By Matt O’Keefe
Terry Moore has been writing, drawing and independently publishing comics for over twenty years, consistently to critical acclaim in an ever-changing market. I spoke with him about his most recent works Rachel Rising, which just completed its first long “act” with Issue 30, and SiP Kids, which has two issues out. I also talked with Moore about the comics industry as a whole and how his place in it continues to evolve within it. Read that and more below.
Do you consider Rachel Rising #30 the end of the series’ initial story?
More like the end of an act. I never really thought about Rachel Rising as short story arcs. It was all kind of one long story to me. The original story was Lilith’s revenge, so [Issue 31] is a nice regrouping point.
Do you have an idea of how long it will go?
It depends on so many different things, but I do love the work.
Do you think you could go as far as Strangers in Paradise or is that always gonna be your longest work?
I doubt I’ll ever do anything that long again. I think it’s difficult to sustain a series in today’s world. It was a different climate then.
Do you know what series you want to do after Rachel Rising?
I have a couple ideas, one pretty fleshed out, but I haven’t made a final decision. I’m kind of waiting until the moment comes. In the past, when I thought I had something ready for the next series, I chickened out when the time came because it didn’t feel fresh enough. So now I keep the ideas in my head and, when the time comes, ask myself if it feels right. I like to write for the now.
You’ve also been publishing SiP Kids recently. What was the impetus for that?
Two-fold. Robin, my wife, wanted me to do something all-ages, and I did, too. I come from an all-ages cartooning background so making comics like that comes naturally to me. I also wanted to revisit the Strangers in Paradise characters. I think they’re strong characters and they work nicely when you put them in different situations. It’s just a good ensemble cast that is very flexible. I wanted to get some SiP stuff back out there. This seemed like a fun way to do that without [doing] anything too heavy.
Are you still planning on publishing Strangers in Paradise novels?
Yes. The trick has been for me to manage to do that while continuing to keep a comic book deadline, and it’s been difficult for me to do anything over the last twenty years as I try to stick to a six-week schedule. I’ve noticed that most of the guys who are on steady monthly books are not the kind to be at conventions. [Drawing comics] is very time consuming work. It’s hard to sustain the effort needed for a novel [in addition to that], but that’s where my heart lies. I really want to get more out there.
What’s it like working with Steve Hamaker on SiP Kids and the Strangers in Paradise Anniversary Edition?
He’s wonderful. It’s easy to work with him, he understands [what I’m going for] and he brings so much to it. I love his textures and little touches. He goes every pencil so everything is right and it’s wonderful
Did you learn about him through Jeff Smith?
Yeah. Back in the 90s when [Jeff Smith and his wife] came to San Diego they went with Steve. That’s where I got to meet him and become friends. I’ve known him for a very long time.
You mentioned the current climate for the comics industry. As sales go down prices naturally have to go up. Do you worry about having to charge $4 for a black-and-white issue that’s around 18 pages of comics?
Yes [laughs]. If I could charge $1.25 I would. I really would. But I can’t. Nobody can. The problem with the business of comics is you have grown men with families trying to make a living off them. That demands certain economic standards that everyone’s trying to struggle to keep up with. It’s not like it’s a business full of greedy old rich men trying to soak every penny. It’s just people with families trying to make a living. So it is what it is.
Sales going down changed everything. It put all the distributors but one out of business. It put most of the printers out of business. Paper has become super expensive. All of that business side of comics is unfriendly. It’s sort of an obstacle course that creators and publishers have to run before the book even gets to the comic book store. When it does it has this price tag on it and a struggling college kid looks at that price and has to make a choice. They really can’t walk out with ten books. They have to take closer to three. And the competition is just amazingly fierce right now. I honestly work much harder now to make the best comic I can than I ever did before because the competition’s so fierce. Being black and white and having a very strong price point I’ve got to make a good reason for somebody to invest their money. So I’m trying to make sure I’m making the book the best I can and that it has something fresh and interesting in there that they can’t find anywhere else. That’s really the only reason to keep buying a book, I guess, the hope that it is giving you something nothing else can. So I try to work on that level.
Have you ever considered transitioning to a bigger publisher like Image? I know Rachel Rising appeared in the back of an issue of The Walking Dead not too long ago.
I always loved the security of some father figure company taking me on and giving me some sort of lifetime security. That’s the fantasy of every writer, I think, but it doesn’t really exist. I’ve been with publishers in the past and it never quite turns out to be the security blanket that you want because you have to share the income and it comes down to a numbers game. I actually think one of the reasons I’m able to continue doing my books is because I stayed indy. I’m not sure if I’d have kept doing Strangers in Paradise and Echo and Rachel Rising if [I was with] another publisher that required minimum orders and things. So it’s a balancing game for me. How long can I hang out here on my own in this big ocean where big companies and their IPs fill cruise ships full of people? They’re big operations and I’m like this little one-man sailboat in the Atlantic [laughs]. So far I’ve survived. How much longer I can do it I don’t know, but it sure is nice to do something without having to check in with other people. You get to be flexible every single day about what needs to happen next. So that’s the good thing about being indy. And I get to do my own stuff so I’m still enjoying the rewards of being an indy book.