Not everything is about Dick.
Creator B Clay Moore burst onto the scene with the critically-acclaimed crime drama Hawaiian Dick, which followed exiled stateside detective Byrd, and his friend Mo Kalama as they attempted to unravel the mystery of a missing girl. What sets the series truly apart from similar fare is the setting (Hawaii, 1953), and a heavy dose of mysticism that securely wraps the whole thing in the realm of the new. What other crime book out there has reanimated corpses in it? Or ghosts willing to help solve their own murders? Welcome to the world of Hawaiian Dick, and the mind of B Clay Moore, whose preparing to offer fans another dose with Hawaiian Dick: The Last Resort, the first issue shipping in August from Image Comics. In addition, Moore’s got several other projects in development, and a new job as the public relations/marketing director at Image. He visits Ambi. this week to chat about both, dropping off plenty of exclusive artwork along the way. Enjoy.
Brandon Thomas: You literally came out of nowhere with the first Hawaiian Dick mini-series. Who is B. Clay Moore, and what ultimately led him to comics?
B Clay Moore: Heh. B. Clay Moore’s a guy who floundered around like anyone else, until I focused my energies on the comic book world. Like most guys in the business, I’ve read the things most of my life, and knew that’s where I most wanted to ply my writing abilities (as well as the sales and marketing skills I’ve picked up in a number of “real world” sales jobs). J. Torres and I collaborated on an anthology called Love In Tights beginning in 1997 or 1998, and from there I jumped to Hawaiian Dick.
Thomas: When you came up with the concept, did you know instinctively it would be your first big project?
Moore: Yes. That was the plan from day one, when I started discussing it with my good pal, artist J. Bone. Bone helped me focus my energies, and the next big step came when I stumbled onto eventual Dick artist (and mad genius) Steven Griffin, sleeping under a rock in the Australian Outback.
Thomas: How’d you hook up with Griffin, and how closely did his style match that visual idea you had in your head when you sat down and wrote the scripts?
Moore: I found him online after realizing that artist J. Bone wouldn’t be able to do the book, and I wrote the full scripts with him on board, so I knew pretty much what they’d look like. Steven’s got an innate sense of storytelling that’s as impressive as anyone’s I know. When he’s on his game, his choices lend a ton of support to the script. He just always improves things.
Thomas: What’s the biggest difference between the previous Dick mini, and The Last Resort?
Moore: Well, frighteningly talented Nick Derington is pinch-hitting for Steven on the last three issues, but Steven is still gracing the book with his (Eisner-nominated) colors (or “colours,” as he might say). It’s four issues instead of three, and is a little bit BIGGER in places than the rather quiet first series. Nick and Steven are the best looking one-two punch in comics, by the way. Bypass it at your own risk, and if you try to tell me Marvel or DC have a better looking book on the stands in the same month, I’ll check you into a padded room.
Thomas: Is there a larger plan in progress for HD, or are you just approaching the story one mini at a time?
Moore: That’s a good question. The next Dick thing I plan on doing is an anthology, with short stories by a variety of creators. That should give us a chance to shine little spotlights on various aspects of the Hawaiian Dick universe. Eventually I want to be able to tell the story of how Byrd got to Hawaii, and that’s a story I want to do with Steven.
Thomas: You have several new projects on tap with a variety of artists attached (Tony Moore, Jeremy Haun, Azad). Are you trying to make yourself the next Robert Kirkman, and what can people expect from The Battle Hymn, Clean Living, and Five Dead Men?
Moore: There’s only one Robert Kirkman, dammit! And don’t you forget it!
No, I’m simply trying to tell stories that I want to tell, and that I think open-minded readers will enjoy reading. I look at Alan Moore as my ideal role-model. If I can come within one hundred miles of his ability to write genre fiction that both retains the spirit of the genre in question and is also thought-provoking and literate, I’ll be a happy Moore.
What can people expect from these books? Well, first of all, these artists are approaching elite status in terms of what they’re capable of doing. People have no earthly clue what a guy like Tony Moore is ultimately capable of, and hopefully Five Dead Men will give them a glimpse. He’s soon moving on to even bigger things, but in the meantime we’re spinning out a straight Western that should capture the flavor of Spaghetti Westerns as well as John Ford’s epic stories of men on the range.
The Battle Hymn is my darkly colored homage to World War II superheroes. Jeremy Haun is churning out work that gets better every day, and Ande Parks is doing what Ande Parks does…embellishing and bringing the art to a new level. Five issues examining the toll war and government machinations might really take on “superheroes.”
Clean Living is a coming-of-age tale that jumps back and forth from sixties London to modern America, and examines the experiences of a father and son as they find themselves. It’s a book about gaining the strength to be true to yourself, and it’s being brought to life by another impressive emerging talent in Azad.
Thomas: Talking The Battle Hymn a little more, what is attractive about the WW II era, and how it relates to the idea of “superheroes?”
Moore: We see World War II in no uncertain terms, right? Good guys vs. bad guys. Obviously nothing’s that simple. But in terms of historical eras, what better time would there have been for bold characters representing clear-cut ideals of “GOOD” to exist? Hell, that’s why superheroes first flourished during the war years. But as society’s gotten more sophisticated, I think it’s only natural to question some of those notions of right vs. wrong, or at least to add some depth to the conversation.
Moore: Not really. For one thing, nothing else had been announced when I started this project last year. I’ll admit to a twinge of jealousy when I heard Marvel was relaunching The Invaders. At one point I even told Stephanie Moore to make sure they kept me in mind should one of the writers meet with an unfortunate accident. I’m a sucker for the Golden Age heroes, and I’ve always thought I’d love to tackle Marvel or DC’s Golden Age heroes (especially the Blackhawks!)
Then again, the reason I created this book at Image is because it gives me complete control over what I do with the characters. I’m sure it’ll be a better book than anything I’d be able to do with characters that have been worked and reworked to death. For that matter, Marvel’s new Invaders book isn’t even set in World War II.
Thomas: In addition to your writing projects, you recently took on the public relations/marketing post at Image. What led up to this?
Moore: I guess the closer I grew closer to Jim Valentino and Eric Stephenson, and to other Image creators, the more I realized that Image is an essential cog in the comic book wheel. Without Image, larger companies would have no real reason to offer full creator ownership of books, and so far no one else has been able to make a fully creator-owned line work. There are challenges involved in marketing Image, but Image is unique in the marketplace, and I’m proud to play a small part in providing readers and creators with a genuine alternative to the tired, tried and true.
Moore: Depends on the day. Right now I’m knee-deep in convention planning. But one of my major jobs is to do what I can to direct attention to the projects we’re working on, and to help the creators promote themselves and their work to the best of their abilities. And as soon as I’m done answering these questions, I’ll be putting the finishing touches on a press release for a truly jaw-dropping book we’re publishing at the end of the year. I also enjoy directing what I think are worthwhile projects to the Big Brains at Image (Erik Larsen and Eric Stephenson), and waiting to see if they agree with me or not.
Thomas: Personally, what would you like to see more of and less of at Image, and how does having an actual creator in this role help matters?
Moore: I’d like to see more good books put out on time, and I’d like to see these books reach the hands of more readers. It’s really a very simple equation. I think if there’s a way for us to craft more successful ongoing titles, that would be great. And I think if we can continue to woo guys like John Romita, Jr. and some of the other “star” creators who are talking with Image, that would be a good thing, as well.
I’ve seen glimpses of a lot of the books that Image will be debuting over the next year, and they contain a healthy mix of talented newcomers and well-known veterans. There are creators who want to experiment with the potential of the medium, including genres and formats, and there’s nowhere else they’d be able to do it to the extent they can at Image. If people approach Image with open eyes and ears, their trips to the comic shop will suddenly be a whole lot more interesting
Thomas: Has your new role changed the way you approach writing?
Moore: Yeah, I spend less time writing, but I write more quickly when I do write. Maybe it’s from chatting with human dynamo Robert “ten books a month” Kirkman all the time, but I’ve found myself better able to churn stuff out in a shorter period of time lately.
Then again, that may be due to the fact that I spend more time thinking about concepts already in place, so that by the time I finally sit down to write, the book is ready to tumble out of my overstuffed head.
Thomas: Does B Clay Moore the writer ever clash with B Clay Moore the PR guy? Have you ever written something that from a marketing standpoint, you weren’t sure you could sell?
Moore: I have faith that good books will sell, but I understand that’s not always the case. Bad books often outsell good books 200-to-1. Having said that, I’ve tried to put things together that grabs the attention of readers, and I insist on working with damn good artists. I refuse to “settle” on someone who’s not ready or who won’t turn people’s heads. So working with guys like Steven Griffin, Nick Derington, Tony Moore, Jeremy Haun and Azad makes the job of selling the books that much easier.
Thomas: Tell us a little more about this Retailer World Tour you’ll be starting up soon.
Moore: My plan is to take off on a Sunday morning, from my local shop, and plot a course of travel that allows me to hit as many shops as possible over the course of a solid week. I plan on bringing lots of Image schwag, and taking pictures with every shop owner or manager I meet along the way, hopefully to be uploaded right away to either the Image website or a separate blog. I want to chronicle the trip online as I go, sharing stories from the road. People all over the world can chart my progress as I struggle homeward. I plan on kicking it off this fall.
Thomas: Best case scenario, what do you hope to accomplish with your Tour?
Moore: Make some noise, shake some hands, and create a bit of goodwill. Recognize the guys out there selling the books, and have some fun creating my own little comic shop travelogue. Hell, maybe I’ll bring a cameraman along with me.
Moore: Close-minded readers and negative vibes, baby. Image is the largest alternative to Marvel or DC, and it’s the largest publisher of wholly creator-owned material in the world. As an example, I sincerely hope that people who enjoy Robert Kirkman writing the 500,000th Captain America story will cross over to read his take on his OWN superhero, Invincible. Because one is pure, undistilled, no holds barred Robert Kirkman, and the other is Robert Kirkman playing within well defined guidelines.
Image is ever-evolving, though. Ultimately we’re working on striking a balance between satisfying the comic reading population at large and producing books that allow creators to tell the stories they really want to tell.
Thomas: How can you bridge the “gap” in comics? How do you make sure that fans/retailers realize that the same guy writing Captain America has two incredibly well-received creator-owned titles running monthly at Image?
Moore: Well, getting good books out consistently seems to be doing the trick. The Walking Dead numbers are fantastic for any company, and Invincible continues to climb up the charts. I think that’s probably the key as much as anything. Keep turning out good books on schedule (or close to on schedule), and the audience will be there. Obviously, we want to share the word with people who’ve just discovered Kirkman through his Marvel work, but there’s a certain segment of the readership that simply won’t support new characters or new ideas, and we just have to live with that. We just have to hope they don’t kill the industry in the process.
Thomas: Will we ever see our industry embrace the creator-owned title with the same passion we hold for established properties, and what part will Image ultimately play in swinging the pendulum in that direction?
Moore: Well, Image proved that could happen when they launched, to some degree, with characters like Spawn and Savage Dragon, and Mike Mignola’s done the same thing with Hellboy. I think the industry will always be willing to embrace creator-owned characters if the books are done very well, come out consistently, and the creators show a dedication to their audience.
I’d like to think Image is the perfect place for that to happen.
Thomas: Thanks to Moore for taking time out of his incredibly busy schedule to answer these questions, and be on the lookout for Hawaiian Dick: The Last Resort hitting a shop near you in late August, and The Battle Hymn which should be dropping in November. The first Dick mini is collected in its entirety, with over fifty pages of bonus material in Hawaiian Dick: Byrd of Paradise, sporting the ISBN of 1-58240-317-1.
Attack your nearest supplier in search of it.
Also, another San Diego Con has come and gone, but for posterity’s sake, my almost daily chronicles are still only a click away. Please check them out below if you haven’t already partaken. Thanks.