Fil Barlow is an Australian cartoonist who created a comic in 1986 called "Zooniverse". Not really a big seller, I expect, and no one else I knew bought it, but after the first page of the first issue, I was hooked. His ability to fill a world with detail and depth, and still create beautiful, bizarre, and entirely un-cute aliens had me stunned.
When Zooniverse #1 came out in 1986, I was 13 years old, and every drawing I made suddenly underwent a drastic change in uniform. For about 6 months, I drew all of my characters that I'd created up to that point as adventurers on an alien planet, clad in dusty leather uniforms that had interesting seam patterns.
I also started drawing my characters' faces with a bony, well defined features. I didn't know enough at the time to try experimenting with the types of pens he used (presumably a flexible nib for most linework), but when I began doing a comic strip in college and getting serious about using the so-called proper tools for cartooning, I gravitated to that kind of pen for its ability to create subtle textures and sharp, bony elbows.
His writing also made me start to think that the formulas used in comics at the time (revenge-driven vigilante, parody of revenge-driven vigilante, ninja, anthropomorphic parody of ninja) were perhaps not all there was to comics. His story was a galaxy-spanning adventure of which the Kren Patrol (his three heroes) were only a tiny part. There were governments at odds with each other, well-connected crime lords, mercenary outposts on lost planets, and a powerful matriarchal galactic army.
Fil Barlow has also done a great deal of animation design for shows such as "Ghostbusters", "Alf", "Starship Troopers", and "The Chronicles of Riddick". I got to meet him in LA about ten years ago, while he was working on "Extreme Ghostbusters" for Columbia Tristar, and while I was sitting in his office, someone came in and told him that they needed a big blobby ghost designed right away. He excused himself from our conversation for a moment, sat down at his desk, and drew it in about four minutes, putting down new sheets of paper and partially tracing previous sketches before coming up with a beautiful (well, horribly ugly) evil ghost-blob.
When Zooniverse #1 came out, Fil was 23 (according to the inside front cover of the comic) and that really stuck in my head as a middle school-aged cartoonist. He was writing and drawing a full-color comic at the age of 23! I had better get moving if I wanted to do that, I thought. It was one of the things that got me to start making comics for my friends in middle school, and to start thinking about what I needed to do to get better. It's what influences are for, isn't it?