Moriarty from Image Comics is a fun, freewheeling, action-adventure comic book. I caught up with creators Daniel Corey and Anthony Diecidue at February's Image Expo to discuss the comic and how much fun they are having with the series. As you can tell, their enthusiasm for the series is infectious and made me want to spend more time with Sherlock Holmes's master nemesis.
Jason Sacks for Comics Bulletin: Tell us what Moriarty is about.
Daniel Corey: Moriarty is our series we’re putting out through Image Comics right now. We started out in May of last year. It’s about Professor Moriarty, arch nemesis of Sherlock Holmes. We pick up at a low point of Moriarty’s life. It’s twenty years after the death of Sherlock Holmes. World War I is breaking out, and Moriarty has lost everything. He’s become a shell of his former self. Basically the story has to do with World War I breaking out. He gets sucked through this whole new entry of espionage, and ninja assassins, science fiction technology. He has to come back and reclaim his former glory as the world's greatest criminal mastermind. The first story arc is set in London, the second story arc was just wrapped with our ninth issue, and it was set in Burma.
CB: And it looks like he gets into all kinds of interesting adventures with dirigibles and vampires and all kinds of tropes. You’re really playing with all the pulp kind of goodness with the book.
Corey: Absolutely, you know we’ve got the femmes fatales, the tough Kung Fu master lady, we have the sexy band fan lady, and a couple different fin fatales. What else, Anthony? What other pulp conventions are we playing with in the story?
Anthony Diecidue: There’s ninjas, there’s gadgets, there's a little fantasy element here and there. That kind of cool stuff here and there. It’s fun!
Corey: It’s kind of a hard-nosed almost American-style crime comic here in Moriarty.
CB: Is he driven to want to be back at the top of the criminal heap again?
Corey: Yes, but for him it’s a thing where in his mind he doesn’t think of himself as a criminal. He thinks the label has been slapped on him by society, and he’s just doing this to get through the day. But doing that, he needs to control everything around him. So therefore he’s in the criminal world, and he’s taking stuff over. He doesn’t really think in terms of right and wrong, he does what he needs to do. Sometimes he’ll do something right in our eyes. He’s got to fight other bad guys, so we think that is a good thing. We think of it as a hero in that aspect, but he’s doing it for his own selfish intent.
CB: You’re obviously a fan of the Holmes books if you’re basing a book on Moriarty. How long have you been a fan of them, and how much time do you take away from Conan Doyle's original ideas?
Corey: Well when I first discovered Holmes, I was in the single digits. You know, I was probably seven. It was a Sunday afternoon, and the local UHF channel would show the old Basil Rathbone movies, and I just got so hooked. My parents bought me one of those big – you know the complete Sherlock Holmes, and I would take it on trips, and take that with me everywhere. So yeah, longtime fan of Sherlock. I love the original stories, I love a lot of the different adaptations that are out. I try to present Sherlock’s talent in Moriarty as well. Because he’s kind of just a dark reflection of Holmes. He has Holmes's deductive skills. We are seeing ancillary characters from the Holmes world turn out best. Little surprises here and there. There’s little nuggets, and references to different Holmes’ adventures throughout the stories.
CB: How did you decide how to draw them? There are so many film actors who played Moriarty, but you have your own take on it.
Anthony Diecidue: Yeah, definitely. I’ve been aware of Moriarty, obviously, as a character for many years, and Daniel’s sent me images of different actors that he had represented throughout the years. But really my biggest influence I think on him was probably Daniel Davis, who played Moriarity in Star Trek: the Next Generation. For some reason that characterization just stuck with me with that character. It really created a fully rounded person, rather than just an evil villain that’s evil for the sake of being evil. He had real motivations.
CB: That’s important to you as an artist to have someone who’s more complex than he seems to be on the surface?
Diecidue: Absolutely. Having that complexity of your actions doing one thing maybe thinking another, or thinking multiple things. Those have to read in a character's expression and posture, and reflected in the way they look, too. I’m not just drawing in act of likeness, or I’m not just drawing a character doing something. I’m drawing a character and the emotion they convey. I have to convey how they’re feeling, and who they are with every panel.
CB: So this makes it a much more collaborative work between the two of you, rather than just you working on it alone in your own kind of style?
Corey: Yeah, and you know Anthony is really good cause you know with these detective-type stories, there’s a lot of scenes of dialogue, and there’s long interviews, and secrets revealed through dialogue. I know that if I have panel after panel of different people talking that they’re going to be showing different ranges of emotion when Anthony draws them, and it’s not boring. Rather than just seeing two flat-faced people talk back and forth, we can look at one guy and know he’s scheming to kill the other, or something like that. Where you can look at one person and they’re saying one thing, but we know that they’re lying or thinking something else. That’s what I really like about Anthony’s art.
CB: At the same time there’s a lot of high adventure and energy in the book, so it’s not all characters talking. You make it interesting. There's a lot of outlandish energy and exciting stunts.
Diecidue: Absolutely, like you said it’s not just a bunch of talking heads, but then again if it had been a book with just action because I think that gets boring after a while, too. Daniel definitely writes the story that has the reigns of up and down. Slower and faster paced parts of the story create that contrast that makes it exciting.
CB: The thing that’s surprising the most about the Sherlock Holmes movies is that it wasn’t just the detective work. A lot of two-fisted action, conspiracies, and you kind of have the same spirit in here as well. How hard is it to stay out of the shadow of Robert Downey Jr.?
Corey: Mostly it’s a good thing, for the most part, because people are aware of the characters now because of the movie. So yeah I couldn’t say that it’s bad in any way at all. People think of th
at movie, they also think of the Sherlock TV series which a lot of people really loved. They see my book and they’re like “Ohh! Do you like that Sherlock show? Do you like the movies?” and we’re like “Yeah yeah! If you liked that then you’ll probably like this too.” So it helps.
CB: So I get Moriarty working in London, it makes perfect sense. What sent him to Burma?
Corey: There are some big revelations that happened at the end of the first story arc, which is called "The Dark Chamber". At the end of that there are some big stuff revealed that sends him on a quest to Burma. He sees some things, and his whole perception fn reality has changed in a certain way. And so he’s got to go looking for an old friend– he has spent time there as a younger man thirty years before, and had a friend there that he worked with. So he’s got to go back and find that guy in order to take the next step into getting his life together and getting his Empire rebuilt. So of course he gets there and he gets mixed up with the Imperial authorities, and with the locals. It's a little Fistful of Dollars and a little Heart of Darkness.
CB: How is it drawing scenes in Burma are from 1920s?
Corey: It’s 1914.
CB: There’s plenty of reference for London, but..
Diecidue: It was tough. I searched the internet as much as I could. Daniel pointed out a movie called The Man Who Would Be King, and there was some great reference throughout that. There’s no photography taken from Burma. Very little costume reference, so a lot of it was elaborating from what little reference that I had. It’s basically just doing your best.
CB: Sometimes you just have to fill in the blanks yourself?
Diecidue: Yeah. You could find something that’s a little more modern, some photos that are later, and then just kind of bring it back down to more primitive level, I guess. It’s mostly clothing, and architecture that you’re looking for. So a lot of it came down to — even if you find architecture that’s there now, a lot of it is still the same architecture from back then. My style lends a lot to interpretation anyway, so it worked.
CB: You like the shadows, and the darkness. Which kind of brings out more of the mystery of the story, too.
Diecidue: Yeah, Exactly.
CB: Where does he go next? Without giving away too much.
Corey: Well he’s going to be doing a little more globetrotting. He’s formulating a plan before he makes a big return. That’s all I can say.
CB: How long is this series going to run?
Corey: We’re going to take a little break right now, and we’ll see how much more we can do. I have at least four or five other story arcs in mind, and we can see where it takes us from there. I have an idea of the ending. So I’m not sure how many more issues we’ll be doing, but we want to do a lot more.
CB: It's a fun project and you obviously What else have you done that we should look out for?
Corey: Our first book that we did together was a collaboration that I put out myself through my Danger Cat company, it was called Prophet, not to be confused with Image Prophet, that’s different. But it’s a supernatural Spaghetti Western. It’s kind of like Clint Eastwood meets Hellboy. So it’s sand, sixguns, gangsters, and demons.
CB: Fun book, are you going to get back to that one too, or is that one wrapped up?
Corey: At some point I wouldn’t mind doing that again. We probably need to come up with another title so it’s not too confusing, but I would like to get back to that at some point.
CB: You guys obviously like working together too?
Diecidue: I think we’re opposites in a lot of way which makes for a much more fun kind of collaboration. We definitely complement each other a lot.
Corey: He completes me!
CB: You have a website that you want to mention, too?
Diecidue: My professional website is Artofant.com, it’s where I have a lot of my portfolios, and I’m on twitter @antne77, and anytime I do updates I tweet there as well.
Corey: ProfessorJamesMoriarty.com is my homepage, and also on twitter @dangerkatt, and you can also hit me up on Facebook.