Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Stephen Mooney Interview

First Tipton, then Messina, and now we welcome ANGEL artist Stephen Mooney to Buffyverse Comic Reviews! Read on to see what this gracious, talented, and supremely Irish man had to say about his work in comics.

Buffyverse Comic Reviews: First of all, thanks for doing this. Let’s start off with the basics. How did you get into being a comic artist in the first place? Was it always your dream?

Stephen Mooney: You're more than welcome man, thanks for having me!
I got into comics in a roundabout way, through animation. I had always wanted to draw for a living, and comics were my weapon of choice as a teenager. In Ireland there's no dedicated college course on comicbooks, but there is a very reputable animation college in Dublin. So I figured that I could take that course and draw 8 hours a day 5 days a week, thus gaining a grounding in the same basic aspects of drawing required for comics, ie life-drawing, storytelling, layout etc.
I started freelancing straight out of college, for the first couple of years mostly as a storyboard artist for ad agencies, then two years in a Dublin based animation house called Boulder Media in the background dept, and then finally to full-time comics from there around five years ago.

BCR: How did you first get involved with IDW?

Mooney: After 2 years on an Irish book called Freakshow I emailed (then relatively new EIC of IDW) Chris Ryall after hearing that he'd hired a couple of Irish guys in the recent past. I figured I could play the Blarney card. Chris couldn't have been more responsive and pleasant(or better groomed), and he made me feel right at home straight away. There happened to be a CSI script on his desk looking for an artist at that very moment, and he figured I might be a good fit. After 5 years at this game I've come to realise that timing is 50%, and who you know is the other 50%. There are a lot've guys who're good enough to draw and write these books, opportunity plays such a massive part.

BCR: You’re well known for your work on ANGEL and THE MUMMY, but where can Mooney fans go if they want to see more of your stuff? Are there any other books you’ve been a part of?

Mooney: Well as I mention above, I started with IDW on a CSI series called 'Dying in The Gutters' in 2006, which was a fun whodunnit set firmly in the world of comics at the San Diego comic convention.

Before that I spent 2 years on an Irish book called Freakshow, which was basically Scooby Doo as re-imagined by Tim Burton, a lotta fun. I also drew a series for Fangoria Comics at one point called 'Strangeland: Sevin Sins', but only the first issue of that was released before the company went under. It was all completed though, and they keep threatening to release it in it's entirety as a graphic novel, so who knows.

The last two years has been pretty dominated by Angel work, with the Mummy series somewhere in between.

I've had a few short stories here and there in Irish and British anthology books also. Tough stuff to track down, even I don't have copies of everything.

BCR: You expressed interest in working on AFTER THE FALL ever since it was announced. You even drew up a few pages of the alley fight. How did it feel when you were called in to work on the pivotal arc of issues #12-14? How were you approached?

Mooney: How was I approached? It was more a case of when was I unleashed! I remember I got a mail from Chris, under the subject heading of ANGEL that consisted of one line that said 'We're ready for you'. That was to draw the Connor and Kate segments of First Night. To say I was thrilled would be somewhere beneath an understatement. I had been badgering Chris since I came onboard IDW to let me at the Angel books, but I didn't think I'd ever really get a shot since David Messina was doing such an amazing job there already. But Chris had let me know that sooner rather than later, big things would be happening in the Angelverse and more troops would be required. When I heard that Joss was working on a comicbook continuation to the show, that's when I drew those sample pages up to 'audition' for the job. I didn't know that the artist had already been chosen for the book(the amazing Franco Urru), and I'm kind've glad now that I didn't come on board until later as I don't think my abilities were quite sharpened enough at that point. So to start on issues 6+7 was perfect for me. Those stories seemed to get a pretty strong reaction, along with Nick's Wesley story, which I think was probably the main factor in us getting the nod from Chris and Brian to tackle those meatier arcs further on. For me, getting to draw the issue 12-14 arc was beyond perfect, as Cordelia is my favourite female Buffyverse character(followed closely by Anya and Fred, fact-fans), and this was a chance to really do her justice. I was a massive fan of her send-off in 'You're Welcome', so I was a little dubious about her return at first. But once the scripts started coming in from Brian those fears were allayed big-time.

BCR: What was it like to draw all those epic moments?

Mooney: SO cool. Real, character defining, in-continuity moments for some of my favourite characters? Yes please. Cordy coming back, Illyria unleashed, Connor finally growing up... I mean, I was and am such a fan of the show, and this is pivotal stuff, so yeah... I was a happy bunny.

BCR: The pages you worked on brought a lot of old characters back. How did it feel tackling likenesses of characters like Kate, who had never appeared in the comics before?

Mooney: It was grand really, likenesses don't really bother me(although I wouldn't mind working on a book soon WITHOUT any likenesses...). It was just such a thrill to be involved that all technical concerns like that became secondary. You just work it out. Cordy was the most fun, as she's such a looker. That said, I do love drawing Kate and was so happy that she has a little upcoming cameo with Angel in issue 26. She discovers where she'd left the key to her wardrobe.

BCR: Something you’ve said a few times is that NOT FADE AWAY is your favorite episode of television, period. Well, that’s something we have in common. How did it feel to work on an adaptation episode you love so much?

Mooney: Daunting! I mean, in all honesty, my initial reaction to the offer of working on it was 'really? um... hasn't that already been done, like, really quite well?'. As you mentioned, I do consider that episode as being pretty untouchable. But then I've always been a bit of a groper. So when I sat down and tried breaking down some of the scenes, I realised that maybe comics could bring a little something new to the tale. Little changes of angle and perspective here, and a totally different shot there could maybe bring out that tiny bit of nuance in a certain look, or emotive response. As to how successful the adaptation was is anybody's guess, but myself and (the fantastic) Scott Tipton were quite proud of the results, and felt that we at least managed to provide a slightly different take. There's an argument that such adaptations aren't all that necessary, why repeat something like that? But I think that maybe there is sufficient gold to be mined, and there's certainly fun in trying. At the end of the day the books are there for those interested in such new takes on old favourites, and can be ignored by those who don't feel the need.

Different strokes for different folks. That said, I did get offered more episode adaptations but turned them down, as I felt that I'd had my say and that other people could bring a fresher perspective.

BCR: If you could do the art for any other Angel adaptation, what episode would it be?

Mooney: See above. If they offered me the Five by Five/Sanctuary two-parter, well then I'd hafta think about it, as I adore Faith and those episodes in particular. Never say never!

BCR: Now, the essential trivia bits. Favorite character? Episode? Season?

Mooney: Favourite characters, in order of preference: Wesley, Angel, Cordy, Doyle, Lorne and Fred/Illyria.
Favourite episodes: Not Fade Away, A Hole in the World, You're Welcome, Darla, I Will Remember You, Hero... the list goes on, way too many.
Favourite Seasons: 5, then 3 for Wesley's arc. All the Darla material in 2 was pretty great. 4 would be my least favourite.

BCR: Out of all the books you’ve worked on, Angel or otherwise, which are you most proud of?

Mooney: Angel, for the fact that what I was getting to draw was so momentous and really meant something in the scheme of things. Also for meeting and getting to work with Brian Lynch. Then, on the other side of the coin, I was really proud of the Mummy book I did with a great writer named Josh Jabcuga. It was a hugely fun, swashbuckling tale in the Raiders of the Lost Ark mould, that was just diametrically opposed to the dark seriousness of Angel. I was dying to do a book like that that was pure action-adventure, and I thought it turned out really well. It had beautiful colouring by a painter friend of mine, Lisa Jackson, which I loved. She also coloured my segments of First Night, actually.

BCR: I know it’s still a few months until the issues come out, but hell… I’m excited. What can you tell me about the BOYS AND THEIR TOYS issues?

Mooney: Um, not much unfortunately, other than what's been described already in the solicitation. I will say that I'd been dying to work with Brian on a proper Angel/Spike tale, where they spend a lot of time in each other's company and have loads of those great back and forths that I love so much from the show. My favourite aspect of Brian's writing is his dialogue, and these scripts certainly didn't disappoint.

BCR: You came to NYCC this year, but I unfortunately missed you. Did you make it to SDCC this year, and did either of your experiences at the cons influence your work on BOYS AND THEIR TOYS?

Mooney: I've been to the San Diego con a few times, and the CSI series I drew was also set there, so I've had a lot of experience with these things! Didn't make it to Comic-con this year as I was in New York earlier and hafta limit my trips to the states to generally once a year. I'll probably be there next time though, I have to go to Brian's house and wee in his pool.

BCR: You’ve also been working with super scribe Brian Lynch on another project that has more in common with DOUBT than it does with ANGEL. How much can you tell us about ONE BAD MOTHER? How did the idea come up, and when did Brian approach you?

Mooney: The idea was mostly Brian's and he talked to me at length about it at the New York con. I LOVE the premise, it's right up my alley. What is the premise? I'm not sure I can say... I don't wanna step on Brian's toes, this book is his baby. I was delighted to be asked to collaborate and have drawn the first 7 pages of the first issue. We've yet to shop it around the publishers to see if anybody bites, but hopefully that'll happen sooner rather than later.
Brian Lynch is one ridiculously busy guy. He does the comics stuff purely for the love of it, he has a full-time job as a (successful!)screenwriter.

He's also an amazing lover.

I hear.

BCR: Any chance we’ll see any more of you on the main ANGEL title or any spin-offs? We need the Mooney fix!

Mooney: You know, I'm really not sure. I was thinking about it, and the annual which I'm working on now could very well be the last Angel book I draw. After nearly two years working mostly on Angel, is that enough? I don't know. I can tell you that I've written a pitch with Brian for a Wesley one-shot/mini, set during season five, which I think is really interesting and delves into stuff to do with his father and the watcher's council, and lots of struggling to come to terms with Fred's death and this new beast named Illyria. I just think there's so much more can be said with the Wesley character, and I'm loathe to let him go! So maybe we'll see that at some point, I don't know.
As for other Angel-related material, I hope so some day.

BCR: Lastly, can you talk a bit about the Eclectic Micks and another other projects you’re working on?

Mooney: Sure! The Ecclectic Micks is a collective of seven Irish comicbook artists that maintain a blog in which we each post a sketch/finished piece/brainfart on our given day of the week. I post every moondog monday, often with Angel-related material.
Being a comicbook artist is indeed a solitary game, and any avenue you can follow that will lead to actual social interaction is indeed a prize worth pursuing.
The lads are all sound, and we get on really well. A couple of them(Nick Roche - Transformers, Stephen Thompson - Star Trek) wallow with me in the IDW gene-pool too. We get tables together at cons and the like, and you'll probably find a bunch of us together at any given event. Tis fun.
We have our first sketchbook coming out soon, with all of the best stuff from the first year of the blog. Folks should come on over to and check us out.
I also have my own blog over at which heavily features Angel artwork. Come say hi!

Thanks Stephen! And what do you say, IDW? Make that Mooney/Lynch Wesley story happen!
a. Freakshow #1 cover
b. Freakshow #11 cover
c, d, e. Angel alley fight demo
f. Angel #26, page 1
g. One Bad Mother #1, page 2
h. One Bad Mother #1, page 5

REVIEW FOR Angel: After the Fall Volume Four
REVIEW FOR Angel: Smile Time HC
INTERVIEW with Fallen Angel artist J. K. Woodward
INTERVIEW with Angel: Only Human writer Scott Lobdell

Pick up Mooney & Lynch's Angel #26 this October!

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