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Speaking of Characters, Batman Really Is an All Around Prick

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PM: Can you give us a teaser about Rachel’s character? How is she different from your other heroines?

TM: I don’t think I can describe Rachel without it sounding familiar or letting slip a spoiler. The individual is in the details, and that has to be revealed in the story, particularly the first few issues.

PM: You’ve already got a preview of the cover for the first issue of Rachel Rising on your blog. How did you work on finishing Echo and starting Rachel Rising at the same time?

TM: I’m not that good at multi-tasking, so it’s one or the other. By the time I was working on Echo #30, I had to stop physically working on Rachel and focus my energy on Echo. Which means the Rachel Rising work will be intense when I get back to it and have to make a lot of quality material in a limited time.

The only thing I hate more than Batman is my Blackberry, and my deepest fear is that I will be stuck with both of them for the rest of my bat-sucking life.

To make things trickier, I’ve been drawing an issue of Fables (#107) and attending a lot of conventions. Plus making the final Echo trade and the Omnibus, and a stand-alone issue of How To Draw Women. Oh, and I need a 2011 sketchbook, too. Oh, and a list of waiting commissions to finish. So…yeah, working on more than one thing at a time…not easy.

PM: I have to ask about the story you told on Saturday Night Sci-Fi of how Rachel Rising‘s main character began as a character idea for the Batman world. Could you tell me a little bit more about that?

TM: I was writing Birds of Prey for DC, and that’s a book in the Bat-family, and it’s no secret that I hate Batman. The only thing I hate more than Batman is my Blackberry, and my deepest fear is that I will be stuck with both of them for the rest of my bat-sucking life. So I’m in the Bat-family and I’m thinking, ‘You know, the problem with Batman is that he has no woman in his life. Clearly he dresses himself, goes out every night with nobody caring when he gets home, and he’s just an all-round prick, isn’t he?’

PM: He never does have a woman in his life. Well, I guess it’s a revolving door.

TM: The guy’s a sociopath, meaning he’s a nutjob doing a bad job of pretending to be human. Like Donald Trump.

So I thought, ‘Okay, Oracle (Barbara Gordon) is the one who should talk to him. But she won’t do it because he won’t listen to her, which made me even madder at him.’ So I thought about sending a woman his way that would really screw him up and I came up with this character I called Deadgirl.

The rough idea was a woman committing a crime, like burglary, when Batrat drops in and a minute later she’s dead. A terrible accident. He pretends to care, blah, blah. He’s in the morgue watching them slide her drawer shut. That’s that.

The next night he’s taking a leak off a rooftop or whatever it is a guy with his underwear on the outside does at night on rooftops, and there she is. The girl from the morgue is back, robbing the shop below. He engages the suspect. Damn if she doesn’t get killed again. Swear it wasn’t Fatman’s fault. Morgue. Next day, she’s baaaack. Get the idea?

That was Deadgirl. I loved her. Unfortunately, I left Birds of Prey before I could use my secret weapon, so I put her in a drawer for later. Meanwhile, the name of Deadgirl was copyrighted at Marvel, so when it was time for my new series I re-titled it Rachel Rising. And that’s where she came from.

My series won’t feature Crapman, of course. I wish I could toss Batfat my Blackberry then push them both out of a plane. I would so like to draw Harley Quinn doing just that.

PM: The thing that bothers me in Batman is the portrayal of the mental illness of his rogue’s gallery. Nolan’s Dark Knight certainly did a better job of it, but too often the villains are simply ‘crazy’, in quotes, in a very shallow way.

TM: You’re right. I wonder if crazy will someday become a C-word we shouldn’t say. If they take that C-word away from us, they should give us another one back. But, yeah, the crazier the rogue, the more Batshat beats them senseless, like a ‘50s bigot cop beating on people. How many times have you seen him beat the Joker’s face into a tomato? Sick f*ck. Let’s talk about something else.

PM: Okay. You love music, it’s important in your work, especially SiP. Were you ever a musician?

TM: Yeah, from the age of 13 to the age of 26, 27, I was in bands. My wife married me as a musician. I really thought that’s what my life was going to be about. I’m sort of stunned that I’ve ended up in comics. But thank God, I could do this, you know? This is my adopted family now.

PM: Is there a piece of music, a song, maybe, that would give readers a sense of what to expect in Rachel Rising? Sorry, this is a cheesy question.

TM: I like “Rubber Ducky”. (laughs) You know, I think The Gathering is a good band for this title. I was thinking that if I made a movie, I would grab some of their tracks.

PM: They’re a black metal band, right?

TM: Yeah, metal but melodic, as in, they can play but they also know music theory. They’re not street musicians. There are more ideas in one of their songs than most American bands have in their career. Great stuff. They have a little four-song EP called Black Light District and I was listening to that when I was drawing the cover to Rachel Rising #1, and I thought, man, this is so appropriate.

But if I had to pick just one musician for a Rachel soundtrack, it would be Trent Reznor. It’s an obvious choice when you think about it. Reznor makes everybody else sound like Beck.

III. Body Language, Vertical Tangents and Rhinos

PM: You mentioned that you’re also working on a series of how-to-draw books.

TM: Because I obviously don’t have enough to do.

PM: But it’s an interesting way you’re putting it out. You’re doing one issue at a time?

TM: Yeah, because if I try to make the whole book at once, it will never get done. So I’m going to put it out a chapter at a time in comic book format. Then when all the chapters are done, collect them into the final book form. See, it’s this new thing we call a trade paperback. Cutting edge stuff.

PM: So the first issue is about drawing women, is that right?

TM: Yes. It’s not going to be like all the other books, like, “Here’s what a woman looks like”. It’s going to be how I do it, what I look for, what my measurements are, what are the little physical things I’ve noticed, and what I use to make body language and personalities—the things you need to put into a drawing to give the reader enough information to start profiling the characters.

As non-PC as that may seem, it’s really what readers do. So give them the info. And you can do that visually. I think about that when I’m drawing and I thought, well, I’ve been at it long enough now, I guess it’s not too presumptuous for me to sort of publish my notes.

PM: The stereotypical way of drawing women in comics—beautiful, exaggeratedly proportioned, “perfect”—is there a reason why that’s so common besides the typical explanations like who’s drawing and who’s reading?

TM: I don’t know. It’s easier to draw exaggerated and stylized. That may have something to do with it. But usually you find people draw what they are focused on. Big boobs, big nose, whatever. People use to joke that all the Image girls looked like porn stars because that’s all the young artists had for reference in their young lives. Probably the answer is both physical and psychological, but you’d have to start by asking Picasso.

Robert Loss teaches writing and literature at Columbus College of Art and Design. Aside from PopMatters, his critical writing about music and comics has appeared in Public Books, The Comics Journal, Ghettoblaster, and elsewhere. His short fiction has been published in Filigree and Mayday. He is currently working on a novel, a book about comics, and a book about popular music and the aesthetic of the new. Follow him on Twitter @RobertVLoss or visit his website

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