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Terry Moore: RACHEL RISING, Bible Fanfiction, and Feminism

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Terry Moore has been self-publishing comics since the early 1990s and boasts a graceful, soft-spoken wisdom about storytelling and human life. RACHEL RISING, Moore’s ongoing comic book involving resurrection and other supernatural goings-on, has recently been optioned for television, but he became a comic book legend far before that, drawing ordinary people facing daily struggles in STRANGERS IN PARADISE. We talked on the final day of San Diego Comic-Con, when both of us were exhausted. It was the perfect way to end the crazy weekend on a pensive note.

Famous Monsters. I wanted to talk about RACHEL RISING, and specifically about its genre, which your books seem to defy quite successfully. A lot of people call RACHEL RISING a horror book. I think I’d call it a “weird tale”. Is it a horror book to you, and why?

Terry Moore. I think of it as classic horror, like Hitchcock and Universal Studios horror. Even though I think it goes further beyond the genre than that, I’m still going for the old, creepy, black and white horror movie feel. The kind that had that film-crackle silence.

FM. That especially comes through in the panels of falling snow. You can almost hear the crackling.

TM. Yeah, especially when I get to a quiet snow scene outside. I hear that little tinkling piano in my head. It’s a hybrid work, I suppose. It’s not horror in the way a lot of kids would define that, where it’s gory or a slasher, but it’s really based off the old Universal films.


FM. If you could pick any one in particular, which would you point to as one you watched over and over that influenced RACHEL RISING?

TM. I would say the first DRACULA film. But there are others, such as Boris Karloff’s portrayals. In all the movies, when people are walking down the hall, there might be 45 seconds of onscreen silence, and it’s the silent parts that are scarier than anything, because they give you time to fill in with your imagination what could be behind the door. I try to imply more than I show. The old black and white films implied everything, just the like sex comedies of the 1960s with Rock Hudson and Doris Day.They let you fill in the gaps yourself. I do promise a lot, so I have to show some things. In this story, I show enough to pay my debts.

FM. As a fan of Lovecraftian literature, I agree that sometimes what isn’t talked about is the scariest thing.

TM. I learned that back in the early 90s, when Neil Gaiman first started working. He had a famous quote: “It’s the mystery that endures, not the answer.” We tend to talk about mysteries for the rest of our lives, but once you’ve got an answer, the conversation’s over. If there’s a question, we’ll keep talking.

FM. I have a question about the eyeball thing. When the dead characters come back in RACHEL RISING, the whites of their eyes are red—why?

TM. I wanted one little thing to mark them. Something simple, like Harry Potter’s lightning bolt. The scariest things I’ve ever seen involve people doing something to their eyes. It seemed natural. Plus, I learned from reading forensics that when a victim dies from strangulation, the capillaries in the eyes burst. And when you have the pretty character of Rachel, with such nice hair… for her to have scarred eyes is really powerful. There’s also the mark on her neck. I put those things in to show consequence. It says, there has been trauma, here. These eyes got this way through trauma. I’ve always loved that salt-and-pepper combination in character design.  I’m looking for that kind of dissonance. The beauty of the girls is still there, but the cost of living is on their face.

FM. I also enjoy how the whole demon thing, although often at the forefront of the story, isn’t really advertised or exploited. A lot of stories featuring demons go the epic fantasy route, but that’s not really what RACHEL RISING is. It’s almost demure in its treatment of demons. Demons and devils have been designed in so many mediums. How did you approach [the demon character of] Malus?

TM. I approached him from a purely Biblical standpoint, as the tale of the fallen angel. In the Bible, demons are just angels that are fallen. Like drug addicts. There’s somebody who used to be gorgeous, and now what do they look like, after ages and ages of being a crackhead? Have you seen crackhead transitional photos? I apply that approach to what used to be a glimmering being of beauty. I think about it in terms of how he got twisted and deformed. I don’t know about the little tiny demon-critters, though. I recall a Bible story about someone who had seven demons in them. I don’t think those were seven fallen angels! I think they were supposed to be something else…

FM. Minions?

TM. Or demon-kids. I don’t know! [laughs] Grandkids? There’s a lot to play with there. It’s a rich mythology.


FM. Sometimes it’s hard to tread that ground without being really careful, because people get pissed off.

TM. Yes, they do! I haven’t actually come out and said, “Oh, I’m treating it just like Greek mytholoy, because it’s no different to me.” That’s a divisive thing to say, but I do feel like everything in the Bible is fair game to be played with in fiction. A writer today can mine it just as you would Jewish myths, or anything else.

FM. Bible fanfiction. [laughs]

TM. Exactly! There’s no telling how much Bible fanfiction has been written over the past thousands of years. It’s pseudo-historical—you’re SUPPOSED to add to the story. So I just launch off of things, whether it’s spiritual ideals or twentieth century physics, and twist them like Gumby dolls to make new shapes for today’s market.

FM. Do you have any particular ideas about the final length of this story, or are you just writing until you run out of head space?

TM. I thought it was going to end at Issue 24, but it’s going so well that I may just keep it open-ended. This story arc will certainly end with 24. And if the TV show finally hits, well, I’d be stupid to stop.

FM. That was going to be my next question! The TV show. Everybody wants to hear about it.

TM. Last year it was optioned by a company called Alcon Entertainment. They’ve recently started a TV division, and this is one of the first projects they want to put on TV. They’re very determined. It’s greenlit and they’re working on the pilot, and the networks are sniffing at it. So it’s looking good!

FM. How do you plan on increasing production of the graphic novels when the TV show hits? [laughs]

TM. Oh, I don’t know! I mean, I have all the print rights. If the TV show goes, I’ll keep at it, because I’d be writing an outline for future episodes. [laughs] It would be a weird situation. I’m not sure how I’d handle it.

FM. Well, I’ve always admired your willpower in sticking to your own publishing company. I know you’ve dabbled in Marvel and others, but you always come back to Abstract Studios.

TM. It works for me. When I first started, I self-published because nobody else would. But it still works.

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