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This interview originally appeared in two parts on our web site and in the print version of our DRAGON'S BREATH newsletter in April and June 1997. For the sake of nostalgia and good clean fun, we've preserved the interview in its original two-installment form.
In our last issue of DRAGON’S BREATH, Martha spoke with Terry Moore about the success of his creator-owned comic STRANGERS IN PARADISE. This month, she concludes her two-part interview with some questions about Moore’s background and his early experiences as a writer/artist.
Click here to read the first half of the interview.
Have you had any formal art training? Where did you go to school?
I never went to college. I was just a high-school graduate out of Dallas, Texas.
I started working in pens right after school, and I did that—and worked in various [other] careers at the same time—for about ten years.
And then I decided to quit musing, and I understudied with a
Disney animator, because I had been drawing all that time. I went
through his class curriculum at school where he trained people in cartooning and animation. And it was wonderful. It was the first
cheerful experience I had had in ten years.
Well, it was Disney.
[Laughs.] Yes. Well, working with this guy, and just drawing—it was really fun. And so I realized that I really wanted to draw, and he set me up to go to Disney to be an animator. I went out there, and when I realized how little they made money-wise, I realized I couldn't support my family and live in L.A. so I came back to Texas and got a job as an editor, a TV editor.
And that's what I did. That's how I made my living up until a couple years ago. I just kept drawing at night, trying to come up with a newspaper strip, and talking to editors, trying to come up with something original, which is so hard to do. And finally I came upon that.
[B]efore I was doing this, I felt like I was made to do this but wasn't doing it ... .
was off track, and the book's enabled me to quit pretending
I have a day job and devote myself to the drawing.
I guess you just have to go through that, to find out what you really want to do. You sit there and draw for hours; it's different than
talking about it. And when it was all said and done, I realized what I wanted to do was draw a story. I didn't want to do little sight gags,
sound bites—I wanted to set things up and let the scenes play, do timing, and all that. So that's when I started checking out the comics
and looking to see what they were doing.
I knew I couldn't draw hero comics. I couldn't ever draw like Todd McFarlane or John Byrne. And that's what kept me away from them all that time. But then I came and checked them out. This was the late ‘80s, early ‘90s: I saw a lot of these independent comics, and to be frank, a lot of them were poorly done. And that really encouraged me. I thought, "If they can do it, I can do it." And so I just started drawing a book and showing it around. One thing led to another.
Where did you take it first?
The first thing I did was I took it to a local convention here—one of these local, hotel-size conventions. Jon Bogdanove and Patty Jeres from DC were there doing a signing, and I walked up to the table and showed it to Jon, and he said, "I really like this. This is good." So I got the advice, and he said, "Here, show it to Patty," and so he moved me down the line at the table.
I[‘ve] got all these kids moving around me, trying to get their SUPERMAN stuff signed, and I'm standing there in the way talking to Patty Jeres, an editor at DC, and the first thing she said was, "Well, uh, it shows promise, but you've definitely got to get a letterer. You have the worst lettering." So with that encouragement, I went away and felt better about the art and the story.
While I was there I showed it to every retailer in the room and said, "Would you buy this? Would you order this if this came out?" And they said, "Yeah." That's kind of what got me started.
So do you do your lettering now?
[Laughs.] Yeah. And I think about Patty every time I letter. She and I turned out to be really great friends. I've kept in touch with her ever since. I tell her she's my scarecrow. Like in THE WIZARD OF OZ—the first one you ever meet. She was the first professional I really ever met.
So what do you think you've gained, in the area of personal fulfillment, from publishing STRANGERS IN PARADISE? Or from just going into the field?
You know, before I was doing this, I felt like I was made to do this but wasn't doing it, and I felt out of sync with the world. Like my life was off track, and the book's enabled me to quit pretending I have a day job and devote myself to the drawing. I'm very happy about that.
So now I get to sit and do what I want to do, do what I think I was made to do. There's some sort of feeling inside.
You know, I guess. If you
woke up tomorrow and found that you were on a football team you would think, "This is
wrong." That's how I felt about everything except drawing. I just got to the point where it became the most important
thing in the world for me to do.
So how old were you when you decided to start STRANGERS IN PARADISE?
Let's see— [pause]
I would have been in my late thirties—38. I'm 42 now.
That's when you really start panicking. If you have a day job
you hate, and you're 38 years old, you think, "I've been doing this for ten years, and I can picture myself doing it another ten, and another
ten after that." It's possible to spend your whole life doing the wrong thing. Kind of freaks you out.
Yeah, it's way too easy to get yourself stuck in a rut.
You're right. I was the classic 20-year-old. I thought all those men who were in jobs they hated, who were selling out—I thought they were fools. And I had my whole life in front of me, and I had every opportunity in the world, and I was very opinionated, and I knew what I wanted to do, and I knew I was never going to get trapped like that.
There's not a 20-year-old on the planet that doesn't think that. And the next thing you know, you're 38, and you have a family and a mortgage and house payments, and you're always behind on the bills, all that kind of stuff. And there's not a 20-year-old on the planet that it didn't happen to.
So everybody goes in thinking the same thing, but we're all basically mice being led into a maze. We all end up in the same place. There's no way around that. It's just a matter of what you do when you get in there.
How long do you see STRANGERS IN PARADISE continuing?
I don't really know. I have so many things lined up to do. But right now I'm very committed to it. I definitely see myself doing it for several more years.
I'm working on a TV-series version of it right now.
It'll be a 30-minute series. I can't give you any details. But I'm not about to do six more issues and then blow it off.
Do you ever do the tour circuit? Are you going to make it to Heroes Con this year?
Yes. I'll be there. Hey, you want to know what my fortune cookie said tonight?
Yeah. What did it say?
"Society prepares the crime; the criminal commits it."
So take this, brother, and may it serve you well. [Laughs.]
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