Over the course of his decade-long career in comics, Robert Kirkman has had long collaborative partnerships with several artists – but none as long as Tony Moore.
Kirkman and Moore met in 7th grade, and after years of friendship they started up Funk-O-Tron Press and put out their first comic, Battle Pope. That got them their start, and got them the attention of Image Comics. After doing an issue of a He-Man: Masters of the Universe book, they jumped into their first ongoing series – the zombie epic The Walking Dead. The series quickly caught the attention of readers and professionals for its survivalist take on a zombie epidemic, making a name for the childhood friends in the professional comics community. The series was nominated for an Eisner for "Best New Series" in 2004, and Moore got recognized for his covers in the 2005 Eisners – and although Moore eventually left the series, he's remained known in many circles as an expert in drawing zombies and other genre tales.After leaving The Walking Dead, Moore went on to co-create two series — Fear Agent and The Exterminators — and is currently an in-demand artist at Marvel's supernatural side of things on such titles as Ghost Rider and Frankencastle. But with the new-found popularity of The Walking Dead thanks to the TV series, Tony Moore's artwork that launched the series has been seen countless places – and by more than just comics fans. He recently designed a zombie t-shirt for the online shirt company Threadless and watches from the sidelines as the series he launched with Robert Kirkman makes its jump to the television screen.
Nrama: Let’s start with an easy one, Tony – what are you working on today?
Moore: Polishing off a couple correction odds and ends for Fear Agent #31, which is the penultimate installment of the series. Also, trying to wrap up the cover for #32, which is daunting, as it's the last Fear Agent cover ever. And I'm fiddling on some designs/redesigns for my next marvel project with Rick, which is a reboot of a fan-favorite character that has been sitting in the chiller for a while. I think people will dig it, even though it's going to be a lot different than what they'd expect.
Nrama: The Walking Dead TV series is set to debut this Sunday, and your artwork has been a big part of the promotion of it. I’ve talked with Robert and Charlie about the series, but what are your thoughts on the TV series now that its days away from debuting?
Moore: It's truly surreal. I watched the pilot the other day and it was really wild how much a lot of the characters and scenes looked like they walked right off my drafting table. It's a quality effort, deserving of standing shoulder to shoulder with the other great programs on AMC, which is an honor to see in itself.Nrama: Can you describe for us some of the earliest conversations you remember having with Robert about what turned into The Walking Dead?
Moore: Well, when we worked on Battle Pope and Brit, we used to take breaks and catch a movie, and zombie flicks were a favorite for us. We'd been watching them together since we were kids. I still remember sitting in his mom's living room eating watermelon in the middle of the night and watching Dead Alive and Evil Dead when we were in school. Then Kirkman said, "Why don't we make a comic like this? It could be like what happens after the movie, and just go forever!" After years of putting out books that flew under the radar for the most part, I kind of expected more of the same. I was sitting at the drafting table beside him once and even remarked, "Do you think anyone will care about this thing?" At the time, horror was pretty much a nonviable genre. I gotta admit, even though I always hoped for it to succeed, I sure never saw it coming like it did.
Nrama: Although you’ve left The Walking Dead behind, I’ve seen you still do zombie art – for fans and even the Victorian Undead series for DC. What are your thoughts on zombies and how they’re such a big part of your career?
Moore: Some people ask me if I get tired of drawing zombies all the time, and I always say that if I was ever worried about becoming known as "The Zombie Guy", I wouldn't have tried to launch a zombie comic. I love the genre and I enjoy drawing zombies and all kinds of monsters. I wouldn't have invested myself in it, especially in a creator-owned capacity like at Image, if I didn't.Nrama: And taking your zombie love further, you recently did a shirt over at Threadless featuring zombies. How was it different drawing something to be a t-shirt rather than a cover or a comics page?
Moore: Well, it was especially weird because I not only had to tell the story at hand, but still manage to execute a design that I thought people would actually want to wear on a t-shirt. I don't consider myself a very strong designer in the rawest sense, and most of my cover work is fairly literal, usually focusing on telling a story in a single image, versus showcasing bolder more abstracted design elements to attempt and evoke a sense of the thing. So, yeah, that was it. As an illustrator, I felt duty bound first to tell the story. once I had basically figured out how I'd do it as a comic, I just kinda massaged the elements into place on some t-shirt templates trying to create something that didn't just look like some sequential art panels stuck on a shirt. It was definitely out of my comfort zone, but I enjoyed the challenge. I just hope I made something that people will dig wearing.
Nrama: Can you tell us what prompted you to do it, and if this is a one-off thing or something you might do more of?Moore: It was all Jill Thompson's doing, really. She contacted me out of the blue about teaming up with herself, Cliff Chiang and Art Balthazar for a fun little experiment, where we'd try to tell a cohesive little story across the course of 4 shirts. Threadless is a big hit around my house, and I've been a fan of Jill's for forever, so when she asked me to join the fun, I jumped at it. It was daunting, being amongst such great comic book talents, not to mention standing alongside all the other amazing designers on that site.
I've definitely got more of this kinda thing in the pipeline. Not necessarily with Threadless, but I did a good amount of serigraphy in college, and have been getting back into it a bit recently. I don't want to spoil the big reveal I have planned for my website in the very near future, but let's just say there's plenty to keep an eye out for very, very, soon.
Nrama: Unlike some of Robert Kirkman’s other collaborators, your career and his really diverged after you left The Walking Dead and Brit. You’ve done books at Vertigo, and some amazing work at Marvel. Do you still keep in touch with Robert, and have you talked about the TV show?
Moore: Robert and I talk briefly now and again, but not often or for long. I pretty much find out things about the TV show the same time as everybody else, when it shows up on the internet.
Nrama: Have you had any involvement with the TV show – or do you want to?
Moore: No, I'm more or less out of the process. If KNB EFX ever wanted my input on anything, I'd be thrilled to work with them on zombie stuff, but then again, they're the top of the game, so I don't see what use they'd have for me. I had inquired about a zombie cameo, but wasn't able to get on. Beyond that, I don't have much interest in it.
Nrama: And what will you be doing Sunday night when the show premieres?
Moore: I'll be having some friends over for a Halloween party and viewing. Good food, booze, and costumed nerds. That's pretty much how I live my life.Is Moore the "zombie guy?"