DC Interview Vault: Robert Kirkman & Tony Moore

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Editor’s Note: Back in the early 21st Century, The Death Cookie published quite a few kick-ass interviews. We recently decided that even though most of them are extremely outdated, it’s a shame for them to just be hanging out unread on the hard drives in One Hex Tower. So we’re going to re-publish them here every so often for archival/historical purposes. Since the television series based on Robert Kirkman & Tony Moore’s The Walking Dead is premiering on A&E this month, we decided to start with them. The actual interview took place shortly after the first issue of Battle Pope was released.

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With the end of Preacher, you might think that comic book stands will be lacking a certain amount of sacrilege and violence. Not to worry; independent comics company Funk-O-Tron plans to pick up the slack with their new comic Battle Pope. The comic’s creators, Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore, are no strangers to Hex — some of Robert’s artwork graces the pages of QAGS and Spooky. Even though their schedules were packed, they found time to be interviewed, and were both forthcoming and entertaining. I interviewed them separately so they wouldn’t be able to turn to each other for support.

At the time of this interview only one issue of Battle Pope had been released. Since then the boys have followed a regular release schedule, and at least one more issue should be available by the time you read this. If you like action, and guys wearing big hats, and keen black and white artwork, then I urge you to run right out and buy every issue you can find.


Death Cookie: Give me the lowdown on Battle Pope.

Robert Kirkman: The Battle Pope mini-series is about the not-so-holy Pope of the not-so-distant future and his quest to rescue Saint Michael with the help of Jesus. It’s got lots of action and lots of jokes, so it should be pretty entertaining. I think I might have thrown a couple of chicks in there for eye candy, too. Buy lots!

DC: How did the series come to be?

RK: Tony and I met in middle school, and have been friends ever since. We always liked comics and wanted to someday work on them. Last summer I was digging through some old papers of mine (I keep EVERYTHING) and I found a picture of a “para-military” type Pope I drew my senior year in high school. I looked at it and thought “BATTLE POPE”, and then it hit me. I plotted the first issue based on that old sketch, laid out all the pages and mentioned the idea to Tony. He dug it pretty well and we started on the book less than a month later. It only seemed logical to publish it ourselves. Not that I didn’t send out submissions to other publishers — I did. Image, Dark Horse, and Oni didn’t seem interested, but it was always the plan to do it ourselves. So far it’s worked out pretty well — I can’t seem to keep Diamond in stock!

DC: We’ll get back to Battle Pope in a minute, but I want to get your thoughts on another matter. It’s well-documented that you’re a big fan of the comic book Savage Dragon. What did you think of the big turning point issue #75 that came out a few months back?

RK: I’m not ashamed to admit that I was a little disappointed. There wasn’t much resolved, and it was too much of a BIG FLASHY ACTION sequence to feel like the last Dragon issue in this continuity. I’ve since gotten 76 and I must say that I missed the supporting cast immensely. This new stuff is going to take a little getting used to. I still LIKE it, mind you; it’s just not the same. The ART was GREAT though.

DC: Speaking of Erik Larsen’s art, have you seen his recent work at Marvel?

RK: I’ve LOVED it! I enjoyed the Spider-Man art a little more than the Thor stuff — John Beatty is a GOD! As far as the entire package, Thor was a better book although art-wise there were a few proportion problems. Of course you must realize that Erik HAD to draw BOTH books in two weeks! So the art is bound to suffer a little.

DC: So you liked that pseudo-Kirby style he adopted for Thor?

RK: Erik’s “Kirby style” isn’t much of a stretch from his normal stuff. So I like it, I can’t wait for his Fantastic Four project.

DC: How do you feel about Jack Kirby?

RK: I’m a little young, so I find that while I like Kirby’s stuff quite a bit, I like the people who try to “ape” him better. Ladronn, Timm, etc.

DC: What other comics creators do you like?

RK: Bob Fingerman, Walt Simonson, Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, Garth . . . SHIT doesn’t EVERYONE put the SAME names as their answer to these questions! I also like Eli Stone’s stuff, Larry Young’s work on Astronauts in Trouble, and I’ve been known to enjoy a Rob Liefeld book from time to time.

DC: Are there any creators who have influenced you in the creation of Battle Pope?

RK: Other than the obvious Erik Larsen-ness seen in my layouts, none really. I prefer to swipe from television and movies — it’s harder to notice that way.

DC: I’m not complaining, but based on the first few pages of Battle Pope #1, particularly the line “I christen thee — Pope!” I’m guessing that neither of you is Catholic and that you didn’t do a whole lot of research on Pope-related stuff. Is that the case?

RK: Well I’ll admit that neither of us is Catholic, BUT . . . I studied the Catholic religion for almost 3 years before starting the script for BP. I know it inside and out, but you must realize I only had one page for that scene and I couldn’t squeeze in the talent or the bikini competition. So I cut straight to the raffle. And STILL only had room to show the end of it (Tony likes big panels).

DC: Around page five or so of issue one, where God judges and condemns everyone, Battle Pope reads a bit like a Jack Chick tract. Are you familiar with Mr. Chick’s work?

RK: I have seen Jack Chick tracts but most of my knowledge of them is second hand. Any similarities are purely coincidental.

DC: How have sales been so far? In how many countries is the comic available?

RK: Sales have been very good for a small press book, and VERY VERY good for two unknown guys working out of a bedroom in my house with NO money. Seriously, folks, all you need to make a comic is a good idea and Tony Moore.

We are available in all English speaking countries that Diamond distributes to. We were working out a deal with an Italian company that was going to publish the book in Italian AND French, but I have had no contact with him in a week or two so I’m assuming the deal fell through.

DC: One of the best parts about Battle Pope is the snappy dialogue (like the classic “You been swimmin?”) How long does it take you to come up with good dialogue? And do you write the dialogue before or after Tony has drawn the pictures?

RK: The good dialogue like “you been swimming” is often written before we even start an issue. I’ll think of something funny and create a scene around it. Most of the dialogue, though, is written after Tony finishes penciling a page. There is a nice descriptive step by step of how we make this comic in issue two.

DC: If you’re going to make a habit out of getting interviewed, you need to get prepared for the really tough questions people are going to ask. So I’m going to help you out by asking a tough question. The age-old question of evil is: If God is all-powerful and all-good, why is there evil in the world? As it relates to Battle Pope, I think a more appropriate question is, Why does God sent agents to help out on Earth? Couldn’t he take care of these things himself?

RK: My thought on that is that God doesn’t exist, at least how we perceive him he doesn’t. I don’t really believe in all this hocus pocus. Evil exists because God doesn’t. Of course I could be wrong, but so could EVERYONE else.

In Battle Pope, God has turned his back on the world. He is no longer involved in it, but he still LOVES the people inhabiting it. So he sends Saint Michael to protect the people on it. He could do it himself, but he condemned them — God can’t go back on his word. No one would take him seriously then. Besides we all know God works in mysterious ways.

DC: That’s a pretty good answer. Here’s an easier questions: Is Battle Pope basically a single story that will be finished at the end of the mini-series, or do you have further plans for the character?

RK: We have LOTS of future plans for the character! I’d like to get to a point where we do two mini-series a year at some point. But I realize the “gag” part of Battle Pope will eventually wear off and the character will have to be put to sleep. I can see about five Battle Pope mini-series existing, the last one being “the death of” because that would be cool, and fun to do. This ain’t Cerebus.

DC: You and your co-creator really gush about each other in the letters page to issue one. Come on, let’s be honest here. What’s one thing about Tony Moore that really annoys you?

RK: Tony wastes SOOOOO much time in-between pages that this mini-series could have come out in winter. He has tons of other stuff to do, mind you, but the boy sleeps at least 16 hours a day, no shit. Tony can do 12 pages in one week and then 2 the next, and then wonder why I’m saying “why aren’t there more pages here?” If he wasn’t THE MOST TALENTED PERSON I’VE EVER MET, I might not put up with his irresponsibility. But in Tony’s defense, NO ONE in the industry, and I mean NO ONE, could have brought more to this project than Tony. Not Frank Miller; not Erik Larsen; NO ONE. I can’t imagine this book without him.


Death Cookie: Give me the lowdown on Funk-O-Tron. How did the company come to be?

Tony Moore: Well, it was really kinda simple. Kirkman and another buddy of ours, Robert Sutton, had an idea for a somewhat satirical book that they had wanted to cultivate as an idea to market towards all the freaks that bought into the whole wrestling resurgence (which sadly I think they were part of). Anyway, they wanted to self-publish it, and wanted to know if I wanted in on the action. Of course I was so ecstatic I almost peed, and within a few days we all drove over to the state capitol and bought our LLC license, and so Funk-O-Tron was officially born.

DC: The artwork in Battle Pope #1 is very good, especially considering that this is the first comic from a brand-new company. What kind of art training do you have?

TM: Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it! Well, I’ve been drawing since I was old enough to shit, but as far as formal education goes, I attended the Art Academy of Cincinnati for a year before transferring to the University of Louisville, where I am currently very, very close to getting my BFA in Fine Art.

DC: What experience do you have in the comics field? The letters page mentions that you were working on a comic called Talon for Nifty Comics. Can you tell us a little about that?

TM: MMmmm . . . well, outside of that whole Talon thing, I’ve done a few pinups and a 10 page short story for Beta 3 Comics’ “Sniper and Rook.” So I’m still relatively green. Anyway, a few years ago, I was approached by the head of Nifty about doing the art for a series he wanted to launch. He had seen my work on Wizard’s Cafe DNA website and thought I’d be a good match. I looked over some scripts and stuff and said sure. So, I finished 2 issues and then didn’t hear from him for a very long time, so I dropped it and focused my energies on BP. I don’t regret it, though; it was great practice to kinda nail down my storytelling before getting into anything serious. I highly suggest it for any serious budding comic artists with the time to commit. It’s great practice with a remote possibility of actually becoming something. Not a bad gamble at all.

DC: Robert created the Battle Pope concept, but you volunteered to draw it. What initially attracted you to the idea?

TM: OOOooh! Let’s see . . . guns, sacrilege, what’s not to love? Seriously though, when he pitched the idea to me, it sounded like Lobo with a big hat. I was hooked!

DC: What comics artists are your biggest influences? Non-comics artists?

TM: Well, like most comic geeks my age, I grew up on Jim Lee and McFarlane. They were my heroes growing up, and the driving force for my wanting to get into comics. Technically, their work was highly influential to me starting out, though now I try not to let their styles seep into mine. Personally, I love artists that are a little more off the beaten path. Simon Bisley, Dave McKean, Mike Mignola, David Mack, Dave Johnson, Bill Sienkiewicz, Frank Miller . . . those guys are amazing. Their work doesn’t really so much reflect in mine, but they’re my heroes now. That’s what I want to be when I grow up. I’m also a huge fan of early illustrators, Alphonse Mucha and Edward Hopper.

As for non-comics artists, I love Jim Dine and Jerome Witkin, pop artists such as Warhol, Liechtenstein, and Jasper Johns, and classical masters like Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Reubens (my personal fave).

DC: Let’s discuss the technical aspects of drawing comics. What tools do you use to ink your work? How long does it take you to finish a page? Do you view penciling and inking as two separate procedures, or are they part of an organic whole?

TM: People are gonna ostracize me for this, but I ink a lot of stuff with Sharpies., pens, markers, whatever, I just love how they lay ink on the page. They’ll fade to purple in a few years, but I can’t help myself. I usually start off with a brush and some Windsor-Newton black ink to make sure I get good initial line weights, and then break out the really thin Pilot V5’s for the details. A lot of black and white books are hard to read because they lack the depth that color and shade have to offer. I try to get past this handicap by doing quite a bit of crosshatching and stuff like that. Some people hate it because they prefer cleaner linework, but I think it works considering my intent and purpose. Besides, it kinda makes sure Battle Pope doesn’t look exactly like everything else on the shelves. I like it.

When I’m in my zone, I can pencil sometimes up to 3 pages a day, though I usually weigh in at 2. Inking a page usually takes me a whole day, though depending on the complexity of the work and what kinda day I’m having, I can sometimes squeeze out a second page. Inking’s a bitch. For the most part, I wish I had someone else doing it, but in a way I love it, because I’m such a nit-picker when it comes to my work that doing it myself is the only way I can ensure that it’ll come out the way I wanted it. So, I guess for me it is somewhat an organic whole at this stage of the game.

DC: Battle Pope has got to be offending people, especially with your portrayal of Jesus Christ. Any hate-mail yet?

TM: Heh. Surprisingly, very little! We’ve only gotten 1 pissed-off letter, and that was the very day our solicitation for #1 hit shelves in Previews. Must’ve really touched a nerve or something. I like to think people who are initially offended by the premise of the book are buying it just so they can kinda “know the enemy” and by the time they’ve finished it, they like us so much they have to write us fan letters instead. Anyway, I’m amazed (and in a sick way, a little disappointed) at how few people have sent in fire and brimstone hate letters. C’mon, ya buncha pansies!

DC: In addition to drawing Battle Pope, you created and maintain the Funk-O-Tron website. How is that going?

TM: Well, I’m kinda lagging behind on this one. I’ve been spending so much time on the book that the website’s not quite as smooth as I’d like. Generally speaking, it looks about right, but I’d like to iron out some of the kinks, beef up some of the content and kinda re-tool the sections that are already there. Oh well, someday. Maybe.

DC: At the end of the letters page in the first issue, you wrote, “And as unlikely as it may sound after reading this book, I have to give proper respect to the Big Guy, yes, the Man Upstairs, for being so good to me.” Would you describe yourself as a religious person? Now that you’re drawing this comic, do you think might be going to Hell?

TM: Yeah, I guess I’d consider myself a fairly religious guy. That doesn’t stop me from running my mouth like a sailor or thinking that dismemberment is funny, but overall, I’d say I lead my life in a pretty respectable manner. As a kid I was dragged to church every Sunday where it seemed everyone was more interested in what everyone else was wearing than God’s word, so I got turned off church for a while. But I started going back to church with my fiancee, and I really like how they go about things there, so I’ve become somewhat more of a wandering Methodist, probably more wandering than Methodist.

As for going to Hell, no. I don’t think so. I know God has a sense of humor, and won’t fry me because of that. Besides, I’m sure he digs how I draw him . . . that big floating Oz head thing is GOLD!

DC: What are you planning on doing after you finish Battle Pope?

TM: I’ll take some time off, fine-tune the website, try to boost my GPA and get out of school, and attempt to patch up the some of the miscellaneous holes punched by my rotten work ethic. And I’ll be working on some more comics stuff, some of it even Battle Pope, for release in the not-so-distant future.

DC: You and your co-creator really gush about each other in the letters page. Come on, let’s be honest here. What’s one thing about Robert Kirkman that really annoys you?

TM: For some reason, he refuses to take any credit, insisting I refer to him only as “my letterer.” I don’t know what’s up with that. No, seriously, when you work as closely as we do, most of your differences get put aside fairly quickly. He’s 110% anal retentive and I need that, because it would all turn to shit if we were both slackers like me. So, actually, I’ve grown to appreciate his idiosyncrasies and recognize ’em as things that make this thing of ours run relatively smoothly.

If he wrote a buncha shit about me on this, though, I’m gonna wring his neck.

Since this interview, Robert has written many more great comics, including Invincible and Marvel Zombies. He is currently a partner at Image Comics. You can find out what he’s up to these days at www.kirkmania.com.

Tony Moore has continued to contribute his incredible art to comic books including Fear Agent, Ghost Rider, and Punisher, just to name a few. Visit his web site at http://tonymooreillustration.com/ to find out more.