Billy Dallas Patton Interviewed by Newsarama

Billy Dallas Patton on Zoom Suit (posted on 12/22/2005)

Newsarama interviews Zoom Suit Artist Billy Dallas Patton


Billy Dallas Patton is one of comics’ ten year overnight success stories. Nose to grindstone for years and dozens of projects, suddenly, Patton seems to be everywhere – a fill-in on DC’s Seven Soldiers: Mr. Miracle #2, Advent Rising, the Heroscape promo that was included inside of recent DC titles, and in April, Zoom Suit.

We spoke with Patton about the latter.

Newsarama: First off, how did you become associated with Zoom Suit?

Billy Dallas Patton: I met John Taddeo at the Chicago Wizard World convention a few years back and we hit it off. We traded business cards. We emailed him back and forth, and called one another on occasion. About the time he was looking into buying CrossGen, he mentioned that if that deal went through that he would give me a chance to pencil a project, but the deal didn’t work out and besides, CrossGen’s stuff just didn’t fit very well with me.

Then he hit me with the idea of penciling Zoom Suit. Armor and tech is my specialty – that fit! Now I’d get to draw armored techno suits every day!

NRAMA: What is it for you about armor and tech?

BDP: I love the anime Bubblegum Crisis, The Guyver, Battle Angel, etc. I am and have always been a fan of the armored heroes of American comics as well: Iron Man, X-0, and even Haywire – the ’80s DC property. I even had my own personal property starring a biomechanical suited heroine, so I figured it was kismet. Going off of some previous designs provided by John, I added my own “BDP-patented” tech-twist and the rest is history. Well, since it’s not available until April, I guess the rest is the future.

NRAMA: Something that’s clear from the preview pages and your descriptions is that the protagonist is a kid. In your view, why will comic fans want to read about a thirteen year old?

BDP: Well, if done correctly, any protagonist can make for a good story. Zoom Suit is a good story.

I think the Zoom Suit comic will appeal to a very wide cross section of people. The die-hard comic book fan is only part of our target. We would also be a good comic for people who may not read comics every week and are looking for a fun and entertaining comic that doesn’t require 30-plus years of continuity. But we’re also definitely bowing to the greats that came before us, with a wink and a nod toward all of what they did to make armored heroes and comics in general fun.

So new fans can jump right on and old fans will get the inside stuff found on just about every page. It’s a cool combination.

NRAMA: So hit with the story a little – what’s it about?

BDP: Zoom Suit is about a suit of armor, from a technologically advanced alien race, recovered by the US Military at the 1947 Roswell Crash. The suit is stolen, lost, and then found by a 13 year-old boy named Myles Mason on Halloween. He mistakes it for a Halloween costume.

NRAMA: So Myles is wearing it, but who’s Simon Bane and what are his goals?

BDP: On the surface Simon Bane is an NSA agent with a secret plan for the Zoom Suit. He’s after it and he’s not going to let the government, scientists, or a little 13-year old punk keep him from getting it.

You’ll notice Simon talks mostly in oxymorons which I felt was a funny and an interesting character quirk. There are many other comedic elements from comic books, tv and film in the script. John has a massive knowledge of comics that some might think would require medication. But it gives him an immense insight into making this a fun and readable comic book.

Other than the oxymorons you’ll also notice that Simon doesn’t say much. Keep in mind that silent waters run deep. That and the fact that 13 issues of Zoom Suit have been written. So there’s more to Simon than meets the eye.

NRAMA: Who would you name as your influences in comics?

BDP: Just about everyone I have ever read and liked. I started off being the typical “swiper”. But after art school, I realized and began to appreciate SO many people. John Romita, Jr. stands out because of his work on X-men in the mid 80’s and just how incredible he is. The single biggest influence on my storytelling was Brian Stelfreeze, because he let me pick his brain at sooo many conventions in the mid 90’s. But for my tech-flavor, I have to lean toward Shirow Masemune and the guys of Gainax.

NRAMA: How did you get your start in comics?

BDP: Finally killing enough brain cells. My first published work was in a book called Vamperotica from good old Brainstorm Comics. I met the publisher when I was in the Army – Fayettville, NC, right next to Fort Bragg. After much begging, he gave me a shot. Then I did a backup in Hammergirl #1 and drew my first full issue for Hammergirl #2. From there I worked on quite a few projects

NRAMA: Along with your heroes, you have some pretty heavy company in the covers department – Bob Layton, Bart Sears, Bill Tucci and Gene Colan – Do you have a favorite Zoom Suit Cover?

BDP: I absolutely love Billy Tucci’s cover. It so captures the flavor and spirit of this book. It is simply brilliant. But I do recognize and respect the skills of masters like Bob Layton, Gene Colan, and Bart Sears.

NRAMA: Although you had planned to stay on for the entire four issue series, you had to leave in the middle of issue #2. Why?

BDP: Because I am a freelance artist and besides being flaky, when the big boys call, you go. I helped DC with an issue of Mister Miracle #2 and did a story for Marvel in X-Men Unlimited #11 and a corporate comic book for Hasbro. John then graciously, and perhaps because he’s a glutton for punishment, allowed me to come back for issue #3 of Zoom Suit. I realized how good I have it now and can’t think of any other project I’d rather be on. That and John knows some people in Jersey in the waste management business.

NRAMA: How do you feel about Keron Grant stepping in as the new Zoom Suit new penciler for issue #2?

BDP: Honestly? I think Keron is incredibly talented and I am praying people aren’t thinking “Darn, where’d Keron go?!? He’s so much better than this Billy doofus.” I am praying a lot.

Newsarama Note: Grant will be the penciler on second four issue Zoom Suit series

NRAMA: Given that you’ve moved around a lot, and even on this project, can you point to any improvements in your art during your work on Zoom Suit?

BDP: Absolutely. I hadn’t done 22 pages of a single story in several years. I got to get familiar with the characters and once you do, you begin to add flourishes and can just get into a groove. It shows in the artwork and editors respond to that.

I really missed drawing Zoom with my break for Mr. Miracle though, so I’m going to stay put for a while, keep my workload at a comfortable level, try to catch stride and really show you something.

NRAMA: This was John Taddeo’s first comic book. What was it like working with a first-time writer?

BDP: It wasn’t difficult. I have been far more difficult for John to work with than it has been for me to work with him. I think he’s got a very visual writing style that lends to the visual medium of animation and comics. He will continue to improve and refine his writing, plus he’s open to changing something to help the storytelling or give me something cool to draw. You can’t ask for more than that.

NRAMA: Overall, how was the whole experience for you?

BDP: Besides the hiccup and missing issue #2, I feel a great sense of pride in being part of a company that the boss-man feels so much enthusiasm and exhibits such great verve. John may not have re-invented the wheel, but he came pretty darn close.

NRAMA: Anything else you can spill about Zoom Suit?

BDP: Nada. Read the book to find out! Are you TRYIN’ to get me kneecapped!?!? The guy’s already ready to kill me over that issue 2 thing. Now you want his secrets?

NRAMA: Final thoughts?

BDP: Extremely detailed suits of armor, drawn over and over again, causes serious eye strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and dain bramage…