Smash Pages Q&A: Stuart Moore

The comics veteran discusses his work for Ahoy Comics, “Captain Ginger,” the upcoming “Bronze Age Boogie” and more.

Stuart Moore has been working in comics in a variety of ways for decades. He was an editor at DC Comics, where he was one of the founding editors of the Vertigo imprint, overseeing books like Swamp Thing, Jonah Hex, Preacher and Hellblazer, before working on DC’s Helix imprint, where he oversaw Vermilion, The Black Lamb and Transmetropolitan, before working on the Marvel Knights imprint, overseeing Alias and Fantastic Four 1234. He’s written books like Firestorm with Jamal Igle, Namor: The First Mutant and The 99. He also adapted Brian Jacques’ Redwall, and created projects like Earthlight, Lone, Giant Robot Warriors and Para.

Right now Moore is working at Ahoy Comics, where he’s not just working behind the scenes, but also writing books for the company. Those books include Captain Ginger, the first season of which wrapped up last month, and Bronze Age Boogie, which launches in April. That’s in addition to writing a story for Ahoy’s Free Comic Book Day issue coming out in May, and one story in June’s Steel Cage One Shot. The titles are all very different kinds of stories that feature collaborations with talented artists doing some of the best work of their careers.

Somehow Moore found a few minutes to answer my questions.

How did you first come to comics?

I answered an ad! I was a book editor, and DC wanted someone from outside comics to work in Karen Berger’s department, which became Vertigo a couple of years later. That’s the short, dingus answer. The true answer is that I’d been reading them all my life. I think Howard the Duck got me through age 15.

I started writing in earnest in the early 2000s, and I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a mix of company- and creator-owned characters. I love writing Deadpool or Firestorm, but there’s nothing quite like brewing up your own universe from scratch.

How did you end up working at Ahoy Comics?

Tom Peyer, the editor-in-chief, is an old friend of mine. They asked me to pitch in and consult at first, help out a bit. Then Ahoy’s Publishing Ops person, Sven Larsen, got snapped up by Marvel! So I wound up doing a bit more behind-the-scenes work, in addition to my writing.
 
Your first miniseries at Ahoy just wrapped up. What is Captain Ginger, for those who missed it?

Captain Ginger is about a starship with a 100% feline crew. It’s also sort of about the self-destruction of humanity. With lots of cat jokes.

The idea sounded fun when it was announced, but you also make it clear very quickly that they’re cats. They may be smarter and flying in space ships, but they’re cats. Which is one way to take a very serious existential tale of survival in space and add comedy. But you’ve written a number of sci-fi and adventure stories over the years. What did you get to do here that is something new that you wanted to do?

I love cats. I’ve almost always lived with them. They’re arrogant, selfish creatures, but very, very loving, too. I wanted to see what would happen if they had just a tiny bit more self-awareness, and were placed in a situation where they had to cooperate in order to survive. 

I also created the series specifically for June Brigman. June and I have worked together before, and I know of her love for cats. I think she and Roy Richardson, her husband, have 10 of them right now. Her artwork is classical, elegant and straightforward, but I also knew she could depict cat emotions and movement better than anyone in the field. 

There’s a lot of visual humor in the series. Cats in the background and kittens playing everywhere. How much of that was in the script and how much of that is Brigman throwing a few more cats into the background of scenes?

It was definitely a mixture. I came up with most of the main gags – the cats jumping at lights on the screen, the way their eyes work, that sort of thing. But June kept drawing more and more of them in the background—especially all the little cats that the big cats are petting or shooing away while they’re trying to fight off enemy ships or keep the atomic pile from blowing. That wound up contributing to the world-building, the whole way the cats operate together and how they’ve evolved.

June Brigman and Roy Richardson are busy drawing Mary Worth seven days a week, but you announced that there is a second miniseries in the works. Is there anything you want to say about what you have planned or things you didn’t get to do in the first series?

Oh yes, quite a lot. The last page of issue #4 points the way to the second series…it’s meant as a teaser for what’s coming next. The second series—we call them seasons, at Ahoy—will be six issues long, and quite traumatic for some of our characters.

That ending to issue #4, incidentally, was originally the end of issue #1. I decided we needed more time to get to know the crew and the ship before throwing them into a possibly fateful confrontation.

So shifting focus, tell me about Bronze Age Boogie? Where did this idea come from?

Bronze Age Boogie was born in the grindhouse theaters of Times Square, in the dark hearts of scowling newsstand owners, in the discos of Harlem, in all the basements where kids of the ‘70s practiced Kung Fu and knew, deep down, that if they missed an issue of Luke Cage, they’d never ever get another chance to read it.

But it’s also about today, you know? Life in mid-70s New York seemed very precarious, like you were balancing by your toes on a ledge, every second of your life. This time in history feels like that, too.

Like a lot of people I read the initial description when the book was announced and thought, oh, barbarians, very Bronze age of comics. But this particular barbarian lives 3949 years before the 1970s, during the actual Bronze age, which literally made me laugh out loud. But for you, what are the comics or novels that for you really define the 1970s and the Bronze age and earlier period of human history? 

Ha! Thanks. The nexus, the point where those two lines cross, is sword-and-sorcery comics, which were big in comics’ bronze age and take place, sortofkindofmaybe, in the actual bronze age. So Conan and his fellow barbarians were a big inspiration here. 

But the Martians are also an important part of the picture. If this is a “team book”—and it is, in a way, though there are no superheroes in it—then the Martians are the Lex Luthor, the Thanos, the Big Bad. The history of their attempts to invade Earth forms the structure of our story.

What has it been like working with Alberto Ponticelli and Giulia Brusco on the book, because the artwork is just stunning?

I agree. They’re both just lovely people and incredibly talented. Alberto has a lot of freedom to lay out the story, and his character designs are stunning. One of the big advantages we have over the comics creators of the past is that we can email and fileshare images back and forth, fine-tuning characters and dialogue until we get them right. When a creative team is in sync, that can be pretty great. I feel like we’ve got that rhythm going here.

All three of you seem very conscious that this story may sound like an homage or pastiche, but you’re all taking it very seriously and trying to find new ways for these elements and ideas to come together

Oh yes, absolutely. The art style and coloring on this book are very modern. The writing varies. I’ve tried to use some tricks you don’t see very often anymore, but all in service of the story. I like pulling something out and surprising the reader, but my goal is always to tell the story.

You also have a backup story – very bronze age of comics – “Major Ursa.”

“Major Ursa” is about the first bear in space, shot up by the U.S. in 1958 in an attempt to beat the Russians. If you’ve ever read comics before, you can probably guess that some pretty weird things happen to him up there. It’s written by TV writer/producer Tyrone Finch and drawn by Mauricet (Dastardly and Muttley), and it’s quick and fun and full of surprises.

You’ve also written a short comic that appears in the FCBD issue from Ahoy. Do you want to say a little about that?

Yes, we’re returning briefly to Captain Ginger for an eight-page story flashing back to our hero’s kittenhood. Which, regular readers can guess, wasn’t very happy. It’s by the regular Ginger team, and it’ll be available for free in the back of Dragonfly and Dragonflyman, on May 4.

If that weren’t enough, in June Ahoy is publishing Steel Cage One Shot, which has three stories by three different creative teams, one of which is by you and Peter Gross. Can you say a little about “Bright Boy?”

I don’t want to say too much about “Bright Boy”—it’s one of those stories I’d like people to experience fresh. It’s very much about where we are today as a society, as a civilization, and where we’re going. Also, it has robots who quote Shakespeare.

So for people on the fence – maybe they dislike apes, maybe they hate Happy Days, maybe they break out in hives looking at 70s fashion, I don’t know – what’s your final closing plea/elevator pitch for why they should check out Bronze Age Boogie?

Hey, it’s not ALL bellbottoms and wide collars! Most of issue #1 takes place in ancient times. I want to keep people guessing. There are a lot of twists and turns, savage battles and tender moments. In both time periods.

This is an epic, time-spanning story of heroism, cowardice, humor, and adventure—and thanks to Alberto and Giulia, it’s told with a lot of style. So get on out to that comic shop and tell them “I want the BOOGIE.”

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