Today we touch base with Thomas Deer – Teyowisonte, who found his way into the comic industry by entering a creative fan contest. Thomas’ work is most familiar to the fans of G.I. Joe and Transformers comic books. Thomas has worked with other First Nations creators for The Healthy Aboriginal Network to produce comics which target health and social issues within First Nations communities.
What part of a Canada are you from/where do you live now?
I’m from the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory, just outside of Montreal, Quebec.
Were you a comics fan growing up?
Yes, I’ve always been into comics to one degree or another. As a small child, I recall my dad buying me many of Marvel’s Star Wars series, which was my first exposure to comics. When I was old enough to buy comic son my own, I collected Larry Hama’s run on G.I. Joe religiously. When I was 12, I discovered Mike Zeck’s Punisher, which had a profound affect on my decision to pursue a career as an illustrator. At around the age of 19, Todd McFarlane’s Spawn further tightened my scope to focus on comic book art.
Who are some of your creative influences?
In the comic book industry, I’ve been inspired by the likes of Mike Zeck, Jim Lee, Greg Capullo, Todd McFarlane, Dave Gibbons, Sam Kieth, Dave Stewart, Pat Lee, Joe Ng, Brian Wood, Alex Raymond.
I’m also influenced by conceptual artists like Ryan Church, Feng Zhu, Mark, Goerner, Sparth, Ian McCaig, Scott Roberston, and Syd Mead.
Can you tell us a bit about your career as a comic book artist?
What was your first job in comics? What job did you really enjoy or what job are you really proud of?
My break into comics is an interesting story. In early 2004 Dreamwave Productions, the Canadian comic book company that held the Transformers license at that time, launched an online contest to redesign a specific character. I entered the contest. A month or two later, I was elated to discover Dreamwave’s number on my phone. I was informed that I had won 2nd place in the contest and that I was invited to come to their Toronto-based studio to meet with Pat Lee, renowned artist and proprietor of Dreamwave. I was also asked to bring my portfolio. After my meeting with Pat Lee, I began training as a colorist for Dreamwave, and later as a penciler. Unfortunately, Dreamwave declared bankruptcy later that year and my training ended before I had any work that was published.
About year later, I was informed that one of my Transformers illustrations appeared on VH1’s I Love Toys series. Concerned about how VH1 acquired the illustration, I started retracing my steps. I had recalled sending that particular illustration to a company called Fun Publications as a part of my portfolio submission. After contacting Fun Publications to see if they had released that particular illustration to VH1, I was told that they hadn’t, but they did recognize my illustration on VH1 as well. At that time, they told me that they might have some work for me soon. A couple of months later, they actually contacted me with some coloring work. Ironically, I was headed to San Diego for Comic Con that week. Unwilling to sacrifice this opportunity, I packed up my laptop and headed down to San Diego and began work on my first coloring assignment. Since that point, I’ve had consist work in the industry as both a colorist and illustrator.
Can you tell us specifically about the comics work you had published in 2008?
I worked on four comics that were released in 2008. The first to be released was a anti-diabetes comic entitled An Invited Threat for the Healthy Aboriginal Network, where I worked as a colorist. The second to be released was Transformers: Timelines (Fun Publications), where I had worked as both a cover artist and colorist. The third was a promotional comic for Mega Bloks’ NeoShifters toy series, where I worked as a colorist and conceptual artist. The fourth comic that was released this year was G.I. Joe: Rise of the Headhunters (Fun Publications), again working as a colorist. Aside from those titles, I’ve also illustrated character profiles for Hasbro’s official Transformers Collector’s Club magazine.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently finishing up the colors on a G.I. Joe comic for Fun Publications. I’m also developing a couple of personal projects I hope to self-publish one day.
Do you have a website/blog that people can read?
I have an online portfolio at www.teyowisonte.deviantart.com