Say the name Terry Moore to an average comic book reader a year ago and these were probably the last things that would come to mind: Espionage. Atomic super-suit. Fugitives. Fallout from a nuclear explosion. Metaphysics. Conspiracy.
Yet for readers of Moore's new comic book series Echo, those words only begin to describe the scientific mysteries and subplots being woven into the fabric of the story. Focusing on a young woman named Julie, Echo looked like it would be going the familiar "unlikely superhero" route in earlier issues by equipping Julie with part of a super-suit. But since then -- and especially with the most recent Echo #4 -- the story keeps adding new twists that throw any pigeonholing of this story on its ear.
Unable to resist a "Spoiler Sport" for Echo as it builds toward who-knows-what (and yes that means SPOILERS are ahead!), Newsarama asked Moore to give us a peek into his mindset as he crafts this "character-drama/sci-fi/thriller" series, a departure from his relationship drama Strangers in Paradise. And we asked the questions that readers of the series are wondering as Echo #4 ended: What was up with that gory body at the beginning of this issue? Why does Albert Einstein begin each chapter? And was Julie really able to feel Annie?
Newsarama: Terry, first we have to talk a little about the pacing of this story. You killed one of the protagonists in the first issue. And while you've taken time to develop the other characters a little, the mysteries have been building pretty quickly, particularly with issue #4. Did you want to just jump right in feet first, then keep the sci-fi part of the story moving forward at a quick pace?
Terry Moore: Oh yeah. And I don't see it letting up, because there's just so much story to tell. Right from the beginning, I saw it as something that was just a runaway train. I wanted this feeling of urgency about the story, you know?
NRAMA: The story centers around this "beta suit" that we saw Annie wearing in that first issue. It's more than just an atomic super-suit -- we've been told it's symbiotic, right?
TM: Yeah. And that premise is the tip of the scientific iceberg. I've concocted in my own "nu-science" paper, I've really come up with my own unified theory. Science has been working to come up with a unified theory that combines all scientific theories into one absolute truth. It's been an elusive thing. It's something that Einstein started. And fortunately, I've been able to come up with it. [laughs] And I've decided to put that into my comic, and that's what I'm basing it all on. So stone by stone and brick by brick, I'm building my own world based on my idea of how the sciences blend and work together. Kind of like a big, fat science fiction novel where you really have to flesh things out, you know? That's my goal here.
NRAMA: I was going to ask why the quotes from Albert Einstein begin each issue.
TM: Yeah. He's the godfather of it all. This whole story is about the science and the human race, and what happens when the two of them begin to copulate [laughs], so to speak. I don't know how else to put it. What happens when those two can actually merge instead of co-habitating. What if they actually blend?
That suit is like finding the ring in Lord of the Rings. You start with the suit and it leads you into this entire world. I'm excited. I can't wait to get there.
NRAMA: There were some big revelations in the last issue. One concerned what happened to that poor conspiracy theorist -- we're meant to assume the hooded man who called himself The Omega was responsible for that body, with part of this atomic suit being on his hand. That body hanging there all twisted and mutilated like that was pretty gory for you, wasn't it?
TM: Well, yeah. It was not a good day. [laughs]
The stakes are very high and the one thing that the characters are reminded of frequently in this story is that life is fragile and the human frame is fragile. It's all part of kind of laying a perception and an awareness that we're actually living on a razor's edge. And it's all a fine balance between what we think reality is in how we live versus what science is propping up. And if we tip the scales a little bit? Ooo my gosh, we're all in trouble. And I'm kind of establishing that sense.
NRAMA: Getting back to this beta suit, Terry -- you've established it's symbiotic and responds in a defensive way when the wearer feels threatened, but we found out in Echo #4 that Julie has some kind of connection to Annie, who was the last person who wore it.
TM: Yeah. And I can't say too much about why, because it would spoil what's coming up in the story -- why they've been able to come up with this kind of suit. The reason why is one of the mainstays of the entire series, and it has yet to be introduced. But I have been establishing clues since page 1. There's a critical element to the entire story, and it's been there since page 1. And I'm thinking of it in terms of, like, a Dan Brown story where there are clues and puzzles and things like that. So I've been leaving bread crumbs all over the place so that when the revelations come, you can go back and re-read and say, "Oh! There it is!" Then I've hidden some that are not actually in the words, but they're in the art. And even the layout of the book is all part of a scientific premise. And I'll reveal those premises as we get further into the story. Unless I fall down and hit my head and forget it all. [laughs]
NRAMA: In the memory of Annie that Julie experiences, Annie talks about the metaphysics of the suit, and says that she felt someone else's anger in her heart. So there's obviously more to this suit than just the what the scientists think there is.
TM: Absolutely. Absolutely. It's one of those things where the engineers and the scientists make it, and then the person who tries it out tells them what else it can do. And that's something that I learned when I was in editing. We would have all these new computers and gadgets that engineers would make. They made them on a limited premise, then they would hand them over to the operators, who would put them through their paces. Then the operators would say, did you know it would do THIS? And the engineers would go, no! We didn't know it would do that. Because the operators will try combinations that the engineers would never think think of as logical. And that's kind of like a law of physics on how it all works.
And in my story, that's also how it happens. The scientists and engineers make this alloy, and they make it for very good, mathematical reasons. And then the operators or the test pilot -- in this case, Annie -- discovers an incredible side to it that is, well, we don't know if it's metaphysical or spiritual or what. But suddenly the science on this is so good that they're looking straight into the eyes of God. Or they've tapped into whatever the origins of the universe are -- however you want to approach it. I'm leaving all that open.
But I'll never forget a quote from one of my favorite movies. Peter O'Toole did a movie called creator, where he was trying to clone his dead wife. And he was telling Mariel Hemingway, one day, science is going to look in a microscope and find themselves looking straight into the eyes of God. And I think that's where the whole idea got started in my head.
NRAMA: You've introduced a pretty varied cast in this series. But the main focus is Julie, so let's talk about her for a minute here. I don't think you could get any more down-and-out than this person. You let the poor girl have a dog, but she's lost everyone else. Why did you want a character who was going through such loss to be the heroine in this story and be the one who discovers the suit and the bond with Annie?
TM: Yeah. There are two very basic premises for the story. The original idea that I've built from is to tell the story of a woman who has never been able to develop a significant relationship in her life, through no fault of her own, desperately looking for it... a wonderful person, very likable. Life has just not worked out for her where she can have a significant relationship. Her parents are dead. She's lost her sister, mentally. And her husband is divorcing her. And then, when she finally does make a significant relationship and plunge back into the world and back in life, oddly enough, it's a relationship with a woman who's dead. So Annie and Julie are going going to be intertwined throughout the story, and that's where the title Echo comes from.
NRAMA: Annie's the "echo," right? There's an echo of her.
TM: Yeah. Annie echos within Julie. And the "why" is all this science fiction stuff. But at the heart of it all is just a story about a woman who's been unable to develop relationships, and then develops one in a way she would not expect.
NRAMA: OK, that's the first basic premise. What's the second one?
TM: The second one is the big world-view story, which is, "What if mankind finally does tap into the answer to all sciences and the answer to life and the universe, but like a child in a China shop is about to ruin everything with it, and the responsibility for it all falls on the most unlikely shoulders?" And that's Julie. You would think that if you could hold in your hand the one thing that could blow up the world, you might think, well, we should give it to somebody like Barack Obama to safeguard for us, or put it under military lock and key. In my story, fate has put it into the hands of this woman, Julie. And when you ask why, you have to look at Julie's story. And when you look at Julie's story, you start seeing the value of Julie, and what she's been missing in her life and what she values and how she looks at the world. These two stories intertwine and bounce off each other.
NRAMA: OK, we've talked about Julie as the heroine and Annie as the "echo" within her. There are a few other characters coming into play here, but once again, that body that the police found -- the one destroyed by this hooded guy. How this violent unknown entity fit into this premise?
TM: To me, he's the counterbalance, the yin-yang, you know? I'm looking at it as if, suppose a village had two handguns that existed in the village, and if you gave them to two people, there's probably going to be one you can trust with it and one you can't. And so he's the dark character, the shadow on the film. We don't know anything about him, and in contrast to the way Julie has handled this and the way this stuff is reacting to Julie and living in Julie -- if you take somebody who is full of anger and resentment, then what happens? If this stuff is so symbiotic and responds to human nature, then what is the other version of Julie, the opposite? So that's what that is. It's kind of a balance to it all, you know? There's always a balance in life. For every butterfly, there's a bee, etc., etc.
And who knows if it's even going to stay with that guy? I have a little trick coming up.
NRAMA: Aah! Don't say anything more. We don't want spoilers for upcoming issues.
TM: Yeah, I'm afraid to talk about the science in detail, because I have to get further into the story to reveal things. I feel like a mystery writer who is leaving little clues for the characters.
NRAMA: Well then, to finish up, and without giving any spoilers, can you tell us what's coming up? You've got a trade coming out soon, right?
TM: The first trade is planned to be five issues, and I'm trying to have it ready right after issue #5 comes out later this month. And we'll find out a lot more in issue #5, because now that Julie and Dillon have finally met, words will be exchanged and notes will be compared. They will start putting pieces of the puzzle together, and the two of them will begin to discover what's happened and what's at stake.