Moore & Reppion Go "Scouting for Bots"

Leah Moore and John Reppion are no strangers to "2000 AD." Both writers grew up reading the legendary British anthology and both are contributing to its sister publication "Judge Dredd Megazine" next month with "Tales from the Black Museum: Scouting for Bots." Oh, and Leah's father happens to be one of "2000 AD's" greatest writers of all time, Alan Moore. Reppion and the younger Moore have been writing comics together for nearly a decade with projects at "Judge Dredd Megazine," Dynamite Entertainment and a new Sherlock Holmes book all in the works. The pair has also written comic book adaptations of "Dr. Who," "Alice in Wonderland," and "Dracula" as well as the WildStorm series "Albion."

Joining them on "Scouting for Bots" is artist Matt Brooker, better known to the comics community as D'Israeli. "Scouting Bots" is a 9-page black and white story debuting in "Judge Dredd Megazine" #322, which comes out this month in the UK and next month in North America.

Moore and Reppion spoke exclusively with CBR News about "Scouting for Bots," "2000 AD," how becoming parents has affected their writing, and what they think about "Before Watchmen."

[Editor's note: Tharg is the fictional alien overlord of "2000 AD" that acts as a proxy for whoever the current editor-in-chief is.]

CBR News: What is the story you wrote for the "Judge Dredd Megazine" about and where did the idea come from?

Leah Moore: It was one of a random pile of ideas we had when we trying to get together pitches for Tharg. I thought we needed a fun, bouncy little story, as it's a nine pager, and it's a "Black Museum" story, so I wanted it to have that kind of EC Crypt Keeper type vibe. A cautionary tale but really fun and totally fitting with the whole Dredd universe. We set it in the cursed earth to give ourselves a slightly more gradual slide into the whole Megacity thing too. We didn't have time to go and read a huge pile of back issues and make sure we were totally up to speed with everything, so we thought, let's try something where we won't irretrievably break anything if we write about it.

When did you both start reading "2000 AD?"

Moore: I always loved "Halo Jones." I still do. Completely gorgeous artwork, completely lovely characters. It totally won me over from an early age and it remains unbeaten, really. I really enjoyed the whole thing, though the appeal of "2000 AD" is the mix of stories and the styles and the mix of drama and more comedic stuff. It's perfect!

John Reppion: I can remember reading "Nemesis the Warlock" round at my mate Rob's house when I was a kid and absolutely loving it, but also being a bit scared. "XTNCT" was amazing and, of course, we're both big fans of "Defoe."

How long have you been writing together, and how does your writing partnership work?

Reppion: We have been writing together since 2003, so nearly a decade now!

Essentially, we come up with ideas, talk them through, build them up, tear them apart and build them up again. Once we're working on an issue or a story, we write out the pages, write down a brief description next to each number and then we go through and Leah draws up rough thumbnails of each page (she can't tell what my thumbnails are supposed to be.) We then take those roughs, divide them up and type half the pages each. We combine the whole thing into one doc and then both look over it and make any tweaks we want. It might seem quite longwinded and overly complicated -- and it might well be, but that's how we do it.

How did you first get in touch with the guys over at the "Judge Dredd Megazine?" Did they reach out to you, or was it the other way around?

Moore: We'd had a very kind offer from Tharg over two years ago, asking us to pitch to him if we ever wanted to, and then we had our son and went on maternity leave, so we actually didn't get round to pitching until this story! I felt so cheeky e-mailing out of the blue and saying, "Erm -- do you still want this?" as he could very easily have decided we were too slow! We have an invitation to pitch more short stories and a longer one if we like, so hopefully we can pitch them before we have more babies this time!

Are you excited to have D'Israeli doing art chores for your first strip? Did you work with him at all when writing the script?

Moore: Hugely excited! We had no idea he was drawing it until way after we turned it in, but we have always been huge fans of his work. We had to get "War of the Worlds" and "Scarlet Traces" and many more. He's a very, very safe pair of hands for any writer, and I have no doubt our story will end up looking much cleverer than it was as a result. We'd been wanting to write something for him for years, but he's a busy guy, so we are delighted!

Do you have any favorite stories by D'Israeli?

Reppion: We're both longtime fans of Matt's work: "Scarlett Traces," "XTNCT," "SVK" -- he's done loads and loads and loads of brilliant stuff. We're genuinely thrilled (no pun intended) to be working with him.

What other artists would you like to work with besides D'Israeli if you were to make more "Megazine" or "2000 AD" comics?

Reppion: Loads of people! Leigh Gallagher would be great; PJ Holden would be perfect for another "Black Museum" story; I.N.J. Culbard would fit right in at "2000 AD," I think; it'd be very nice to do something with Alwyn Talbot -- yeah, there are lots and lots of talented people we'd love to team up with.

Will we see you contributing any more stories to either the "Megazine" or the regular "2000 AD" prog in the near future? What other thrills would you want to write?

Reppion: We would love to write for both in the future and are going to do our damnedest to do so. We're incredibly busy at the moment with our work for Dynamite Entertainment and Self Made Hero, and once that's all done Leah's about to give birth to twins! So, once we've climbed a mountain of crappy nappies, the first person we'll be e-mailing is Tharg.

The Black Museum is a really cool short story framing device and we've already got a few ideas we'd love to try for future ones. Naturally, a series in "2000 AD" itself is the dream -- we'll do very our best to impress!

Do you have any other comic book projects in the work?

Moore: We are currently writing issue #3 of a new series we are doing with Dynamite, which is going to be drawn by a very talented female artist. We can't wait for it all to be announced properly so we can commence boasting. We are also still waiting for the tremendously talented Aaron Campbell to do all the millions of things he is doing so he can draw our next Sherlock Holmes story! It's been written for ages, and it needs Aaron's gorgeous art. Damn the man for being popular! Aside from those, we are doing a great big adaptation project which we are half way through, and a short story for an anthology, so lots and lots all going on, but nothing we can mention yet. We'll let CBR know first, of course.

What writers have influenced you, both in and out of comics?

Moore: I am really influenced by a lot of sci-fi authors, so Jeff Noon, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Colin Greenland, and older Sci-Fi, like Asimov, or Kurt Vonnegut. I'm a very greedy reader, so I have a million books, and I try not to let it show where my inspiration comes from (isn't that just copying?), but I hope all the good stuff I input into the brain comes out later in a new form. That's the idea, anyway.

Reppion: I'm not really aware of being consciously influenced by anyone. I don't mean that in an arrogant way, I just mean I never think, "I'll try and write like X," or "This is something that X would handle this way." Our method and process is based on Alan [Moore]'s because -- well, because he taught Leah how to write comics and I learned from her, basically. I love reading Alan's work and Warren Ellis' work but they're both very different writers -- from each other and from us, really. I think everything you read or watch or hear is an influence honestly and I just drink it all in, squish it all together and spit it back out onto the page as best I can.

Leah, what are some of your favorite "2000 AD" stories that your dad wrote?

Moore: Well, "Halo Jones" as I've said, but I do have soft spot for the "Time Twisters," too. I really enjoyed reading all the collected EC comics, and Mad comics, and the "Time Twisters" are just like weird modern versions of those. Neat little stories that make you laugh and think and have no fat on them.

Do you find it cool to be writing a story for the same comic that helped launch your dad's career three decades ago? What does he think about it?

Moore: I find it very cool. It's the only part of that whole career overlap I don't find really daunting. I don't know if I just perceive "2000 AD" to be a more familiar, homely place to write for, or if I am more comfortable with the world I'm writing for or what, but it feels much less of a scary "oh God don't mess this up" moment than writing for DC ever did. I always have the fear that fans will expect another "Watchmen" (a task somewhat taken off my hands now!) or some similar huge masterpiece, but in "2000 AD" the format means everyone's stories are smaller and all in together. It's not a place where I feel like I have to invent the wheel again. Does that make sense? Dad is very happy we're working there. Despite his own ups and downs with them over the years he sees it very much as a positive place to learn about writing, to experiment with new things, and to have fun with the medium. He knows that you get young talent there that other publishers will overlook and miss, and that's always valuable in this industry. "2000 AD" is a British institution. Its strength has always been the differences between its content and the mainstream American market. We love it for all its weirdness and in-jokes and dark humour. It's us. It fits us better than spandex ever did.

You say the task of making another "Watchmen" has been taken off your hands. Were either of you ever approached to help contribute to the prequels? What do you think of that project overall?

Reppion: Well, the concept of "the next 'Watchmen'" is still there for comics, just the same as "the next 'Harry Potter'" is for fantasy. Writers and publishers alike will always be looking for that big game changing breakthrough. We've not got to the point yet where we've thought, "Right, this is the big one," but then I'm not positive that's how it works exactly.

As for all the prequel stuff that's happening; no, we were never approached to do any work on any of that. We haven't really had much contact with DC since the days of "Albion," regrettably.

The prequels seem pretty much inevitable from a business point of view but, as you'd expect with something so close to home, neither of us really think about it in those terms. We're bound to have rather more personal views of the whole situation than a lot of others, and in that respect, I think I can speak for both of us when I say we'd rather they weren't happening. But, hey, it's not up to us.

John, Mike Molcher over at "2000 AD" told me you're on good terms with Warren Ellis. Has he given you any tips that have helped your writing, or vice-versa?

Reppion: I've actually only met Warren once in Copenhagen, and that was very brief, but we've communicated via Twitter and email a good few times, I guess. He was nice enough to ask me to do a guest blog on his site a while back. Warren's a lovely chap; always friendly and very, very supportive of others in the field and he's always been that way with mine and Leah's work. He's never offered us any tips as such but he's always happy to help out with anything he can. He gave us a really nice quote for our "Complete Dracula" a few years back and we had a bit of a prelaunch event at the Dublin Writers Museum. I said something about how Warren had been so nice and approachable and someone in the audience shouted out, "We don't believe you!" Just goes to show that his sociable, affable reputation precedes him.

Has having a son changed the way you write at all, either in topics, styles or something else entirely? Anticipating any more worldview changing once your twins are born?

Moore: I would say it has made it harder for me to write nasty stuff. I don't know if it's the hormones or just the total brutal innocence of babies, but I find it incredibly hard to write the horror stuff now. I think half the stuff in "Raise the Dead" would be so difficult for me now. It's not as if I will never write horror again, but maybe it'll have a new depth. I now know horrors I did not before! I don't know how much our worldview will change really, aside from being really bloody busy all the time. Before our son we would work 'til four in the morning, get up after noon, and were contentedly nocturnal. Now we are up at seven at the latest, work all the hours we can while he is at nursery or wherever, and we collapse into bed by eleven, so I imagine the twins will just add their own flavor to all that. Probably they will use up all those sleep hours with crying/nappies, etc. I will be off on maternity for a bit, so I guess that gives me lots of time to figure out what to write next!

"Tales from the Black Museum: Scouting for Bots" by Leah Moore, John Reppion and D'Israeli debuts in "Judge Dredd Megazine" #322, on sale March 28th in the UK and April 11th in North America.

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