|Sketch of Heath. All art in this article is by Moore.|
Artist Tony Moore helped to make zombies the next big thing in comics with his work on “The Walking Dead” and, if writer Rick Remender is right, Moore may also be credited with bringing pure science fiction back to comic books. This October, he’s helping to launch Image Comics’ “Fear Agent,” a comic in the mold of classic science fiction and with its sights squarely on the future. In part two of CBR’s week long spotlight on “Fear Agent,” CBR News spoke with Moore to learn about his work on the series and learned about how he became involved with project.
“Rick and I were on the phone one night, raving about old EC Comics stuff,” explained Moore to CBR News. “At the time I was more delved into the horror and war books, and Rick asked me if I had read any of the sci-fi stuff. I had a few ‘Weird Science’ and ‘Weird Fantasy’ reprints, but my collection was sparse at best. Needless to say, I did my best to remedy the situation shortly afterward and found myself knee deep in great old books, which sparked the idea between Rick and me, to develop our own 50’s style spaceman adventure as a send-up to that great stuff that seemed mostly forgotten in today’s market. Since there’s such a glut of superhero stuff, I prefer to work in genres either unproven or even commercially disproven, just to try to bring something different to the table.”
With such a rock solid friendship, one might imagine long nights of back & forth sharing of ideas and experimentation as a result, but Moore said that wasn’t the case. “Not really a whole lot of back and forth, beyond a couple phone sessions where we really talked about the essence of what Heath was as a man. When it came to designing the guy, I shot for a tough guy like Romita Jr’s Punisher, only a little more country/rockabilly in appearance and a little less overt. When it came to designing the spacesuit, I basically sat down with a fat stack of EC reprints and tried to get into the mindset of those guys working in that time. So I kept an eye out for common design elements and stuff and tried to incorporate as much of it as I could, regurgitated through my own style, I guess.”
Part of Moore’s appeal to both fans and comic book companies is the breadth of his work and the flexibility of his style. He’s done horror work in “The Walking Dead” and will be expanding his portfolio with his upcoming work on “The Exterminators.” In “Battle Pope” Moore showed his comedic skills and in “Brit” he cut loose in action scenes. Science fiction isn’t something fans might expect of Moore, but he says despite his newness to illustrating space tech, he’s up to the challenge. “Well, I’m not really a ‘tech’ guy, so designing spacesuits and cool robots and stuff is far from my forte. Fortunately, the Wood-style tech comes a little more naturally, because I guess I don’t have that crippling feeling that I need to make it all look cool and high-grade and functional. I can set down the gist the designs in that fun retro style and then fill in the gaps with whatever I can from welding machinery and tractor parts and stuff I actually kind of know, versus trying to compare to the slickness of the Cory Walkers and Dave Johnsons and EJ Su’s of the world. Luckily, though, Cory lives for that stuff and can knock it out of the park, so when it comes time to bring something new and fancy into play, I’m not completely alone trying to come up with stuff with him on board the project as well.”
An American comic book editor once said that while Europe has a wealth of artists that can tackle sci-fi in comics, the number of American born artists who can effectively convey those sort of worlds is rather few. “Wow. I mean, I don’t know how much I totally agree with that, I think the key to any genre is good storytelling,” responded Moore. “Though frankly, I guess the number of less-than-great storytellers in American comics is remarkably high, which I guess could lend itself to not being able to tell a sci-fi story. I figure if there are only a handful of people able to do it, then I’m about to become one of the masses outside that fold who tried and failed, however gloriously. I’ve tried to get into the mindset of conveying the fantastic and otherworldly, but in a reserved ’50s retro kind of fashion, which I suppose is good for me, given my limited ability to do much otherwise. All I can hope for is to be able to tell the story as best I can and crib as much from the old wave guys as I can get away with to fill in the gaps.”
While Remender told readers that he’s drawing the majority of his inspiration from some dear films, Moore is referencing some of his favorite artists for the aesthetic feel of “Fear Agent.” “Oh, of course, I’m knee deep in old EC reprints, keeping an eye on the entire stable, from Wally Wood and Joe Orlando to Al Williamson and the Fleagle Gang, and everyone in between. Not to mention the other guys like Davis and Severin who are some of my biggest influences ever, some of my favorites since I was a little kid.
“I also have been keeping a handful of Moebius books on hand, as well as the ever-present Darrow,” continued Moore. “Whenever I feel myself running out of gas, I can always turn to any of these guys for an inspiration recharge. And I also try to keep DVDs running while I work, so having those old Flash Gordon serials on hand, along with some cheesey sci-fi greats from the 50s and 60s helps keep the juices flowing.”
Every five issues- which constitutes a single arc in “Fear Agent”- Moore will switch artistic duties with penciller Cory Walker, which is turning out to be a successful creative partnership for both. “Cory and I often shoot files back and forth to check out on any given project we’re working on, so yeah, I guess we’ll both continue to look over each others’ work as much as ever. When it comes to designing new stuff for the book, we shoot a few rounds of sketches back and forth to each other until we both get something we’re happy with. I’m probably his biggest fan, so I geek out as much as anyone to see new stuff from him. I still can’t believe he agreed to come on board, but dang it’s going to be so sweet that he did.”
With the October release date for “Fear Agent” coming up soon, Moore is working to keep ahead of schedule and was happy to share his progress with readers. “I got into #2 a little while ago, and should be wrapping it up before too long. With this and my Vertigo book, my days of lingering for too long on pages have swiftly come to an end. I figure the coming months will be not entirely unlike boot camp, or maybe even war, only when it’s over I’ll either have gained a lot of weight or atrophied to nothing, and I’ll be uncannily pale and weak, but I’ll have a big crazy Doug Mahnke arm to draw with. Thankfully, Sean Parsons is on hand to ink my Fear Agent stuff, and he’s really one of the best there is. I literally could not be doing this book if he wasn’t with me.”
With such a strong résumé behind him, one might wonder why Moore hasn’t been seen gracing the pages of some superhero book from Marvel or DC, but don’t think that’s because he’s too “cool” to work on those characters. “I love working on creator-owned stuff. We’re able to go buck wild on the books, completely unhindered by anyone. And it’s maybe the most rewarding thing in the universe to see brain-babies I helped conceive brought into fruition as books that people actually want to read. I’d like to have creator-owned projects running as often as I can for the rest of my career. Both ‘Fear Agent’ and ‘The Exterminators’ at Vertigo are new creator-owned properties. As fun as it would be to play in their sandbox for a while, I couldn’t do comics if all I ever did was walk in other people’s footsteps. I’d feel like a caged animal or something. I’d go absolutely crazy.
“That’s not to say I’d rule out working on a handful of existing characters for DC and Marvel, though. Eventually I’d love to have the opportunity to try my hand at a run on Jonah Hex, Swamp Thing, the Punisher, Hulk, or Ghost Rider– cowboy variety and flamey-skulled biker. Hopefully I’ll be around for a while and get to put my hand in a few cookie jars before I hang it up.”
Make sure to check back in with CBR News tomorrow, when we talk to artist Cory Walker about his time on “Fear Agent.” If you’d like to learn more about “Fear Agent,” check out their Myspace Group.
Check out all of CBR’s “Fear Agent” coverage by looking at the Index
CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland Contributed To This Story.