Dark Horse doodler Patric Reynolds on making comics a career

July
7
2014

If you flip through a Dark Horse comic illustrated by Patric Reynolds (M.F.A., sequential art, 2009) pay attention. You might notice a recurring face in the panels. A smiling, bearded man — sometimes a mechanic, sometimes a police officer — always seemingly in the background.

It’s a face Patric knows well. Every time he sketches that face he thinks of a man who encouraged him to quit his teaching job in Las Vegas to pursue a career in comic books. He thinks of a man named Steve, his dad.

“I was miserable teaching,” Patric, who grew up in Utah, said. “My parents could see that. The job really hardened me. I didn’t like the person I was turning into. I wanted to do comic books, but I thought, ‘No one makes a living as an artist.’”

Now Patric happily eats those words, working for Dark Horse Comics with industry legends like Mike Mignola, Patton Oswalt and Joss Whedon.

“I don’t need another job. I draw comics all day and I can pay my bills.”

That’s partly because the comic books industry is booming, bringing in over $700 million in annual revenue (up from $450 million in 2004). And with that growth, career options for people with Patric's skills have blossomed. Patric didn’t know that either until a push from his parents landed him at a college career fair.

It was there that Patric showed his portfolio to Savannah College of Art and Design professor Ray Goto (M.F.A., sequential art, 2002) and learned his talent could get him scholarships. Though his parents were sold, Patric knew that going back to school would mean giving up a steady income that covered his mortgage and car payments.

“I wasn’t on board,” he said. “My parents said, ‘You need to do this.’ My dad, in particular, said, 'I think you can make a living at this. We will be there in the morning.’ They drove to Las Vegas from Utah with a trailer to load my stuff. I trusted them. And so I moved to the South to learn to draw comics.”

Before Patric left, his father told him to never give up on anything and to keep his dream alive. Those words — coupled with honing his craft — helped Patric get a degree from SCAD and his first commission at Dark Horse working on an Abe Sapien comic within the “Hellboy” franchise.

That’s when tragedy struck.

Patric recalled, “I was inking pages when my mom called to tell me, ‘Your dad was out flying with your uncle and they were both killed.’” The small airplane crashed somewhere in the remote backcountry between Utah and Idaho.

The first person Patric called was Dark Horse editor-in-chief Scott Allie. “I was in shock. I told Scott, ‘I’m probably not going to meet this deadline. My dad just died.’ He said, ‘Jesus. Don’t worry about it. Get yourself settled.’ I could hear that Scott was talking to his kid in the background while he was on the phone with me. I knew he understood the gravity of the situation.”

Patric left the project for two weeks to help his family with the difficult double funeral back home, but he knew he had to return to finish the Abe Sapien comic.

“I told Scott, ‘Please don’t take me off this comic,’” he remembered. “There was a sense of duty to it. So when I got back into the project it became something to get me through my dad not being there anymore. It helped me push down the grief. Those last three pages got really hard, though. I started shaking by the end of it.”

But Patric finished the project, fueled by the image of his father working in his machine shop in Utah.

“He had his own business and he had to work so hard at it,” Patric said. “My mom would stay up with him at his shop. She fell asleep against the wall a few times waiting for him to finish working. That image — my dad committed to his work and mom committing to what my dad had committed to — told me that if I committed that much to something I could accomplish things.”

Finishing the job is something he says he learned from SCAD professors, too. “Ray Goto and Paul Hudson and others taught me how to keep at something, to work and how to finish things,” he said. “That’s really the one big thing I learned at SCAD — how to commit and work. If you don’t buckle down and get work done, then it never gets done. You work until you finish.”

Patric now lives in Portland, Oregon, where Dark Horse is headquartered. He is currently illustrating an “Aliens” comic as part of a series reboot spawning off the 2012 movie “Prometheus.”

“Scott Allie told me that Dark Horse plans to keep me busy. Most people couldn’t claim that in, say, the 1970s. You had to send your stuff to New York and then they would get back to you — maybe. It’s so much easier to get into the industry.”

Now sequential artists can influence everything from videogames to storyboards to the latest summer superhero movie. The industry has never been better. Disney just bought Marvel for $4 billion. Movies based on comic books continue to place in the top 100 grossing films of all time: "The Avengers" alone brought in an estimated $1.5 billion worldwide. Investment advisors are even telling clients to sell their vintage comic books to help fund retirement.

People like Patric are the ones behind those impressive statistics. And it was the people behind Patric that got him to pursue his dream.

“I think I always really followed what my parents told me,” he said. “My dad always kept telling me to keep the dream alive. I even wrote that above my desk when I was teaching in Las Vegas. My students would ask, ‘What does that mean?’ I would just tell them they’d see for themselves one day. You have to work at it everyday. You keep it alive and you remember what you love.”

And, in a way, keeping his dream alive also helps Patric to keep his dad's memory alive. Patric says the likeness of his dad will continue popping up in the background of the comics he works on, if only to keep an eye on him from afar.

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The evolution of an art and design education from a faculty perspective

April
25
2014

This week we've featured the reflections of Savannah College of Art and Design alumni in the Northeast, South, West and Midwest on their industries and the education that prepared them for their careers. We'd be remiss to not feature the faculty members responsible for helping to direct their paths. Below you'll find faculty perspectives on how SCAD has evolved to keep pace with, and sometimes outpace, the world of art and design. And like the students who once roamed SCAD's classrooms and study halls, so too have those locations undergone powerful transformation.


SCAD Museum of Art

What's the biggest change you've seen at SCAD since you began teaching here?

SCAD was the best kept secret in art and design education in the year 1990. Now it is a top tier university for art and design. I used to have to explain SCAD to everyone I met, now everyone I meet seems to have a story about some great experience they have had with SCAD students or alumni. 
-Tom Fischer, Professor of Photography, first year at SCAD 1990

There has been a lot of change, yet there’s something about the school’s DNA that has guided that change. You could relate it to comparing a young azalea to a mature azalea, in that the qualities and the promises inherent in the young azalea are manifested in the more mature plant. The blooms have always been there, yet now those blooms are expressed in a more elaborate array of instances, and they can be witnessed by many more people and at greater distances. They catch a larger spectrum of the sun. 
-Scott Boylston, Professor of Sustainability Design, first year at SCAD 1998


Poetter Hall

What's the most signifcant change that your field has seen since you began teaching at SCAD?

Graphic Design is one of the fastest changing industries, so the constant change of our curriculum is extremely important. Our seniors produce responsive digital publications and websites for their portfolios; they breathe new technology like air. Some of these cutting edge portfolio presentations can be seen on the Atlanta Graphic Design blog, and if you are only familiar with the old style portfolio presentation, you will be blown away. 
-Henry Hongmin Kim, Professor of Graphic Design, first year at SCAD 2004

SCAD students have always been outstanding in their eagerness to learn and excel in their majors. They are a pleasure to share knowledge with. 
-Judith Ott Allen, Professor of Art History, first year at SCAD 1986


Maisson Basse

How has your work to prepare students for careers in art and design changed?

Over the past 4 years, I have noticed the increasing importance that internship opportunities play in providing real world experience for students at their entry point into art careers. It has lead to impressive positions at colleges, public art organizations, the film industry, and museums. We are focusing on impressive internship opportunities more than ever and fitting students into compatible internships that successfully lead to jobs. 
-Susan Krause, Professor of Sculpture, first year at SCAD 2000

On some levels, I’d compare design for sustainability in 2014 to web design in the early 1990's. I remember well the days when businesses considered web design first as a fad, then as a necessarily ‘evil,’ then as an essential core to their business success, and then finally to ‘if you don’t have a website, you’re out of business.’ Sustainability is following a similar path, and so teaching sustainability has gotten a little easier since we started the program 5 years ago because we spend less time justifying the discipline and more time celebrating its successes.
-Scott Boylston, Professor of Sustainability Design, first year at SCAD 1998

 


Norris Hall

Is there one student you've taught whose work you are particularly proud of?

I would have to say that one of my former SCAD Savannah students and now my current supervisor, Associate Chair of Animation, Matt Maloney, might be the best personal story for me. Even as a student, Matt was always an outstanding artist, animator, filmmaker, and film historian and is only more so today. Over the years I think we've learned from each other and the fact that he is now an outstanding professor, department leader, and colleague is a really beautiful thing. 
-Becky Wible Searles, Professor of Animation, first year at SCAD 1999

It's hard to pick one, so here's a few: Chris Schweizer, Jackie Lewis, Hunter Clark, Doug Dabbs, Cara McGee, Justin Wagner. These are all alumni who have gone on to have some amazing careers. I am constantly impressed by my current students as well.
-Shawn Crystal (M.F.A., sequential art, 2001), Professor of Sequential Art since 2006


Student Center transformation

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Inside New York Comic Con 2013: a panelist's perspective

October
23
2013

“…riiiight, I’m supposed to be interjecting.”

That’s what I had to keep reminding myself as I sat on a panel at New York Comic Con 2013 listening to the other panelists speak. I couldn’t help but get lost in what they had to say since, just like the audience, I’m a fan of their work. I love comics, always have, always will. So to be a panelist at the conference was thrilling.

One of the panels I participated in was called “Page 1 – Panel 1,” a discussion about the process of making comics. As a professor of sequential art, I do this every day in one way or another, so I should have been able to handle this, right?

Comics writer Buddy Scalera moderated and told me in advance what the panel was about and who else would be there. Of course, once I sat there with comic industry super stars like Marc Silvestri, Jamal Igle and Jerry Ordway, it became a completely different thing. I was star struck.

Photo courtesy of Buddy Scalera

Worry not, dear reader, my brain kicked in to gear and I was able to contribute to the discussion and break process down to basics for the crowd, whose goal was to grasp a better understanding of how comics are made. Whew.

I feel lucky to be in a position where I get to talk about the medium that I love and to find myself in situations like this. I get a charge from the “who” and the “what” of comics, and especially from knowing that the people I shared the stage with feel the exact same way.

That’s the beauty of going to a comic convention: immersing yourself in the community and culture. Like hearing Professor Shawn Crystal speak on Marvel’s “Breaking into Comics” panel, or seeing Professor Tom Lyle talk to alumni while drawing for fans. Picking up an advanced copy of student Luigi Anderson’s first coloring job for Oni Press was another highlight, as was catching up with dozens of successful alumni, like Nick Dragotta and Andrew Robinson.

I’m sure next year’s convention will be just as exciting. Hopefully, I won’t be as star struck on the panel but, then again, I kinda hope that I will be.

Pat Quinn is an associate dean of Academic Services at Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta. His work has appeared in Marvel Comics and DC comics, among others. You can see Pat’s art on his blog, Deviant Art page and on Twitter.

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