TERRY MOORE ANSWERS 15 QUESTIONS WITH JULINDA MORROW
Terry Moore became a darling of the comic book industry shortly after he began publishing his independent opus Strangers in Paradise. Terry’s portrayal of women was sensitive and realistic, never failing to explore the trials of friendship or the myriad of sexual identities his characters possessed. Terry won an Eisner award and two Gladd awards for his work on Strangers in Paradise. The series concluded in 2007 with issue 90.
Next, Terry self-published the comic book series Echo, a sci-fi thriller that ran for 30 issues. His current offering is Rachel Rising, a horror story about a woman who cannot die.
Terry has worked for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and Image, but I’m partial to his self-published endeavours. Terry is one of the few men working in the comics industry that really understands the feminine mystique.
A gallery of Terry’s wondrous art follows this interview.
Julinda Morrow: What path led you to comics and sequential art?
Terry Moore: I always drew, always liked comics and art in general; [I] was fascinated by comics that told history lessons, and later, comics that portrayed real life. But making that kind of comic was more work than I wanted to do when I was a hobbyist. I did other things for a living. Later in life, I reached a point where I wanted to make comics for a living, so I dove in and started doing all the hard work I’d been avoiding up ‘til then, drawing out long scenes that were no fun to draw but told a good story… that kind of thing.
JM: What schooling or training did you receive?
TM: Just a class here or there, nothing formal. I did attend a long cartooning course taught by an old Disney animator from the 40’s. That gave me the professional tools and information I needed later.
JM: Who, in your opinion, are the pioneers of sequential art?
TM: The early wave of syndicated strip creators. Frank King (Gasoline Alley) and Alex Raymond (Flash Gordon, Rip Kirby) are two who influenced me a lot. Both were brilliant.
JM: How do you define sequential art?
TM: Art that tells a story with more than one image.
JM: Do you find that sequential art provides you with near-limitless possibilities for storytelling or do you experience it as constraining?
TM: The power of sequential art to utilize both a visual medium and the written word is great. If a silent movie and a book had sex, their child would be a comic book. But we don’t have sound, so that is limiting. Half of a movie experience is the sound.
JM: What qualities or resources do you believe are most important for a sequential storyteller to have?
TM: Besides talent and art supplies? Patience, endurance, and the willingness to give up anything resembling a life in order to put in the long hours required to draw the story. Writing is quick by comparison; the art takes FOREVERRRRRRRRRRR to draw.
JM: How do you approach your work process?
TM: Because I’m always on a deadline, I write an outline then immediately start drawing and finish the writing as I draw. That is just old school cartooning. I’ve heard “cartoonist” described as “an artist who thinks”. So I think while I draw and change and modify the story as I work. It’s a lot like the way a musician works in the studio. If I just drew a script verbatim I’d be nothing more than a back row violinist following a conductor, and who is this conductor to tell me what to play? I want to be freeee! Screw him. […] As you can see, my process is part discipline and part rebellion. Very salt and pepper. I am my own creative duo.
JM: How many hours a day do you work? Are you uniformly productive on any given day or more productive on some days than others?
TM: I work every day. I eat, sleep and draw comics. That’s all I do, really, unless we go on a trip to promote the books. I do find it hard to be productive in the days right after I’ve finished an issue, so I use that time to do interviews and answer email.
JM: Was it a struggle, at the start of your career, to find work and make ends meet?
TM: No, because I was always making my own book. I am glad I have never been a freelancer hoping to find favor with editors to keep working.
JM: What has been your most valuable professional experience?
TM: The most valuable thing that happened to me professionally was in the first year when one storeowner told me I was “the real thing”. That unsolicited validation meant the world to me. I carried it with me for years.
JM: What inspires or informs you creatively?
TM: Anything that is creative and beautiful, really. Whether that is nature or man-made. I stare at flowers, people, art and bugs. I listen to the patterns in music and wonder about what appeals to people every time they see or hear it. What moves people? This is all at the heart of what I look for in life and art and what stays with me when it’s my turn to make something. For instance, if I’m making a scene about two people arguing, for me it’s not about the subject of disagreement—because that changes every day, right? — it’s about how people argue.
JM: What is your position on digital comics? Are they a good thing or a bad thing?
TM: Reading comics on a digital screen is cool. Saying digital comics will replace printed books is not cool.
JM: If you were to make any changes to the industry or the market what changes would you make?
TM: I’d redefine “mainstream” as stories the general public likes to read. Superheroes would be re-categorized as a sub-genre. That’s the way we define movies and other entertainment. Comic definitions are backwards and that has something to do with their stunted growth in American culture.
JM: If you could apprentice under any artist at any time in history and anywhere in the world who would it be?
TM: Leonardo da Vinci. He had something to say, didn’t he?
JM: What, in the future, would you like to accomplish creatively?
TM: I’d like to make a book the whole world reads.