This interview contains minor spoilers for “Echo” #28, released last week.
Terry Moore’s second major creator-owned series concludes in May, but whereas “Strangers in Paradise” wrapped up its nearly fifteen-year run with poignant scenes of love and death, “Echo” might end with the destruction of Earth itself. The series began with the death of Dr. Annie Trotter, an experimental physicist at the Heitzer Nuclear Institute (HenRi) who was test-piloting an experimental suit made of liquid metal as part of the Phi Project. When the suit exploded in mid flight, most of the metal bonded to a young woman named Julie Martin who happened to be in the area; the rest of the metal, though, bonded to a grizzled psychopath who may or may not be the Biblical Cain, the first murderer. The metal has both healing and destructive powers, as Julie soon learned, as well as some further, unpredictable effects. Joined by NSB agent Ivy Raven and Dillon Murphy, Annie’s boyfriend, Julie survived a final confrontation with Cain but now the clock is ticking as HenRi prepares to test a new Phi collider that, if the slightest thing goes wrong, could literally destroy the world.
CBR News spoke with Moore about the end of “Echo,” its relationship to “Strangers in Paradise” and what’s next for the busy cartoonist.
CBR News: Now that “Echo” is starting to wrap up, how do you feel it all came across? Were there any aspects of the story that changed significantly in the telling from your original plans?
Terry Moore: I’m a little surprised by how different it turned out from my original idea. I pictured more of a Ashley-Judd-wronged-woman-on-the-run story, but I ended up with something very different. It’s funny how your inspirations molt into new forms when they filter through you. There were some good moments I had in mind that never made it to the page, so I’ll keep those in my brain for something else later. But, all in all, I’m happy. And I have to say, I’m more than a little relieved that I could do a new series and find acceptance. I was worried about being pegged as a one series creator. I think “Echo” broke that curse for me.
It seems like your approach here was quite different from “Strangers” — “Echo” was much shorter, for one, and I believe you said from the start it was only going to be 30 issues. What led you to attempt a more finite series this time around?
Variety, for one thing — for me and for you. I couldn’t see starting another long series right away. But another thing, very important: “SiP” was so long it had no single story… a theme maybe, but no story. It’s like, what was the story in “The Sopranos?” There wasn’t one, was there? It was a series devoted to characters with many stories and they came and went under an over-arcing theme. That was “SiP” — a TV series. For my next title, I wanted to make a “movie.” One story, one arc: beginning, middle, end. Badda bing badda boom. Maybe the next series should be a play.
There’s also a strong science fiction element at the core of this series. Is the sort of theoretical science behind Annie’s suit something that’s always interested you, or was it just an idea that came to you and grew?
I grew up reading sci-fi by [Robert A.] Heinlein, [Roger] Zelazny, [Harlan] Ellison and all those great writers from the ’50s-’60s, so they planted the seeds in me that came up later. All credit to those giant shoulders. Don’t tell Harlan he wrote sci-fi though, he’ll protest and explain a more complex genre. But it’s all in my mind and in my heart as one fascinating school of visionary writers, and he’s in that group for me. So yeah, I come by it honestly from growing up with these interests and curiosities. Ideas form over time. I’ve always been interested in science and I’ve tried to keep up with the big picture and the major moves. It’s fun to grab the facts with Silly Putty and play with them. Like, “Mount McKinley stands magestic, then suddenly it comes crashing down on the town!”
With Julie, Annie and Dylan, you’ve once again set up an odd kind of love triangle. What is the most interesting aspect of their dynamic to you?
I’ve always been curious about guys who marry a twin. Think about it. So, my Silly Putty twist was, what if a guy loves a woman living within another woman. That could be as simple as a woman with multiple personalities — because, yeah in my tiny, oxygen-challenged brain that’s simple — or it could be what I came up with, which is sort of a nuclear ghost story. That fascinates me. The brief story of “Echo” doesn’t give me a chance to play with that much. It would have been fun to get into the daily lives of that syndrome.
Another interesting dynamic is that, as Julie grows, Ivy becomes younger. What was your thinking behind this — since it’s not quite 1-to-1 (one woman shrinks as another grows, or one gets older and the other younger), I’d be curious to hear anything you’re able to say about the changes these women are facing.
I find both maladies very interesting. The girl who becomes big is a classic sci-fi theme so it was just my run with it. Ivy’s problem is sort of like the Shrinking Man, trapped in a physical change of a different sort. I see adults as big kids anyway, so this wasn’t much of a stretch for me, but it’s fun to play with it as a writer. The overall point is that we are who we are no matter the package. Aside from maturing, I am pretty much the same person I was when I looked much different years ago. Ivy and Julie are going through life changes we might be able to relate to, it’s just very fast, intense and bizarre versions of change.
Issue #28 confirmed something that had been teased earlier, with Tambi’s full appearance tying things back into “Strangers.” Why bring in these elements so late in the series?
Because I didn’t want to make a big deal about it. I wanted the appearance to be organic to the story… like, of course, Ivy might know Tambi, and of course Tambi might be able to help in this way. I think I also held off because I wasn’t sure I wanted Francine and Katchoo to live in a world that could be blown up. In “SiP,” Francine might gain weight. In “Echo,” the world might be doomed. See what I mean? Do we really want “The Golden Girls” to live in the same country as “24?” In the end, I decided yes, it’s all a Terryverse. Writers get to do that, create worlds then knock them down. Like Calvin wreaking havoc in the sandbox; Hobbes shaking his head. One thing about it, if the Phi Collider doesn’t blow up the world, maybe I can make a “SiP” sequel.
Though it was something seeded a while back with the introduction of Cain, you’ve also ramped up the Biblical implications recently — not in a religious way, so much, as in a prophetic manner. How does Cain’s existence — or the belief that this is the biblical Cain — color our characters’ perceptions of what they’re about to do?
I’m treating the biblical like it’s old science meets new science, the same way you might query, What if Merlin were still around? Everything in “Echo” is a collision of seemingly disparate disciplines: astrophysics encounters a mathematical revolution; the myth of faith encounters the harsh reality of one of its own stars; in the most singular evolutionary move ever, an endangered world unnaturally selects a single woman to save it from mankind. In “Echo,” everything has weight. There’s something to the God thing, and it’s scary. There’s something to the living breathing planet thing and it’s scary. Math is like a code to reality that becomes a loaded handgun in the hands of children. I’m pursuing the idea that we are all so out of our depth, breaching our illusions and scared poopless by what we glimpse. The reality of just being here is beyond us really, and when we screw with it, the consequences can be devastating. Sounds like a lot of Marvel stories, actually. Just my amped-up version, I suppose. In “Echo” we turn it up to 12.
Between “Strangers” and “Echo,” you wrote an arc of “Runaways” at Marvel. Are there any plans to wade into superheroes a bit before your next creator-owned series?
Not at the moment. Writing other people’s characters is like being the 3rd husband: there may be some romance there but the kids never trust you.
What are your plans for your next book or books?
I will begin releasing chapters of a “How To Draw” series once every few months, beginning with “How To Draw Women.” A chapter will be one 24-page comic. When I get all the chapters done, I’ll collect them into one book. The first issue of that should be in June, I think.
Also, I am drawing a one-shot story for one of the major publishers right now. Can’t say what or for who because there’s been no announcement. But remember, you sort of heard it here first, kind of.
And of course, I will launch a new series after “Echo.” No vacations for me, so look for the first issue this summer. I can’t tell you what it is yet. I’m waiting until I have to solicit — in a week or so — before deciding on which story goes next.
So, a lot going on. Also, I booked 15 cons this year. Yes, I am crazy.
“Echo” #28 is in stores now, followed by #29 in late March, and #30, the final issue, in May.