Echo #17Terry Moore promised his comic series Echo would tap into the "answer to life and the universe" – and with Issue #17, he delivered.
The 30-issue limited series, which has focused on a young woman named Julie who happens upon some alloy from a super-suit, has everything readers would expect from a sci-fi/espionage story: Fugitive chase scenes, super-powered battles, and greed-fueled conspiracy.
But there have also been hints at a metaphysical side of the story, as Julie has a mysterious connection with the alloy's deceased inventor. And the suit has a protective nature that is attuned to Julie's emotions in a way that hasn't really been explained.
With Echo #17, Moore took the scientific and metaphysical side of this Eisner-nominated comic to an uncommon level. Combining physical science with a theory based on the ratio of "Phi," the issue puts forth its own theory of the powers of the universe.
Plus, readers found out this story isn't really just about a girl with a super-suit. It's all much more dire than even the characters knew – and could destroy the earth.
Readers aren't the only ones who have been wowed by the story Echo is telling. The character-based story has even attracted the interest of Hollywood, as producer Lloyd Levin (Hellboy, Watchmen) acquired screen rights to the comic last year.
With this week's Echo #18 about to be released, Newsarama talked to Moore about the scientific/metaphysical twists in his story, while asking about the status of the Echo movie.
Newsarama: Terry, when you were planning out this series, did you know about when this issue would fall? Because Echo #17 really lays out all the theories involved in the creation of this suit, doesn't it?
Terry Moore: Yeah. When I was developing this series, I thought this explanation would have taken place in the series. But as I got to working on the story, I came to a point where I thought, you know what? I think what I'll do is make the first half of the series all about the suit, and then the deeper they get into it, they realize... Oh no. That suit came from a terrible place. And they have to change directions. And that would give me a lot faster momentum and more excitement to get into the second half of the series. I kind of wanted everybody to think it's just about the suit, then find out it's more than that.
Nrama: And it's all based upon this idea of "Phi?"
Moore: Yeah. There's this ratio that works in all existence. All of existence has a commonality in this ratio and this relationship. And we've been building things along that ratio, and we liked them all along, and we didn't now why. It was just organic to us. But, if we got into atomic nuclear weapons and built something using the same ratios, suddenly, those things would really, really work. So instead of being localized atomic problems, suddenly you could start a chain reaction that you can't stop.
That's why this issue mentioned the hydrogen bomb. It was incredibly risky. They were afraid they could ignite the hydrogen in the atmosphere and start a wildfire that could not be stopped, and really destroy the world.
So that's the kind of thing they're messing with here. They're messing with a perfect alloy with powerful protons that, if they sent this through one of our colliders, they're going to get what they asked for and more. That's the danger I was trying to lay out in the story.
Nrama: It's not without real-world reference, as there's a mystery surrounding what will happen when the Large Hadron Collider is used.
Moore: Yeah. I've actually had this idea since I learned about hydrogen bombs. It's been in the back of my mind. I learned that there was a big, big difference between an atomic bomb going off and a hydrogen bomb going off. You can set off an atomic bomb in Los Angeles and Pasadena is going to survive. They'll have problems, but they'll survive. But if you set off an hydrogen bomb in Los Angeles, the entire Western United States has a big problem.
So I was trying to up the ante, you know? If we took Annie's theories and applied them, it trumps the work so far up that we are really endangering this little, itty, bitty rock we're sitting on.
Nrama: One basic idea is introduced first in this issue by Dumfries, as he explained how organic matter and non-organic matter is all, at its most basic level, part of the same energy. It explains why Annie and Julie are able to exist together. Where did you get the idea for that concept?
Moore: That's really something deep-seeded within me. As cultures and civilizations throughout the ages, we've always divided our options up into one camp or the other. We've only had two options – either religion or science.
I kind of have a rebellious streak in me that says, "I don't like either of those options. I want a third option." Somewhere in the field of physics, where we are actually looking at the components of the universe and what makes matter, I was kind of fantasizing that, what if we found some kind of third option there? It kind of goes back to what physicists say, which is you never really stop existing in the universe, even if you stop having a body. Your energy just goes back into the energy fields. So I'm kind of tapping into all that.
Down at the sub-quark level, there's just one river of existence. And sooner or later, we're going to be able to drill something deep enough to tap into that. I'm kind of referring to those, you know, boundaries of theory that I think are great fodder for science fiction stories.
And with Annie, her DNA was able to meld into this alloy, and now that Julie has this alloy on her, she has all this DNA in her and is now binary DNA. And there really are, like, two existing minds going on in there. I was kind of just fantasizing along those lines. I really stray away from anything that can be proven as factual. This is really just sci-fi stuff.
Nrama: What was strange about this issue was that the main characters were absent, yet it's one of the most pivotal issues.
Moore: Isn't that weird?
Nrama: You really feel for Dumfries, though. You never knew this character before, but this issue is really his story. The way the issue began, though. What was your thought behind the fly on the cucumber?
Moore: I've been throwing things like that into the story. It unsettles the reader, and it shows the world is not at peace. The world is not at rest. You walk down the street, and a dog is barking angrily at you. You drive down the street and somebody cuts you off. You look at your salad, and there's a fly on there. It's just kind of world ill at ease, and I'm trying to paint a mood that this is not a paradise anymore.
In a way, I'm trying to paint a pre-apocalyptic civilization. A civilization that's about to implode on itself and perhaps more.
Nrama: I feel like this issue, more than any other, we got to know Annie. It's strange that she's such a major player in this story, even though she died in the first issue.
Moore: For so many issues, we've been referring to her. It was really way past time to humanize her and see the actual, true story of the woman with her gifts and weaknesses. It's even more fascinating than the legend. It was time. It was time for her.
And I thought that was going to happen sooner. It's funny how it all turns out once I get going. The story tells you when it's time for a solo or something. It's kind of like a song.
Nrama: Another thing that happens in this issue is that, as they're sitting out in this beautiful desert setting, it begins to rain. I assume that has a meaning as well?
Moore: Yeah. I just thought that moment, that day, in those conditions, what a place and what a time for such a great person to end his life. His story ends right there. And I just thought it was very poignant. That he would choose that spot to do that. Clearly he was a good man and a very decent man and lonely and brilliant and devoted to his work. And he thought he was going to do something that was going to be a terrific benefit to mankind. And it all gets out of their hands. He now sees this story as an unfixable tragedy. I just thought it was very poignant.
It's kind of like, when you have these big things happen, it's interesting who becomes the casualties. The attrition is sometimes very quick in these big turn of events. He's the first to fall.
Nrama: It's interesting how, last issue, the alloy seemed like such a good thing, since it healed someone.
Moore: The debate in my head, before I even started the series, was, if you had this great power in your hands, with the power of an atomic bomb, would you rather it be in the hands of the army? Or would you rather it be in the hands of, say, a housewife in California?
At the base of this story, I'm trying to lay the case that the key alloy in all this is actually sitting on this woman from California. In a way, it's almost as if nature has a way of protecting itself, and maybe this is more than a coincidence. Maybe it's a really good thing that the army doesn't have that alloy and it's in the hands of a woman who has a terrific compassion and empathy for the human story.
If you think of it in those terms, that the only thing standing between us and destructions is this woman, with her instincts and her heart and what decisions she makes. She's guided by Annie, but really, it's going to come down to the only thing keeping that collider from turning on is Julie. So what's she going to do about it? I like that better than, the only thing stopping the U.S. Army is the Chinese Army.
Nrama: And you're using Phi in the structure of your pages?
Moore: Yeah. I was really getting into Phi several years before Strangers in Paradise ended. I looked deeper and deeper into fine art and discovered everybody I admired was using it. Like DaVinci and all those guys.
I was trying to figure out a way to improve my art. I was starting to think my art looked asymmetrical. The subliminal in art really matters. I was looking for how to make my art more appealing to the casual eye. I wanted to make illustrations that seemed beautiful. And I started investigating the classic masters, and that led me to the Phi relationship.
I already had an interest in physics and mathematics and Einstein. And I saw them all tied together.
I've always been a fan of cross-hybrid work. My only complaint I had about science is that everybody is a specialist in his or her own field. If there were some people who had a big picture, we might get faster developments. And I thought, what if we took the art of Phi and combined it with this other world? And just kind of took this big, fictional, Dan Brown-like leap with it? Next thing you knew, I had this.
I'm kind of trying to do, with physics, what Dan Brown did with religion, which is a couple of facts and a lot of bullshit, but it sounds good. [laughs]
Nrama: What will we see coming up in this week's Issue #18 and the rest of the series? We're a little over halfway, right?
Moore: Yeah, I've stated that we're going to stop at 30. I have the rest of the series really thought out in my head, so I think we're going to make it to 30.
The last 10 issues are just going to be a runaway train. It's all set up. By the end of Issue #19, it's going to be very clear what has to happen. Somebody has to stop that collider. And really, the only person even remotely able to do that is going to be Julie.
Nrama: We're going to pick up what's happening with Julie in the next issue?
Moore: Yeah. And how we get there is going to be surprising. That's the fun of the storytelling is how Julie finds out, how they decide, how they work it. That's where the story is, really.