With the debut of Half Past Danger, artist Stephen Mooney finally steps up to tell the kind of story he’s waited his entire life to tell. A compendium of everything he’s ever wanted to draw, all in one swashbuckling narrative cut from the same cloth as Indiana Jones and John Wayne.But those guys, they never met dinosaurs.
Launching this May, Half Past Danger sees Mooney, a longtime IDW artist, step up as writer AND artist as he tells a story of Tommy “Irish” Flynn, a U.S. Marine who finds himself on a remote South Pacific island in the midst of World War 2 with Nazis on the left of him and dinosaurs on the right. By his side are the unlikeliest of allies, but with those kind of odds Flynn can’t be too picky.
Newsarama: Half Past Danger has a big “WOW!” factor with those dinosaurs and Nazis on the cover, Stephen. What can you tell us about this book?
Stephen Mooney: Here's the pitch:
Dames. Dinosaurs. Danger. Summer, 1943, and in the midst of a war waged by monsters, Staff Sergeant Tommy ‘Irish’ Flynn never expected to encounter a real one. But on a remote island in the South Pacific, Flynn and his squad come face-to-fanged-face with creatures long thought dead. As the world falls apart, a unique set of characters come together: An embittered Irishman in a war not his own, a beautiful and enigmatic British agent, a U.S. Marine Captain with incredible resilience and a secret and a mysterious operative from the land of the Rising Sun, all served up in a stew of piping-hot Nazi intrigue.
History meets Prehistory in this two-fisted race against time. And there ain’t no time like Half Past Danger.Nrama: …and CUT! Thanks for giving us that newsreel time promotion, but let’s really get into the nitty gritty. World War 2, science fiction, Nazis – sounds like Indiana Jones by way of John Carpenter. Where’d this story come from?
Mooney: Hmm, hard to say. I guess it's the inevitable amalgamation of most of the things I've always wanted to draw, and see drawn. I realized that in order to get to portray these scenes and events I'd need some sort of a delivery system; this story as I imagined it wasn't going to just happen along coincidentally, fully formed by another writer. Ergo, I had to write the sucker myself.
So to an extent I suppose you could call it artistic wish-fulfillment, in that this is the book with all of the elements I've long wanted to tackle. But I knew I would and could never produce my own book unless I was satisfied that it was at least competently written, and hopefully more than that.Nrama: I have to ask about the lead character, Staff Sgt. Tommy Flynn. He’s an Irishman like you, but if I remember right Ireland didn’t fight in WW2. So how and why is Flynn out there?
Mooney: Being a brash and impetuous type of fellow, albeit with a half-decent moral-compass, Flynn is incredibly frustrated by Ireland's neutrality in the war. He has an American mother and a U.S. passport, and uses that eligibility to enlist in the Marines and get involved.
Nrama: Indeed. I can’t help but ask about another character teased in a cover, a British woman who I learn is named Elizabeth. Can you tell us about this Betty Page-ish character?
Mooney: Well, she may appear to be a little Page-like outwardly, but she's about as different a character as could be. She's an incredibly intelligent, forthright and capable field agent for the fledgling MI6, British Intelligence. She's been assigned to orchestrate a joint-Allied recon expedition to the island in question.
Nrama: Allied Forces at work here. What other characters play big roles in this story?Mooney: The other main characters are Captain John Noble, a marine with amazing physical prowess and an attitude you could set your watch to. Rounding out the good guys is Ishikawa Minimoto, an ex- Special Naval Landing Force (Japanese special forces) operative. We find out why he's involved with the Americans as the story progresses.
Heading up the Axis forces on the island is one of Hitler's most trusted and capable Waffen SS Lieutenants, Oberleutnant Toht.
Nrama: What’s the setting of this – I see it’s in the South Pacific, but I don’t remember there being an island full of Dinosaurs and Nazis in the Pacific, Stephen.
Mooney: Well, yeah. It's set on an indiscriminate island somewhere in the Pacific Theatre, precisely which one is revealed in the second issue. I don't want to give away too much here, but obviously, the island is home to some rather ancient inhabitants. As well as some decidedly more Germanic ones.Nrama: You’ve made your name drawing some great books for IDW, but Half Past Danger is your first creator-owned project, and the first issue has you doing everything: writing, drawing, inking, coloring and even lettering. That’s a mighty big task to do, which is why it’s a rarity in comics. Why’d you sign up to do it?
Mooney: Because I'm crazy? Nah, the real answer is because I wanted to tell my own story, my own way. Doing absolutely everything myself affords a near-complete level of control over the output, and means that I get to make pretty much every call on the way the story develops. My editor, Chris Ryall, is pretty much the only guy that can tell me to change something, and he's the kind of editor that only offers some criticism or advice when it's absolutely warranted. The best kind, in other words. Other than that he just lets me get on with it, assuming I'm getting all of the work handed in on time.
And it's a LOT of work!
Nrama: I can tell. So much that I noticed you enlisted Jordie Bellaire to chip in on colors starting with issue #2. I know this is a very personal project for you – so how’d you go about choosing Jordie?Mooney: Well, after the first issue was entirely completed, I realized that it would simply take to long to complete the project by myself. Issue 1 took four months of solid 12 hour days, and that's just too long. Each issue is at least 26 pages of story and art, in some cases 28, 29. To do all six issues entirely myself would have taken 24 months, after the writing had been completed in two months. I couldn't afford to live with out any money for that long!
Jordie was just the perfect answer at the right time. She's a good friend of mine, being the gal-pal of one of my best mates, Dec Shalvey, not to mention one of the best and most in-demand colorists in the biz. When she saw the bind I was in, she basically offered to help out, purely because she's an utterly lovely person and also a huge fan of all of the same inspirational material that brought this project about. So I of course took her up on her offer, being that she could do the job at least as well as I could, and most probably better!
It hurt a lot to relinquish that aspect of control over the book, but Jordie is the one person I was happy to see take the reigns. She knows this material inside and out, and we're totally simpatico when it comes to the color-direction for the book.
I'm pretty sure she's cursing my name now that she's realized just how much work there is on each and every page, but what the hell. Like I keep reminding her, it builds character.
I'm still handling every other aspect, from writing to lettering. I'm also coloring almost all of the covers, just to keep myself involved in that capacity.Nrama: I read in another interview that unlike most writer/artists who don’t do full scripts, you wrote the entire script before sitting down at the drawing table. What led you to carve out the roles of the book so distinctly?
Mooney: Well, I did write the entire thing before drawing any pages, yes. But I didn't include any detailed shot descriptions or directions for the most part, as I knew I'd be figuring that all out in the layouts, and didn't want to do the same work twice. As for why I wrote the entire thing first, well that was just to give myself the conviction to wade into the artwork with the requisite gusto that it takes to draw 150-odd pages. If I didn't know exactly how the thing was paced, and more importantly what it was building to and how it ended, I could never have motivated myself into getting the whole thing done and on schedule. At least I assume that's the case. I wanted to remove any and all potential momentum-killers before the art began, as it was by far the largest amount of work required.
Nrama: From doing this, did you gain any new respect or perspective for the writers, colorists, letterers and inkers you’ve worked with in the past and down the road in the future?
Mooney: Hoo boy, totally. Mostly colorists, I think. I didn't really understand exactly how much work went into choosing and maintaining different palettes and setting all of the various scenes. I just found it incredibly time-consuming, but at the same time tremendously rewarding. I've colored many covers over the past 10 years, but these are the first interiors I've ever really tackled. I must say that I'm delighted that I at least got to complete the first single issue entirely by myself, and thus set up the color 'bible' for the series, which Jordie is running with, and in all likelihood improving on.Nrama: You’ve said Half Past Danger is a story you’ve been thinking about doing for years and you already have a sequel in mind. To be so overflowing with ideas, was it hard cutting it down to fit in 6 issues and standard comic size format? Is there anything you planned on fitting in that, for one reason or another, you couldn’t in this first series?
Mooney: Very hard, yeah. But I was so, so cautious about just chucking every random idea I had in there, as that way chaos lies. I was happy enough to cut anything that didn't directly suit this particular first story, as I'm hoping to get to do more down the line, and it doesn't hurt to have a few good ideas and set-pieces already in the bag. There's quite a bit of stuff that didn't fit one way or another, but I'm sure the bulk of it'll sees the light of day in one format or another eventually.
One aspect of the book that pleases me the most, and this is entirely down to Chris Ryall and IDW, is that I'm getting to use pretty much all of the interior pages of most of the issues for story. Ads are a secondary concern, which is amazing and just shows the support IDW are willing to give the book. Plus, it's a boon for the readers in that they get a lot more story pages per issue than your standard 20-page fare.
Nrama: One last question – the ninja. I saw one show up in a preview for issue #3, but no matter how sneaky he is I caught him. What can you tell us about the ninja that shows up in the book?
Mooney: Oh, he's in there alright, and from the first issue. It might sound crazy having a Ninja show up to fight dinosaurs and Nazis. But that's Half Past Danger.