Arne Ratermanis
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A Throwback to Sci-Fi Fridays and the "Farscape: Wanted" Posters

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Here's a throwback story to Sci-Fi Fridays and my involvement in a fan campaign to save Farscape...

In September 2002, after four seasons on the Sci Fi Channel, the TV series Farscape was abruptly cancelled. On a cliffhanger. Frell! Fans of the show immediately started a campaign to bring it back for a 5th season.

First, for those of you that don’t nerd out as much as me, here's a little background on the show. Produced by the Jim Henson Company, known for creating the Muppets, Farscape is the story of an American astronaut who accidentally travels through a wormhole and into a distant part of the universe where he finds himself part of a fugitive alien starship crew.

The show was filmed in Australia – far from the US and its viewers. Every Friday night, after each new episode would air, the actors, writers and crewmembers would jump on the message boards and into chat rooms to interact with fans and get feedback (this was back before our modern day social media of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). I thought this was the coolest thing – as if your drama buddies just finished a play and you all get together to talk about it. It made watching the show a much more special experience.

So, back to the cancellation – I wanted to do my part to help save the show. I created a few images with the tag “Wanted: Farscape Season 5” and posted them to a message board on the Save Farscape/Watch Farscape website. The artwork caught the attention of campaigners and it took off. I made more.

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Each Wanted poster depicts a different character from the show. Farscape had plenty of strange, bizarre and beautiful looking characters to draw from. I limited each piece to 3 or 4 solid colors and gave them a posterized, stencil-style look. This was done to convey a grassroots/street art feel while making it easy for fans to download and reproduce. My thought was, by showing off all these wonderfully imaginative and unique characters, it would not only call more attention to the cause but also recruit new audiences to the series.

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The Wanted posters were informally adopted for use in many of the campaign efforts. This was an intelligent, media-savvy group who continually inspired me with their creativity, energy and innovation. The artwork (just a small piece of this massive, multi-tiered operation) was used on everything from banners, posters, t-shirts and stickers to cookies and pumpkin carvings. In many instances the media and news outlets picked up the poster artwork when reporting on the show and campaign. In a way, the posters became the unofficial brand of the campaign. 

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Nina Lumpp, webmaster of SaveFarscape.com/WatchFarscape.com and a chief proponent of the campaign, had this to say:

 “Ratscape's Wanted posters were a tremendous asset to the Save/Watch Farscape campaign. They were professional and beautifully stylized, but had a real spirit of fun and, I think, were absolutely evocative of the nature of the show and campaign. They helped us establish a unified graphic "look" that was used in flyers, brochures, advertising, and other promotional materials by groups across the country and overseas.

I can't think of another fan campaign that's had the benefit of the sort of visual branding that the Wanted posters gave us. Professional, polished, and vibrant, they helped elevate the campaign into something that became a unique phenomena.

For me, personally speaking, it was beautiful to see them everywhere. I still have a collection of the posters and comic covers Arne did for us. They were a boost for the fans, and eye-catching for non-viewers. Exactly what we needed.”

 

Websites Wired.com and BBC.com reported on the campaign and encouraged viewers to download the posters to spread the word.

Websites Wired.com and BBC.com reported on the campaign and encouraged viewers to download the posters to spread the word.

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The artwork was used on all sorts of promotional materials given away at science fiction and comic book conventions world-wide.

The artwork was used on all sorts of promotional materials given away at science fiction and comic book conventions world-wide.

Farscape writer and executive producer, Ricky Manning (not involved with the campaign) viewed the efforts from another perspective. He adds:

 “Those of us who worked on "Farscape" were blown away by the "Save Farscape" campaign. We already knew we had a devoted fanbase, but what truly impressed us was the quality of the campaign. All its actions were wondrously creative, intelligent, well thought out, patiently executed, and tenaciously followed through.

The campaign's imaginative, professional-level artwork reinforced the notion that this was a group of serious, committed, and smart viewers who were in it for the long haul.”

The poster art found it's way into a few publications – The Official Farscape Magazine, Farscape Season 4 Companion, as well as TV Guide.

The poster art found it's way into a few publications – The Official Farscape Magazine, Farscape Season 4 Companion, as well as TV Guide.

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When all was said and done, 101 Wanted posters were created – roughly two a week over the span of one year.

When all was said and done, 101 Wanted posters were created – roughly two a week over the span of one year.

Being involved with the campaign was an incredible experience. It was amazing to see this passionate juggernaut of a fandom working towards the same goal. I am proud to have been a part in it. 

And, as in true Farscape fashion, the grass-roots movement was partially successful, the buzz generated by the campaign managed to clear the way for a four-hour miniseries in 2004 to wrap up the story.