Moore on "Rachel Rising," "Echo," Digital Comics and More

Terry Moore, creator of the critically acclaimed "Strangers in Paradise" and the Harvey award-winning "Echo," was on hand in Artist Alley at HeroesCon 2011 to meet with fans, sign books and check out what this year's convention had to offer.

With "Echo" coming to a close in June and newest ongoing, "Rachel Rising," set to debut during this summer's Comic-Con International in San Diego, fans of Terry Moore work have a lot to look forward to. In addition to "Rachel Rising," Moore is also illustrating an upcoming issue of "Fables," has an instructional "How to Draw Women" issue hitting stores soon and will be producing a hardcover omnibus of "Echo" in time for CCI.

Moore was on hand in Artist Alley at HeroesCon 2011 to meet with fans, sign books and check out what this year's convention had to offer. CBR News spent some time with the creator, discussing his upcoming work, including a few precious tidbits about "Rachel Rising," some thoughts looking back at his 30-issue run of "Echo," working on Sleeping Beauty in "Fables" and his take on the issue that's been on the minds of every comic fan lately: digital distribution.

CBR News: Terry, how are you enjoying HeroesCon this year?

Terry Moore: It's been a good show. I like it because there are so many artists. I've never seen so many artists in one place!

Are there any particular moments that have stood out for you so far?

I think the most fascinating thing that happened this weekend was watching Adam Hughes paint a very large painting on the art stage for the auction. You got to see Adam make something from scratch and everybody was just amazed what it looked like by the end of the day. It was awesome.

The last issue of "Echo" comes out on June 8. How does it feel to be done with the series after spending the last 3 years on it?

It feels like I finished a big novel -- it's about 626 pages of story. I can't believe that I racked up that many pages, because I always thought of this as just a short, limited story. It's just one story arc. To finish it and see it all complete is a good feeling, it's a feeling of satisfaction. It's a quiet ending. When I finished "Strangers in Paradise," it was a big deal, we had a party, but this one I did the last page home alone, just sat back in my chair and went, "Good. I got it finished" and moved on to the next one. I hope to do a lot more series in the future.

Looking back, is there anything that you included in "Echo" that you didn't plan for in the beginning, or vice-versa?

I always say that working on a series or a book, a long book, is like a road trip, where you do have a destination in mind, you do as many things as you can, but things do develop along the way. It's just kind of the creative process. Certainly, a lot of that happened on "Echo." I was delighted by some of the developments that turned up during the series and I do feel like I got most of my inspirational ideas out, so I do feel cleansed of the idea and I'm not frustrated by the book. I was very happy that I could find a way to blend a story about relationships and science fiction at the same time. I wanted to write fiction for physicists, and I have never met so many physicists in my life as in the last couple of years; people coming up and saying, "I've been reading 'Echo,' and I'm a nuclear physicist and this has been fun!" I never expected that. It's weird. When I worked on "Strangers in Paradise," I met more lesbians than Ellen, [Laughs] but on "Echo," I really seem to have met a ton of physicists. I would imagine it was the same way for Gary Larson. When he was doing "The Far Side," he met a lot of bug people and Smithsonian Institute Bug people. You have to be careful what you work on, because you're going to get that back, you're going to track that back.

In terms of the physicist angle, there's some really technical stuff in "Echo." Did you research it all or is it mostly pseudo-science?

I'm really good at getting the big picture then running with it and filling the blanks, and that's what I did on this. I've always had just a layman's interest in the general Einstein universe. Then, when it's time for details, Wikipedia's your best friend. You just go on the web and some things I was amazed at the resources you could find. You can go to the CERN collider; they have a website. Not only do they have one, but the homepage reflects what the collider's doing today. You can go into the pages and see the readings on all the settings and how the beam is aligned and a performance test once run -- it's just like I hacked into the thing, but it's open to the public. The information's out there. If you want to know exactly what happens when an atom bomb explodes and what the damage is gonna be, there's tons of information out there. If you're like any writer, you ride with the cops, you get the material, you go back and fictionalize it. It's fun.

"Strangers in Paradise" had an ending where it was very clear your characters continued their stories after the reader stopped reading. Without giving anything away, especially since there's a possibility the world could blow up, will we see that same possibility for a story beyond the story in "Echo?"

When I was originally working on the story for "Echo," I realized I had options. Serious options. I do like to rebel against the notion that all American movies are the same with all the same ending. So I really was considering being more of a French movie with it, which means everybody dies! It was very enticing to think that I had the ability to blow up the world.

So, I walked around with that power under my thumb for a while and that was fun, like a little kid with a secret identity. But when I got to working on the book, what I didn't realize was that Ivy is a very interesting character. I started "SiP" thinking it was all about Francine ,and then I realized early on that it was really about her roommate Katchoo. I started "Echo" thinking it was all about Julie Martin's Echo experience, and then I got to thinking, "You know what? It's not. It's all about Ivy." She's the interesting one because, when this is all over, Julie will be all finished, but Ivy has to go on to another case. She's really my X-Files investigator. This is just one of the many cases for Ivy. Who knows what she was doing before or what she's doing after -- if there is an after.

Once I started thinking about Ivy, I started rethinking my whole situation. I have left all kinds of stuff for her to go on to. We rock her world in this issue, and I would imagine that she's having that happen two or three times a year, so I'm curious as to what she will do next.

Speaking of what's happening next, you've got "Rachel Rising" coming down the line at this year's San Diego Comic-Con. You've been playing things pretty close to the vest on details of the book, but are there any tidbits you can give us leading to its release?

Well, I am going into it knowing that it's all part of the same Terry-verse. That may sound a little strange since we're telling a supernatural story, but if you look at "Echo" and "SiP," there are many supernatural elements in there. Most notably, Francine going to the graveyard and having a conversation face-to-face with her long dead great-grandmother; or David, when he was in his hurting days. The angel of death was following him around, this girl named Ma Malalai. So, I've already introduced the supernatural into my world.

I don't think that "Echo" was too much of a stretch, so when we get to "Rachel Rising," we're going to focus more on the supernatural aspect. Here's a girl that will not die. We, the reader, know that going in, just from spoilers, but I would like to tell how that syndrome works, because I think it'd be charming to discover how that works, just from the read. I want everybody to fully understand how it works once they've read a few issues. It's not going to be a big thing, but I don't think I could explain it in a way that would be more fun than if you read it, so I'm holding off on how "Rachel Rising" works.

The series opens up with this girl climbing her way out of a shallow grave, She's a serial killer victim and she goes on to investigate her own murder. That's our first initial story arc. I do see the series as ongoing, like a "Twin Peaks" thing where there are a lot of characters, the town itself has a character to it, it's affecting the story -- it's one of those places where all the vibes are bad, the dogs are growling, the milk is sour, the sun's too hot -- that kind of thing. It's one of those stories. I'm looking forward to it. I love spooky stories, Hitchcock type stuff.

Artistically, you've gotten to do so many things in "Echo" that are different from you did in "SiP." Moving into "Rachel Rising," it's new territory once again. What kinds of new artistic things have you gotten to play with?

Artistically, that's interesting that you would point that out. You know, some people take that for granted. I remember working on a Willow and Tara one-shot. Amber Benson wrote it, and the reason I decided to do the job was, in script, she wrote two scenes that were just awesome. I wanted to draw those two scenes, those two pages, so I drew the entire 21-page story just so I could draw those two pages. One of them was where a girl was attacked by the forest and ended up dead, half buried in the ground. She was impaled by the ground and impaled by the roots of the tree -- just the visual of it was so striking. I had never seen it before. And there was another victim that was impaled by trees. Those things fascinate me as an artist, I love that. I mean, I grew up reading "Creepy Comics" and loving Bernie Wrightson's Frankenstein illustrations. I loved horror movies growing up, especially the Hammer films of the '40s. These images as an artist stick with me. I really don't want to draw two people having a conversation in the kitchen anymore unless there's a potential for danger.

So, that's what's drawing me to "Rachel Rising" as an artist; the fact that I can draw scenes that I would normally never draw. I want to draw scenes you can't find anywhere else in comics. I feel the same way about movies. If I was going to make a movie, I wouldn't make a formula movie, because they've all been done. Make images that you can't photograph, make images that we're not seeing anymore, because that's the fun of comics -- that you can do that. There's no budget limit, you don't have to get a film crew or special effects. Just visualize something out of the box. I would love to have images like that in each issue of "Rachel Rising." I tried for that in "Echo" as much as I could, but I'll be swinging for the fences on "Rachel Rising."

In addition to "Rachel Rising," you've got a full hardcover collection of "Echo" debuting at SDCC. How is this going to compare to the "Strangers in Paradise" omnibus?

It won't be a box set, but it'll be a hardcover -- 640 pages -- and we're only going to have 1000 hardcovers. Of that 1000, there will be 150 San Diego Comic-Con versions, I think. We'll just have those hardcovers and then after that, we'll keep a softcover version in print forever. That's our goal. It'll be comic-sized, one big fat book. Not the 12-pound beast that "Strangers in Paradise" was, but hopefully a 5- or 6-pound beast.

You've also got a "How to Draw Women" special coming up. What was that like, trying to design a book specifically to teach people how to draw instead of just drawing?

There are so many "how to draw" books, like, anatomically-correct books, out there that nobody needs me to regurgitate that. My approach on it is, this is how I do it, this is what I'm thinking of when I'm working on an elbow or an alignment or symmetry or body language. I kind of draw from the inside out. I start thinking about what the character is feeling at the moment and try to get that expression in the eyes and in the body language and then you go for the details. I notice things about women, things that you'll never see in a book. Like, there are two kinds of women according to how their hands are. Some of them have the fingers that are really curly that can curl back, and some of them don't. The women that have the curly fingers are not the kind of women that you would find playing in tennis finals or in golf; they're more like ballerinas; they're more clumsy; they're more awkward; they're more girly. The girls with the straighter fingers, if they throw something at you, duck! Things like that, you don't see them in a book. I don't want to be an FBI profiler, but there's something to that, once in a while when you're looking at how we're all made. Some penguins waddle this way, some penguins waddle that way -- it's just nature observations. I think I'll put that in there and try to get more information than you would find typically on a "How To" shelf.

Is there any particular thing you've discovered about yourself and your own work as you've been going through and writing the book?

Yeah, that you have to be a little bit of a perv to work in comics. [Laughs]

[Laughs] Do you want to elaborate on that a little?

You know, some cute girl came up the other day, covered in needles and metal stuff and tattoos and she said, "I love your work and I love your art, and I love the fact that you're just a little bit of a perv and you can nail all this." At first you think, "No! I'm not a perv!" But then I was thinking, I was looking around the room and I was seeing all the T&A, especially coming out of the guys, and I realized she was right. We're all grown-up "Playboy" readers who know every inch of what we're drawing. We think about it so much that we've gotten really good at drawing it. Where would we be without it? If I didn't know this landscape, I couldn't do my job. I guess in all fairness, we could call all gynecologists and doctors pervs too because we have the same knowledge they do.

So, I don't know, there are some weird aspects to comics. If you had to bring in a friendly psychologist and just have him evaluate us all, it might be some off-the-charts stuff! It's kind of like having a power. All the artists on this floor know what everybody else looks like without their clothes on and they could draw that. What we do with that power depends on whether you're good or evil. It's so funny that we have that good or evil power of whether we're all going to draw bad girls or really cute pin-ups. What we do with it is so much like the characters we write and draw. You have these empowered people, and are they good or bad? It's the same thing refracting all the way down the food chain with us. I think it's kind of an interesting statement.

You're also doing an issue of "Fables" with Bill Willingham, correct?

I am. I'm doing issue #107 of "Fables" with Bill Willingham's script. It's my first time to ever draw Sleeping Beauty and the Enchanted City and all that, so it's just been a gas. I've really tried hard to make beautiful images, because I only get one shot at this. I'm looking forward to seeing how that ends up.

What has the process been like, collaborating with Bill?

Bill is very hands off, he's given me free rein. I've dealt with Shelly Bond, who is the editor in charge. What a delightful person. What a professional. She's so upbeat and wonderful to work with. I can't say enough good things about her. She's very indicative of a lot of the people I've worked with at DC Comics. Very professional group, when you work on an editor-by-editor basis. Very positive experience. I'll tell you what, if I wasn't going to do any more of my own stories and just worked mainstream, I would be in good hands [at DC].

Wrapping up, one of the issues on everybody's mind this weekend, following DC's same-day digital initiative announcement, is that of digital comics. As someone who is best known for his creator-owned work, who releases books through his own imprint, what is your stance on digital comics and what do you think the future holds there?

Well, my stance on digital comics is that, in theory, I'm all for them because they look gorgeous on the computer. My comics look better on my Mac screen than they do in print, so I'd be happy to share that experience. How we're going to share it is the debate. I've never put my comics up on the web, because you're just giving it away. So far, nobody's really been able to come up with a business model that replaces print income. So, that's what we're working for. Where is the income? We have the tools and we have the toys, but nobody can make a house payment with it yet. I'll know it's arrived when I look at an article about Neil Gaiman bashing some huge number out of the park with his digital version. When Neil Gaiman sets the bar, then we'll all be able to do it. He's the canary in the mine, so to speak. The answer's not going to come from Artist Alley, it's going to have to come from some icon that sets the way for us. I'm keeping my eye on those guys. I'm keeping my eye on Neil and Frank Miller and what they do. Everyone else is just trying to come up with a stupid iPod app and trying to figure out a way to sell it for 99 cents and hoping that iTunes will carry it and hoping that with the global market, the numbers will add up. So far, that has not worked. That's been around for a long time, guys. So far, the only people that have made any money off the internet is the porn industry.

One of the problems is -- I've been meeting a ton of people over the last two years, and everybody the age of 26 and over think the internet should be a free market. Everything's free. These are the people that watch their TV show and everything on the internet. But when I'm meeting college kids, the 22- and under set, they're more materialistic. They're buying the vinyl, they're buying the comic books -- there's a different mentality coming right up in the working set. They're not in the working set yet, but when they come up, they're going to balance out the 30-somethings that think that everything is fair game.

I think we're going to get some temporary set-ups over the next few years on digital and we'll all do the best we can, but when today's college workforce hits, I think we're going to probably get a better balance. In time, we're going to get both. It'll be like buying a table and a chair. On the one hand, you've got your beautiful Adam Hughes book that you love to look at, and then you've got your 600-page novel on your iPad on the airplane, where it's a very convenient read. But I would rather own a Frazetta than own a JPEG of a Frazetta. The thing is, all your JPEGs are worthless. You're talking about an inherently worthless product. All your digital books will be worthless. This is the exact same syndrome that collapsed the financial industry, it collapsed the real estate industry -- we sure don't need it to come along and kick comics' butt and just make us extinct. We don't want to switch over to an inherently worthless product. We've got to be careful. Digital can be a siren on the rocks. You have to use a smart head. You have to think like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs and think ahead. What if we are all on digital? Then what? Think beyond the digital -- where's your money, where's your rent, where's your income? We've got to figure that out. The answer's not here yet.

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