Tuesday, February 28, 2012

5 Minutes with Leah Moore and John Reppion

Leah Moore. Photo: DC Sterne.

Leah Moore was born in Northampton, England in 1978.

Her first ever attempt at comic book scripting was submitted anonymously to Scott Dunbier at Wildstorm in late 2002. The story was accepted, illustrated by Sergio Aragones and published as “King Solomon Pines”, in Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales #5. This was soon followed by another 8-pager; “Bad to the Bone”, with art by Shawn McManus, which appeared in Tom Strong #19.

In mid 2003 Leah and her husband (then fiancée) John Reppion began work on a proposal for a six-part mini entitled Wild Girl. The series was published in 2004/05, illustrated by Shawn McManus and J. H. Williams III.

Since then the duo have worked together on series such as Albion (with Alan Moore & Shane Oakley), Raise the Dead (with Hugo Petrus) and contributed to the likes of Popgun, Accent UK’s Zombies, Self Made Hero’s H. P. Lovecraft anthology and Tori Amos’ Comic Book Tattoo. Moore & Reppion are currently working together on The Thrill Electric (with Windflower Studio) – a ten part online motion comic set in Victorian Manchester.

In 2006 Leah was commissioned by the Royal Mail to write two short stories to accompany the release of their Christmas stamps.

In addition to her writing Leah enjoys drawing and painting and has provided illustrations for various articles and stories.

Q1. What was the first comic that you owned that really had a life changing effect on you?

LM: I think it was definitely Love and Rockets. I read it and just totally fell in love with the whole world. I wanted to be there, living it, being one of the characters so much. it was the first comic, probably the first book I read that just made me feel like "this is for me, these are people I care about". I have been near obsessed ever since.

Q2. How did you become a writer? What was your main inspiration?

LM: Well I've always made my own comics since I was little, so making up stories is something I have always enjoyed.
The problem used to be I'd have grandiose ideas and wouldn't be able to draw them properly, so now I get to script all these big elaborate scenes and get someone else to draw them for me. The actual decision came by a suggestion of my dads. i was doing a bar job after university, and he said " have you ever thought about writing comics" which I hadn't at all. I had a go at it, and produced a script for a little eight pager, which Scott Dunbier received anonymously, and accepted. When I saw it was possible to make the same money writing a comic as doing lots of hours behind the bar, I thought I'd have a go, see if it kept being fun, and kept paying the rent. so far it has so here's hoping it stays that way!

Q3. This is a two part question: What is the story behind the idea to revive classic IPC-owned British comic characters such as Captain Hurricane, Robot Archie, The Steel Claw and The Spider, into the acclaimed comic book series Albion? Which is your favorite character from the series?

LM: Well I can take no credit for the idea at all, it was the artist Shane Oakley's idea which he had been talking to my dad about for a bit. He wanted to bring back the characters, and remind people what a fun weird bunch of characters they were, but dad didn't have the time to write it with him. Dad suggested we could write it, with him doing the plot, and Shane drawing it, and he pitched it to Wildstorm that way. We kind of thought we were just going to be script monkeys, typing up from dads notes, but there was lots of space in it for us to play with ideas ourselves. between the lot of us, it got pulled in several directions at once, so it was an odd project creatively, but really enjoyable and something we are all proud of. My favourite character in it is Zip Nolan. I love his bumbling brashness and annoyance. I actually laughed out loud scripting him, several times, which is always nice.

Q4. As well as being a writer you are also an artist, producing illustrations for fanzines and magazines. You say that you are shy
about it, as it is your first love. However would you consider tackling a graphic novel at some point?

LM: I am shy about it also because I do not think i am very good! i have always found comics to be the hardest thing to do because you cant just draw someone and thats it, you have to draw them a hundred times from every conceivable angle and in all kinds of situations. My grasp of anatomy is certainly not good enough to tackle any serious comic art, and even with a more cartoony indie style, I think I'd struggle to get it looking uniform across the pages. I have done little strips here and there, and I do draw out all our pages in rough so we can type from them, so layouts aren't a problem, its just getting it all looking crisp and proper I'd have trouble with. I'd love to say I'd have a go at a project I drew too, but it would have to be a really specific project, and I'd have to practise a lot first!

Q5. I read that you are interested in writing radio plays or short pieces for television. What is it about radio that attracts you and would you consider a pod cast as a viable platform for you work?

LM: I would love to experiment with other forms of story telling just to see how they work. I think you learn most by really pushing yourself in a new direction. when we did The Thrill Electric recently, we learned loads of new stuff about pacing and page structure, not to mention plot and characterisation, just because it was a form we hadnt tried before. The horizontal layout meant our pacing had to change, the single pages instead of spreads meant our scenes were a different size and shape. It was really interesting. I think radio would be amazing because you'd learn how to fill your readers mind with a world, even without a picture or a massive bit of description. you'd learn how to create it with a couple of words, and some sounds, which I think would be fascinating. I'm attracted to writing a play purely because the magic in comics is when you get your pages back all drawn and amazing, and i think the sight of actual people creating your story physically in 3D would be even more magical than the comics art.

John Reppion. Photo: DC Sterne.

John Reppion was born in Liverpool, England in 1978.

His writing career began in 2003 when he collaborated with his wife Leah Moore on a proposal for a six issue mini series entitled Wild Girl. The proposal was accepted and the series was published by Wildstorm in 2004/05.

Since then the duo have worked together on series such as Albion (with Alan Moore & Shane Oakley), Raise the Dead (with Hugo Petrus) and contributed to the likes of Popgun, Accent UK’s Zombies Self Made Hero’s H. P. Lovecraft anthology and Tori Amos’ Comic Book Tattoo. Moore & Reppion are currently working together on The Thrill Electric (with Windflower Studio) – a ten part online motion comic set in Victorian Manchester.

John’s interests in fortean phenomena, esoterica, folklore, philosophy, theology and horror have led to his writing articles and reviews for numerous magazines and periodicals including Fortean Times, Strange Attractor, The End Is Nigh, Revenant Magazine and SteamPunk Magazine. 2008 saw the release of his first full length book 800 Years of Haunted Liverpool, published by The History Press.

Iron Maiden - The Number Of The Beast.

Q1. What was the first record that you owned that really had a life changing effect on you?

JR: The first album that I ever bought was Iron Maiden's The Number of the Beast. It was a vinyl LP which I got from the supermarket at the bottom of the road where my mum and dad still live. This would have been around 1989 so it was already an "old" album having been released in 1982. To me at the
age of eleven it felt like it had come not just from another era but another world really. I was just discovering comics at the time - my uncle lending me The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke amongst others - and probably just plucking up the courage to begin reading a bit of horror, and Number of the Beast was very much the soundtrack to all of that. Each song on the album tells a story it was just pure imagination fuel for my pre-adolescent self. I'd even go to sleep listening to a cassette copy I'd made. Number of the Beast and the original Ghostbusters film were pretty much my pre-adolescent obsessions, and I think both helped to shape my mind quite dramatically.

Q2. Can you tell me the background to your book 800 Years of Haunted Liverpool?

JR: Ha, well, see my previous answer RE: childhood Ghostbusters obsession!

I've always been interested in folklore and weird history and it never ceases to amaze me how much of this stuff is still part of our everyday lives - people still tell these stories, places still have their odd reputations, despite us living in the 21st century. Having lived in Liverpool my entire life I already had a good knowledge of many of the local ghost stories and supposedly haunted places so it was really just a case of drawing all that together and doing the research. I also had flyers out around the city asking people to get in touch with me if they'd ever experienced anything they'd consider supernatural. I got a really good response and was lucky enough to even get an email from Ramsey Campbell offering an account of one of his own strange experiences. When the great supernatural author M. R. James was asked if he actually believed in ghosts he famously replied "I answer that I am prepared to consider evidence and accept it if it satisfies me". That is pretty much what I tried to do with 800 Years - make all the data I could find on each case available to the reader and allow them to "consider the evidence".

Q3. You have written a number of non-fiction articles for publications including The End Is Nigh, an annual British fanzine edited by Michael Molcher. Does your approach to non-fiction differ greatly to the way you work on a piece of fiction?

JR: The biggest difference between my article writing and the writing I do for comics is that I do the former on my own, whereas comics are always written in collaboration with Leah.

I love research. I love to have a big pile of books, photocopied papers I've written off to regional libraries for, etc in front of me and to be cross referencing all this stuff and coming up with a narrative that no one of the sources provides. That's really how most of my factual articles develop - I find an interesting subject, amass all the material I can on it, and then see what shape the article wants to take. Again, Fortean, folkloric, or weird history type subjects tend to be the things that attract me - most
recently I wrote a piece for Darklore Vol 6 (http://darklore.dailygrail.com/) about the remains of a prehistoric monument, older than the pyramids, which are kept in a greenhouse in a park just around the corner from my house.

I have written some prose fiction myself too (mainly for SteamPunk Magazine) and that's definitely something I'd love to find the time to do more of. It makes me feel very exposed compared to comics and articles though - there's no collaborators and no hard and fast facts to hide behind - it's just all my own words; my ideas laid bare.

Q4. You are currently working with Leah on The Thrill Electric, a ten part online motion comic set in Victorian Manchester. Can you tell me a little about that project?

JR: The Thrill Electric is essentially a 150 enhanced Graphic Novel (This means as well as the traditional comic pages full of panels and captions and word balloons, you also get background noise, sound effects, music, animations and pages where we try and find new ways to read a comic page) which is available to read entirely for free at www.thethrillelectric.com.

Years back, when we were adapting Bram Stoker's Dracula into a GN, we were doing a lot of research into the technology of the time and started to realise that, as much as we think of it as a period piece now, Stoker was being really cutting edge with all the tech that his characters employed. The telegraph plays quite a pivotal role in Dracula and the more we read about that the more started to realise that so many things we think of as being very much of the internet age were actually born of and possible via the telegraph.

Instant messaging, spam, online romances, gaming even - all these things were happening in offices across the world from the mid 1800s right up until the telephone took over at the beginning of the 20th century. The other thing that really caught our attention was that this point in history was a real turning point for women in the workforce. Telegrapher was a respectable white collar job which parents were happy to let their daughters go and do. Women could work somewhere less dirty and dangerous than a factory, and earn good money doing skilled work. Leah lay in bed one night ruminating on all of this, when the idea came to her of a story about a girl going into the world of the telegraph - a period drama with all the romance and scandal of any modern social network. The Thrill Electric was born.

An iPhone / iPad version of The Thrill Electric is set to come out very soon. Just like the online version it will be 100% free.

Q5. Do you think that online publishing will have a long term impact on traditional printed media and if so, is that a positive or a negative?

JR: Speaking as someone who spends all day every day staring at a computer screen I hate reading for leisure on screen, I'd always much rather read an actual book. That said, I do have a kindle app on my phone and I can see the appeal of instant access to any book via a device. I think that so far as books are concerned, the paperback market might change as a result of digital. Maybe that will translate to comics too with monthlies dying off and digi editions taking over. However, people will still buy books I think - I know I will - and I think many publishers are already upping their game as a result, making deluxe hardbacks that are more desirable than ever in order to compete. It's a period of change definitely but hopefully it'll be one for the better in many respects.

The Thrill Electric Promo.

With The Thrill Electric we were trying to take the first steps in creating something that wasn't just a paper comic book in digital form, we wanted to take advantage of all the things we had at our disposal but still focus on telling a story (not just end up with a firework display). I think that enhanced comics is an area that has a lot of potential for the future, a whole new medium adding an extra dimension to traditional comics. Will that kill comics as we know them? No more than cinema killed photography.


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