Sherlock Holmes #1With a writing partnership of over six years, the team of Leah Moore and John Reppion have blazed their way through every genre of comics, from superheroes to Time Lords, from fantasy to spine chilling horror… But their two most recent big name projects for Dynamite Publishing have been, well, a little more Victorian than usual...I spoke to the duo for Newsarama to find out what makes them tick.
Click here for a preview of issue #1, due in stores this week.
Newsarama: Firstly, you're known as one of the more recognisable writing partnerships out there - and by that I mean both forms of the word. What came first, the professional or personal one? And what made you decide to work together?Leah Moore: We got together in 2001, when I was working in a theatre bar, and John was working in an off license, and we both had no firm plans for the future really. I was having a chat with my dad one day and he asks if I’ve ever thought of writing comics professionally (apropos of nothing) and suggested I have a go and see if I liked it. I put together a script and submitted is anonymously to Scott Dunbier at Wildstorm. No one was more surprised than me when he accepted it, and my story “King Solomon Pines” went in to Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales #5, drawn by a long time hero of mine, Sergio Aragones. After that I only did one more short story for ABC on my own. I killed off Paul Saveen in Tom Strong #19. Scott then asked me to come up with an original series proposal to pitch to him and I had to start really thinking. Obviously I was spending a lot of time sitting about with John, and we would often end up talking over ideas for the proposal. We actually got something knocked into shape between us, and when we sent it off, I knew we were better as a writing team than as separate writers. Wild Girl was accepted, and we both jacked in the day jobs immediately. Obviously it wasn’t the wisest thing to do, but because we had to work together, our shifts would have to be almost identical the whole time to get anything done. This wasn’t going to happen, so we thought, lets go for it. We haven’t got any better ideas, and to be honest the work we were already doing was low paid boring work anyway. We started Moore & Reppion as an official Tax paying partnership in April 2003 and we’ve been doing it ever since. Six years now, so we must be doing something right!
NRAMA: What are the pros and cons of working together? Have you ever considered doing separate comic stories?Sherlock Holmes #2 John Reppion: We do work on separate things (Leah does illustrations, I write articles, short stories and my first book, 800 Years of Haunted Liverpool, came out last year) but never comics. I don’t know if we could now because we’re so locked into our own routine of how we do comics. We’re essentially half a comic writer each – we write our scripts in this third voice that isn’t either of us individually. I can’t imagine how I’d go about writing a comic without Leah – I suppose I could do it but I’m not sure how it would turn out.
The pros of working together are probably pretty obvious – we get to spend all of our time together, live and work in the same house, etc. The main con is that you can’t separate “normal” life from work very easily so if we’re not happy about one it will always affect the other.
NRAMA: Can you explain how your writing process happens? Does one of you write the plots and the other the dialogue, or do you write alternate lines?John: The process is stupidly long winded really. Once we know what we’re doing with a series and we’re on to writing an issue we talk through everything and make notes, making sure we have a good idea of what happens this issue. Then we make a list of pages and write a short description next to each page to show what happens. Then we sit and talk through each page and Leah roughs them out. We each take some of those roughs and we type the pages based on them. Sometimes we dialogue as we go along but more often the dialogue comes last. At each stage we check over each other’s work and change anything we don’t like until eventually we’re both happy. The artist never sees the roughs which, until Paul Cornell told us he thought that as odd recently, had never struck us as such.
NRAMA: Leah - do you think the family surname has helped or hindered you in your comics career?Leah: It has certainly helped I’m sure. Even though my work was accepted anonymously at the outset, having dads name kind of acts as a kite mark I think. People must subconsciously think I must be okay if I’m his daughter. Also, I dare say having the surname on the books doesn’t hurt either, although I’ve noticed lots of people don’t bother having names on covers, so it cant just be that. The only complaint I have is that I spend a lot of time online and at conventions fielding questions about dad when I could be getting business of my own done. I know fans are interested and star struck by proxy, but sometimes I want a badge that says, “Yes he is, yes its great, thank you I’ll pass that on, no I doubt he will do Watchmen part 2, no probably wont finish Big Numbers either…” does that sound really ungrateful and grumpy? Sorry. Sherlock Holmes #3 NRAMA: Not entirely. Looking at your Dynamite work, you're known for a variety of excellent original stories - what made you decide to look at Dracula for The Complete Dracula? John: We’ve been working largely for Dynamite Entertainment for a good few years now and they came to us with the idea of adapting Stoker’s novel. We jumped at the chance without really considering how large and complicated an undertaking it might turn out to be. Though it was very different from other series we’ve worked on it was a really rewarding experience and we’ve both come out of it with a real love for the novel.
Just this past weekend we’ve been in Dublin taking part in the city’s annual One Book, One Month events which this year are centred around local lad Bram Stoker’s Gothic masterpiece. We spent the weekend hanging out with Dracula experts and aficionados such as Kim Newman, Stoker biographer Paul Murray and Gothic Dublin author Brian J. Showers and had lots of fun discussing the novel in nerdy detail. It’s a fascinating book and I think it’s dated very, very well all things considered. It represents the birth of a whole new genre where horror takes place in the here and now and monsters walk amongst us, co-existing with modern attitudes and technology.If we can get just one person who hasn’t read Stoker’s novel to read our book and go “Wow, that’s a great story” then we’ve done our job – we don’t want to change anything we just want to make it accessible to a new audience.
NRAMA: What for you were the biggest differences between writing something licensed, like for example Doctor Who - and adapting faithfully a novel?Leah: With licensed characters you get to go crazy use your imagination, and figure out a really cool thing to do with them. Adapting a novel you have the characters and plot and setting all set in stone pretty much, and just have to work out how to fit it all in. It’s more of a balancing act than a creative exercise. You still have to be creative in how you pace the story, which bits you leave in, how you get the characterisation across and stuff, but it’s a different creature to licensed characters. Doctor Who was especially fun to do because we were both huge fans of the show already and couldn’t wait to get our clammy paws on the character. We were both still excited about adapting Dracula, but the research was much heavier, and the work/page ratio went way up, so it was a lot more of a slog.
Our interview with Moore and Reppion concludes tomorrow as the two go in-depth about Sherlock Holmes.