Tony Moore is an American comic book artist (and cosmic cowboy), whose work consists mainly of genre pieces, most notably in horror and science fiction, with titles such as Fear Agent, The Exterminators, and The Walking Dead. Tony’s illustrations don’t just speak to comic collectors, but he is certainly an icon in that space. His work as an illustrator represents the art of great storytelling and character development. In this awesome interview we scored, Tony shares his horror movie recommendations, cool shit to put on our radar and he offers a lot of aha moments. Read on …
Describe your style as an artist and describe your “job” (for dummies that don’t know, or for us who just want more detail): Hmmmm. Gruesome… Funny? I grew up reading MAD Magazine and old horror comics, so in my mind, horror and humor together are like peanut butter and jelly. I’m a reference hound and a detail obsessive, but i also think expressive cartooning in a must in visual storytelling. As for my job, I wake up every day and fill myself to the gills with caffeine and sit in my pajamas, drawing robots and monsters and the rugged men in tights who punch them. I mostly make my nut in comics, but I’ve done poster work for movie companies and album covers and stuff, too. When it comes to comics, it’s a lot of time in isolated deep concentration, trying to visualize every scene from multiple angles, and move though them and frame each scene in an engaging way that captures the mood of the thing, and then portray the events in a relatable way using body language and facial expressions. Basically, if a comic book were a movie in production, I’m everybody on the set except for the guy who wrote it. Design, lighting, cinematography, direction, acting… you name it, I have to put it on the page.
Were you the kid in school growing up that doodled in his notebook all class instead of taking notes? If so, what class actually kept your attention? What was your go-to thing to illustrate in your notebooks? I drew all the time in school, but it wasn’t that I wasn’t paying attention, it was more that i had to keep my brain occupied or it shut down. If I was just sitting there letting information wash over me, even if I was trying to take notes, if it wasn’t a creative kind of subject, then it was all just water off a duck’s back. But if I was drawing, I could usually take minimal notes and remember everything the teacher told me. I had a chemistry class first thing in the morning in high school, and my teacher noted to my mom that if i wasn’t drawing, then I clearly just wasn’t awake. The only classes I took that didn’t engage me were my math classes. I was in the Advanced Placement programs of most of the subjects I took, and got good grades in everything despite being a terrible student. I just kind of hated (and continue to kind of hate) doing math. I was a really avid role-playing game nerd, so I loved Dungeons & Dragons, Cyberpunk 2020, and all the White Wolf games like Vampire: The Masquerade. So, I loved drawing elves and orcs and vampires and monsters, and all the crap that pays my bills now, only slathered in teen angst.
At what point in your life did you become confident or receive a compliment that gave you the reassurance you were on the right path creatively? In preschool, I had a lady offer to trade me a painting i had done for a wooden toy tow-truck. I don’t even remember what the painting was of, but clearly it was awesome. A little later, I had my first solo art show, still when i was in preschool, and a guy from the local paper came out and interviewed me about it. I thought I was King Shit of Cool Town, and was sold on the artist’s life for the rest of my days.
Do you have any staple trademarks a viewer could find in all your work? Rugged men with big chins and stubble, and people who get hit in the head and their hands curl into weird spasm poses. My grandfather was a tough as nails old son of a bitch with a wry sense of humor and a chin like a goddamn cinder block. In my head, all heroes basically start with my grandfather as the basic template, and then I mix and match the details. The other thing, with the hands, I stole from Don Martin, because I always thought his work in MAD was hilarious, and you’d be surprised at how common head trauma is in comics and how often I get to apply it.
For us non-comic illustrators, and us non-comic writers can you explain the process of how it works collaborating with a writer? How much does the illustration influence the creative story? How much freedom do you have? Basically, I get what looks like a movie script, and then I set out to make that into a series of images that tell that story. Different writers have different styles, and different projects require different relationships with the writers. I’ve been fortunate enough to largely avoid assembly line-like jobs where I’m just another cog in the machine. I mostly get to work with my friends, who welcome the creative collaboration. We tend to talk on the phone a bit and cook up some action scenes or cool visual set-pieces to pepper into the stuff they’ve got going, and every once in a while, I might have some missing piece that helps pull the events together story wise. Once the script comes, I’ve generally got whatever freedom I want, but I generally feel like that at that stage my job is to effectively tell the story at hand. If the proposed pacing or panel layout isn’t as affective as I think it could be, I’ll rejigger it a bit to make sure the events that need to happen are there and it carries the appropriate mood. That’s the job. Tell the story. Pretty pictures are nice, but if you can’t tell what’s going on, then I’ve screwed it up. And then lastly, the writers will often give it a last pass, fine-tuning the dialogue to work as well as possible with the art I’ve given back to them.
Is there a particular writer that you felt screamed your style and complimented your visions most? Rick Remender and I have been partnered up for several years now, and we get along like a house on fire. And I think when we get to spit-balling ideas and starting to cook up some stuff, we make some really fun stuff. I don’t wanna toot our collective horn, but you dragged it out of me. Magic. Okay? What we make is magic. Seriously, though, we’re on the same creative wavelength and we’ve been afforded a lot of opportunities to bring some crazy shit to the table, and I’m super proud of all of it. He’s an artist too, and we speak the same language, creatively speaking, like some kind of creepy art twin hive mind.
What comic book character that you have illustrated (or that someone else has drawn) do you feel best represents you? Heath Huston is the protagonist of Fear Agent, which I co-created with Rick Remender. I put a lot of myself into him, and i imagine him physically as a tough-guy idealized version of myself, if I wasn’t a sedentary, soft tub of guts with great hair. He really is the biological lovechild of myself and Rick. I think in some weird sad way, he’s a real portrait of the both of us, for better and worse.
What is your spirit animal? The dung beetle. Nature’s Sisyphus.
With Halloween on the mind, do you have any special plans? Traditions? Favorite horror films? We feel like it might be your favorite holiday, so do tell? I wish. I’m a dad and under deadline, so no parties for me. I used to love to go all out. Big parties, and spend a day or two building a ridiculous costume. I live out in the sticks now, so I don’t even have kids wander by for Trick Or Treat. That said, though, my kid is two and a half years old now, and she’s getting big on the idea of dressing up as stuff, as well as getting a metric ton of candy, so hopefully i can ignite something there and live vicariously through her and a mutual love of the holiday. That said, I’ll try to soak up all the greats, especially the stuff from the 70s. Last House on the Left, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist, and of course, Rosemary’s Baby. A horror movie marathon is pretty commonplace in my office, like once every couple of weeks at least. It’s one of my biggest passions, right behind comics. Halloween is my Christmas.
What is overrated culturally right now? What is underrated? Ignorance is overrated. We live in a culture where anti-intellectualism is celebrated and I think it’s really damned sad. Science is criminally underrated. I think the Curiosity Mars rover gave us a tiny little cultural taste of what it felt like when we put men on the moon. But we don’t do that anymore. And while we all can’t be astronauts, I think astronauts are like the superheroes of science, the faces that boys and girls can look up to and idolize, and get kids interested in the big ideas science has to offer. I’ve got a 2 year old daughter and all I want is for her to look at the stars and know that those are other places, not just lights in the sky, and to really try to understand the complex beauty of the universe we live in, not just be another dead-eyed Wal-Mart zombie caught up in the stupid trivialities and pointless melodrama on TV, and frankly, most of most people’s lives. I want her to think big, dream big. I’d much rather her be excited to hear Neil Tyson and Alice Roberts than to have any care for what Snooki and The Situation are about. If I can pull that off, I think I will have been a pretty good dad.
What is something or someone you recommend the people reading this interview have on their radar? Marvel’s MARVEL NOW stuff is going to be hot. They’ve got some really inspired recruiting on the books coming up in that line. My pals Rick Remender and Jason Aaron are doing some of the most exciting stuff I’ve seen in years over there. Also, Rick and I are proud to announce the first of 2 omnibus collections of our baby, Fear Agent, which comes out late this year from Dark Horse Comics. It’s a gargantuan tome of sci-fi space opera/western fantasy, and handsome as all Hell. A really beautiful presentation of some of my favorite work of my career. Beyond that, Jason Aaron and RM Guera’s SCALPED series just wrapped up, and i think it’s one of the best damn things ever printed. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Lastly, what are you working on now? I’m really excited to talk about this one, finally. I’m working on part of that big MARVEL NOW event that I mentioned before, with Brian Posehn (Mr. Show, The Sarah Silverman Program) and Gerry Duggan (Attack of the Show, Infinite Horizon), on the relaunch of DEADPOOL, who is Marvel’s resident smart-mouthed mercenary, with probable deep mental health issues. It’s not a reboot, but just kind of a fresh reestablishing and jumping on point for folks who might have been interested in checking him out but were dissuaded by the years of backlog. This story involves a necromancer/political zealot who, in an effort to save America from itself, has resurrected all the dead Presidents of America. Of course, they come back evil and twisted, and must be stopped. Since they can’t have The Avengers seen going toe-to-toe with the country’s great icons gone corrupt, SHIELD recruits the one guy who has the skills, lack of scruples, and the plausible deniability to get the job done. It’s really funny, and absolutely brutal. I’ve drawn more viscera in the first few issues of this book than I have possibly in the entire rest of my career combined. Still, it’s considerably more lighthearted than just about everything I’ve done, so the cartooning is a bit more relaxed and a real joy to work on. We’re all having a ridiculous amount of fun on it, and I don’t think any of us thought we’d ever get away with it like we have.
Follow Tony Moore on Twitter and on Tumblr for updates on his projects and the things he has to say.
Also we recommend you check out this awesome video that Threadless made on Tony Moore in Zombie Country!
And as a bonus check out this new zombie image Tony recently completed …