Today’s featured artist on Artist August is likely someone most of you are not yet familiar with, but come October, you will all be well aware of him. His name is Tradd Moore, and he is the penciler/inker of Image Comics’ upcoming buzzed about title “The Strange Talent of Luther Strode.” Having read the first two issues already, I can assure you – the hype is deserved, and don’t forget to read our interview with that upcoming release’s writer Justin Jordan from earlier today.
Tradd’s art is incredible, and today we chat about his development as an artist, the dream of working with Neil Gaiman, Takashi Miike as an influence, and how mind blowing it is to see The Strange Talent of Luther Strode all over the comics Internet. Thanks to Tradd for chatting with us, and look for a whole lot more from him in the future.
Tradd Moore: Building the skills to get here has definitely been a natural progression, but the desire to be a comic book artist has been a constant. I can’t recall ever having a eureka moment about it, I’ve been drawing comics, cartoons, and sci-fi stuff for as long as I can remember. It’s one of those things that became synonymous with my personality really early on. My dad used to travel a lot, so when he’d come back from a long business trip he would bring back comics for my brother and me. The three of us would sit around for hours and redraw panels from the comics, but, unlike the two of them, I just never stopped!
That’s awesome – so you’ve been a lifelong fan of comics. When you were growing up, what were the books that were influencing your art?
TM: I loved just about any Marvel comic when I was younger, but, without a doubt, my favorite was X-Men. Seriously, as a kid I was borderline obsessive. Lucky for me, X-Men books tend to attract fantastic creative talent, so those comics were the gateway that introduced me to a lot of the artists who have influenced me over the years. Guys like The Kubert brothers, John Romita Jr., Frank Quitely, Barry Windsor Smith, Leinil Yu, and John Cassaday all have runs on X-Men or Wolverine that have stuck with me and that I’ll return to for inspiration time and time again. I also bought a collected reprint of Stan Lee and John Buscema’s first six issues of The Silver Surfer back in 9th or 10th grade, that one was a real eye opener as well.
Oh man, that was the same with me. I tried to teach myself how to draw studying Andy Kubert on X-Men and Adam Kubert on Wolverine (with a little Humberto Ramos on Impulse thrown in) and…well, I’m a writer now. So good on you for turning that into something great.
What about in your adulthood…what have you looked at, not just in comics, to develop the look of your art?
TM: Well, this doesn’t quite count as something that I looked at, but I attended the Savannah College of Art and Design (graduated a year ago, class of 2010) and my time there was vital to my development. Classes helped me hone my skills and furthered my understanding of anatomy, environments, story telling, and all the fundamentals of drawing. I can’t stress enough the importance of practicing the fundamentals to all up and coming artists. Copying Adam Kubert can only get a person so far! So yeah, learning to draw from observation as well as participating in life drawing has really influenced the look of my work.
Artsy answer aside, I’m always being inspired by new things, be it in movies, video games, comics, whatever. I recently read the first volume of Akira and it effected me immediately. Those backgrounds, good lord. Paul Pope and Craig Thompson’s work inspired me to loosen up a little bit and start inking with a brush. Also, this one is kind of random, but watching Ichi The Killer really made me question how I want to approach violence in my work. When is violence funny? Disturbing? Necessary? Unnecessary? Juvenile? There’s a fine line and a lot of gray when it comes to that kind of over the top stuff, so it’s important to know what you’re trying to say and how to clearly convey your intent when you delve into that sort of thing.Continued below
Interesting…Ichi the Killer. Well, not to transition into The Strange Talent of Luther Strode too early, but the cover alone of Luther Strode features a fist dripping with blood. Did the lessons from Takashi Miike’s absolutely insane cult classic factor into your work on that upcoming book?
TM: Ha, yeah, definitely. Without getting into any specifics, I can tell you that The Strange Talent of Luther Strode is a very violent book, but that’s about as far as the similarities between Ichi and Luther go. Ichi the Killer isn’t just relentlessly violent, the story itself is about violence. Weird, disturbing, S&M violence, no less. That’s not the type of story that I myself would be interested in drawing, and lucky for me, Luther Strode is not like that at all. The story that Justin Jordan has crafted is certainly blood soaked and gore heavy, but violence is not the heart of the comic. Luther Strode is, to me, a coming of age tale. Unlike a lot of splatter house films/comics/whatever, Luther is full of likable, relatable characters with motives that actually make sense, and I think that makes all the difference. Context is the key! It makes all the crazy stuff that happens in the book seem more vital. Invincible has always handled hyper violence really well, that type of vibe is more similar to the way we’ve been approaching things in our book.
It sounds like you and Justin are pretty in sync as far as the direction of the book. How did the two of you get together for this book? Was it something you developed together?
TM: Justin actually found me on Deviant Art about two years ago now. He sent me an email asking if I would be interested in drawing this story of his, The Strange Talent of Luther Strode (it’s totally his thing, I’ve had nothing to do with the writing or concept). At this point I was going into my senior year of college, so I was just flattered to have someone interested in working with me. I read a few comics that he had done for Zuda and could tell that he wasn’t just some hack writer. Plus, I really liked the concept, so I figured I might as well give it a shot. And, whew, good thing I did. It took the three of us (don’t forget about our awesome colorist, Felipe Sobreiro) twice as long to get the pitch together as it has for us to finish three issues, but alas, here we are.
Oh, and as for us being in sync, we’ve never met before, but I’m fairly certain we all share some sort of uncanny mind link. It’s crazy. It really has been a joy to work with Justin and Felipe on this book, the whole thing coming together fantastically.
With the book still three months away from release, early word from a lot of really high level people – namely Eric Stephenson – has touted Luther Strode as the next big thing. Is that completely blowing your mind?
TM: Dude, it really is. The fact that I’m even in contact with Eric Stephenson is still cool to me. It’s always been my dream to make it as an artist in the comic book industry, so these past couple of months have been a very bizarre and exciting experience. A little stressful, too. Seeing Image’s PR for Luther Strode posted on the front page of Newsarama was surreal. Honestly though, as awesome as it would be to have Luther Strode sell a ton of copies, whether or not it becomes the next big thing isn’t what makes our team tick. We all feel very passionately about the book, so whether it sells like crazy or simply putters along, we’re proud of the comic that we’re producing and hope that all those who read it will enjoy it as much as we do.
I can’t even imagine seeing a project I worked on making it to the front page of Newsarama. I would totally have a nerdgasm while existing in complete disbelief. Congrats though – it sounds like it is all deserved.Continued below
So for Luther Strode, are you sticking to pencils and ink, or are you using a little bit of digital wizardry in there as well?
TM: Thanks, man! I appreciate it. And as for Luther Strode, I am indeed sticking to the traditional stuff, I let Felipe be the digital wizard with his coloring. The good thing about inking my own work is that I don’t have to go nearly as far in the penciling stage. I do a small set of thumbs, then rough out the full size page, then it’s straight into the inks. I get asked this a decent bit, so I’ll go ahead and throw this in there even though you didn’t ask yet, I ink primarily with brush. I use tech pens for certain architectural or mechanical things, but yeah, everything else is brush. I can’t see myself ever going the digital route for inking, but I would love to mess around more with digital tones in the future. I really like the look of tones on black and white work.
Alright, let’s say Luther Strode is a huge success and the world is your oyster. Can you think of any dream project you’d like to get off the ground? Or is the mere act of turning Strode into a reality dream fulfillment enough?
TM: Don’t get me wrong, getting Luther Strode published by Image is absolutely a dream come true, but I do have a couple of projects that I would kill to get off the ground or be a part of. I have this character/comic called Hateful that I created years ago and it’s a total passion project of mine. It started as a comic strip about a guy who grossly and violently overreacts to mildly frustrating situations, but since then it has kind of evolved into something else entirely. It’s an ultra-violent, action packed, dark comedy, so yeah, what’s not to like? I have a hundred something page OGN roughly planned out in my head, so now I play the waiting game…
As for comics that I would just love to be a part of, if I could work on a Wolverine, X-Men, or Silver Surfer book one of these days, I’d be a happy man. Also, if Neil Gaiman ever wanted to do a Sandman mini, I’d do it for free. That’s not saying much considering where I am in my career, but pretend I get paid a lot and maybe the “I’d do it for free” part will carry some weight.
That sounds fantastic – I hope we can see Hateful happen some day. The world needs more ultra violent dark comedies (and that is not a joke).
Last couple questions…so you’re in the process of transitioning from fan to full out creator. Have you met anyone yet (or is there anyone that you could meet) that would just blow your mind and turn you back into your former fan self instantly?
TM: I’m pretty good about keeping my composure, so I don’t know that anyone would cause me to lose it and “geek out” (not in front of them, at least), but there are a ton of artists and creators that I would be completely jazzed to meet. Too many to list, actually, so I’ll just tell a story about a previous encounter. Last year I met Olivier Coipel, who in my opinion is easily one of the best superhero artists in the business, at DragonCon and was on a high afterward. It was the first con I had ever attended, so I was really nervous to approach him. After about an hour of lurking around artist alley, I finally walked over to his table and asked if he would take a look at my work. He looked over my portfolio, gave me some really good advice, and was just an all around cool guy. There’s nothing better than meeting someone you look up to and having them completely live up to your expectations. He later ran into me in one of the other lobbies and gave me a little “keep it up, you’re almost there!” pep talk, which was extremely encouraging coming from him.Continued below
That is amazing! Incredibly encouraging, and it’s great that someone of Coipel’s stature is so approachable.
Speaking of favorites, who are your favorite artists working in comics today?
TM: Ah, this is one of those questions that you always know is coming, but it doesn’t make it any easier! I’ll do my best to keep this list shorter than a novel. I think ten is a solid number to shoot for, so here it goes: Frank Quitely, Olivier Coipel, Sean Murphy, Ryan Ottley, John Romita Jr., The Kubert Family (I’m counting them as one even though that’s entirely unfair), Geof Darrow, Gary Frank, Tony Moore, and Leinil Yu. Ah, nevermind that ten thing, Jerome Opena and Rafael Grampa are amazing, too. OH, and Travis Charest. All of these guys are absolutely top notch and I’m consistently impressed with and inspired by the work they put out.
Alright, well if that was expected, how about this. You’re stuck on a desert island – what book, movie, album and comic are there with you?
TM: Oh, that’s a good one. I know immediately what movie I’d have: The Matrix. A smart, exciting, and impeccably made sci-fi kung fu movie? Doesn’t get much better than that. I’d gladly watch it over and over again until my dying day. As much as I’d like to say something that makes me look super intellectual here, I’d definitely bring the Harry Potter series as my book choice. What can I say? I’m a child of my generation. I’ve been reading the Harry Potter books since elementary school and I can’t think of any book series closer to my heart than this one. The album choice would be tough… but I think I’d go with Leviathan by Mastodon. It is without a doubt one of my top 5 favorite albums and its Moby Dick inspired nautical themes would compliment my desert island situation. I saved the best for last, the comic I’d bring would be The Sandman. I don’t feel like I need to do much explaining here, the comic is just amazing. It was one of, if not THE first non-superhero books I had ever read and it really broadened my perspective of what could be done with comics and storytelling in general. Some close seconds would be Planetary and 100 Bullets.
This is the official last question: What’s next for Tradd Moore? Any other projects coming down the pipeline?
TM: Well, things are kind of up in the air at this point. There are a few opportunities that have been presented to me, but it’s too early to know anything for certain. I’m just taking it day by day and keeping myself as busy as I can. Plus, I have a couple issues left to do on Luther Strode, so that’s where all my efforts are going currently. So yeah, a lot of what comes next depends on how successful or not Luther Strode is, we’ll see what happens. Go out and pre-order a copy of The Strange Talent of Luther Strode at your local comic shops everybody (it’s available for order in the August Previews Catalogue), then pick it up on October 5. You won’t be disappointed!