WonderCon: Spotlight on Terry Moore

At WonderCon in San Francisco, writer/illustrator Terry Moore admitted that he felt a little like J.K. Rowling when it came time to end his long-running, creator-owned series, "Strangers in Paradise." For him, the process of letting go of a 14-year project involved a trip to Santa Fe, a fallow period that made him a little scared, taking on mainstream writing chores for Marvel and the launch of a new book.

To resolve the complicated, 90-issue soap opera/thriller story of Francine Peters and Katchoo Choovanski, Moore rented a townhouse in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He said he needed to be physically present in the city where the final scenes of the book are set.

Moore said, "There is some kind of craziness to it, where my characters become too real. I really do like to think that Katchoo and Francine are living in this $4 million house outside Santa Fe, and they're just unbelievably happy. They have these great kids and this routine where, if you went to this certain park or restaurant once a month, you would see them."

After Issue 90 of "Strangers in Paradise," Moore figured he would jump easily into his next assignment. "My plan was that I would open up all the ideas in my filing cabinet and pick one -- and that would be my next series. I'd do something light-hearted for a year and buy some time, then figure out what my real series would be. The problem was, when I got home and starting going through the ideas, I didn't like them."

As the months passed and no great, fresh idea presented itself, Moore worried that he wouldn't be able to find the creative rhythm again. "I felt like if I took a year off from comics, I would be like some super-band that breaks up and takes 15 years off and then expects their audience to still be there – and they're not. You know, like Journey or something."

Because, as he said, "the world moves on, so you've got to keep making comics," Moore persevered and eventually began to develop the narrative that will become "Echo," to be published in March by his company, Abstract Studios.

Moore said that his interests and outlook have changed a lot since he last looked at those old notes. "I wanted to talk about other things. I wanted to be more satirical about American society. I'm really frustrated with government and social trends – and the laws of physics."

The laws of physics?

Although Moore revealed few plot details about "Echo," it's clear that its main character, down-on-her-luck photographer Julie Martin, quickly encounters something straight out of science fiction. He described the series as "'The Fugitive' meets 'The X-Files' meets 'Strangers in Paradise.'" Online previews of the book mention that Julie becomes "the unwilling host to a symbiote nuclear weapon."

Moore now has the plot well mapped out. "I sat down and outlined 20 issues out, three trades' worth of material, which is something I never did with 'Strangers in Paradise.' I knew what I was doing when I started the first issue."

Moore described the first issue of "Echo" as "a trainwreck," presumably in a good way. "It's all action. At the very end of it, you see the predicament that Julie's in. But then the question is, "Who's Julie?" There's so much to her."

According to Moore, he had the backstory of every character figured out by the time he finished Issue 2. "I have years' worth of stories in my head."

That's good, because the book seems to be off to a healthy start. Orders for Issue 1 of "Echo" outmatched those of anything else previously published by Abstract Studios. The book will be published on a six-week cycle.

Moore said that he was supposed to have 100 preview copies available at WonderCon, but glitches with the special silver foil cover caused production delays at the printer.

In addition to his creator-owned projects, Moore is writing two mainstream, out-of-continuity series for Marvel, "Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane" and "Runaways." Moore's run on the latter will begin after the one by Joss Whedon concludes.

Moore said that he is working on the third script for the Spider-Man book. "This is a dream come true for me, because it has the character set that I grew up with. Gwen Stacey is alive. Everything is possible. They're still in high school."

Moore joked, "My devious plan is to overturn the Marvel Universe. In my universe, Gwen lives and everybody else dies."

As for "Runaways," Moore was reluctant to say much about it, because not all of Whedon's plans for the characters have played out yet.

In response to a question from the audience, Moore talked about "Motorgirl," an aborted series idea that he contemplated after "Strangers in Paradise," about a "semi-Goth" girl living out in the desert, who plays bass in a bar band, is a great mechanic and dreams of restoring a vintage motorcycle with her best friend, who happens to be a gorilla.

Moore said he was ready to proceed with the idea last summer. He put a picture of Motorgirl on his blog, only to receive an e-mail from artist David Hahn letting him know that there already was a "Motorgirl" comic being developed by Hahn, Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett. Moore backed away from the concept and ultimately found "Echo."

In regard to potential adaptations of his work, Moore said that Steven Sears, producer of "Xena: Warrior Princess," has expressed interest in bringing "Strangers in Paradise" to TV, perhaps for Showtime or HBO. "If he could get it green-lit for a TV series, he'd have my full attention on it. TV is the place for character stories."

Asked whether there might be a deluxe omnibus edition of the entire "Strangers in Paradise" saga, Moore said that the prevailing feeling among retailers seemed to be that it is too soon. "There's a cycle to creative product. I'm lucky to have been able to make a living off of it while it was in production. When it stops, then we have to give it 10 or 20 years for the rest of the world to find it. The fact that you guys were aware of it while it was in production, that's pretty cool. It's like you were able to watch Mozart in concert."

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