If you believe self-publishing comics veteran Terry Moore, 2011 is going to be a singularly transformative year for comics, especially for the relationship between readers and independent creators.
Moore shook loose a few newsy bits during his Friday panel at WonderCon, dropping details on his new series "Rachel Rising" and "How to Draw," and the progress of the "Echo" TV show, but spent more of the hour talking about art: its form, its meaning, its role in life and its future. And as he sees it, the immediate future is damned exciting.
"That's the reason I'm doing something like 15 cons this year," Moore said. "In 2011, we're going to turn the industry upside down, and I want to be there.
"I'm worried about my peers who aren't coming out to a con this year," he continued. "It changed in the last month. Everyone I met in the last three cons, they all have big announcements coming."
Interviewer Charles Brownstein, an old friend of Moore's and head of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, pressed the creator, pointing out big announcements come out of comic conventions every year. What's special about the announcements in 2011?
"People aren't talking about their book. It's about their mediums," Moore said, referring to the increased interest in digital comics. "It's about how you're going to make comics, how you're going to read comics, and 2011 is the turning point."
Digital media has been available for years, of course, and numerous successful comics have launched in web-only formats, but Moore said he sees a new breakthrough lying ahead.
"I think what's going on is, we've been missing a couple of tools to put (digital comics) in everyone's hands," he said. One of the chief problems has been monetizing the audience to make it a sustainable effort for the creator.
"I draw a page a day, and at dinnertime it's on Photoshop and it looks fantastic," Moore said. "I can hit a button and you guys can see it with me in three minutes. Why am I not doing that? The reason is, I haven't found a way to get anybody to pay for anything… besides dirty pictures. I think that's sorting out this year.
"Everybody wants to be the iTunes of comics," he continued, "which is what comiXology is trying for, but they're still a middle man between the creator and the audience. In 2011, we're going to get tools in our hands that will make the pipeline go direct."
As for "Rachel Rising," Moore's third major project in comics after the non-genre epic "Strangers in Paradise" and the shorter, sci-fi follow up, "Echo," the concept is taken from an idea Moore had planned for his run on DC's "Birds of Prey" series, but didn't have the chance to use.
"It's a supernatural story about a woman who is killed and then wakes up," Moore said. "It's not zombies, not ghosts. I have a new trick on it."
The character would have been a new figure in "Birds of Prey" had Moore lasted more than three issues on that series. "I had a vision of the characters fighting this character they could not figure out, who brought a unique, dark side to the series," he said. "I kept that in my pocket and now I'm taking it out."
Comparing the project to his other creator-owned work, Moore said, "'Strangers in Paradise' was like a TV show that could have gone on forever. 'Echo' was more like a movie, in that I knew where I wanted to go with it and then it would be done. 'Rachel Rising' is a TV series. I want to build a world again."
Fundamentally, Moore said, he hopes the book, and his writing as a whole, will provide the feeling of escape he feels all good fiction provides, but also provide readers with some hope and some belief in themselves.
"We all tend to like to think that we're going to make it," he said. "I think it's the job of writers to instill hope into their societies. Dickens, even Poe in his own way, there was a lesson there. The good writers tend to be an asset to their society, as opposed to an acid to their society. For example, a lot of beat writers, a lot of that was acidic work. We don't read much of it today because it's not relevant."
Now in his 50s, Moore said, "I look like a middle aged dentist, which I'm not happy about, but inside is something beautiful, and I'm just a clay vessel to get it out.
"What I have to do is live properly and work with my tools so it comes out and gets on the page. And then it goes to Germany or anywhere and six years later somebody reads it and they feel some of what I felt then. That's what art can do. If you listen to Chopin, you're having same feeling he had when he figured it out."
Moore also talked about his developing efforts at teaching, which will find their way into print in June via the first issue of a series called "How to Draw."
"After 17 years in the chair, I have something to share, so I'm going to share it," Moore said, joking, "I want to focus on how I'm cheating at comics."
"The first issue is how to draw women. Doesn't mean how everybody should, just how I do it," he said. "But for example, there are two types of girl hands: some where fingers bend back and the pinky will bend easily and there's some where it won't. Some girls have a bump on the wrist, some girls have it, some don't. I'm just going to share stuff like that."
A fan asked about the progress in turning "Echo" into a TV series.
"The rights were purchased two years ago by Lloyd Levin, who was the producer for 'Watchmen' and 'Hellboy,'" Moore said "He's a great producer. If you ever want to see what Lloyd does, watch 'Watchmen' with sound off so you don't hear the bad acting.
"Lloyd is very, very serious. I feel good about it;. I'm in great hands. In the last two months, he acquired one of the best screenwriters in Hollywood. He's building his core team. [He] starts that way and then they talk the whole town into it."
Answering another fan question -- about how "Echo" changed between the time Moore thought of it and how it will soon end with #30 -- Moore compared the creative process to real life.
"It's a road trip," he said. "You say, OK, the story's about this, this and this. Or you say, 'We're going to LA today.' That's my plot. You get out there on the road and things happen, and that's what happens with each individual page."
"When I start a page, I say, 'OK, so and so is going to happen,'" he added. "But it's like a live shoot with actors in rehearsal: I get a line, and it makes me think of trying something else, which makes me think of something else.
"What I always come up with first is ordinary, and it scares me," More said. "I need to trump it."