Richard Moore is the do-it-yourself, ink-under-his-fingernails independent comic book creator you may have heard about. With noone else helping him produce the books he creates, Moore tackles everything, from outline to script to final inks, and he's managed to sign a deal with Antarctic Press in the process. Moore's definitely a proponent of books that don't feature capes and spandex, and his works are undeniably tailored to those looking for something a little different.
After a hiatus from comics, Moore has returned with two different stories, "Macabre" and "Boneyard." Due out at the end of June, Moore describes the former as "a horror anthology in the tradition of "Creepy" and "Eerie," but with a humorous, sexy twist." And "Boneyard," which returns in late July, is the first of several one-shots continuing the story which began years ago, starring Michael Parris and Abbey the vampire. With all these things on his plate, Moore spoke with CBR News, discussing to the independent creator's livelihood, the hard knocks and what it means to create something you believe in.
CBR News: For those unfamiliar with your background, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Richard Moore: Not much to tell, really. Prep school, then Harvard, twin doctorates, and a millionaire by age 25. (Real answer: Only sort of made it through high school; worked minimum wage jobs for ten years before quitting so I could spend more time on my art and writing. I got lucky with my second submission, and I've been setting the independent comics community of fire ever since.)
How did you get started in comics?
Basically, I wanted to tell stories, but I couldn't afford to do movies -- not even on a very, very low-budget level -- and I knew it would be an incredible chore to even get a fiction manuscript read by a publisher. My comic art wasn't that spectacular at the time, to be honest, but I think passable art and good storytelling basics were enough to get me in the comics door, at least on the small publisher level. The one real advantage I had was an extensive list of stories and characters to draw from. I knew I could keep submitting forever, if necessary, and never pitch the same project twice.
You originally published "Boneyard" through NBM Publishing, and now you're coming back to the industry with not only "Boneyard" one-shots starting in July, but also an entirely new series called "Macabre," both from Antarctic Press. What's the premise behind both stories?
I left "Boneyard" because I was overworked and having health and financial issues, and I just plain needed a break. I still have not had a vacation in over fifteen years, but at that time it was either take a break or have a breakdown. I don't know if readers are aware, but comics are grueling work, and unless you're lucky enough to be with one of the bigger companies, the rewards are, shall we say, "modest." I needed some time to try other things, like children's books. I wasn't away long, though. I came back to comics a short time later with three new projects, "Fire & Brimstone," "Chip" and "Gobs," and a fun little "Far West" microseries I'd been wanting to do.
Although, I guess it's true that you should be careful what you wish for. The art style I'd developed with "Boneyard" had for some time felt constrictive; it was like I'd created this artistic cage for myself. That's how it felt, anyway. I wanted to break free of that, loosen up and play around with my drawing style. The "Far West" story was supposed to be colored directly over my pencils, no inks, for a different look. But there was a miscommunication somewhere along the line, and it ran without any color -- just my poor, naked pencils, which were never intended to be seen in that form! Like I said, be careful what you wish for.
To your actual question, "Macabre" is a horror anthology in the tradition of "Creepy" and "Eerie," but with a humorous, sexy twist. The stories and galleries are introduced by the host, Charli, who provides much of the cheesecake and humor -- and with none of those awful horror puns, either. The first issue features werewolves, giant ogres and zombie pirates, so if you like any of that -- plus sexy monster chicks -- check it out.
"Boneyard" is the first of several one-shots: short, self-contained stories that let folks look in on what the gang's been up to since we last saw them. Paris and Abbey are finally dating, and he's feeling a little intimidated by some of the men she's been with in her 2,000 years as a vampire. So he gets his hands on a potion he believes will make him more on a par with those larger-than-life figures -- and of course, things spin out of control, with allegedly hilarious results. There are also subtle little clues to things affecting the continuity of the overall series, details that will figure into future stories.
How did you get started with Antarctic Press?
It was just a blind submission. I'd gone to the comic shop and looked through what the various publishers were putting out, to see what was closest to what I was doing at the time. My dream publisher at the time was Dark Horse, and I did get a nibble from the editor of Dark Horse Presents, but then I got a call out of the blue from Antarctic Press. It was very surprising, really, since they were mostly known for manga, and my work is pretty far away from that style. I think that's been one of problems, actually: I don't have a style that's clearly manga or American comics or even European, so publishers sometimes don't know quite what to make of my work. But AP had the confidence in me to flip a coin and say, "Meh, why not?"
These books have sex, horror and comedy, AKA: Three things that sell. Are these types of books you like to read, too? Are you reading anything mainstream? Or are you more of an indy guy?
Well, I don't really read superheroes, so in this country, I guess that automatically makes me an indy guy. The only exception would be "Hellboy" -- if you consider that a superhero title -- and that whole Mignolaverse. I definitely like things that are quirky and unique, and aren't just the same warmed-over crap, dished out again and again. With the incredible range of stories that can be told in the comics medium, I can't understand why the field is hopelessly glutted with capes and spandex. But there's some nice, groundbreaking stuff out there -- if you're willing to look for it.
Who's the target audience for your books?
People like myself, I suppose. People who like their horror with some laughs in it, and don't mind a book that pushes it a bit in terms of content. Neither of these books is X-rated by any means, but they aren't "Scary Godmother," either -- no offense to Jill Thompson, whose work I greatly admire. I've sometimes struggled with "Boneyard's all-ages rating, and I think this new story definitely takes it up to mature readers level. I would also recommend these books not only to readers of horror and alternative comics, but to folks who don't normally read comics at all but enjoy comedy. Funny comics are often about as funny as a pie in the face, and are clearly calculated for a juvenile mentality. Whatever you may think of my work, I guarantee you: It will not insult your intelligence.
You're a one-man production company, Richard. What's your work process like?
Well, I'm not a one-man team by choice! If there's someone out there who wants to give my work the Big Publisher treatment, please call! You wind up doing so much of it yourself at the independent level simply because that's the way the biz functions at that level. Marvel may have people to do the writing and someone to draw the characters and maybe someone else to do the backgrounds and on and on through the inks and the letters and the colors and the cover, but smaller publishers are usually scrambling just to get their books out on time.
As far as my process, it's pretty straightforward: I write out my scripts longhand, first an outline, which I go through and mark the page breaks, then a more detailed, page-by-page version, with all dialogue and sound effects. I never bother with the "official" comic script format unless I'm going to submit the script itself to a publisher. My condensed versions contain the same information, but use up about a tenth of the paper. And when you write as much as I do, saving on supplies is imperative!
I do thumbnail breakdowns across the top of the page as I write, which greatly slows the writing process, but saves a lot of time later, as I don't have to go back in later and figure out the layouts from a "cold" page. I'm not partial to any particular Bristol board, as long as it has the right smoothness and is at least 2-ply (3 is better). I use a mechanical pencil with an .05 mm lead, and unfortunately I've had to switch from inking with a brush to using Pigma Micron pens. I don't have a studio, and have to just work around the house wherever I can -- and with cats as rambunctious as mine, an open inkwell would be a disaster waiting to happen. The same applies to covers. I'd love to work in oils or even use acrylics in a more painterly manner, but until I have a controllable workspace, I'm limited to gouache alternating with layers of dry media. I'd kill for a complete set of anything, especially marker pens. It's so aggravating constantly having to "splurge" on individual colors as they're needed.
One thing I've learned from hard mistakes: Always do a color sketch before painting. At least if you're an untrained doofus like me with no idea what you're doing. Playing it by ear always feels like a good idea -- until you wind up painting yourself into a corner and have to start over!
Being an independent creator, you have to be clever with how you build an audience and promote your work. What are some of the methods you use?
I'm open to suggestions. Seriously, I was frustrated for a long time with publishers who -- in my eyes -- didn't do enough to promote titles. You work for months or years on something and it only reaches a few people? That's incredibly frustrating, to put it mildly. But small publishers have limited funds. I've only begun to realize fairly recently that unless I can interest publishers with lots of cash earmarked for publicity, I've got to make up for some of that myself. I'm not a natural promoter at all, but I'm trying to feel my way along, getting word out mostly through the Internet. I think there's tremendous potential there for publicity if creators and publishers are willing to really apply themselves and think outside the box. So far for me it's mostly been through interviews, but I'm planning to do some reader contests as well. But if you think back to the days of P.T. Barnum and Harry Houdini, it seems only a matter of time before someone figures out how to pull off some really clever free publicity stunt online. We're already seeing small versions of this with marketing through viral videos on YouTube.
The other part of building an audience is arguably more difficult: putting out regular work and giving people time to hear about you. That's tough at the independent level, because putting out a regular book really leaves little time for a life, so it becomes a question of how long can I sustain this?
With "Macabre" on its way to stores, and "Boneyard's" return imminent, are there any other projects you're working on?
Always. I'm really trying to get something going in the children's book field, including a huge overall project that will include children's picture books, illustrated novels, and comics, all set in the same, unique world. I'm also currently writing and illustrating a dark fantasy/horror novel called "Falconthorne," which I'm planning to serialize online, and I'm thinking about doing a webcomic -- just bypass the whole publisher thing. The idea of not having to jump through any hoops regarding content is very appealing.
I haven't decided on the next actual comic book I'll do. There's a horror miniseries featuring Abbey from "Boneyard" during her days as a pirate captain, but that's a big story, and a big commitment. At the other end of the spectrum, there's a truly all-ages, fish-out-of-water story about a platypus named "Billfur" that I'd like to do. And of course there will be more "Macabre" and more "Boneyard" one-shots. I guess it's a good thing I don't do vacations!