Interview: Ulises Farinas

Ulises Farinas

Ulises Farinas is an artist you’ll want to know. Besides contributing the above impressive graphic to a recent issue of Wired magazine, he’s been working on webcomics for some time, chiefly contributing to Dean Haspiel’s ACT-I-VATE site. Not too long ago he made his way into the world of monthly books, pencilling a fill-in issue for the DC Comics/Vertigo suspense series House of Mystery. After that, IDW Publishing came calling, and Farinas ended up lending his considerable talents to the Dan Abnett/Andy Lanning-penned Transformers miniseries Heart of Darkness, a psychological sci-fi journey that explores the wicked character of Galvatron like never before. Nerdy Nothings spoke with Ulises about breaking into the industry, his early experiences with Transformers fandom, and why some readers need to chill.

Other than House of Mystery #34, Transformers: Heart of Darkness is your first monthly comics gig. How’d you get into comics illustrating?

I’ve been drawing cartoons as far back as I can remember. In fact, my first drawing predates my memory, so in a sense, I have prehistoric drawings in my life. I’ve been pursuing a career in comics for about six years, and I’m intensely proud that my breakout comic was Transformers.

How did you come to be hooked up with IDW Publishing and the Transformers brand in particular?

Don’t ever underutilize the submissions page on comic publisher websites. It often feels like you’re just sending your work into an abyss, but sometimes you do get a response back. In this case, I did.

Have you been a fan of the property for long?

I’ve loved Transformers ever since I was a kid. I grew up poor, so my first toys were broken Transformers my father found in the garbage. I’d still transform them the best I could and consider them alternate-alternate forms. Transformers are the best 2-for-1 deal in comics and in toys.

Let’s talk about that impressive two-page spread in Heart of Darkness #2 where Galvatron sees visions of alternate worlds. It’s an incredibly fun, awesome piece of art. In that piece one can spy Megatron, the Galvatron toy, what seems to be Leonard Nimoy, some other human, etc. What are some of the Easter eggs in there? How did you come up with that piece?

The other human is actually Frank Welker, whose voice talents are responsible for bringing a lot of the Transformers to life on the old cartoon. The other heads and figures are actually different versions of Megatron and Galvatron, and although in the IDW universe they’re unrelated I thought of the Heart of Darkness as a nexus point where all these realities exist at once. I even included a toy package, because I imagine there must be a reality where Transformers only exist as toys and characters in movies, comics and TV shows… certainly not our reality.

What are some of your artistic influences in regards to both Transformers and the comic medium in general?

I decided to go with a new look for the Heart of Darkness comic, one that showcased the evil of the Decepticons physically. I constructed them with more open chests, skeleton-like, and with gritty joints. The Autobots, being more stand-up guys, are more solid and traditional in their appearance. I like the Transformers to look robotic, and though the Michael Bay look has been criticized often, praise must be given for making the robots look REAL. Mechanical creatures would appear more insectoid than humanoid, and that was an approach I brought to Galvatron and his army.

In the comics medium I’ve been influenced by work all over the map. Primarily Geof Darrow, Seth Fisher, and Moebius are my top three favorite artists, but I also enjoy the work of John Kirby (Discworld) and Richard Scarry.

I think a lot of folks are visually drawn to Transformers from an early age, probably because of the pure geometry of their character designs. Are there any kind of unique challenges to drawing these “robots in disguise” that you wouldn’t face in most of your other work?

Definitely. There’s a sort of logical inconsistency with drawing Transformers. Mainly, how do they move their face if it’s made of metal? For me, I resolved this by reasoning that they must have some sort of metallic “skin” in some places. Other things, like showing flexible anatomical positions, also pose a challenge, and must be resolved while designing their forms.

Sometimes, though, you gotta break your own rule just to get the cool pose.

Do you have a favorite Transformers character to draw?

Hardhead was definitely one of my favorites, and Cyclonus. I think overall, though, I like drawing the actual transformations of the characters, such as in issue 2, where Hardhead fights Cyclonus and Scourge in mid-transformation.

Do you have any concrete plans after Heart of Darkness? Any dream projects out there you’d love to tackle?

I’m currently working on a few secret pitches that I think will be quite innovative and beautiful. If you’re interested in fantasy, be sure to check out my MOTRO comic on ACT-I-VATE.com, which I’m currently rewriting and redrawing. That is my #1 dream project, so I hope you’d enjoy what’s been published so far online.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers / your fans in general?

I’d say to always be open to new ideas. Transformers fans, and comic fans in general, are notoriously traditional, and I’d say the medium itself has a huge range of comics to accomodate all sorts. Readers should embrace that. I loved working on Transformers, and can’t wait to see what’s next in store for me.

Check out more from Ulises Farinas on his website, and come back tomorrow for our review of the final part of Transformers: Heart of Darkness.

tags: heart of darkness, interview, transformers, ulises farinas

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