Extinction Agenda: Moore Talks "The Exterminators"

Wed, March 7th, 2007 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Arune Singh, Staff Writer

"The Exterminators" #14

It's said that it's hard to kill a roach, but don't tell that to the crew of "Bug Bee Gone."They're the extermination company at the core of "The Exterminators,"the newest buzz book from DC Comics' mature readers imprint Vertigo. But the series is about more than bugs: add in romance, corporate conspiracies and a dash of horror to complete the recipe for the series written by Simon Oliver (who recently spoke with CBR) and illustrated by Tony Moore. With the second trade paperback collection arriving in stores today, CBR News spoke with Moore about his work on "The Exterminators,"beginning with how he got involved.

"I guess DC had seen me on 'The Walking Dead' and figured I'd be good for this series pitch that had come across their desk,"Moore told CBR news. "[Editor] Jonathan Vankin called me up and I of course jumped at the chance to get in on a creator-owned Vertigo project. I revel in drawing disgusting stuff, so when I got the series overview from Simon, it appeared to be right up my alley. At the time, I seriously had no clue how right I was.

"I've pretty much had free run on establishing everyone's look, and recently Simon asked if I had any ideas for things I'd like to draw. I think we came up with a fun setting and job for our guys and I'm really looking forward to drawing it. Story-wise, Simon's already thought 50 steps ahead, so I just stand back and let him do his thing, so I can do mine. "

Moore's work on series such as "Fear Agent"and "Exterminators"has earned him raves from fans who are drawn to his detailed renderings of the fantastic and nuanced depictions of the every day. Asked to describe his art, he said, " I guess I'd say my style's 'crusty.' I definitely try to give everything a very tangible grit. I grew up reading 'MAD' and 'Cracked' before I got into comic books, so cartooning is pretty ingrained in me, which is something I'm gradually learning to embrace instead of hide from. So every now and then I get a little more expressive than a stricter style would allow, because so far I've found I'd much rather lean that way that to choke the life out of it for 'realism's' sake. It really hit me recently that 'cartooning' is almost a dirty word these days and I think that's really pretty sad. I'm pretty much the antithesis of a lot of these slick studio style guys, I guess.

"My biggest influences are probably Geoff Darrow, Moebius, Jack Davis, John Severin, and John Romita Jr."

Issue #14, Page 9 Issue #14, Page 10

Part of the challenge of "The Exterminators"involves drawing swarms of bugs each issue, something that Moore's joked about online as reason to kill Oliver. "I try to think of fun ways to depict the swarms as undulating waves,"said Moore of how he keeps it fresh. "Beyond that, it's a lot of mindless drawing of small ovals and little legs and antennae to fill it in. I just turn my brain off and become a robot for a while, producing loads and loads of detailed little bugs to excite eyes of all the little monkeys reading the book. Ande Parks and I joked that some of these pages we should have been paid by lines per inch."

Luckily for fans of "The Exterminators,"Moore has no aversion to researching all those creepy crawlers populating the pages of the book. The intricate detail on those bugs comes from the artist's unquenchable thirst for knowledge. "I'm a research fiend. When I have to draw something, especially something biological, I like to know what it looks like and how it works in great detail. I've gradually amassed a great bunch of really up close photos of roaches, which I have committed to memory. I always loved dissection study in science class as a kid, and sadly, I would probably be looking a lot of this stuff up even if I wasn't doing this book.

"I grew up on a farm, so I've always been pretty hands-on with a lot of stuff most people never get up close and personal with,"continued Moore. "In the Ohio River area, there's a swarm of cicadas that comes about every 17 years. They're huge beasts that get so loud you can hear them while you're driving, and the swarms get so thick you're lucky to have less than five land on you between your front door and your car. As a kid, and then just a few years ago, I really had a blast going out and playing with them, watching them molt from their grounded nymph stages into these winged terrors – all much to my fiancée's dismay. I can even remember as a kid, tying dental floss to Japanese beetle's legs and watching them fly around on a tether like a living kite. And lightning bugs, I can't even fathom how many of those guys I've caught and played with. Never been to keen on spiders, though. I will kill a spider without thinking twice."

Issue #14, Page 11 Issue #14, Page 12

Moore is, however, keen on his creative comrade Simon Oliver, who he loves working with on the Vertigo series. "It's a genuine thrill to open a new script and see what twisted new situation I get to sink my teeth in,"said Moore. "I think we both have pretty sick senses of humor, and enjoy creating something we can safely say has moments well outside the boundaries of good taste."

That creative synergy is evident to the many fans who've commented that "The Exterminators"seems like the product of two creators having a great time. Moore said he's having a great time on the book and explained, "I love well-developed and realistic individual characters and moreover, I love drawing completely gonzo situations. Simon's affinity for the same things makes them come together in great ways that not many others can wrap their brains around. I feel like we're making something on the edge. It's smart, but not afraid to become surreal, in an almost self-aware kind of way. In that regard, I really feel like Simon's bringing some really special content to this book. I've just considered myself lucky to be along for it, and have tried to keep my artistic game up to his level."

The penciller is no stranger to strong fan response, but Moore is drawing even more rave reviews for his work on "The Exterminators"than any of his other projects. "Hell, if I knew what 'connected' with fans, everything I touched would be triple platinum,"smiled Moore. "All I can hope to do is do what I enjoy and pray there are enough like-minded people out there to support it. I like to think the love we're putting into this thing is what connects with people. I think it shows through on the pages. Hopefully those who really love it will continue to help spread the word of mouth like some sort of wonderful venereal disease."

As for the future of "The Exterminators,"Moore isn't going to give too much away, but he offered this tidbit: "I just drew a gerbil's guts getting blown out its butthole. If that doesn't entice people to give it a shot, I don't know what will."

As a bonus, we've also got a preview of "Exterminators" #15, with art by John Lucas.

Now discuss this story in CBR's Vertigo forum.

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