Interview “Shakespeare’s language” with Terry Moore!

Terry Moore is an independent cartoonist and original member of Homage Studio. He is the Eisner Award-winning creator of the “Strangers in Paradise” series. His horror series Rachel Rising” was nominated for a 2012 Bram Stoker Award in the Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel category by the Horror Writers Association. His other books include ECHO, Motor Girl and Paradise TOO, all published under his own imprint Abstract Studio. His universe is a delicious cocktail of romance, action and poetry. Moore’s books are published in France by Delcourt.

1/ADF: Terry, how did things first start for you in comic books? What was your first job in the industry? Your influences?

TM: I liked comics as a kid and I liked to draw. But when I was in 10 and 11 I lived in Dar es Salaam and saw my first Tin Tin story and was so taken by the fact you could basically write and draw your own movie. So fast foward to me grown up and avoiding comics because I thought they were now all Marvel and DC and I can’t draw like Jim Lee, but I discovered the indy comics and I decided to try my hand at long form storytelling in comic. I drew issue one of Strangers In Paradise at the kitchen table—it took me a month—took a Xerox of the pages to a show and asked the retailers and publishers if they would support it. They all said yes and here we are, many books later. My first job was my first issue of Strangers In Paradise. I just hit the ground running, as they say.

My influences are just so wide-ranging. I basically love all art and artists after the mid-19th century. Same for music. I especially liked the illustrators of early-mid 20th century. I love reading modern history and I associate the art and music movements with the generations that spawned them and the cultures they came from. It was my way of learning about the world I guess and feeling a connection to others. I may think of 100 influences while drawing one page of comic art.

2/ ADF: You know, we, in France, are quite literature addicted (well, that’s what we like to think, in truth, we are such blowhards), can you tell us what is the Terry Moore writing touch or “griffe” as we say in Paris?

TM: O, I can blow as hard as the best of them. My stories address the big issues of life by focusing on the details of the victims. I write from the inside out, character is more important than action. I like my scenes to begin before most writers would begin them. When the scene appears to be over, I like to linger and see what the characters do and say when we leave the room. We have no limits to our access of the characters; we eat, go to the toilet, sleep and bathe with them. There are consequences. When we leave the house or car, we have to lock the door. If someone is hit on the hit with a club, they have to go to the hospital and may have suffered irreversible brain damage. My characters are flawed and complex human beings who live in Einstein’s reality, but fantastic things happen to them. The point of all my stories is hope and the quiet courage it takes to get up every day and try again. That is my signature, my griffe. Phewwwww.

3/ADF: When I was young, in the eighties, in France, reading comics was dirty and shameful… Today, with the multiple cinematic universes, reading comics is very very fashionable (maybe too much)… Was it the same for you, when you were a kid, in the States?

TM: Uh… I’m going to say yes but without the shame. There’s no shame in America, you know that ;-). Actually, I think the US comics scene hit its low in the 1970’s and stayed in the ditch until Frank Miller and Alan Moore hit mid-80’s. That’s just my wacky opinion.

Europe and the U.S. were always very different markets until the Internet gave us a shared cukture and marketplace. These days, everywhere I go everybody reads the same books the same week they come out. When I travel, I can’t tell where a young person is from until they speak, because they all share the same pop culture and styles. The point being, it certainly brought comics into a larger arena. Illustrators and artists in France or Russia or the Netherlands (like Otto Schmidt and LoisVB) can have a million fans in the US and worldwide, even though they don’t make comics or attend US shows.  It’s an amazing thing for a guy like me who remembers when all you had was your local scene and a mailbox.

4/ ADF: Any sound advices for neophyte artists who would like to work in the comic book industry?

TM: Instagram, Deviant Art, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, WordPress all seem to have helped unknowns around the world find large followings based on their posted art. Those fans mean something when you talk about selling books. I think the artists who have large online fan bases get them because visual images can be appreciated on sight, instantly. You see a beautiful painting online, you click like. You keep seeing them from this one person and you decide to follow them. You see that artist grow from 300 followers to 73,000 then 730,000 followers. When they collect their online art into a book, the followers buy it. A few months later you read the artist is buying a house, with cash.  That’s how it works in 2017. Anywhere along the way, that artist can approach a comic publisher and say, look at my work online. They will see the art, the followers and the decision whether or not to hire the artist is relatively easy.

Or you can do it the old fashion way: go to a convention where the editor of your favorite comic will appear. Buy a ticket for the portfolio review. Show your portfolio to the editor and hope they love it. If they don’t, try bribing them with pizza and beer. Get them drunk and hope they tell you something you can use to blackmail your way to the top. I’ve never seen this approach work but it sounds like fun.

5/ ADF: Your legendary comics, Strangers in Paradise, brought me in new landscapes. It blends genres with finesse (romance, thriller, poetry, paiting, music, etc.). Its complicated love story between two women: the enigmatic and charismatic, Katchoo, her delicate kind-hearted best friend, Francine, and David, the sensitive and romantic guy of the series, is a hymn to tolerance. Tell us about its origins? What brought you to this universe? These colorful characters?

TM: I’d been cartooning for many years before my first comic book, drawing them in comic strips that nobody really liked very much. When I looked back at my work I saw these three main characters were in everything. These were my best original creations, so I started writing the comic book and exploring their lives in a detailed way that wasn’t possible with strips. It really was an organic process, very evolution-like. They grew from 2-dimensional stereotypes into complex characters, mainly because I kept working on them and the characters in their immediate circle. Once you have good characters, the story presents itself. Every 3-way combination of the main 9 characters is a good triangle. You can trap any two characters in an elevator and get an entire book out of the conversation.  But, the biggest breakthrough for me was the day I stopped thinking of them as fictional characters and began seeing and thinking of them as people. Big difference. A character has motivation. A person smells like bread and peppermint when they walk by. A character has a goal and something keeping them from it. A person woke up this morning crying and spent the day wondering why. See the difference in approach? Some writers are manipulative puppeteers and some writers are priests taking the confessions of friends and strangers.

6/ ADF: I read that you were working on the adaptation of Strangers in Paradise for film. Tell us about this project? Have you any news to share about the director? The main story? The cast (Krysten Ritter, Aka Jessica Jones, could play a nice, Katchoo, don’t you think?)?

TM: I’m writing the screenplay this winter and I can’t tell you a thing about it except that director Angela Robinson is absolutely perfect for this movie and I couldn’t be happier about entrusting her with my baby. And Krysten Ritter definitely has the chops for Katchoo but I don’t know who will land that role. The way Hollywood works, Katchoo may be played by Matt Damon.

7/ ADF: A word about, Motor Girl, your last release? What are its influences? Is it an Easy Rider “homage” (I am joking, kind of)?

TM: No, it’s about PTSD, actually. I wanted to make an invisible friend story because I like that trope. Calvin & Hobbes, Harvey, lots of stories about it. My take was to combine it with a war vet who has come home suffering from PTSD, and we explore the relationship she has with her invisible friend, an 800 pound gorilla. It’s my way of showing compassion and respect to the men and women who sacrifice themselves for others. Long after the shooting stops, they are still paying the personal price. My heart goes out to them. It’s a very sweet story. When I did the initial design sketch I thought, “Oh I’ll make a comic about a girl, a gorilla and a motorcycle, because who wouldn’t read that? Hot stuff!” That’s the artist in me. Artist Terry is a sexist pig. Then Writer Terry took over and said, “No, this is a heartbreaking story about someone very brave and we will treat her with respect because she is actually stronger than any of us and we don’t deserve her!”

As you can see, I am my own Yin-Yang.

8/ ADF: If you had to work with a french artist, writer or illustrator, who would you choose? We recently interviewed Jean-Yves Mitton, the french comic book author of Mikros, L’archer blanc, etc. Are you in touch with him or other french artists?

TM: No, I’m not sure France is allowed to contact me directly. I never talk to anyone there except my brave publisher Delcourt. If I was fortunate enough to work with a French artist, my classic choice would have to be Moebius or Jean-Pierre Gibrat. My modern choice… so many great artists and styles, from Gotlib to Joel Jurion. What a wonderful problem to have, choosing a French artist.

9/ ADF: A message for french comic book readers (whatever you have in mind)?

TM: It is my greatest honor to have my art and stories published in the home of the arts and letters. Thank you, thank you for reading my books. Thank you for treating me as a fellow artist when I visit and not as an outsider. I always feel welcome in France.

10/ ADF: Last and least, you can’t avoid this question, who is your famous french author? Molière? Hugo? Musset? Pierre Bordage? Myself? Who?

TM: I’ve never spoken with those guys, they never call me, so I’m going to go with you. You are my favorite french writer I’ve talked to… today.  But, if Hugo calls me tomorrow, all bets are off.

Thanks a lot, Terry.

Thank you, Arnaud.

If you love Terry’s work as much as we do, on the pages of les Chroniques des Fontaines, just venture here:

His home site:

 For Network addicts, just go there:

Our chronicle of Strangers in Paradise:

Our “homage” article on the work of Charles Schulz (specially written for Terry Moore, kind of):

Arnaud Delporte-Fontaine