Or would you rather read the translation ?
CRS: Where did you find the ideas for "Strangers in Paradise" (SiP), how did it all start?
TM: I had the idea for SiP from living with women my whole life, seeing what they go through, listening to what they were yelling at me, seeing their frustrations and what they're dealing with. I'm certainly aware of all the big men stories, stories of men conquering the world and all that, but I didn't feel that there were enough stories about what women go through. And I just found it interesting.
On the other hand I knew I was going to draw a story for a long time and I just decided I would rather spend the rest of my life drawing women than men. That's just a personal interest. (laughs) That's kind of it, in a simple way.
CRS: You have a lot of female readers from what I can see in your letter column, a lot of them saying that SiP is the only comic they ever read.
TM: I never planned on that. I didn't think that that's gonna happen, it's a complete surprise. At first I had a lot of criticism, no, not criticism but a lot of questions, a lot of doubt, a lot people, women included, had me on probation. It was like: Here's a man trying to write about women. Let's see what he does with this, let's see how good he is at this. If he starts doing all the male fantasies... They were ready to pounce on me, ready to attack, ready to get after me if I do it wrong. So I felt that pressure, but I just did the story that I had in my head and fortunately for me a lot of women seemed to approve.
CRS: Even my girlfriend liked your comic, although she's not interested in comics at all.
TM: I hear that a lot. I've been hearing this from the very beginning. The women who already read comics did not originally read SiP. They were too busy reading Elfquest, Sandman and Wonder Woman. The women readers that I had in the beginning were all girlfriends and wives. They started talking to other women and then the new women readers I got were women who didn't read comics at all. They heard about it by word of mouth. And now at the very end I gradually getting those women that where in comics all along, the veterans. They have been the hardest to get. They are already very loyal to some other comics, they don't switch over very easy.
CRS: Do you know the percentage of female readers?
TM: Yeah, it's about 50 percent. From what I can tell from the people I meet and the letters I get 50 percent of my readers are women and 50 percent of those women do not read another comic. I'm not proud of it but surprised, it's amazing to me, because I didn't plan on that.
CRS: How do you plan to continue with SiP? There's a new story arch starting in August.
TM: I know the whole story all the way to the end. I have the end scheduled for November 1999.
CRS: What's going to happen after that with SiP? Some new stories are something completely new?
TM: I'm going to start a new series called KAIPPI and gonna run that for a little while. After that I either come back to SiP or do a totally new series, maybe one called Katchoo. SiP as the big story has an end. It's one story with a beginning and an end and it's time to get there. And I have these other ideas that I'm very excited to do. This Kaippi story is a big, big one and
it's really three series jammed into one. The way I made SiP, it was not just one idea but it was a whole bunch of ideas put into one story. I try to do the comic like a Beatles song, it's not just one tune straight through but it was a lot of ideas in one song. I think that's a good way to create and so I tried to do my series that way. With Kaippi it's another thing, it all mixes together. I could have made three different series but I'm only going to do one with all the stories meshed together.
CRS: Is this new series again something women might like?
TM: I hope so. I'm not an expert on that, so it would be foolish for me to predict. I hope they like it. I can tell you that the lead character Kaippi is a woman. It's kind of a cross between SiP, Xena, Blade Runner, Star Trek. I don't know, it's hard to describe.
CRS: O.k., we'll have to wait for that. Back to the present: In July (1998) you'll publish "The Warrior Princess" one shot of SiP. How did you come up with this idea?
TM: I just love the Xena story, it's one of the TV shows that I watch. I heard from a lot of retailers that whole lot of my readers like Xena, too. So I thought: "You know what? Our characters are kind of the same." We have the tall brunette and the short blonde and the third wheel guy, who's kinda tagging along. We have the villain big blonde. I've got all of those characters, too. It would be very easy if my characters did a little dream sequence and it fits. And it's fun.
CRS: Do you plan more of these "Elsewhere" stories?
TM: Not right now. What I do now is go straight through to my ending. I've done this one shot stuff once or twice just as a break for the readers between these big moments. In America there was such a big moment after a long story arch just a while ago. So this fantasy one shot is just a breather for me, a breather for the reader. And then we get back into it. It's like a song that builds up to a tadadadada (louder) and then goes real quiet. It's like that. I like to build up those big moments, then quiet in the next issue and then build it back up again. I like having a lot of little hits instead of one huge hit. They hurt more.
CRS: That's definitely true. In the German paperbacks I didn't notice it because there you have three issues put into one. There are breaks between the chapters but you can go on reading at once. When I started reading the American issues I noticed your liking for cliffhangers. Some of them are extreme like the one in issue 8 when Katchoo is falling and I wondered: "How is he going to conclude this one?"
TM: Twice now Katchoo should have died. When she was shot in the second series I seriously considered letting her die. If it had been a French movie she would have died. I took two weeks off and I turned it over in my mind. I thought: If I let her die what would I do with my story? I didn't come up with this set ending until within the last year. When I was doing that series I was still figuring it out.
CRS: How do you keep track of all the things that happened in your story? How do you manage not to contradict yourself after more than 30 issues, especially if you jump through time?
TM: Man, it's not easy. I don't have a nice list all organized and when I make a mistake, man, do I hear about it. I get letters and there are internet sites that have every little data detail, everything. There are all the songs I used, all the characters. It's intimidating for me. I don't have that list. Sometimes I have done something that is not exactly correct, that is in contrast to something I've done before. But I do it anyway and I need it for the moment and I think: "What the heck! I made it. I take a little license here." So sometimes I take a little liberty here and there.
CRS: You moved to IMAGE for a while because of the reorganization of your company. Now how do you see this time after your return home to Abstract Studios a year ago?
TM: There are two problems with self-publishing. And I am basically a self-publisher.
One problem is that only some stores will carry a self-published black and white comic. So no matter how popular you get there's a limit to the number of stores you get in. And I wanted to break that limit and I needed help. The second problem is: The more successful your comic becomes the harder it becomes to do the business because there is more of it. You think that after a while you get the hang of this and you will work out a nice smooth way to do
everything. But that doesn't happen, it just becomes more and more and more to do. So I was to the point where 1. I couldn't get any more new stores. 2. I did not have enough time to draw my comic because I was on the phone all day with business. I needed help. I got a call from Jim Lee and he said that he wanted to do this HOMAGE thing and he describes it and invites me in and I say "Great!" because everything Jim Lee prints goes into every store in the world. So I was gonna break this store barrier and number two was that they would run the business for me and I could just draw. That was great. After a year of a break like that I was ready to take it back into my company. I reorganized it and got good representatives for me and people to handle all this other stuff. Now I mostly just draw and approve my own deals. I don't have to worry about the business so much anymore. Now that I've been with HOMAGE the stores have looked at SiP. They can still order it if they want to.
CRS: Did Jim Lee interfere with your comics or style? Was the color his idea?
TM: No, the color was my idea and he was surprised like everybody else. I just wanted to try that. I don't think it worked. It would work if I would find the right colors but I would have to work as a partner with a colorist. He would have to be there with me so that we could work it out. Having a colorist in another area of the country and mailing the comic, that's like having somebody finish your sentences for you. I just don't feel comfortable with this idea. Jim Lee was great to work with. He's a real gentleman, he's very gracious, he's very thoughtful and helpful. He's a good man.
CRS: How long do you work at one issue?
TM: It takes one day to do one page. I work 15 hours a day three weeks solid. So it works out to be about six weeks. Because I hit pages where it takes me two days. And I also found that after I finish an issue I'll start the next issue right away but I get about five, six, seven pages in and then hit some kind of block or something. I can't work for an entire weekend, I just can't think. I don't know what to do. Once I get past that little three-day-slop I'm back.
CRS: How do you manage to complete your comic if you go on vacation or a promotion tour like this one?
TM: I draw in planes. When I'm in America I draw when I'm travelling all the time. I've done almost an entire issue on airplanes. But in Germany I've not been able to get anything done because it's all so new to me and so pretty. It's a pretty country. I've been on a lot of trains and I'm just looking out the window the whole time. We're going up and down the Rhine river valley with all those castles. I just can't NOT look, I can't concentrate on a blank page while all this is going by. I'm supposed to be working on my book right now and I've not done a thing. So I'm in trouble (smiles).
CRS: After your stories for "GEN 13 bootleg" and "Lady Supreme" do you work on any other projects besides SiP?
TM: No. I've had a lot of offers and requests. I have a lot of open offers where they say: "You can always come here and do this or that!" But everybody knows that I'm concentrating on SiP. If I would stop working on SiP I wouldn't have trouble finding work. Every freelancer wants to have his own book and I've got it. So it's tough to leave that for something else.
CRS: And you can live from doing this comic book?
TM: Fortunately. Because of that I feel so happy and so lucky. I was laying in bed last night and thinking about how happy I was. It just doesn't get any better than this. I can draw my story for a living and travel to places like this. It's just great.
CRS: Do you know anything about European comics?
TM: Not enough. That's one of the reasons I'm here. I want to meet people, I want to see new comics, I want to see what's going on. It appears to be a good time to be here because I'm hearing from a lot of people that up to now everybody has been reading Belgian and French albums and German artists have only been following those leads. Now I'm hearing that Germany is starting to draw its own ideas, the albums are not so popular. The periodicals, the small comic issues are becoming more popular even though everybody says it's American mainstream what it really does is that it also opens the door for a lot of new independent people. Once the American mainstream business hits a market like the German economy it will make a bigger comic book market and the bigger it is the more room there is for new people to come in. That's how I got in. Because mainstream was so big there was a lot of room for new people like me to sneak in. Now that the American mainstream has just collapsed from all that speculation it's very, very hard for a new person to come in. If I would try it today I might not be able to do it.
CRS: At the end I would like to ask you, like everybody we interviewed, for some kind of final statement, something you want to say to our readers.
TM: (thinks a while) The only thing I want to say is "Thank you". Everybody has made me feel very welcome. That means the world to me. It's incredible that I can sit in my little room in the middle of Texas and I draw this stuff and I send it out in the mail and it's amazing to me that people in Germany have discovered it and read it and understand it and like it and respond to it and invite me to their country. I take it personally and it's like discovering a whole big family. It's great.
CRS: Thank you for the interview, Mr. Moore.
TM: You're welcome.
Questions were asked by Stephan , photographs are by Aleks .
The Interview was conducted in Erlangen, Germany on June 13th 1998, during the
Comic-Salons in Erlangen
We'd like to thank Tilsner-Verlag for their help.
Strangers in Paradise Band 5
in Paradise Band 6