Writer/artist Terry Moore is one of the most admired and inspiring veterans in the comic book industry. In addition to his acclaimed work across several titles from his own publishing house, Abstract Studios, his work is notable for featuring numerous fascinating female leads, from Katchoo in “Strangers in Paradise” to the titular character in “Rachel Rising.” Each year, Moore makes his presence felt at Comic-Con International in San Diego via his booth on the show floor and his intimate spotlight panel where he fields questions from some of his biggest fans.
Moore matches his boundless creativity with extremely truthful and thoughtful answers regarding his comics. Despite his unfiltered approach, Moore is able to provide deep insight into events in both his life and work, whether the events discussed are good or bad. Appropriately, the storyteller hosted his own panel without a moderator. As he he took a seat on the dais, Moore reflected on how phenomenal it felt to be at Comic-Con for 21 consecutive years. “When you’re my age it all runs together,” he said. “It feels like now all San Diego [Comic-Cons] are two months apart for me.”
As he opened up the floor for questions, the first fan to the microphone asked for an update on a “Rachel Rising” omnibus. With a massive hardcover omnibus already available for “Strangers in Paradise,” Moore’s earlier opus, many fans have wondered if “Rachel Rising” will be next in line to receive the same treatment. Moore said no to the omnibus, for now, but didn’t rule out the idea entirely. “I’m not going to make a big omnibus until I’m done,” said Moore of his still-in-progress series.
Staying with “Rachel Rising,” Moore told fans the series has been in development as a TV show with Alcon Entertainment. “I’m on a roll right now, and [“Rachel Rising”] was optioned for TV,” said Moore. “Since I saw you last, the showrunner wrote a spec script and they sent it out. The script that she wrote just wasn’t right, so now they’ve come back and renegotiated. I’m going to write the pilot.” Moore’s hands-on involvement on the pilot prompted the audience to roar with applause.
“Don’t clap. You haven’t read it yet,” said Moore with a smile. “It may stink. I think it’ll go well. I’ll have a lot more creative control on getting the show started so that it has my personality and not just generic Hollywood typecasting. The last thing we need on TV is the 30th version of something. My goal in comics has always been to try and give you really interesting characters, and once in awhile a visual you’ve never seen before, whether it’s Katchoo setting fire to a grave or those grave sites exploding in front of Zoe. I love cool visuals like that. The guys interested — they would love to make a show that sets the tone for what could be cool for the next 5 years.”
The next fan question was about the constant rumors surrounding film and television adaptations for “Echo” and “Strangers in Paradise,” and Moore was happy to explain why characters like Katchoo, Francine and “Echo” star Julie beyond the comic book page. “The rights expired on [‘Echo’] and ‘Strangers in Paradise,’ so it’s right back in my pocket,” said Moore. “The thing about ‘Echo’ is it was always pitched as a movie, and nobody’s making any kind of movie except for the Sundance [indie film] or Robert Downey Jr. [blockbuster] film so there’s nothing in between. Something coming out of left field like that is a hard sell.
“What I’ll do is when I get ‘Rachel [Rising]’ situated, I’ll turn my attention to ‘Echo’ and develop it more for TV, too.” Moore continued, explaining that due the long form stories and expansive worlds his characters reside in, the best onscreen translation for them would be on television rather than in a single movie.
Readers recognize Moore for his original creations, but a fan asked if he would ever consider tackling any established characters at Marvel, DC or elsewhere. In the past, Moore explained, his answer has always been Supergirl, though he admitted the days where he could take on the character’s adventures are likely long gone. “When I finished [‘Strangers in Paradise’] I wanted to take a year off and do something else, and Supergirl was my target,” Moore explained. “I knew the people who were working on it at the time. My goal was to give her a life and make her one of the four main icons. Why in the world is she not one of the main icons? Supergirl should be one, since she’s [so] powerful, but she’s a sidekick.
“She’s just a girl in a skirt who flies around in satellite zones, dealing with weird things,” Moore continued. “Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner [did] ‘Power Girl,’ which was the story that I wanted to make anyways. That’s the last great mainstream hero series that I love.” Moore said that even though he still has some lingering desire to work on Supergirl he lacks the connections to put the make it happen given the current direction of DC Comics.
While Moore’s fans likely could have showered him with an endless array of questions about possible future projects, things shifted gears a bit as some aspiring creators asked Moore about his craft, including how he shapes the almost nightmarish events surrounding his characters. “If you go to a horror movie, you expect everybody to die so there’s no surprise,” said Moore. “If you go to a gangster movie everybody’s going to be bad. I always thought it’s a lot more horrible when it’s out of place. I try to do that. That’s the reason why the town serial killer is 10 years-old instead of another middle-aged loner predator guy.”
According to Moore, that same approach is the reason “Strangers in Paradise” has such wonderfully written characters and why they clash at various points in the series. “Again, that goes back to how we got ‘Strangers in Paradise’ in the first place. ‘Strangers in Paradise’ is a love triangle but it’s like an acting class. Everybody swaps scripts. The guys play the girls roles and the girls play the guys roles,” Moore explained. “I thought if I do a love triangle, and everybody’s miscast, they’re saying the same things they all said but it’s coming from a different point of view. The argument is fresh and you’re looking at it again.”
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Moving from writing to art — possibly prompted by Moore’s urging — the next fan asked about what excites the creator about the visual side of comic book storytelling. “The visuals are the power of comics. That’s the advantage the comic has over the novel,” said Moore. “There’s a lot to be said about an image that you can’t get out of your head.” Moore then spoke about the many easter eggs he hides in his comics, including “Strangers in Paradise,” and how that attracts avid comic book readers to go back and revisit the material. “If you’re going to have a body of work, it would be nice if there were layers for you to deal with and pull them out. It would be nice if the last time you look at that story there was one more thing that you didn’t see before.”
Toward the end of the panel, Moore revealed that there’s another story he’s been aching to write but hasn’t been able to expand on since his current obligations reside with “Rachel Rising.” “I have a story waiting,” said Moore. “It’s supposed to be the next series and it’s a fantasy story. I actually have been talking to Karen Berger and Shelly Bond at Vertigo and they want to do something. I presented this and they loved it. They want to do it. We just never worked out a contract because now the contract would involve the film rights.
“I have the idea in my drawer and it’s the one I would go with next. It’s based off research over the years about ancient Egypt,” Moore continued. “The more you learn about what their day-to-day life and what their rituals were like, how they dressed and how royalty worked. It’s so alien to our culture. I would love to tap into that as a writer.”
Whatever Moore publishes next, it was clear from the reactions of the enthusiastic crowd that there will be strong support for his future endeavors.