May 12, 2008
B Clay Moore Interviewed
This is an interview that ran in the Mar/Apr edition of Crimespree Magazine.
We're big fans of Mr. Moore and if you haven't read his stuff yet, you really should
Jon Jordan: How did you get your start in comics?
B Clay Moore: A friend of mine named J. Torres, who now writes a lot of stuff for DC, was launching an anthology called Love in Tights with Slave Labor Graphics and asked if I wanted to help. I ended up handling most of the editorial duties for the six issue run, and that really introduced me to how comics worked. Got to know some people, and understand how the sausage was made, so to speak. The next thing I worked up was the Hawaiian Dick pitch, and when Image picked it up things started rolling.
JJ: What influenced Hawaiian Dick? Was it shows like Magnum PI and Hawaii Five-O and Hawaiian Eye or something less obvious?
BCM: I've honestly never sat through an episode of Magnum PI, and only discovered Hawaiian Eye after I started work on Hawaiian Dick (much to my shame). There was no direct influence, really. What I did was take elements of pop culture that turned me on: film noir, tiki kitcsh, detective fiction, fifties style, jazz, and throw them into one big melting pot. I'd read a bit about the Night Marchers (the ghosts of ancient Hawaiian warriors), and that sparked the idea to toss in a dash of the supernatural.
The only real influence I can think of in terms of crime media is the Rockford Files. I always got a kick out of the way Jim Rockford stumbled through cases, generally getting his head handed to him along the way. Shortly after starting Hawaiian Dick I finally saw Robert Altman's brilliant (to my mind) The Long Goodbye, with Elliott Gould's Marlowe letting the events around him dictate virtually all of his actions (or lack of actions). There's a lot of Gould's Marlow in Byrd, although as the book goes on, he's becoming a bit more proactive.
JJ: You seem to have a real love of the era('50s) your write the series in. Why do you to tune it to it so well?
BCM: The fascinating thing about the fifties is this stark dichotomy between the brightly-colored plastic suburban dream that seemed to be presented in mass media and advertising and the undercurrent of paranoia and fear driven by the Cold War. On the one hand we have Doris Day and Father Knows Best, and on the other we have the emergence of the Beats and the rise of film noir. I thought Hawaii would be a good analogy for the decade as a whole. Surely the "Aloha!" Hawaiian travel brochures hid some seedier goings-on in the back alleys of Honolulu in 1953...
JJ: What kind of research do you do for the series?
BCM: Our main goal is to make sure we don't insult Hawaiian culture. We're not filming a documentary, we're creating a slice of entertainment. But we don't want to fall into lazy clichés or completely lose site of the background. We'll do our best to make sure period details are correct (Steven Griffin and I once spent four hours verifying what mailboxes looked like in 1953 for a sequence in the first book), and I try not to get too crazy with the language. In general, the book has been well-received by Hawaiian readers, and that's been very gratifying.
JJ: How did you hook up with Steven Griffin? He is so dead perfect for this series.
BCM: Steven is coloring the new series, over the pencils and inks of Scott Chantler, who was made to create a book set in the fifties. When I first conceived Hawaiian Dick, I was working with an artist named J. Bone (who has recently spent his time inking and assisting Darwyn Cooke). When it became clear J. wasn't going to have the time for it, I started poking around online, and Steven was one of the first people I found. His style wasn't what I had in mind initially, but his color was amazing, and his creativity was clearly off the charts. I can't imaging where (or what) the book would be without him.
JJ: I've also heard you have a project coming up for DC, anything you can talk about?
BCM: I've got two things that debut in February. A three issue arc for JSA Confidential, which digs into the roots of Wildcat, a Golden Age hero who's still hanging around, and a three issue arc for Superman Confidential, which examines the early days of the Superman/Jimmy Olsen dynamic.
JJ:You also did a book called Leading Man for Oni in 2006 with the collection coming out this past year. I have to say I found it utterly charming and wonderful. The idea of actors and actresses being secret agents is really fun. Any plans to revisit this?
BCM: Not immediately. The writer’s strike in Hollywood has held up the screenplay on the film adaptation, but if there’s serious movement on a movie, I’d like to revisit it. Artist Jeremy Haun and I have kind of loosely plotted a single-issue follow-up, so it’s something we’ll probably get around to eventually.
JJ: Do you plan to keep moving forward With Hawaiian Dick? Story arcs self contained in different mini series kind of like Mike Mignola is doing with Hellboy? Because I for one can’t get enough.
BCM: We’re planning on doing the book as a continuing series now, developing subplots behind the primary story arcs as we go. I’m actually scripting issue eleven right now.
JJ: Wildcat seems like a great character for you to write, hard boiled bad ass, and actually a real fifties kind of guy. Is this the first writing you’re doing for a character you didn’t create? And did DC approach you?
BCM: I’ve written a few odds and ends featuring other people’s characters. I did a Vampirella mini-series a few years ago, a Marvel short story, and Jeremy and I collaborated on a GI Joe one-shot. But this, along with a Superman Confidential story arc I’m writing at the same time, is the first time I’ve been able to stretch out with DC or Marvel toys. Wildcat was a blast, and I did my best to set him up for the future, kind of examining him having a foot in the Golden and Modern ages. And, yeah. DC contacted me around Thanksgiving in 2006 and asked if I’d like to do something for them. So far it’s been great.
JJ: I have to agree that Gould did a great job as Marlowe. I actually think that time period had some really great movies. Redford and Newman together, Warren Beatty in The Parallax View. What are some of your other favorite movies?
BCM: A ton of film noir. Kiss Me Deadly is an all-time favorite. I do love a lot of late sixties and early seventies crime and genre movies. Things like Bullit, the Getaway, anything with Lee Marvin or Gene Hackman. Brit crime along the lines of Get Carter, the Italian Job. I’m partial to a pretty wide range of films, but those are my two favorite eras for crime flicks.
JJ: When we met briefly last summer it was at my very first comic convention. I had a great time. Do you enjoy getting out there and pressing the flesh and hanging with your fellow comic peers or would you rather be home working?
BCM: I love comic conventions. I love getting out and seeing people I only get to see at cons, and I love hanging out in different cities, meeting readers and fans. Trying to convert new ones. Working at home is great, aside from the nineteen month-old climbing up my pantleg all day.
JJ: Have you ever considered writing a short story or maybe even a novel?
BCM: Sure, but I don’t know when I’d have time. I actually approached the Hard Case Crime Library folks about submitting something, and they were supportive of the idea. The problem there is they want completed manuscripts (which is logical), and I don’t know when I’d have time to hack one out. Another publisher approached me about a Hawaiian Dick novel once, but, again...the time factor is the issue.
JJ: If you are in Chicago for Wizard World this June can I buy you a drink? Maybe something with an umbrella in it?
BCM: But of course! Preferably at the Hala Kahiki Tiki bar, just down the road from the convention center!