We had a fascinating chat with Omar Morales, writer of the new Scout Comics book The Lunar Ladies, to dig deeper below the surface of this sci-fi saga inspired by the Golden Age character Moon Girl.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Thank you for your time, Omar, and for answering our questions. What is your duty of care to the original Moon Girl character and comics? How did you preserve the essence of the EC comics character while telling new stories and how do you know what to throw out and what to keep?
OMAR MORALES: I kept the basic framework of the Moon Girl lore intact for The Lunar Ladies interpretation for Scout Comics. Still intact are things like the central character, Clare, descending from a long line of warrior women from the moon, and as long as she wears the moonstone necklace, she is invincible in battle. I thought it’d be interesting to explore that if the moonstone is a family heirloom, and her mother has to give up the necklace, how does that leave the family vulnerable? What happens if a villain gets ahold of the necklace – this is akin to Lex Luthor obtaining some kryptonite. So, I took some latitude to explore an original story. That’s the deal with public domain characters – you have to tweak them in a way that’s original, otherwise, it’s against the spirit of the public domain rules to just parrot somebody else’s existing interpretation.
CBY: Did you study the 2011 reboot of the character too and were any elements of that series used in your tale? When did you first encounter the original Moon Girl book and what appealed to you about it?
OM: I did not study the 2011 reboot, in fact, I’ve never read a single panel of the Red 5 interpretation of the character as not to be influenced one way or the other. It helped keep my ideation process pure, kind of like an actor not studying another actor’s version of an established character. I did some basic research on the character when I answered the call for pitches for the “Not Forgotten” anthology which focused on re-telling new stories with old public domain characters from the Golden Age of comics. That was a fun anthology to be a part of.
CBY: There's a strong sense of design in your book, specifically title design, the bright colours, the stylised cave drawings, the look of the Big Boy clones and the aged paper effect. How much of this was directed by you and how much by the artist or was it a collaboration and what were you trying to convey?
OM: I directed things like the logo, the color palette, the cave paintings and the Big Boy clones. The Big Boys are actually a riff on a mascot for an old chain of California hamburger restaurants called Bob’s Big Boy Burgers – those who remember that chain will see the connection! I specifically hired the amazing Paula Goulart to do the colors because she has mastered the art of staining and fading pages to make them look like they’re a hundred years old — she is one of my favorite people in comics, so professional, energetic and meticulous!
The artist, Joel Cotejar, had carte blanche on things like costume design and vehicle design. I gave him some loose references, where they existed, like the moonship, but outside of that, I sent him a bunch of retro-futurism art from the 1960s and let him go wild. I really hope the cave paintings survive the editorial process, but that is up to Scout Comics—perhaps they’ll survive for the trade paperback version of The Lunar Ladies and not the single issues. We’ll see.
CBY: The Lunar Ladies is an emotional story, but there are comedy elements too. How conscious were you of balancing those elements?
OM: So many of the Golden Age stories were very thin action stories, or silly and slap-sticky, so I wanted to preserve some of that light and breezy feel. Where the emotion comes into play for me is as a parent—that is a big part of this story, what it is like to be a parent of a little girl that’s pushing her boundaries and finding her voice in the world? Some readers may think that Clare’s behavior is inconsistent or polarizing, but a parent will immediately understand and recognize the wide range of emotions and actions expressed by a little girl. If that flies over your head, then just enjoy the ray guns, laser rays and pew-pew, because that really is the appeal of this book—retro Sci-Fi fun.
"Where the emotion comes into play for me is as a parent...what it is like to be a parent of a little girl that’s pushing her boundaries and finding her voice in the world?... If that flies over your head, then just enjoy the ray guns, laser rays and pew-pew, because that really is the appeal of this book—retro Sci-Fi fun."
CBY: Who is the audience for this book? Who will this appeal to and who would you like it to appeal to?
OM: Great question! I wrote this book for my own kids, so let’s call it "middle-grade" on the surface. However, if you’re an octogenarian that remembers Buck Rogers, then this book is right up your alley, too! And for all of my fellow History Channel nerds: this title is loaded with ancient astronaut theory Easter eggs, and I mean loaded. For the uninitiated, the ancient astronaut theory posits that Earth has been visited for thousands, nay millions, of years by space travelers and that the Earth and Moon are both littered with evidence of this theory. As the saying goes, “I’m not saying it was aliens…but it was aliens!” Ha!
CBY: What was the thinking behind the art change for the Origin story at the end? Both art styles are great but was this a conscious storytelling decision too?
OM: Ah yes, the bonus story by the great Argentine artist Nic Touris! I wanted the bonus story to be unique and something that could stand alone, like a sweet dessert after a savory meal…if that makes sense. I remember when my daughter first saw the pages of the bonus story, she reacted with “woo, this is like bubble gum!” I really enjoyed that reaction. Nic is a great friend and another one of my favorite people in all of comics. I’m glad he and I finally got to work together on this story that tells the origin of my favorite character in this book, the revolutionary from the planet Mars, General Renee Carter. Here again, I really hope that the bonus story survives the editorial process and lives on in the trade paperback version of The Lunar Ladies.
CBY: What was your favourite moment in the planning and writing of this book and what comes next? New Moon Girl Stories, or something different (maybe another public domain character?)
OM: That’s tough to answer because I love all aspects of the comic book-making process. One thing I really enjoyed about this title was creating the promotional material for the Kickstarter a few years ago. I used a lot of 8-bit renditions of the characters, or 8-bit font to layer a 1980s vibe over the 1940s Golden Age vibe. Right now, I don’t have any plans to continue the story with these characters, but you can never say never. What’s next for me is Major Thomás – an original SciFi graphic novel I’ve been prepping for years—that one is my dream project and my opus. I have a few other things in the works but nothing I can really talk about in any detail. If anyone is interested in my projects, they can follow me on Twitter, @TheCruZader, or they can check out my website, www.theforcemedia.com.
CBY: Why do you think the Kickstarter campaign was such a big success and what was your marketing strategy for selling the world on a book inspired by a character from the past?
OM: People buy into artwork they like—and how can you not love the clean lines of Joel Cotejar with the incredible golden-age colors from Paula Goulart? On top of that, you had additional contributions from Nic Touris and Taylor Esposito, and cover art from Renae De Liz, Matt Harding, and Molly Satterthwaite. That is an eclectic mix of artists from all over the world, which helped me draw an international audience. I think that’s what drove people to the campaign, not so much that they are hard-core fans of a public domain character from 75 years ago. Also, I got a push from Camilla Zhang at Kickstarter — she selected my campaign as a “project we love” and also featured the book in an e-mail newsletter targeted at heavy comics backers.
CBY: What do you think readers in the past made of a woman who often has to rescue her male sidekick, and hailed from far-off Uzbekistan, and were you trying to subvert those elements in your story or jettison them altogether?
OM: I suppose I jettisoned those elements altogether. Because my version is a little girl, I wanted her to have a playmate, a best friend, instead of a boyfriend like how the original Moon Girl had Prince Mengu. With my version, I get to explore some of the mischief that kids get into when they are off running around, out of view from their parents. Then I also get to explore some trauma and drama in that friendship which forces our cherubic little girl to grow up and step up in the climax of the story. Doing it that way was more satisfying to me than trying to recreate some of the classic bondage themes that we got with Wonder Woman and Moon Girl back in the golden age.
CBY: What comics do you enjoy reading and which cartoonists or writers have been the people you never miss a book from?
OM: I mostly buy comics from friends via Kickstarter these days, but I have kept up with Fire Power from Chris Samnee, Bobby Kirkman and Image/Skybound – it’s a great book! I’m also having a great time discovering some newer Vault Comics titles – the EIC at Vault is very generous in sharing digital preview copies of #1 issues with me, and I return the favor by buying into subsequent issues. As most folks that make indie comics know, it gets harder and harder to read comics when you’re crazy busy working on your own projects—especially if you have a day job and a family like I do.
CBY: Thank you, Omar!