Stephen Mooney may be most widely known for the art that’s graced Marvel and DC comics, but he especially shines with his creator-owned work. That’s one of many reasons to be excited for the return of Half Past Danger, his IDW series both modernizing and paying homage to classic action-adventure serials. Stephen Mooney just launched a Kickstarter for the Half Past Danger Christmas Special, with a lead story written and drawn by him and backups drawn by a murderers row of guest artists like Declan Shalvey, Stephen Byrne, Will Sliney, and Nick Roche.
The Beat had the pleasure of interviewing Mooney to discuss his first venture into crowdfunding, his passion for serials, and creating the Christmas Special.
Did you grow up watching action-adventure serials?
I sure did! I devoured anything and everything pulp that I could find from a pretty early age. It was Raiders of The Lost Ark that set me on the trail when I was probably about 7 or 8, I’d say. Then I wanted to watch anything that remotely resembled that flavour of derring-do. Old black-and-white matinee adventure serials, newspaper strips like Phantom, Zorro, and Mandrake. Hergé’s Tintin was another huge one for me.
What did you find compelling about them?
I think mostly the fact that they bore no resemblance whatsoever to the real, mundane world. I’ve never been interested in slice-of-life movies or books; I can live those experiences myself every day in my own boring existence! I wanted larger than life thrills, with incredible men and women performing ridiculous feats of bravery and skill. The excitement of it all; the fact that it never stopped. There was always another trap or pitfall around the corner, always another villain twirling their mustache as the train thundered along the tracks towards us. The sheer momentum of those pulp stories really got my blood racing. Still does!
Why do you think they’re largely forgotten in 2020?
I really and truly do not know. I guess, primarily, they’re simply seen as quite old-fashioned and that in and of itself means they’re just not really on peoples’ radar these days. I’ve asked myself that question many times.
How do you bring their flair back in a way that’s exciting for modern audiences?
All I can really do on that score is to try and develop sequences and concepts that excite myself and then pray to the Comic Book Gods that people dig ’em. In some ways, I try to apply what might be considered more modern or contemporary storytelling techniques, but truth be told, a large part of this series is me trying to emulate the amazing pulp stories of the past, like Xenozoic Tales, Rocketeer and even older strips like Prince Valiant.
Did writing and drawing two Half Past Danger miniseries change how you view the artist-writer dynamic?
100%. It was the first real professional level writing that I ever attempted, and I was terrified at the beginning. I quickly relaxed into it though and found whatever passes for my stride. I had worked with many fantastic writers at various publishers by that point and I tried to bring all of that working knowledge to bear on my own work. Once I began accepting purely writing assignments afterward, I made sure to treat the artists on those projects as I would like to be treated myself; giving more autonomy over shot choices and the like where possible, and simply getting out of their way wherever I could.
I had no real pre-established conception of what the writer-artist (singular) dynamic would entail, but I learned to love it pretty bloody quickly. Most comic pros I know (including myself) are total control freaks, so the more authorship I could exert over my own project, the better. In an ideal world, I’ll be writing most of my own material in the future. That said, there are certainly plenty of writers I still would love to work with some day and if anything my respect for that side of the craft has only grown.
Did it affect how you communicate/collaborate with writers on other projects?
Perhaps a little, but not seismically. I’ve always been very collaborative where possible, and most good writers will respond to that and write to the given artist’s strengths and preferences wherever possible. I do the same with my own writing assignments for other artists, too.
The one-shot you’re kickstarting includes a lead story and several backups. Do those page counts flex different muscles than writing and drawing a full miniseries?
Totally! In a really enjoyable way. I’ve been a huge fan of one-shots and specials ever since I was a nipper, so I’ve long harboured a desire to do one of my own when the opportunity arose. Writing the short backup stories especially has been a great exercise – varying page counts and styles that I haven’t attempted before. I’m pretty happy with the results and the artists all seem happy. So far, anyway! A couple of the lads who are writers also are actually co-writing their stories, like Declan Shalvey and Nick Roche. That has been especially interesting – hearing them put words in my characters’ mouths is both weird and compelling. Plus – I can just change it if I don’t like it! There’s that afore-mentioned control!
Can you describe your collaboration with artists contributing to the Half Past Danger one-shot? Did you send them full scripts, did you plot the story together, or was it somewhere in-between?
Mostly it was full scripts. One or two are being done Marvel-style; with more of a scene by scene breakdown where I will later go in and add/finalise the dialogue. The people who are co-writing started with a kernel of an idea then took it away and fleshed it out to a greater extent themselves. I’ll then go in and do a final pass on the script for those stories when the pages are in.
How are you feeling ahead of the Kickstarter launch?
Ah, I’m a bundle of nerves, really. Due to Kickstarter’s policy of All or Nothing funding (which I totally agree with), it’s quite scary to think you might have put all of this work into a project that very possibly might never actually see the light of day. I’ve done everything I realistically could and can do to give it the best possible chance, but at the end of the day it’s completely out of my hands due to the fact that this is the first major book I’ve ever attempted to release without the security blanket of a large publisher behind me. All of that being said, I’m very excited about it, too! This is a pretty unprecedented (for me, anyway) chance to work with all of my friends on something that I truly love, so that really ain’t too shabby.
This is completely new territory for me and there’s nothing like the fear of the unknown. At the end of the day, it will depend on whether or not I can get enough eyes on the project, as I certainly feel the material is worth the entry fee. I would back this, and that’s the most security I can give myself. Ie, none at all! He who dares, wins, right?
What are you hoping for out of the experience, in addition to funding?=
I’m already reaping those other rewards, to be honest. I wanted to produce a really good one-and-done Christmas Special, and I’m well on the way to doing that. I also really wanted to work with my friends on something we could all have some fun with while the pandemic is happening. Everybody I asked was really keen to get on board and take part, which was so gratifying. That tells me that they believe in me and believe in this property and that’s huge.
But at the end of the day, would I give that all up to get this sucker funded and out the gate? You bet yer sweet bippy I would! I can make new friends, right?