Interview - Douglas "Zed85" Hilliard, Mar 2005

Teral: I'm here with Douglas "Zed85" Hilliard, one of the most prolific fan artists the community have ever known, with currently almost 200 pictures to his name. When did you first learn about Futurama? And how?
Zed85: I think it was advertised on Sky One before the first episode aired. My initial thoughts were "Oooh, Simpsons in Space!" Which at the time was just as much as a good thing as it was a bad thing, if that make any sense?

Teral: What was the first episode you saw?
Zed85: The first one, and I loved it instantly, but I suppose I could say it wasn't until I think about Parasites Lost that I really got into Futurama, or was allowed to really, there was always something else my parents wanted to watch.

Teral: Which one is your favorite?
Zed85: Well, because of missing almost all the shows until Season 3, I could probably point to any one of the episodes between Parasites and I Dated A Robot as being among my top favourites since they're the first episodes I got to know Futurama by. Now I've seen them all, there are many early ones I like and several of the later ones, in particular The Sting. I suppose that struck a cord with lots of viewers, I know I'm not alone when I say I like that episode.

Teral: Looking at the episode ratings here at FM:TLZ, it's safe to say it's a fan favorite. The mandatory question, for guys: Amy or Leela?
Zed85: Leela. Globviously! (I think the pic count speaks for itself) But Amy does have her merits... ;)

Teral: Which character would you kill off the show, given the chance?
Zed85: Phew...well, none out of hatred, that's for sure, but you'll have to read my second fan-fic (whenever that comes out). It's based on a dream I had BTW, and that's a recurrent theme (though it's not the answer to the storyline...)

Teral: Which head-in-a-jar would you want to be placed next to, if you were one yourself?
Zed85: Hmm, I've no idea. Some one who could put up with me would be a nice start :P

Teral: What other tv shows, beside Futurama, do you like?
Zed85: Mostly British Comedies and Entertainment shows, notably Red Dwarf, Blackadder, Monty Python, Have I Got News For You, shows like that. As for US comedies, I can sit down and enjoy most of them, like Frasier and Friends, the usual, but I don't make a habit of watching them, but relatively recently I've "discovered" M*A*S*H, and I have to say I'm a huge fan. I always used to think only BlackAdder Goes Forth had the power to make the viewer laugh one minute and weep bitterly the next, but M*A*S*H proved me wrong. Very well done show; funny, touching and moving. And I still haven't seen the "Abyssinia Henry" episode.

Teral: I've seen that one, it's a great episode. Futurama share some of the same traits, in that it's both a funny and emotionel show. Which aspect appeals most to you?
Zed85: I think, in M*A*S*H it's both, but there are times where the show has to remind you they're in a war, and sometimes you get some very heavy episodes. On other occasions, there are some really touching, but very subtle moments put in. I always remember one episode where a group of Korean orphans from a bombed out village come through the camp to have jabs, but they all have bad reactions to it so have to stay in the hospital a while, and the entire camp drops everything to look after them. When it comes to putting them to bed, Klinger - always trying to get out of the Army by pretending he's mad - but really is a genuinely decent guy - carries a little girl in and is telling her the story of the three pigs - only of course it's unlikely that the Korean girl can speak English, but what the hey? As he tucks her in he tells of the wolf coming down the chimney of the brick house - "Whoooooooooooooo...." and the girl bursts into tears. Klinger thinks she's scared by the story and tries to tell her it has a happy ending, but in truth, the viewer can see - but is never actually directly told - that the girl is crying because the noise Klinger made sounded too close to the scream of incoming artillery, like those that destroyed her home and killed her parents and untold numbers of relatives. No one points this out to you, there's no monologue by Alan Alda, the camera doesn't hang on that one child, the incident is never referred to again - the show just leaves you to realise that all by yourself - and that's good TV. Futurama has some moments like that, I hate to mention The Sting again, but that is a similarly powerful yet subtle (for the most part) and extremely well written.

Teral: You can't say Matt Groening without mentioning The Simpsons. What are your feelings about Futurama's step-sister?
Zed85: It's lost its way. I can't put it more simpler than that. I used to love the show, I mean, watch it nearly every time it came on, and on Sky they could show it up to 6 times a day during the holidays. So you could say I was quite obsessed with it, though not enough at that time to start doodling pics of the characters, writing long stories about them and posting on message boards... Seriously though, if there's nothing better on TV, as long as it's one of the old(er) episodes, I'll happily sit down and watch the Simpsons even still. I just usually stay clear of the new ones. They're just to abstract to make sense. It seems the only way they can get a laugh out of the audience these days is to make something completely ridiculous happen, but there's too fine a line between succeeding and failing horribly. In my opinion anyway.

Teral: Which well known person/celebrity would find a burning back of dogdoo on his doorstep, courtesy of you?
Zed85: Heyheyhey! I'm not that sort of guy. I love everyone! I know of several people I would leave little notes of disapproval for, but I think either a) they're not well known, or b) they're too well known, so everyone would expect me to do that sort of thing to them anyway...

Teral: I notice a lot of your fanart is inspired by Star Wars. I take it you're a big fan of Mr Lucas' movies?
Zed85: Yep. Silly thing is that I knew the games (TIE Fighter and Dark Forces, those sort) before I knew the movies. Sad really. But yeah, large fan, though I have certain opinions about how the two latest films could have been improved... Still looking forward to Episode III I suppose though. :)

Teral: Besides Star Wars, Russia seems to be another major theme. Any special reason?
Zed85: I don't really know really. I guess you could say I'm a Russophile or something, but I seriously can't put my finger on why. I've taken interest in Russians from films I watch and games I play, but I suppose there may be something from my childhood. I could say I was a lot closer to the Cold War than most of the other kids I knew - my dad was in the RAF, and we lived for several years in West Germany, just when the Soviet Union was collapsing. So that was big news and was technically happening all around us. So we were able to travel to Berlin from Nordrhein-Westfalen before we left, and not many people could have done that for over the last 40 years. I suppose my time in Europe opened my mind to a lot of other cultures, which probably made it easier for me to take interest in non-English speaking countries. I certainly fell in love with Germany my self. The area we lived in was a beautiful part of the country, and in a way I miss it a lot. Problem was all my friends back in Britain were at the stage where Germany were the hated enemy...because they might outplay England at Football. :P

Teral: When you're not blowing up Star Destroyers and wielding Lightsabers, what other computer games do you play? And have you tried the Futurama game?
Zed85: Ahem? Blowing up Star Destroyers? I slaughter the Rebels does I! For the greater glory of the empire!!! Other games. Well, to narrow it down, I usually play Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix series of F1 games, Operation Flashpoint (that's arguably inspired my interest in Kalashnikovs...) er...Sim City games, Il-2 Sturmovik, Hidden & Dangerous games, GTA:Vice City, Freelancer, and the Command & Conquer series. I could list more, but those are the ones I probably play the most. I'd dearly love to play the Futurama game, but unfortunately own the one major format it was never released on, and am not prepared to go out and spend money on one of the ones that do have it. Sadly :\

Teral: What other movies do you enjoy?
Zed85: Not really a one for Horror films really, or ones where lots of people die - except war films I suppose... Hmm, there are too many to list right now, but among the ones that sort of inspire me are futuristic ones, primarily if they are based on short stories by Phillip K Dick (IE Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report) Also anti-war War films, like Das Boot and Apocalypse Now. Apart from Star Wars of course I also like Pixar films and most of the Bond films. Blues Brothers are another personal favourite. There's bound to be one I've missed as well...

Teral: Speaking of fanart, how long have you been an artist/drawing?
Zed85: Well, as far as doodling, I suppose most of my life. It's a great way to pass the time, and I've gone through phases of drawing almost everything there is to draw.

Teral: What made you venture into the field of Futurama fanart?
Zed85: Until early 2001 I guess, I was mostly just drawing machines, then I started to draw humans as well, all this off the top of my head. So naturally they weren't fantastic or anything, but it started off with me just drawing A-Wing pilots or Stormtroopers, and I sort of broke a sort of personal taboo I had and started drawing women as well. I think it developed really from me trying out drawing people off the top of my head, and then just for fun I decided to draw a cyclops...and I suppose it sort of went on from there. I did a couple of "screencaptures" which basically meant me pausing the tape of Futurama and sketching what I saw - with varying success, and then I started drawing the characters, though mostly just Leela, in new situations. What made me venture into actually sending them off to someone...well that was a hell of a lot of nerves! I sent off an early pic to Paul of the now (very) sadly dead Futurama Scan Art Central, and he really liked it. With that massive confidence boost, I just carried on... :) Nearly 200 pics later (considering the pics of the other characters I've done that are not on TLZ at the moment) and here I am (still)

Teral: Beside Groening, wich artists would you say have influenced your work?
Zed85: Many, I've always admired the artists who paint pictures that I look at and think could be real life. If I can narrow it down to a particular art movement, then I could probably say the Pre-Raphaelites - romantic and a realistic approach to colouring. It's a sort of aspect I aim for in my pics. I usually miss...but well...but yeah, that's why I only rarely draw a Futurama pic directly in the style of Matt Groening. Of course, the way I draw the characters are meant to be very faithful to his style, but other aspects, like backgrounds and lighting, and details of the pic, I aim to be more photo-realistic if I can. Any painter or artist that sees something either in front of them or in their mind and can transmit that successfully into an image instantly wins my awe and admiration, because it's a skill I nearly envy. I don't think I have the natural patience to really be a good artist. I try and create what I see in my mind, but if it's only just resembling what I had in mind, I'll more likely say "sod it" and carry on from there. And I'm useless with paints!!!

Teral: What inspirations do you use for your fanarts? Or do you simply wait for ideas to pop into your head?
Zed85: I could say both, sometimes I sit (or lie) with my pencil and paper and just wait for an idea to present itself, but a lot of my pictures are inspired by other things - all sorts of everything really, and often when I'm not even looking for inspiration. It may be a picture I see in a magazine or on the internet, something I see outside in the street(s) or in the countryside, maybe something on the TV or in films, or in computer games - a large portion of my pictures probably stem from an initial idea I had while playing a computer game. More often than not, music can also inspire me, and this too can be all sorts of everything. Classical, Rock, Pop, Electronic, New Age, New Wave, Soundtracks, even Urban music. Name a music genre, I could probably name you at least one song from that genre that's given me inspiration. I'm a great fan of music, it helps me draw and write as well, and can even help my concentration while playing games. I often listen to music while driving around Grand Prix games. It's great fun. Only problem I will say I have with music is other people's problems with it. If there is a particular piece that inspires me and I decide to draw or write something to it, I'll likely end up replaying the sound again, and again, and again, trying to keep that feeling of inspiration and the idea constant while I refine the piece I'm doing. That can piss people off quite quickly so I've been told...

Teral: Tell us a little about the process of making a Futurama fanart. What tools/programs do you use, etc?
Zed85: Right, well...to start with, first I make a sketch of the general pose or piece that I want to be having happen in the picture. (This is after I've come up with an idea). I usually draw at night before I go to sleep; it's my favourite time to work bizarrely. I would then scan this sketch onto Computer (most likely the following day), then do most of the work in either PaintShopPro (in the early days) or PhotoShop. Early on, before I discovered Layers I had to draw and colour on the same flat format, so I had to draw very careful and meticulous sketches that could almost stand out as acceptable fan-arts as themselves, because I worried that if it was a bit messy, it would show up on the scan, and would look horrible when I came to fill it and have horrible bits of grey dots and lines all over the page. Since I've discovered Layers I have to admit I've gotten quite lazy with my sketches, often not taking too long over them, and then nearly redrawing them completely once I get to PhotoShop. I must say though, that I'm more confident sketching an image then tracing it than creating it from scratch on the Computer. By the time you've finished with a pencil and rubber, you've got a piece you're actually happy with. Rubbing out errors on the computer can be more complicated than it seems, and is generally discouraging, because you still don't know what you create is good enough. But once I've sketched over the original scan on the computer, I can take a second look over it and see how I can improve it. This may involve making parts of the body more in perspective, changing the expression or direction of the character, and then of course, add in additional stuff more easily. I like to work with large pictures then scale them down before I send them off, this eats up a lot of memory, but gets the job done better and means I can add more details. The largest Futurama file I've had is 50MB, I know of others that have had much larger. Having said that, one of my PhotoShop files that I use to create maps with is hovering around 100MB!

Teral: Which other Futurama fanartists do you like?
Zed85: All of them. I could name names but I'd only worry about offending those I don't mention. But you've got a huge spectrum up on even just TLZ - people who specialise in drawing Futurama characters life-like or in other or even personal styles, those very much nailed to a Groening Style, those who just use pencils, those who just use computers, those who use both. Those who re-draw existing images, those who create there own. I think they all deserve equal praise and I admire them all. One thing I will say though, is that I'm fascinated by the artists that draw the characters more life-like, you see a reflection of the area they come from, from the people who surround them. This is especially the case with Leela, who of course, has no real-life equivalent, unlike the others (oh except Bender and Zoidberg of course) and gets drawn more than the others as well. I always think when I draw mine, even though they are in the Groening Style, I think I see expressions I've drawn that remind me of some of the women in my family. And I look at the realistic arts - for example, those of FemJesse, AsaB and Aleksandr A. Andreev, and I know this will sound bloody stupid, but I look at their Leelas and I think they remind me so much of women I know of that are native to the countries that the artists come from. Don't get me wrong, I think it's brilliant. :)

Teral: Staying in the creative department, any opinion regarding fan fictions?
Zed85: I'm all in favour of fanfics! This would be because I'm currently writing my own (few). I generally don't read others' much, because I don't want to fill my head with other people's ideas. So when I release something remarkably similar to someone else's, I can really honestly say "It's just a coincidence! I swear!" But yeah, fan-fiction, though often frowned upon by certain members of every community in which they exist, is just as valid expression as fan-art, and a good story should always be worth reading, no matter what the particular subject is. Okay, people think there can be some pretty disturbing fan-fiction out and about, but so? There's plenty of disturbing fan-art (I think I can safely say that based on my own experi...artwork really) but you'll get some great artwork done, so there's no reason why there cannot be a good writer out there who creates some great stories. It's also a nice easy place to start off proper writing - have already established characters and use them as a template to practise your own writing styles around, and soon you'll be able to create your own stories with skill, experience and a better understanding on what people like to read.

Teral: Can you tell us a bit about the fan fictions you're writing, or is it a well guarded secret?
Zed85: It's not a well guarded secret as such, but I fear if I tell everyone, a) It might ruin the surprise...and b) It'd make the story sound God awful! People will have to read it for themselves - hopefully it might get finished within the decade....... :\

Teral: Good points, particular about ruining the surprise. Any inside scoop on upcoming fanart from Zed85?
Zed85: Not really, again I'm not very good at describing my work without just showing it...but also my scanner's gone kaput...so... :(

Teral: Sorry to hear that, but it sounds like you're not planning on retiring just yet. That's good to hear.
Zed85: Well I've got several good ideas bouncing off the inside of my head - I've fot a few left in me :) Just need a working scanner...

Teral: Now to something completely different; Is the glass half-full or half-empty?
Zed85: Half-empty. I'm not contradicting myself too often am I???

Teral: Straying back to the show, do you think there's any possibility of Futurama returning with new seasons, maybe on Cartoon Network?
Zed85: Well, of course I'd like to think so, but I really don't know what to think on the subject. Yes I'd be really happy to have it come back, and I'll likely dance around my house till I fall over, but I'm not holding my breath waiting for it to happen...

Teral: So far the online community have stayed relatively intact, how do you see it's future?
Zed85: Hmm, tricky. I think if you take a look at the message boards, and at the contributors at the sites as well, you will see quite a few of the Old Guard calling it a day, but "new recruits" are still coming in relatively thick and fast. The community will have to adapt, because unless what's described in the previous question comes true, we're following an ex-show right now. This most definitely wasn't the case when the community and websites like TLZ were created. Times have changed since then, times will change again, but I see the community adapting again and surviving in a fairly large form for several more years yet. With any luck, Futurama will seep in to Cult consciousness, and the community will never die. We here might all leave one day, through necessity perhaps, but I don't see us leaving because we're fleeing a sinking ship. And for my next kiss of death, I think McLaren will win the F1 World Championship this year...

Teral: How can, in your opinion, Futurama Madhouse: The Leela Zone help keep the community alive?
Zed85: Carry on, basically. While at first I was quite against the idea of The Leela Zone being more "secular" I think the inclusion of the other characters will entice more contributors which I currently think are the most important part of our community at the moment. The fans have to entertain themselves!

Teral: We caught a bit of flak from that one. Do you think it would've been wiser to stay with Futurama Communist Front?
Zed85: I was thinking just staying The Leela Zone...but no, the Futurama Communist Front was fine! :P

Teral: Any favorites among the Futurama websites?
Zed85: Well, PEEL obviously. FSAC before she died :( Here of course, ???-??? ? ???e (Something About Leela - Teral) (because Pawell likes my artwork :P), the now also dormant Inforama.ru (because so did Ulitka)...that's about it to be honest. I haven't really got round to seeing many of the other websites, despite having met and got on with some of the webmasters in real-life and there always seemed to be a bug in my IE that went off when I tried to view CGEF, so I've generally got used to not going there very often. Quite sad really.

Teral: That's why we recomend people to switch to Firefox. Not so much to help CGEF, but because it's the Best Damn Browser Ever. tm You've already sorta answered my next question, but wich of the websites no longer among us do you miss the most?
Zed85: Awobbble... .co.uk. :p Sorry, Seriously that would have to be FSAC I'm afraid.

Teral: Imagine you saved Tony Blair from drowning and he granted you one wish in return, what would you ask for?
Zed85: "Listen to the people." Or maybe "I've got this idea for a new political system, would you be interested in adopting it? I call it Social Democracy..." Seriously though, I have my own ideas for a better reperesentation of the public and a more effective form of Political debate. I'm 19!

Teral: Do you have any advice for the budding fanartist out there?
Zed85: Don't give up, pick something you're happy with and just plug it. Don't get disheartened, always look out for ways of improving your techniques. Don't fear criticism, but don't be afraid of defending yourself. To be able to draw is a talent not everyone has, to draw well is a skill that not everyone can obtain, to be able to present your creations to other people is a sign of bravery not everyone can manage. You are an artist, you are special, no one can really deny you that. Just don't let it go to your head ;)

Teral: Quiete an encouragement. Any final words for our million of visitors?
Zed85: Yes, thanks for watching. There's several of you out there that have emailed me over the years and complemented me on my work, but have not heard a single reply. For which I deeply apologise, but I sincerely thank you for your interest and your...well liking my art. :)

Teral: Thanks for agreeing to do this.
Zed85: That's quite okay, I think my ego is sufficiently boosted for the time being. We should do this with me more often. :)