When the beginning of a new comic starts with the phrase "All Beasts Will Show Their Teeth" followed by a story narrated by a talking dog with big floppy ears and a talking turtle, you know you're about to embark on a very different sort of journey.
Next February, Image Comics presents "Mora," a new black and white series from the mind and pen of Paul Harmon to be published bi-monthly. It's a story that contains a number of familiar images and ideas, but all of which have been turned on their head just enough to make you wonder what's going on. CBR News spoke with Harmon to learn more about the series.
"There are three main stars in Mora, Mora of course, Anandra, the girl who will become Mora's best friend, and a troubled Lion," Harmon told CBR News. "I won't say what the lion will be called for the people who don't want any spoilers, but basically these three characters will all be closely intertwined as the story progresses.
"Mora is destined to become the most powerful witch there is, and as she grows she enters this very dangerous and dark world and we will be there to see her through the process, to see how she changes. We will be a part of this strange world of the witch and just as the other characters revolve around Mora so does the outer elements of the story revolve around the witches world.
"I know it sounds cliché, but let me say that these witches aren't like any witches you have seen. They don't hold hands in circles chanting, there are no broomsticks or pointy hats or a big book of spells waiting to be memorized, and they don't have anything to do with Satan. But with that being said don't think they are normal women or men because they are not. I don't want to give too much away about how my witches are because their origins and the basis of their magic and power will all be explained as the series progresses."
Harmon told us that he's treating the series the same way Manga creators do, designed to tell a complete story with a fully realized conclusion. Harmon's already plotted out a long-term story. "My goal is for the book to do well enough for me to keep telling the story the way I planned to tell it, because if I can finish the entire story I think it will truly be something special," said Harmon.
In the preview pages that accompany this interview you'll see an undead rabbit and his partner, an undead tortoise, narrating the first part of the story. While Harmon says he loves narration as a story device, the duo will come and go throughout the story.
"There is a lot of ground to cover in the first issue so they are there a lot, but the narrators will definitely drop back and let the characters interact and let the story happen. In the second issue they're not there so much and I miss them already!"
"Mora" got its start about a year ago when Harmon did a short piece for a friend's anthology called "Town O' Crazies." That story had the seeds and most of the characters you'll find in the monthly "Mora" comic, but since that publication the story's been expanded on substantially.
"When I worked on the short I knew I wanted to tell a story about a witch and I wanted to experiment with the look," said Harmon. "Part of what I wanted was a really ornate and decorative look, like how certain old fairy-tale illustrations are. I also ended up using markers to 'color' my inked pages and really loved the result. So after the short was finished I began to flesh out the story and refine the look."
Harmon got "Mora" hooked up at Image simply by corresponding with Image Publisher Erik Larsen.
"I started contacting Erik Larsen once I found out he was Image's new Publisher and was shocked that he would respond and answer my questions, it was amazing! So eventually I showed him some of the pages and I got a good response from him. That was right about the time of the San Diego Comic-Con and I was able to go down there and meet him and show him my stuff in person, and things have been moving forward ever since."
Harmon is new to the comics industry, having so far been published in the afore mentioned anthology and Dark Horses' "Stripsearch." He's been working on various freelance jobs since he left the Academy of Art in San Francisco and moved back to Los Angeles where most of his family resides. He's a life long cartoon, comics and toy fan with a fancy for Japanese toys, especially those sci-fi heroes like Ultraman and Kamen Rider. Outside of comics he enjoys checking out the independent music scene in Los Angeles, but for now comics are where it's at and Harmon talked a bit about some of his comic influences.
"I have general comic influences and then I have things that influenced and inspired the series of 'Mora,'" said Harmon. "I know Mike Mignola was the first artist I ever really recognized. I loved his Superman runs, Hulk stuff and especially his Batman. I still love "Gotham by Gaslight." What I really liked about Mike's work was that it had shadows and no cross-hatching. I really hate cross-hatching. I am also a huge Ninja Turtles fan. I remember reading the comics in class and drawing Ninja Turtles and people having no idea what it was until the cartoon came out a few years later. I still have some amazing runs by Rick Veitch and Mike Zulli. I notice now all the artists I like are really great at inking or at least using black. Mike Mignola, John Paul Leon (don't see nearly enough of him), Bill Sienkiewicz, Tacconi, Barron Storey, Alex Toth, and the late brillian Jorge Zaffino. I'm sure I'm leaving someone out but you get the idea.
"Now as far as inspirations for 'Mora,' I was drawing on a ton of stuff. I went and rounded up a lot of my favorite childhood books to tap into that magic. I read some Bradbury, Shirley Jackson, L'engle
('Wrinkle in Time') and my favorite Roald Dahl, as well as some contemporaries like Salman Rushdie. So those writers and just about every folk lore and fairy-tale I ever liked influenced the writing.
"Visually I wanted a Fellini and Maurice Noble thing going on if that makes any sense. I wanted very dense and ornate imagery. I also was looking at a lot of stylish Japanese films of the sixties like 'Tokyo Drifter.' And the witches themselves are heavily influenced by Haute Couture fashion. I've always looked at fashion and that eccentric look and attitude of Haute Couture was exactly the spirit and look for my witches. And the music I'm listening to at any given time really shapes my work as well."