Artist and writer Terry Moore, known for his strong female protagonists and bringing women readers into comics, spoke on his properties with a receptive crowd during a panel at Comic Con International in San Diego. Moore, whose original work is published through his own company, Abstract Studios, touched on the future of his currently ongoing title "Rachel Rising," his last project "Echo," the 20th anniversary of the Eisner Award winning series, "Strangers in Paradise," the meaning of life and where he stands in the Creationist vs Evolutionist debate.
Moore opened with a touch of humor before diving into his horror title "Rachel Rising," "We're here to talk about my books -- 'Twilight,' 'Twilight Part 2,' 'After Twilight' and 'What to Do After The Next Twilight.' Surprise! I'm doing a horror series. [Horror] was the first thing I ever wrote when I was 13 -- a story set in a small town with fire ants taking over. I've wanted to do horror for a very long time.
"After doing a sci-fi series in 'Echo,' I wanted to dip my hand in horror a la Hitchcock," Moore continued. "I wanted my book to be creepy. The challenge is making a book that will scare you. If I could actually cause somebody to have goosebumps on their arm, that would be so cool. Not out of shock or disgust, but to scare through the story and characters. 'Rachel Rising' is something between Hitchcock, 'Twin Peaks' and 'Strangers.'"
Moore shed light on his creative process, relaying how he's musically oriented and played fitting music when working on scenes in "Strangers" but not for "Echo." "'Echo' was all science and pragmatic...Nobody in 'Echo' listened to music, so I didn't either. It makes for a different atmosphere in the room. But when I returned to 'Rachel,' I turned the music back on." Some of the artists he listens to while working on "Rachel Rising" include Hans Zimmer, Pink Flyod, The Gathering, a lot of metal and a plethora of horror movie themes.
"When I have music on it's a great device to get me into the scene," Moore said. He encouraged fans to utilize their favorite playlists while reading his work, and informed the crowd he recorded an original tune for "Rachel Rising" -- The song can be found at his SoundCloud account.
He added a tidbit on the character Zoe, a mysterious little girl in "Rachel," stating she's been around a long time in his cartoon work. Moore became infatuated with Lizzie Borden, the 19th century axe murderer. "From there came that little goth girl."
Moore concluded his talk on "Rachel" saying, "The series will last 30-40 issues. In my head I could go much further, but I have other things I want to do."
He then revealed what his next project will be following the conclusion of "Rachel," and it's a dramatic twist in theme from the horror series. "I want to do an all-ages funny thing again," Moore said. "I'm happiest when I'm drawing something funny or silly -- I'm actually a funny guy. There's still a kid in me. [I want] to focus on life and how it's like yours, but funnier. [My characters] can laugh at themselves. I have this urge to remind people that life can be beautiful and funny."
Moore explained that he's always wanted to do a humor series, but began his career with dramatic themes out of worry that his comedic style wouldn't translate to his fans -- a humor series launching his career would garner a tiny readership. But now that Moore has a fan base, the time is right for an all-ages title.
On the subject of a genre shift, Moore went on to tell a story from his youth on how he met an older gentleman in Japan who had survived one of the nuclear bombings of World War II. The Japanese elder created art themed in nature, and when Moore asked why he did that for a living, the man's answer was he had a desire to spend his life solely doing things that were good for humanity through his artwork.
This had a lasting effect on the creator. "I have this urge to remind people life can be beautiful and funny," Moore said. "I feel guilty making a horror/violence comic today, because we live in those times. With 'Strangers' and 'Echo,' I was helping the world with escapism. 'Rachel' is like the news, but worse. I'm glad I'm doing it, but it's like a metal concert -- it's fun to go to for a little bit, but you don't want to live there."
Moore then went on to say, "I almost thought I would have a Hollywood announcement for you on 'Rachel Rising,' but you can't announce anything until you sign [a contract]." He commented on Hollywood development for "Echo," stating, "It's taking a lot of time. No new news on that yet, but we will be keeping the omnibus in print."
2013 marks the 20th anniversary of Moore's inaugural work, "Strangers in Paradise." "All kinds of things are being planned [in celebration] because 'Strangers' means a lot to us," Moore said.
He announced a return to the property with an all-new story in the form of a prose novel. With a planned 2013 release, Moore revealed the reasons for the new story -- "Strangers" was his gateway into comics, so in honor of that, it will now be his first prose novel as well.
"I'm approaching 60 and I don't want to be 65 with a monthly deadline for art pages. I'm thinking about my future -- I can be 75 and still write. [The readers] have matured, so I would like to write a deeper, more introspective story," Moore said. The book's development is the reason why Comic-Con International is the only con Moore has (and will) attend in the United States during 2012. He has been promoting his work internationally -- Abstract publishes in 14 languages, the latest coming through Bao, an Italian publisher. Moore had an issue of "Rachel Rising" in Italian available for purchase at Comic-Con.
To add to the "SiP" anniversary celebration, Moore plans to expand on the previously limited "SiP" treasury coffee table book. The older edition, which saw a limited release to non-comic book stores with minimal press from the publisher, only collected the first 60 issues of the series. Moore plans to "finish it out to include the entire series with a director's cut in 2013. It will be big enough that if someone broke into your house you could hit them with it and get a five minute head start," he said. Plus, every cover ever done for the series will be collected in the book.
A new soft cover edition of "SiP" is also on the way which will be mass produced through two 1300 page volumes.
Once Moore opened the conversation to the audience the flow diverged in various directions.
When asked if all his titles were intended to be in the same universe from the beginning, Moore responded, "When I was doing 'Echo,' I wanted it set near Area 51, in the desert. "Strangers" is mostly set in Houston -- there's no reason it can't be the same year, same time period. When Ivy needed help from someone inside the government, it seemed natural to pull from 'Stangers.' All of Robert A. Heinlein's stories are set in the same reality -- he was one of my faves."
The question was raised if "Echo's" leading lady, Julie Martin, is due for an appearance in "Rachel Rising." Moore only said, "'Rachel' is set in Massachusetts. I'm sure that somebody will be driving through to look at the leaves in fall." He referenced scenes throughout his work where he eluded to key moments of each series in the other titles, and the crowd followed him completely, giving receptive responses when appropriate.
On digital comics Moore commented, "Digital comics are a convenience for people who don't have a comic book store near them, or they're in Australia or New Zealand where ordering print is not cost effective." He went on to say that both "Rachel" and "Echo" are currently available for download on ComiXology, with "Strangers" coming when ComiXology has the scans ready -- the entire series is to be released all at once.
Moore added on the subject, "I'm good with digital. It's apples and oranges -- digital is for something you want to read once. It's a matter of convenience. If I love it I'm going to want to buy the book and hug it."
When asked why he chose to self-publish and not utilize the reach and marketing power of an indie publisher like Image Comics, Moore was very direct with his response. "It's really about money. The only thing between me and them is a printing bill. I have a cult following, a small readership, but I can live on small numbers. I sell around 10,000 copies of my work -- if I went to a bigger publisher, I'd only get 17% of that and I'd have to sell 50,000 copies to make the same amount," Moore said. He added, "The only thing missing in small publishing is promotion. My career would be over fast if I went mainstream."
A fan asked if Moore would ever like to tackle any main Big Two properties. "There have been times where I was like 'Please, give me Supergirl!' Why has she spent her entire career being a sidekick? It's wrong."
To close out the discussion, Moore took the flow in an introspective direction. His philosophical and scientific ideals greatly reflect the comics he puts in print, saying, "There's more to life than what you can touch." A message he tries to reverberate throughout his work.
On the topic of Evolutionist ideas and Creationist theology -- and the "great unknown" in general -- Moore has his theories. "I follow both camps," he said. "I think they're both narrow minded and require a lot of faith. I hate religion, but I love God. I love the hope of God. I cannot help but think the beauty of creation, and how it works on a micro to macro level, are not based on odds. If I leave a Snickers on the table long enough [he pulled one from his pocket], is it going to evolve into Godiva chocolate?"
He continued, "I don't believe in the version of God we ever read about anywhere, but I believe there has to be a point. I don't believe that we're all just advanced algae. And that's what my characters are talking about now -- they get too busy with the details to see the big point. It has nothing to do with that over-priced church in Italy, it has nothing to do with the Collider -- it has to do with your place in reality.
"I would love for us to not pick a side but just think of people as human beings. There's a rock and a tree, and when the lights go out, how do you feel about it?"
In "Rachel," Moore said he had no problem taking the Bible and using its mythology, especially in #9. "When I was writing 'Echo,' I was furious at both Creationists and Evolutionists. There needs to be a third option; It's gotten so extreme that neither side is on point. So throughout 'Echo,' I was hiding a thesis about how I wish we would reconsider this all down to the bases."
On a lighter note, the final question of the evening probed Moore's style choice of writing mostly female characters in his starring roles. After a playful "Oooooh!" reaction from the crowd, Moore closed with a smile, "The only reason why I don't have male leading characters is because mens bodies eek me out. I don't really want to specialize in drawing a man's butt. That's the reason!"