TERRY MOORE: WALKING DEAD, RACHEL RISING & Return of KATCHOO

It's tough to keep up with everything Terry Moore is doing these days. But this month is clearly a big one for the writer/artist:

- Moore surprised fans of his hit series Strangers in Paradise by announcing on his blog that "Francine and Katchoo will emerge from their self-imposed sabbatical next year, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Strangers in Paradise in 2013."

- The Walking Dead #95, due in comic shops this week, will include a five-page preview of Rachel Rising.

- Rachel Rising: The Shadow of Death, a collection of issues #1-#6 of his new ongoing horror comic, will be released this week in both print and digital formats.

- Rachel Rising began releasing same-day-as-print digital issues through ComiXology earlier this month, with all other back-issues available.

- Echo, Moore's Eisner-nominated sci-fi drama series, will have all 30 issues available digitally this Wednesday, as either single issues or collections. (Echo is the story whose movie rights were picked up by Lloyd Levin of Hellboy and Watchmen fame.)

- How to Draw.. Beautiful was just released in March, in which Moore shares his secrets to drawing beautiful women. It's the third issue in a five-part How to Draw series Moore is releasing that will be eventually collected in one book.

It's quite a list for the writer/artist, who's best known for his 90-issue run on Strangers in Paradise, the Eisner Award-winning comic about the adventures of now beloved characters Francine, Katchoo and David. But since that comic, known as "SiP" to fans, ended in 2006, Moore hasn't slowed down.

With his new ongoing comic Rachel Rising, Moore is telling the story of a young woman who cannot die, and the strange things that happen around her in the town of Manson. Although she was apparently murdered, she wakes up in her own shallow grave, and now she has to solve the mystery of her death -- and what is causing all the creepy mayhem in Manson.

In a spoiler-free interview, we asked Moore about Rachel Rising, but we also asked him the status of the Echo movie, his choice to go digital, and what readers can expect from the return of Katchoo and Francine.

Rachel Rising

Newsarama: Terry, this isn't the first time we've seen darker stories from you -- Molly & Poo comes to mind in particular -- but this is the first time you've done an ongoing comic that was all firmly based in horror. Is this a genre that has interested you for awhile?

Terry Moore: It is. I've enjoyed horror since I was a kid, when I enjoyed all the old classics. And I think the first short story I ever wrote was a horror story. So it's always been there as one of the things that I found entertaining. And it's like you said, that I've had elements of horror in my other stories.

I just wanted to take my turn at it, and play in that for a little while. And it feels very natural. It's still me doing what I do, which is focus on characters, but it's nice to do it in the horror genre.

Nrama: The collection, Rachel Rising: The Shadow of Death, comes out this week. It collects issues #1-#6. But it's interesting to note that you're approaching this comic as an ongoing, as opposed to being a limited series like Echo was. Why the return to ongoing? Did it just fit this story better?

Moore: I always saw Echo as a movie, as one arc. With Rachel Rising, I'm working on it as if it's a TV series. It's just an ongoing series for me. That's one of the reasons why we have a big cast. We have an entire creepy town. I can just run with this for quite awhile. As long as people are enjoying it, I'll keep doing it.

Nrama: We've met some of these characters, and a lot of them are female characters. Do you think women work well with the story you're telling, and particularly in horror?

Moore: Well, if you'll notice, when I write female characters, I don't have them doing anything that's actually very feminine. There's no scenes of women having lunch together or shopping or talking about guys.

So what I'm actually doing is using female characters and putting them in situations that are typically male, just because I find that that incongruous setting is so much more intriguing.

Put a man in a dangerous situation, and we automatically just assume he's either going to go commando or wimp. We've seen it so many times.

But if you put a woman in there, you're just not quite sure what's going to happen. And it's just a little more intriguing to read a story where, instead of putting the button for a nuclear silo under the thumb of a male politician, give it to a housewife. See what she does with it. And that was the theme of Echo.

It's the same thing with the horror story: What if the women not only had to deal with the horror, but they were also making it themselves?

Usually women are portrayed as victims of male predators. In my story, the woman is usually fighting against her own genre. I just find that a little more interesting. Instead of lions attacking penguins, what if penguins attacked each other?

Nrama: I'm going to avoid spoilers here, but having read the first six issues, it looks like this story is about a weird town where creepy things are happening, but it's going to have a history that goes back many years, before our protagonist Rachel gets involved. There's something much deeper and older behind this horror story. Is that accurate?

Moore: That is very accurate. It's just one of those things where the story needs to develop at its own pace. When you think about, say, Alan Moore's From Hell, when you were only four or five chapters in, you're beginning to get an idea of this incredible depth in the story, and a lot bigger than Jack the Ripper.

That's what I'm trying to build. I'm building a story that has very deep roots. But it's all extremely relevant, and it all comes to a crisis point.

Nrama: The mystery began through Rachel's eyes, but more recently, we've seen a lot of creepy things happening elsewhere in the town. Will we get back to how Rachel died in the first place?

Moore: Yes, because that is the central theme. What and why and how is the key to everything. So yeah, she's a big deal. Rachel is the center of the story, and we're kind of building a hurricane around her. But she's the center of it all.

Nrama: There are a lot of lovable characters in this story, most of whom are close to Rachel. But you also introduced a little girl as a key character, and she has turned out to be a very creepy kid.

Moore: She's really turned out to add so much to the story. I'm drawing issue #7, and she has a scene in issue #7 that I've never seen before in fiction. And that is just a huge delight to me, to be able to come up with something that I think I haven't seen before.

She's a lot of fun for me as a writer. And she has been kind of lurking in the shadows in my past work. People who have seen my cartoons have seen this girl as a prototype in a lost of work that I've done. She's just always been around.

I have a different twist on her right now, but yes, she's a very old, familiar character to me.

Nrama: Her little face says innocence, but it's obvious there's a lot more going on inside that head.

Moore: Yes, there's something to her. Hopefully, she will be a surprise to everybody.

Nrama: I think we had talked many times about some of the themes behind Echo, and one of them was the idea of the metaphysical, or that intangible part of life which science doesn't explain. Is there some of that going on in Rachel Rising as well, because we've seen a few discussions of what death is, what it means, and whether there's life beyond the physical body?

Moore: Yeah. You're exactly right that there's an underlying theme what is really going on beneath the surface, and not just in graves, but beyond the grave. And what is the interaction. And if there is anything going on beneath the surface, it's got to be connected somehow to what happens above the surface.

It's a classic debate, and I think the reason I'm writing this story is not to retread well-known ground, but to explore my own observations. I suppose that's what any writer does, but I really am interested in the themes of life and death. And so yeah, we're exploring that.

Strangers In Paradise Returning?

Nrama: We got proof in Echo that Julie's story existed in the same universe as Strangers in Paradise. Is Rachel Rising in the same universe as well?

Moore: Yes, it's all the same Terry-verse. Everybody from Strangers in Paradise and Echo could be driving through Manson and have their car break down and be stuck there.

Nrama: Oh, let's hope that during their visit to Manson, they don't get buried in the dry riverbed like Rachel did.

Moore: They could go for a tour of the hills up there, and see the woods, and yeah -- it's all one United States and it's all of the same time period for me, which makes it a lot of fun for me, knowing that they're out there. Sometimes I'm mentally referencing, OK, if I do this, then how is that affecting my other groups?

Nrama: Since we're talking about the rest of the Terry-verse, what was this blog post you had about Francine and Katchoo emerging next year. Is there a chance we'll see Strangers in Paradise characters soon?

Moore: The answer is yes. Next year, 2013, is the 20th anniversary of Strangers in Paradise. And I'm going to be bringing Francine and Katchoo back in a new story of some sort. So I haven't announced what that is, but we're going to be able to catch up with them.

Going Digital

Nrama: The entire collection of Echo will be available digitally this week, and this month, you just started releasing each Rachel Rising issue on the same day as print. What were your thoughts behind that move? As a self-publisher, what does working with ComiXology do for you?

Moore: I think of it as growing. If you think of the entire digital market as just another storefront for us, it's a good thing. Why would you want to be in another store? That's how we look at it. I certainly hope that digital will introduce me to readers that were not comic book store savvy. So I hope to find a new audience there.

I think the delicate matter is how we position that while keeping our brick-and-mortar stores in mind. I've made no secret of the fact that they are my partners. If it weren’t for comic book shops, I would have no readership at all. So I have to add on digital, not switch to digital. So I've been very careful about how I do that.

I'm doing the digital same-day release at full cover price, and keeping it that way for a month, so that the brick-and-mortar stores are on equal competitive grounds and have a chance to clear out their inventory before we go to the convenience of low-price digital. That way everybody gets a shot at it, everybody can retail the book, and nobody has it before anyone else does.

The digital guys are happy, and I met with the brick-and-mortar guys in Dallas last month for ComicsPRO, and they're happy. So it's all good.

The only thing I'm worried about is that the distributor, Diamond, won't keep up with us. We're all ready to put product out fast and regularly, and now it's just up to our one distributor just to keep up with us.

Nrama: Will the collection of Rachel Rising: The Shadow Of Death also be available digitally?

Moore: Yes, they will sell the singles and the trades. Echo will debut on March 28th [this Wednesday], and they will debut the entire series all at once. So you can get all 30 issues, and you can get all six trades, all at the same time. However you want to read it, you can read it.

Rachel Rising and Echo will be on there, and they are working right now to prepare Strangers in Paradise, but it's so much work for them that it's taken a little bit of time.

How to Draw

Nrama: You've already got three books done in your How to Draw series, which I know you're hoping will be five books that can then be collected into one big book. Is this just years of you learning things about drawing, and now sharing that wisdom?

Moore: Yeah, yeah. The How to Draw series has been so fun to do. I wanted to share those things for a long time, and it feels to be able to write these ideas down and these notes that I gathered up over the years and share it with other artists.

That's kind of what we all do, is share with each other, you know?

But it's been very gratifying to make this series, the How to Draw series.

Nrama: I've ever seen reviews recently of Rachel Rising where the critic will say, "How does he do that?" And I want to call them up and say, "He explains it in How to Draw."

Moore: Yeah! I wanted to share, especially, with young artists that there's no magic to it. So I'm very happy to get all that down and just be an open book.

If it wasn't for the schedule I have right now, I would happily teach classes for younger artists. But this is the best I can do for now is put it in a book and hope that I'm saying something new.

Nobody needs another "how to draw a foot" book. So I've been trying to fill my books with things that compliment their regular "how to draw" books, not just repeat the same thing over and over again.

Movie Adaptations

Nrama: The last time we talked, you felt really good about the Echo movie, although not a lot had moved forward with it. Do you see that film moving forward? Or is it completely on the back burner? Or is there any news you can tell fans about it?

Moore: Lloyd Levin is very serious about doing it. And I'm very pleased with him.

He almost has a screenplay in hand. And I think that's where it is now. They wanted to get a screenplay and start taking that around and gathering their group, their core creative group.

So that's the process that lies ahead. It's just time-consuming. You always hear people at the awards ceremonies say, "oh this project was nine years in the making." I know everyone wants it to come faster than that, but it is time-consuming. And it's something I watch with great interest.

One thing that has not changed is Lloyd's enthusiasm, so I'm very encouraged by it. I'm still feeling very good about it.

Nrama: Is there any news on any kind of adaptation of Strangers in Paradise?

Moore: Amazingly, no. No. I've got to tell you, I'm just surprised by it. And I think it's just because the work is so big. There's so much to read. You have to read it to be a fan of it. It's like reading the whole Sandman series.

Nrama: And there are so many different types of adventures within it that it's hard to pitch it in a one-liner, like you probably could Echo.

Moore: Yeah, you said it. It's impossible. It's a number of different stories in one title. I've never figured out a good pitch.

Nrama: It would make a good TV show, though, because you approached it as an ongoing story, like you're doing with Rachel Rising.

Moore: That's true. And if you look at some of the best television shows, you can't sum them up. Tell me in one sentence, what was the plot to Sopranos? What's the plot to CSI? There is none. It's just a way to live with characters on a weekly basis. And that's kind of what I did with SiP. I was just living with them. We went through about five, six, seven years in their lives.

The Walking Dead

Nrama: Last week, Robert Kirkman announced that his comic, The Walking Dead, would feature a preview of Rachel Rising. That comic selling so well right now. But you're self-publishing, and he's working through Image. So how did this come about? I guess it makes sense because they're both the same genre, right?

Moore: Yeah, I guess they are. I'm just incredibly tickled and pleased to be having this opportunity. And I'm so grateful to [Image Publisher] Eric Stephenson and Robert Kirkman.

I was up at ComicsPRO and talking to Eric, and he said he really liked the book and wanted to give me a hand. And Robert Kirkman said he also liked the book.

And so they made that very generous offer. And of course, I said, yes! So how lucky am I?

Nrama: This year is the 20th anniversary of Image, and it's admirable that they're still existing to promote creator-owned comics, even if it's not something Image is publishing themselves. It's very cool that they would reach out to a non-Image book that way.

Moore: It is. It's just incredibly gracious and generous for them to do that. They're sharing some very hard-earned turf with me for a minute, and that's just very generous, no matter how you look at it.

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