Dissecting Half Past Danger with Stephen Mooney!

rshpd2stephen-mooneyWith the release of the Half Past Danger Hardback Edition, I thought it would be a perfect time to present my interview with Stephen Mooney. As I wandered around the Thought Bubble Convention Hall I noticed someone sitting and drawing dinosaurs, and I began to smile for I had finally found the man responsible for Half Past Danger. He has been involved with comics for approximately ten and a half years and began in Ireland with a book called Freak Show. We were not even sure if it had reached the UK let alone international waters but after a couple of years he was noticed by IDW and has been there ever since. As I politely interrupted his sketching to ask for a signature, I wondered if he would grant me an interview. He was lovely and very welcoming which was very pleasing to me because I had some burning questions. These revolved mainly around the idea of being your own writer and having no restrictions on your subject material. Which led to the seemingly uncontrolled frenzy of drawing a comic with ninjas, dinosaurs and Nazis. It sounds like an excitable child throwing his favourite toys into a bag. As I delicately put this to him in a very mild mannered way, I also iterated that the final result was an impress work of fantastical adventure.

“To be honest it kind of amalgamated over, I guess, two or three years. I’ve had in my mind’s eye for a long time, maybe since I was a teenager. I always assumed that I’d find someone eventually who would ask me to draw a comic with dinosaurs and Nazis and stuff. But that never happened so it dawned on me that to get it done I’d actually have to conceive it, write it and pitch it myself as a full project, which I hadn’t really considered doing before. But then once I thought about the fact that I could get full control over it and it could be potentially exactly what I wanted to be, I got really excited at that prospect. There was a bit of interest, which I was very encouraged by, because I was very nervous having never professionally written anything before.”

And then we got onto the genesis of the actual idea:

“The idea, it was just basically as a child it’s all the movies I used to watch on TV, largely Indiana Jones, Flash Gordon, Dr Samson, the Phantom, all kinds of Americano and the shows set in the deepest darkest jungle such as King Solomon’s Mines. I used to watch this stuff every Saturday afternoon and I think I was just coalescing into an idea in my mind. I mean you talk to any comic’s person and I think they’ll always have like just this one idea where they think “I can do a good job if I got the chance. I could tell this one story and I couldn’t do anything else there’s one thing I can do a good job of.”

“I then started thinking, “I love to draw some of this but who’s going to write it?” Then it dawned on me. “Okay I can write this. I mean why not?” I know the genre really well, I might not be an experienced writer, but I do know I think how to do it. There’s a lot more creative, obviously none of these characters exist, and as I say it’s a completely fantastic or ridiculous situation, which makes it so much more freeing. It was just like the Holy Grail for me to work on.”

It sounded incredibly refreshing to be allowed to create something you have always dreamed of doing, and the enthusiasm with which he spoke made that incredibly clear. I commented upon how impressive his drawings of dinosaurs actually were, especially how they had great ability to induce fear.

“I love to draw dinosaurs. Women I think are my favourite to draw, the kind of classic Americana, the dames. You can see it on some of the covers. That’s my favourite thing to draw followed by dinosaurs, followed by ninjas, and followed by Nazis. There’s no page where I dreaded getting into it’s like “This is going to be boring.” Every single page I was like “Oh yeah this is great, I’ve seen this in my mind’s eye, I can’t wait to get drawing.” Which is I think what gave me the motivation to see the whole thing through is when you’re going to love the material so much.

I deliberated a little on my reviewing process and how often I separate the art and writing in analysis, but ultimately how coherently they combine provides ultimate success. In this scenario I felt the book really clicked together because he was in charge of both, and was allowed the freedom to express artistically.

“Yes, I think it made it so much more seamless. I mean some writers you’ll get have a brilliant visual sense and it’s really easy to work with them. You know exactly what they’re going for in their descriptions. But then some writers you’ll get come from a pure writing background and they’ll write a very elaborate description. What you end up doing is problem solving and trying to shoehorn an image around what they say just to make it fit their description, where it would have been so much easier that you had been able to, from scratch, just come up with that visual yourself. Then you get the dialogue or you knew what characters need to be in and the basic gist of it. So when I was writing my scripts I left so much of it out. Any sort of shot descriptions or anything, because I knew already all I had to do was describe the characters that were there, who was speaking to who, the order of speech. Then the basic, give the idea of what was happening. Then I knew even as I was writing it exactly what it was going to look it. So that made it a very seamless process. There was no wrestling with any of the visuals. They all came really quickly, the layouts flowed out really fast and I think it’s my best stuff definitely.”

We then discussed how the simplicity with which the book tells the story and expresses itself, is why I adore it so much. Stephen does not over complicate the plot but allows his art to deliver in a very gratifying way without the over indulgence that can happen when unrestrained.

“It is certainly a simple animal. It’s almost a vehicle to tell – you see what I was afraid of going in was “Well I don’t want just a bunch of cool set pieces and then a wafer thing pot line tying that together.” I need to have some sort of a narrative that’s like meaty enough that it will keep the interest, but also straight enough and simple enough that it moves at like real pace and it keeps the reader convinced that this is a decent story and not just like a Michael Bay movie, that just has this savage action scene. Then you have to go through five minutes of the ridiculous exposition, waiting for the next action scene. That’s what I didn’t want it to be. I agree with what you’re saying. I think that’s the reason I intentionally tried to keep it quite simple.”

With that the interview was concluded and I was very grateful for his time. It is an interesting consideration when reading a book with a single creator. Not only was this a passion realised but he did not over indulge and make it unrealistic. There was a solid plot with convincing characters that underwent significant twists and turns. It played out as a great action adventure story with some breathtaking artwork. I implore you to pick up the collected edition as there are some spectacular extras including commentary, alternate covers and additional sketches. It will sit proudly on your shelf.

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