Many who read TheoFantastique may enjoy comics and graphic novels, but few of us understand what goes into the creation and production of them. With this post we will gain a better appreciation of the inner workings of comics through an interview with Richard Moore. Rick is the creator of a number of comics, including Far West and Boneyard. He also happens to be my brother, so it wasn't too hard to twist his arm for an interview.
TheoFantastique: Thanks for taking time out of a busy art production schedule to answer some questions that will give us some insights into the comic book industry, but let's begin by exploring your background. What led you to become a comic book artist, and what artistic, literary, or cinematic elements influenced you in your art and storytelling?
Richard Moore: Well, TheoFantastique -- may I call you TheoFantastic? -- I'm actually a frustrated film maker. Or maybe frustrated would-be film maker is more like it. I've always loved movies, and wanted to be a writer/director, but never had the dough to pursue it. I'd read comics as a kid but lost interest as I got into fine art in high school. It wasn't until I took a serious look at Bernie Wrightson's Frankenstein and some of the things people like Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison were doing that I realized the potential of the medium for telling stories.
I couldn't afford a 16mm camera, but paper's cheap, and i could draw (though I have to say, it was a hell of an artistic U-turn going from "fine art" to "comic art", and one I'm still struggling with). As for influences, they're kind of all over the place. I love horror films, the good ones anyway, which is clearly where Boneyard came from. I don't get to read much these days, but I love Tim Powers and Dan Simmons,and I just discovered Christopher Moore; his stuff kills me. I think there's a law that if you can't wind up as a comic artist without having been a Frank Frazetta fan as a kid. But a greatly underrated artist of the 20th Century was Norman Rockwell. People tend to dismiss his work as corny or old-fashioned, but his skill was amazing. My favorites, though, are the Pre-Raphaelites, especially John William Waterhouse.
TheoFantastique: What comic projects have you been involved with, and how can interested readers secure copies beyond their local comic book stores?
Richard Moore: Lessee. . .I started off with Far West -- got pretty lucky right out of the gate with that one; Far West still has a cult fanbase. I'll finally be getting around to new Far West material next year (fingers crossed). Then I did some shorter, one- and two-issue stories, The Pound and Deja Vu, and then was lucky enough to place Boneyard with NBM. The older stuff is mostly sold-out, from what I understand. There's a collection of the first Far West story arc available from NBM, but for The Pound or any issues of Deja Vu the best bet would be to contact me directly, at email@example.com. And of course NBM puts out regular collections of Boneyard, in black-and-white and color editions. People can order directly from them at www.nbmpub.com, and of course a lot of bookstores are carrying graphic novels these days.
TheoFantastique: While comics are obviously a visually-driven form of storytelling and media, nevertheless they need to have a good story behind them as well. In your creative process, what comes first for you, the elements of the story or the visual images?
Richard Moore: The nudity. That, and the characters. If it's an ongoing series, that is. No matter how much i might like a given story idea, I can't actually put it on paper until the characters become "real" for me. With an ongoing series, like Boneyard, I know the characters so well that I just plug them into a story and let them behave according totheir personalities. If the characters aren't dictating the direction of the story, I know the whole thing is in danger of becoming artificial and forced. With a stand-alone title, the story definitely comes first. An image might inspire an idea for a story, but I then need to work out at least the basic structure so I have a context for the visuals. One trick I learned writing screenplays was to visualize the movie trailer. That gave me the spark, the exciting visual high points. . .but again, I had to have that story in place to start with.
TheoFantastique: As you've discussed, your current project is Boneyard, a comic that I would (probably poorly) describe as a horror-comedy piece. Can you summarize this series for readers and tell us why you were drawn (literally) to this type of project?
Richard Moore: I don't think there's any real horror in Boneyard, but that's a common description of the series. It's a natural assumption, when you look at a cover and see a vampire, a swamp creature, a werewolf.. . Basically, Boneyard is about a guy, Michael Paris, who inherits a piece of land that happens to contain a cemetery. A cemetery inhabited by monsters. He comes to realize that you can't judge by appearances, andwinds up living with the outcasts. The only drawbacks for Paris are the occasional demonic plot or zombie outbreak they have to deal with. Of course, the fact that he has it bad for Abbey, the resident pretty vampire, makes it all a lot more bearable. My original concept was to do a sitcom in comic form. I just happened to pick monsters as characters because of my love of the old, classic horror films. If you look at my two current favorite shows, you'll see the same basic structure: likeable characters interacting and dealing with problems in funny ways. The only real difference is that Boneyard is framed by dramatic story arcs that feature some larger threat.
TheoFantastique: What do you enjoy the most, and what is your greatest struggle as a comic book artist?
Richard Moore: Again, nudity. (Hold, for laughter.) I think the best thing is still the reason I got into the field: I can tell stories in ways that would be much more difficult and immensely more expensive to tell through film. For some reason I am compelled to tell stories; if Ididn't have this outlet, all those characters running around in my head would drive me nuts. The greatest struggle -- well, there are two, actually. The first is the workload. It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to producea comic single-handed, much more than people would imagine. That's whythe big publishers have teams working on their titles. My readers are constantly asking for more of this title, more of that title; they'd love Boneyard to be bi-monthly instead of quarterly. But it just isn't possible -- and this is coming from a confirmed workaholic. Second wouldbe exposure. I'd ideally like to reach a wider audience, but advertising's expensive, and I'm ultimately dependent on my publisher.Shame, too. If they'd only invest a little in my work, I could make them very, very rich. Ah, well. *sigh*
TheoFantastique: Do you have any other projects you are working on, or are planning on in the near future?
Richard Moore: I'm going to be starting a web comic called Gobs,hopefully next year. It's about a bunch o
f goblins who are barred from their favorite pub, so they build their own. . .in the petrified body of a dead giant. Think Cheers with dragons, cranky wizards, and exclusionary zoning laws. I'm also doing a miniseries for Antarctic Press, called Fire and Brimstone. The titular characters are a demoness and a cherub forced to round up a wide variety of demons and rogue angels who've escaped fromthe afterlife into our mortal world. It's basically a buddy comedy, with big guns, hot girls and lots of supernatural action. A little furtherdown the line readers can look for a fantasy detective story called Dragonthorne, probably coming out through Archaia Studios Press, and Billfur,a kind of animated movie in comic form, about a duckbilled platypus who finds himself in the middle or a North American forest with no memories of who or what he is. He's joined by a semi-crazed squirrel escaped froman animal testing lab, and together they set off to discover who the platypus is, and where in the world he belongs. Then there are some children's books I've been wanting to do for a long time. . .so yeah, I'll be busy for awhile.
TheoFantastique: Rick, thanks again for taking the time out of your schedule to share with readers. I hope this interview gives them a little glimpse into comic book creation, and perhaps some new readers and fans of your work.