged is the first comic I have written myself. It attempts to set up why the crew would blindly follow Picard, aka "Captain Ahab," in ST: First Contact in a hopeless battle against the Borg.
For Damaged, I used very clean, tight penciled line art and did not ink over it. I computer colored the cover using Adobe Photoshop. With the story pages, I used watercolor paints for most of the color with a few computer enhancements on pages 4 and 7. I made a model sheet for each of the Borg (which I will post later) so that the reader will hopefully be able to tell which Borg is which throughout the story.
"Fame and fortune"? Fame ...well, perhaps. It takes real guts, talent and determination to create something and put it on the internet for the world to see, so there's nothing wrong with someone expecting to be congratulated for what they have done, but fortune? Forget it! For the most part, fan productions are, as Rob Caves of Areakt productions wryly described fan film making, "a very expensive hobby". People do it because they enjoy doing it, they have a skill or talent that they want to exercise and the end product is something that they want to share.
However, there is no denying that the process of exercising talents acts - like any exercise - to strengthen the creative muscles. You want to be a concert pianist? Practice the piano every day! If you want to be a comic book artist you have to practice your craft just the same. Creating your own fan comic is just one of the ways for an artist to learn, not just the craft of drawing but the business of getting the comic from their head to their audience. Aric wrote the story, sketched and composited every page, then coloured and lettered every page. The House of L'Stok is proud to be able to help Aric to showcase his work.
He deserves to be congratulated and therein lies the motivation for many professional and semi-professional people to be involved in fan productions: the building of a portfolio, building contacts within the fan community, creating or maintaining a public & professional profile. One could be cynical and point out that YOU, the fan base, are the hip-pocket from which all the prosperity in professional production stems from. Fan productions, to my mind at least, represent a quite legitimate avenue for professionals and would-be professionals to connect with their audience, their 'target demographic' if you want to put it into the language of the promoter.
Whilst fan productions such as this might act as a weather vane to show in which direction the fans interests lie, they are not in competition with professional productions. The makers and consumers of fan productions are fans, they are the consumers, commentators and critics of the professional media that is offered to them. Aric, for example, is a comic collector and contributes on the subject to fan forums.
There are still a variety of Star Trek comics which are currently licensed by CBS / Paramount (see Mark Martinez' website for an exhaustive survey of all commercial Star Trek comics). The flagship is the IDW line of Star Trek comics, which has had a successful first year with Star Trek: Year Four, Star Trek: The Next Generation: Intelligence Gathering, Klingons: Blood Will Tell and the fan-favorite Alien Spotlight one-shots. The coming year looks even better with the recent news that in March, IDW will premiere a new series that celebrates the 10th anniversary of Peter David's ST: New Frontier saga in comic book format. This is followed in April, by DC Fontana's new series of ST: Year Four which kicks off with a sequel to the Enterprise Incident. In May, ST: Assignment Earth brings us the spin-off series that never was - the story of Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln - from the pen of comics legend, John Byrne. Finally in June, ST: Mirror Images continues the saga of the Mirror Universe of the TOS era, to be followed up later in the year with a series that focuses on the MU and The Next Generation crew.
For those who prefer their comics Manga style, TokyoPop has produced two volumes of stories, ironically the first, Shinsei Shinsei, features artwork by E. J. Su, one of the main artist for The Transformers, published by IDW. The second, Kakan ni Shinkou, has a story written by Wil Wheaton
The Trek Life, by David Reddick, is the official fan comic strip, commissioned for Startrek.com in July 2005 and run in The Star Trek Magazine by Titan and IDW's Star Trek comics. It is about Trek Fandom and Mr. Reddick has said that the main character, uber-fan Carl, is based on himself. Things look good for him at the moment with his strip currently still running on Startrek.com, not withstanding their current staffing problems, plus a new feature starting on the Roddenberry.com site - Gene's Journal!Comics hold a fascination for all of us - we've all, at some point doodled a comic or a caricature. I wonder how many school exercise books have been filled, like David Berner's "Don't Spok the Afflicted", or Andrew Looney's 2001 BC: A Spam Oddesy, with adolescent humour or space opera? Most fan comics are never released to the general public, they are only seen by close friends and relations or are made as art samples to show publishers. Many of them are made by artists who work in other fields, as graphic designers, editors, software engineers for example.
The ones that we do see cover a wide range of media and styles. Humour, as you would expect, plays an important part in fan comics. Some, like "The Worst Wing" by Dermot O'Connor, are political satires but, for the most part, the parody is aimed more at the quirks of the characters and the silliness of some of the plot-holes. Sev Trek is a well-known example by John & Wendy Cook which has expanded into Sev Wars, Fraud of the Rings, Sevylon 5, Hairy Plopper, Bluffy, etc. Bet you'll never guess who they're parodies of!
Styles range from the action/adventure TAScomics of Kail Tescar that are drawn in the style of The Animated Series, through the Manga style "USS Tamerlane" and "Enterprise Oddities", to the serial comic strips of STS: The Forgotten Frontier, Trek Wars, ST: Phoenix-X,
Not all comics are hand-drawn, some are screenshots of machinima or game play, like "Elite Farce" by Laz Rojas. Laz has created a whole Original Series starbase, Starbase 11 as featured in "Courtmartial" and "The Menagerie", as a mod for Elite Force II game - a ready made screen set for either a screenshot style web comic or a machinima! Others are photomanipulations
which are retouched graphics like "Final Leap" and "K'Pinky and the Brain" which gets it's graphics from a variety of sources including action figures!
The majority of comics, however, are either created by hand or by computer. Now when I say 'by computer' I don't mean that there is a program you can buy that will create the graphic for you - it still takes skill and talent, just a different kind of skill with different tools. Most, such as our featured comic artist, Aric, favour a combination of the two.
For more of Aric's work check out his ComicSpace pages or his DeviantArt account.