The Whatdead: Terry Moore on Rachel Rising #1

Rachel Rising, the new comic by Strangers in Paradise and Echo creator Terry Moore, debuted at last month's San Diego Comic Con and hit retailers all over the country last Wednesday. A tale of murder, resurrection, a strange town and as-yet-unknown powers at work, the first issue was a quiet, creepy walk through what promises to be a fascinating and chilling place to live. Moore described the series to me on Panel Discussions as more like Strangers than Echo in terms of scope--it's open-ended and ongoing, as opposed to the shorter-form structure--more normal to most media but more alien to comics--of the latter. Notably, at the same time as Rachel Rising launched Moore started offering hardcover and softcover collected editions of all 30 issues of Echo for sale on his online store.

And, starting here with the first issue, Comic Related will be bringing you interviews looking back on each issue with Moore, with an eye toward how he puts his comics together. Rachel Rising is a new animal for Moore in many ways--horror from a cartoonist best known for drama--but with Echo and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, he's delved into "genre" storytelling before. He even did a story in one of the Simpsons Tree House of Horror comics.

The comic reads more like a traditional Hitchcockian chiller than a contemporary slasher flick; it's deliberate and so far the characters seem more confused than spooky (well, most of them...). Still, it's no straight setup issue. There's much more going on here than that, and even with a lot of silence and not a ton of dialogue, the story manages to say a lot. What about its creator? Read on...

Comic Related: You had said quite some time ago that you would have an announcement "soon" regarding digital delivery. Given your troubles with ordering through the direct-market, have you considered that as an alternative delivery route to your fans?

Terry Moore: Not just me, but everybody in comics is watching the digital front move in like a storm. But it's not hitting like we thought. It's taking longer. There are no digital book success stories yet, most of the people on planes are not reading an ebook, nobody's rich yet... in fact, nobody's replaced their print income yet. When digital can replace your print income, then the storm will hit. My "announcement" was about the delivery systems being developed. But they're taking longer than promised and I've since become convinced that we should all stop focusing on the delivery mechanisms and focus on the business models. I don't care what gadget is in vogue this month, where's the frikkin' business model that will pay off my super-yacht mortgage? When does digital stop being the free-love commune of the geek set? We have houses and employees to support. Show me the frikkin' money. Well, I don't have any employees, but I'm sure somebody in comics has one... somewhere, doing something useful. And they need a salary. Man does not live on iCrap alone.

CR: How did it come to pass that Fabio Moon did a back cover for your first issue?

TM: He just sent it to me one day. How cool is that? We've been friends a long time. When you have talented friends, you get perks like that. I owe him one now.

CR: I can't help noticing that the mysterious woman who stands at the top of the muck while Rachel, ahem, rises...well, she's very quiet and zen. Reminds me a little of Francine's vision in the cemetery; is that how you imagine these deathly or supernatural figures in general?

TM: I wanted her to make an impression something like that. We'll see more of her and it will be interesting to see your idea of her challenged as we learn more about her. But I don't see the supernatural as figures in repose. I don't think the dead are calm at all. That's something Rachel is going to find out.

CR: After seeing the leaf set to light right at the start of the story, one has to assume that either Rachel has "powers" of some kind, or she's been resurrected by dark forces, or both. Will we find out soon, or is it part of the story's mystery, how she returned?

TM: How and why and what... that's the story, yeah. I'm not giving you any wiki-summary today!

CR: So it appears that she doesn't know who killed her, outside of just the shadowy figure. Will that be the long-term focus of the story or is that going to resolve itself and she'll move onto other endeavors eventually?

TM: I see the first story arc as establishing the characters and the town. But then new things happen beyond the discovery stage. The town itself produces the drama, beyond just Who Is Rachel. Manson (the town) is a like a character, too. You'll see.

CR: The four-panel page that follows right after the splash page (12, I think) is interesting in that the gutters on the page appear to form a cross--not only are there four equal panels, but the page itself is black at the edges and white inside. The gutters are that way all the way through but I first noticed it on that page. Was that just a graphic-design thing or is there subtext there?

TM: Both. The page design affects you as much as the art. All that hooey about subliminal messages... it's true. So I use everything I can think of to get my message and moods to rise from the page and into the head. When I looked at the pages in white, then added the black, it was so much closer to what I felt. White pages looked like Echo to me. Black is Rachel. Red is a Ferrari. It's as simple as that.

CR: The driver who helps Julie home reminds me a little of Dillon (from Echo)--riding to the rescue but allowing himself to be dictated to as he does so. I always thought Dillon was a little harried at first. Is this just "concerned motorist #1" or will we see more of him soon?

TM: It's a small town. Sooner or later their paths will cross.

CR: We talked a little on the podcast not long ago about your aborted "Motor Girl" series. Is Jet your way of incorporating that character into your current book and avoid the trademark issues altogether, kind of having your cake and eating it too?

TM: Yes. Damn, you caught me. I love my motor girl character. I'm glad it's her turn, she deserves a book. I didn't imagine that she would end up in a creepy town fighting the whatdead, but hey... who better? "Whatdead"... I just made that up. Undead isn't the right term for where we're going.

CR: Ray looks really familiar--like an actor I can't place. Did his looks come right out of the mind of Terry Moore or is there a model or inspiration for him?

TM: He is a mechanic I worked with at my first job at age 16, pumping gas at a Shell station in Texas. One eye, dirty mind, but good to his friends. I've known a lot of Rays. He's very real to me.

CR: Are we to guess after that last page that Rachel appears differently now to different people, or just that the speaker is "in tune" with something that we the reader are not yet? I guess even the first guy sorta noticed...

TM: That's an interesting theory.

Russell Burlingame is a journalist and columnist living and working in New York City. In high school, Russell interviewed Elliot S. Maggin for a review of the Kingdom Come novelization, and since then has worked consistently in and around the comics industry. He interned for Wizard magazine, and has freelanced for Wizard and Newsarama, in addition to a number of non-comics publications, Russell is currently working on a graphic novel based on Cap'n Internet, the comic strip that ran in his college newspaper.

Currently, in addition to his freelance work and his comics projects, Russell writes a number of columns for ComicRelated, including Conscientious Sequentials, The Gold Exchange, What's Perhappenin', Closing Statements, Reflecting 'Pool and To See or Not To See.

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