Stephen Mooney’s miniseries Half Past Danger comes out in a big hardcover edition today, published by IDW. It’s a story of heroes versus dinosaurs, with Nazis, femme fatales and even the odd ninja thrown in, all written and drawn in incredible fashion by Mooney as his first creator-owned and made project. I spoke to Mooney last year just before the very first issue came out, and he told The Beat how he prepared, designed, made and funded the project by himself.
So with the trade out today, it seemed like a great time to catch up with him on the series! He kindly agreed to a wrap-up interview of sorts for the first volume of his series, and we spoke about the past year, and where he’ll be going next.
Steve: Last time we spoke, it was just prior to the release of Half Past Danger #1. As we’re coming up now on the release of the collected hardcover, how pleased are you with the final story?
Stephen: I’m pretty satisfied in the sense that the story didn’t deviate from the script I wrote two years ago at the beginning of the entire process. This indicates to me that I must at least have been confident that the story was working well enough to leave the narrative well enough alone, and not tinker with it as I went along, picking at it like a literary scab.
I mean, I had doubts throughout that the sorry was any good, y’know? But for better or for worse, I stuck to what I’d laid out in the script, and I definitely got the version I’d envisioned in my mind’s eye beforehand down on the page. So I’m satisfied that i told the story I initially set out to; for better or for worse.
Steve: The last few months you’ve been touring the book, travelling to New York, Thought Bubble, and several other conventions. How was the response to Half Past Danger from fans and creators?
Stephen: Unbelievably, life-affirmingly positive! As I alluded to in the previous answer, I had been genuinely terrified when embarking on the whole venture that the book would be a damp squib from the off; that very few people would be interested in taking a look.
As I saw the initial sales figures and started to receive more and more enthusiastic responses from readers at the various conventions, it really brought home the fact that there were many like-minded people out there who genuinely wanted the kinds of action-adventure yarns that I was bursting to tell.
Then there were all of the ridiculously favourable reviews on top of that. I could really feel the good will and positivity emanating from all angles; it was bloody fantastic.
So yeah, the response has been overwhelmingly positive and really kinda blew me away.
Steve: For those who didn’t pick up the series, what’s the general premise of Half Past Danger? What could readers expect if they pick up the hardcover?
Stephen: The basic thrust of it concerns the adventures of a rag-tag bunch of disparate characters that have to come together to avert a global level threat during World War Two. But at the end of the day, the elevator pitch was always Nazis versus Dinosaurs. With a ninja.
Readers can expect a pretty decent action-adventure tale, where the stakes are at their highest and the events are for keeps. Anybody who enjoyed the likes of Indiana Jones, or Jurassic Park; that kind of ‘Spielbergian’ rollercoaster action epic will get a kick or three out’ve Half Past Danger.
Steve: What were your initial inspirations for the series?
Stephen: The book wears its influences on its sleeve: the aforementioned Indiana Jones being a massive one, then the Saturday matinee likes of The Rocketeer, the Connery Bonds, the classic Westerns and War movies. Mixed in with those you have a heavy dash of the old-school cliffhanger serials like Flash Gordon and The Shadow. Classic pulp stories with atmosphere so thick you can chew on it.
Steve: Is there any extra material in the back-matter? You chronicled the making of the book very carefully over on your blog – will any of that make it into the collection?
Stephen: I actually considered including a lot of the material from the production blog, but at the end of the day there was simply too much, and that’ll be online for the foreseeable future in any case if people were interested to read it. As it is I’ve used every single page available to me that the deluxe format IDW hardback format allows, which ended up I think being 49 pages of bonus materials.
There’s an author’s commentary, character designs, cover gallery, sketchbook, pinups, pencilled pages and some other surprises also. Pretty much everything done for the series besides the online production blog is in there.
Steve: You took many months off from work for hire comics in order to focus on the series, which you wrote and drew and created. Could you see yourself doing the same again? Does this feel like a pattern you’d be interested in repeating?
Stephen: It was a year, actually, that I gave myself initially. But when all was said and done it took more like 18 months to complete all of the work, as I did pretty much everything myself, save for the interior colours for issues 2-6, which were handled by my wonderful collaborator, Jordie Bellaire. It’s certainly a model I’d consider employing again, yeah. Although for HPD 2 I’m fairly confident I can pare it down to 12 months work total.
Steve: Do you feel like the process of making your own comic has given you have a better understanding of your own voice, as you go forward onto future projects?
Stephen: Absolutely. More than anything, I feel far more confident in my own abilities as a storyteller, I’ll be a lot quicker to trust my instincts in future. I’ve gotten several offers to write some other titles since the book, which has given me belief in my own ability also. They say the best way to learn something is on the job; through practical application. I certainly believe that’s the case. I feel like a much more well-rounded comics professional for having created and executed my own project, certainly. It makes you a lot more fearless.
Steve: Do you have any other projects coming up in the near future?
Stephen: There’s every chance of more HPD, yeah. When I was breaking down the basic idea at the beginning, I actually constructed Half Past Danger as a trilogy; three six-issue series. I have the broad strokes for HPD 2 and 3 mapped out, and have actually already started scripting the second series.
When I pitched the series, it was in the hope of getting the chance to complete the entire story, but IDW very understandably wanted to see how the first series performed before committing to two more. Thankfully though, the book held its own and as a result all parties seem keen for it to continue.
I certainly wouldn’t be happy leaving it as it is after one series, even though I think it was written with enough closure that it wouldn’t be the end of the world were that the case. But I certainly have many more adventures I’d like to tell with my cast.
All going well, I’ll get to tell those stories.
As for future projects, right now I have a couple of things in the ether for 2014. In the immediate future I have various covers coming out with IDW and Dynamite, and a Wolverine book out in April. I haven’t quite cemented what comes next, but I hope to have HPD 2 on the shelves by early 2015.