The world’s a dangerous place these days. The Middle East is a bastion of chaos and wanton murder. The West lives in fear of terrorist attacks and wages war on two different fronts to protect its people. Nuclear powers are flexing their military might. We sleep soundly at night knowing that our governments and military are working to protect us…but what if that wasn’t the case? What if someone assigned to protect us turned on us?
Then you’d be living Chip Mosher’s graphic novel “Left On Mission & Revenge” featuring art by Nye Wright. Mosher’s been working on the graphic novel for some time now and with it finally in a state that can be shown to the world at large, like many creators he’ll be shopping his new book at Comic-Con International next week in search of a publisher. CBR News caught up with Mosher to learn more about the book, as well as what the process is like selling a book to a publisher.
The 170-page, full color original graphic novel will make it’s debut as a 20-page preview mini comic, with full color and black & white editions available for $2-$3. While the title of the book hints at some intense storytelling, it doesn’t tell you everything about the book, and Mosher explains, “The core of the story revolves around three main characters: Emma, Eric Westfall, and Roger Painter. Emma, an assassin for an off-the-books U.S. agency, has stolen a laptop full of classified data she’s willing to sell to the highest bidder. Eric Westfall, her former co-worker, has been pulled from retirement to stop her… by any means necessary. But nothing is what it seems. Turns out Emma and Eric have a complicated relationship. Eric has his own ideas about how to solve the situation … and save Emma. Agent Painter has been sent to make sure that Eric does his job — or else.
“‘LOMR’ is your basic spy thriller. It’s ‘The Spy Who Came In From The Cold’ for the ‘Alias’ and ’24’ generation. On another level, it’s a story of unrequited love: a man and woman with a lot of shared history — maybe too much history — who are trying to deal with that past and how it affects their present. And deeper still, ‘LOMR’ is an exploration of the moral dilemmas and repercussions that we face in the new war-on-terror world.”
The title of the book, “Left On Mission & Revenge” is quite a mouthful, but it’s not the result of Mosher trying to be overly clever or complex. The inspiration for the title comes from the same place that many writers find inspiration: music. “It’s actually a fairly obscure music reference that I thought appropriate for story and for Emma’s character,” revealed the scribe. “I like the double meaning. It works on a bunch of levels. What’s it a reference to? I’ll never tell.”
Beyond music, “LOMR” has origins in the daily rigueur of Mosher’s life, where he found the reactions to the tragic events of 9/11 provided him with inspiration. The writer had always been creating stories in his mind since childhood, but it wasn’t until he read a “Newsweek” column, “Time To Think About Torture” by Jonathan Aleter, that Mosher was spurred forward. “It was basically explaining how we needed to keep an open mind about using torture in the war on terror,” he explained. “Now you gotta understand, this guy’s a liberal – and one of my favorite columnists – and I am thinking, ‘Have you lost your mind?’ I don’t think I need to go into what kind of trouble this line of thinking has gotten us into. But anyway, I read this column and I am pretty shocked by it, shocked that someone I respect would even think about coming down to that level. And at the same time I was hanging out with this guy who was in the Special Forces. And it’s obvious that unless this guy is being shot at, he can’t really concentrate on anything. He’s just wired differently. His personal life is a total train wreck. So then I start thinking about the human toll that state-sponsored torturing would take on the person who would be tasked to do that kind of work, and what it means when a government asks you to cross lines no one should ever have to cross. And I just started writing. And then out came Emma and the whole middle of the book and it grew from there.”
Holding down a day job certainly slowed down the writing process for Mosher, but when he showed the script to Marie Javins, former Marvel Comics editor (of such titles as “Akira”), and received a positive response, he felt emboldened. “That’s pretty cool, to say the least,” he says.
Still, an artist needed to be found for the book and it proved to be more difficult a task than Mosher imagined. “LOMR” has always been a “graphically intensive” book from the moment of conception and the scribe wanted an artist who could convey those strong emotions while keeping the art grounded in the real world. Interestingly enough, it turned out to be that day job that brought Mosher and Wright together (which is chronicled at www.missionandrevenge.com/blog). “At my day job I ended up working with this rather imposing Ivy League-educated comic book geek named Aneurin (or ‘Nye’) Wright,” explained Mosher. “We got to talking and it turned out he’d done a book for Image in 2004 called ‘Lex Talionis’. Now I don’t know if you have seen this thing, but you read it length-wise and he colored the whole thing in Flash. It’s a pretty amazing first comic, to say the least. On top of that, Nye also independently publishes a series of comics entitled ‘Things to Do in a Retirement Home Trailer Park When You’re 29 and Unemployed,’ which chronicles his experience caring for his terminally ill father, under his Welsh el Dorado Press imprint. To say the least, I was pretty awestruck when I found out he was such an accomplished artist, as well as self-publisher.
“Of course, when the perfect solution is staring you right in the face, it takes a while. Nye had been trying to get more mainstream comic book work and didn’t really have much to show other than ‘Lex Talionis’ – which is a bit cartoony – and ‘Trailer Park’ – which has talking rhinos for characters. So there was Nye, a great artist but what he had done was not getting him mainstream comic work. And here I was with a more mainstream script and no artist. One day we just looked at each other and it hit us: Duh, why aren’t we working together?”
As a trained storyboard artist, Wright has his own unique perspective on art and Mosher finds their sensibilities compliment each other quite well. “I wrote my script with some of my favorite comics in mind: Krigstein’s ‘Master Race,’ ‘Cerebus,’ the infamous ‘Silent Interlude’ issue of ‘G.I. Joe,'” said Mosher. “I wanted the comic to move. I love the art side of the comics equation and always feel there are too many words in comics. So instead of compressing panels for action, I spread them out. It has much more of a storyboard kind of feel in some places than most comics. Nye was perfect for that.
“Also, his background in self-publishing has been invaluable. It was a no-brainer with Nye doing the book to actually make a mini-comic for sale for SDCC. He does everything himself — pencils, inks and the world’s most awesome colors this side of Richard Corben. Nye’s work on the book has exceeded all my expectations. I really look forward to seeing what he does with the rest of the 150 pages.
“I feel really blessed to have him on board. Nye normally only illustrates his own stories, but along with ‘LOMR,’ he’s also been doing an 11 page black and white alien invasion story with this sort of ’50s retro pulp feel for a comic called ‘Sympathizers’ written by Justin Robinson for the comic ‘Space Doubles’ being published by Third World Studios. I know ‘Trailer Park’ is where his heart is at, but I’d be shocked if ‘LOMR’ or the alien thing doesn’t get him some regular work with some more main stream publishers.
“Nye also was the animation director and lead animator on the short history of the U.S. segment in Michael Moore’s ‘Bowling for Columbine.’ If people want to see more of his work it can be found at Welsheldorado.com.”
If you’re excited about the graphic novel, keep in mind that it hasn’t found a publisher yet, but Mosher is confident that the work will speak for itself at Comic-Con and beyond. “No matter how many gimmicks you might have or how much salesmanship you put into it, if the work isn’t there, then it’s not going to sell – to a publisher or to the reader,” he contends. “I basically have been concentrating on getting the best preview of the book available to show people. That means really working with Nye and giving him what he needs to make the pages great (which usually means lots of space away from me!). Now that we have most of the work done I feel comfortable approaching people like yourself and others about the book. I really think the story is strong and Nye has taken my words and brought a whole new dimension to them.
“I am lucky in the fact that I have been kicking around the industry in many different capacities. I started working in comic shops at age 9, worked at Capital City Distribution for a summer, worked with Adhesive Media back in the day, worked with Oni Press for a long while, and did a short stint over at Graphitti Designs. So I have a network of friends to turn to that I have built up over the past 20 years. I don’t have a specific strategy other than exposing as many of those people to the work as possible and seeing where that leads. I don’t want to get bogged down in pre-conceived ideas about which publishers may or may not be interested in this — because at the end of the day you never know. So I am going into Comic-Con with my eyes wide open. We will see!”
“Left On Mission & Revenge” is Mosher’s focus for Comic-Con, and he’s got some ideas for other books, so expect to see his name quite often in the future. “This year has been really incredible for me. Ever since I decided to finally buckle down and work on my own stuff, well, that has its own rewards, but people have been really responding to my work, which has been great. I love comics, and I also love film. I finished my first screenplay this year entitled ‘Blacking Out.’ Brad Blondheim, who produced the documentary ‘Scratch,’ just optioned it. Brad’s a great guy and has taken the project to the next level. We’ll be starting to cast it this September and plan to shoot the script, with me directing, summer of 2007. So I am pretty stoked about that. Once we find a home for ‘LOMR,’ I think it will be safe to say that 2006 was a damn good year.”
Staff Writer Arune Singh contributed to this article.