The idea of the Issues with Perspective feature is to highlight a more in depth look at the creators who makes comics and the process behind the making of the issues/series. I am terrible at naming things (take the podcast Pages and Panels, holy shit I hate that name) but the idea is that you will get a better perspective of the issue/series by learning more about the process and the actual creator who made it (Issues with Perspective, get it? Nah). I hope with this feature readers will get a further look into the books they love and the amazing people who make them.
For the next installment of Issues with Perspective I was joined by Michael Moreci and Kyle Charles to talk about their work on the upcoming final installment of the Roche Limit series; Roche Limit: Monadic. Monadic will follow up the previous volumes of Anomalous (with series original artist and co-creator Vic Malhotra) and Clandestiny to bring an end to the trilogy. Michael and Kyle discuss the series, their process, influences and their workspace.
Below you will find the interview with Michael and Kyle. A huge thanks to the guys for taking the time to talk about the series and their work. Be sure to pre-order Roche Limit: Monadic at your local shop by February 22nd and pick it up in stores on March 16th. Roche Limit Volumes 1 and 2 are in stores and online now as well.
Michael Moreci/Kyle Charles and Roche Limit: Monadic
"That’s the message I wanted to deliver from the very start—despite our failings as humans, we are all, each and every one of us, a remarkable species, and we’re beyond lucky to be alive" - Michael Moreci
Who is Roche Limit:Monadic?
- Michael Moreci, Writer
- Kyle Charles, Artist
- Matt Battaglia, Colorist
- Ryan Ferrier, Letterer
- Tim Daniels, Designer
What is Roche Limit: Monadic?
Earth is in ruins after the Black Sun’s annihilation of the planet. Now, in the last remaining human city, its inhabitants fight for survival while a chosen few realize that their world may not be what it seems.
Why should readers pick up Roche Limit: Monadic?
Kyle Charles: Roche Limit is full of questions. And it looked good. That was enough for me to start buying the book when Mike, Vic and crew debuted it.
I like that our series is challenging readers in the right way. Stories are driven by questions but the good ones leave you searching for answers after the story has ended. My fingers are crossed that some readers walk away with that same feeling. It's why I've always loved movies like 'Chinatown'. You've gotta know why and by doing so you buy into the characters who are asking the same questions as you, dissolving the border between audience and story.
But honestly, when you''re in the middle of making something like we are with Monadic, you don't have a solid idea if it's good.. It's a blur of deadlines, excitement, boredom and dread. You just try to make it something that'd you'd like. We balanced the familiar tropes in our stories with some heavy, heavy experimentation.
After finally finishing Roche Limit Clandestiny, I still didn't know if it was good. Not when it hit the shelves and not when the last issue shipped. Only when the trade came out and I sat down to read it all in one go did I realize that we did some really strange work. Not all of it good and not all of it to the quality that we know we're capable of, but as a rookie in this industry, it's becoming apparent that nearly every creator faces similar afflictions. But I think our team was fearless in that set of books and RLC is a mushroom trip experience with some major highs.
Monadic is a return to noir which our team kicks ass at. So if you're looking for some of that, check out Roche Limit: Monadic
When/Where/How can readers get Roche Limit: Monadic?
KC: Hopefully, they'll be able to purchase it at the closest comic shop or online somewhere. March 16th? I'm pretty sure that's the date.
"So day and night I'd watch pigeons, listen to drunks and young hipster photography students. " - Kyle Charles
What was a normal workday/writing session like for the first issue of Roche Limit: Monadic?
Michael Moreci: This volume was, by far, the toughest to write. I think I tormented poor Kyle, unintentionally, because I had an entire script written for issue #1—the whole thing, done—and I scrapped it. We even had the first cover done, but I wasn’t happy with the story. I wasn’t happy with the direction, the tone, nothing, so I had to toss it, and I’m glad I did. What we have now, without a doubt, is much better.
That said, a lot of Roche Limit is written to music—I find this to be the most atmospheric book I’ve ever done, and music helps set the tone. So, usually, I’d spend an afternoon at my day job, listening to my Roche Limit mix and taking notes on Monadic’s story, theme, look and feel. Then, at night, I’d put my kids to sleep and get to scripting.
KC: No shit, this isn't because he just passed away and I'd like to ass kiss, but for me Monadic took shape when Bowie released the 'Blackstar' single (and later the album). I'm a HUGE Bowie fan, he was a fixture alongside Queen in my house as a kid. Mainly because we had a giant record collection and it was overflowing with the best stuff from the 70's and 80's. So Bowie, Prince, MJ and Queen were musicians that I got to know as an individual at a young age.
Music is always my driver when it comes to visualizing a story. Monadic has a great script but because there are characters from Vol 1, I felt a slight hiccup in coming up with the tone and feel for the book, on my end. I didn't want to stray from what Mike and Vic did but of course wanted add my own style.
I was having a hard time with Alex. Vic and I are friends, so I knew from him directly who he had envisioned playing Alex, because it's easier to draw a character when you can fill the role with an existing actor. For vol 1, his choice was dead on and that actor would've killed it as Alex. But I like weirdos. So I cast the coolest weirdo I could think of who was charming, intelligent, cunning and could be dangerous. David Bowie. And it was only reinforced when 'Blackstar' hit online. So my version of Alex is Bowie.
Creatively, music is the gateway to good ideas. And any good science reads.
What would you say was total time spent for your portion of the work on an issue?
MM: I depends, though I never really calculate. A lot of the legwork for Monadic, thematically, was done as I wrote and developed Anomalous and Clandestiny. I’ve always known what I’ve wanted to say in Monadic, and I know the exact ending. Getting there is what turned out to be the hurdle. The first issue, as mentioned above, was a real challenge, and I spent a lot of hours, writing, rewriting, to get it right. I thought issue #2 would be easier, but it turned out that was damn near as hard! Same goes for issue #3. Maybe I’m just psyching myself out because I can conceive of a world where I’m not writing Roche Limit. But come another few weeks, when I finish writing issue #4, that’s going to be the case.
KC: About a page a day, ranging from 6 to 12 hours depending on the page. So a month of work if it was done consecutively.
What was/is your work space while working on the issue?
MM: I do a lot of mental work at home, then I have a very narrow work space on the top floor of my house. It’s basically the hallway leading to the roof, with little cubbies for storage. But my big ol’ roll top desk fits up there, so that’s where I work.
The desk itself is always a mess of notes, books, comics, and toys. I’ve been drowning in Star Wars action figures for months now. But I like that—it helps balance the sterility of my day job work space.
KC: Not my drafting table.
Any kitchen table available. Lap boards. Friend's living rooms. Even inside a car on a road trip. It's not like it makes what I do so much more incredible because I had to produce it from somewhere that wasn't my drafting table, shaking my delicate sensibilities.
But when you work you like to be comfortable, you like having your drafting table, your little side table for inks, tools and for your water bottle or whatever bottle you may have sitting around. It's your goalie net. Your station. So it's awesome when you can walk into a room and operate from the pilot seat of your comic book.
But for Monadic, I didn't have that. Which may have made the work better because I didn't do it in comfort, which is kind of like the rest of my life, people arise to challenges. Mine was drawing the book in environments that aren't normally conducive to focusing and producing. It kept me honest, so less ideas were over baked like some of the stuff I tried in RLC. It was fast, loose and in a weird way, more comfortable than if it were produced from the drafting table.
What are the tools/applications/research you used most in the creation of Roche Limit: Monadic?
KC: I changed up my tools for Monadic, which is apparently a good thing because the line work is more relaxed and expressive. I started relying more on brush than tech pen. I used hard lines for backgrounds but kept the characters in brush for the most part. Mike attached reference for this series so I had sources to draw from, which was nice.
What is the situation that gets the most productivity out of you?
MM: Most people don’t know this, but I’m a really competitive person. But, I’m competitive inwardly mainly—meaning I’m constantly competing against myself. I want my work to be great, I want to write books that are important and meaningful, and I enjoy pushing myself to find new ways to do that and to make my work, and myself, better. So, part of my motivation comes from my inner drive, which never stops pushing me. That’s just me, in life. I’m always pushing for better.
When I’m working on something that’s challenging my in the right way, that’s engaging my mind at a high level, that’s when I’m most productive. Roche Limit did that, as did Burning Fields and Curse. I’m working on a few things now that are hitting that sweet spot, and its those books, and those situations, that make me love being a writer.
KC: I'm at my most productive when I'm completely alone and I can turn my music up loud.
Working around others can be good, too. Whenever I go over to Nat Jones' house and we work in his beautiful studio, that usually makes it really easy to work because you're surrounded by old movie posters, props and tons of art books. Not to mention having the ear of a skilled artist like Nat.
In the summer, I love working anywhere that's a few stories up and has a window to look out of. A lot of RLC was drawn sitting at a window sill wide enough for my work, downtown facing a back alley. So day and night I'd watch pigeons, listen to drunks and young hipster photography students.
What media were you engaged with during the creation of Roche Limit: Monadic (music/movies/books/games) that helped the creation process or that you just happened to be into at that time?
MM: For movies, there’s a whole bunch that have their DNA over Roche Limit. Blade Runner, Aliens, Solaris, 2001, and Dark City are probably the most notable. Music, I was really inspired by a lot of movie soundtracks—Prometheus, Dredd, Interstellar, and It Follows, to name a few. Deftones was always played, and if Roche Limit was defined by one song, it’s Reflektor (which featured Bowie, crossing over with Kyle’s inspiration) from Arcade Fire.
KC: Music: Bowie. Julia Holter. Oneohtrix Point Never. Kendrick Lamarr. Cube. RTJ. Sol Invicto. Talking Heads. Alexisonfire.
Movies: The Revenant. Steve Jobs. Memories of Murder.
Books: Casebook One; Existentialism. Vonnegut; Sirens of Titan. Bukowski;Hollywood.
For readers who enjoy Roche Limit what else would you suggest to them that they might enjoy that has a similar tone/style/message of your work?
MM: I’d go right to the films I mentioned above (Blade Runner, Aliens, Solaris, 2001, and Dark City), and I’d also read Stanislaw Lem, the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer, Slaughterhouse Five, Philip K. Dick, Ursula Le Guin, and even some Asimov.
KC: Hmm, anything Remender. Because we at Roche Limit Inc, love his shit.
What is something you learned about the series/yourself/comics from work on Roche Limit?
MM: Roche Limit, without question, is going to always be remembered, by me, as one of the most formative books in my career, if not THE most formative book in my career. This is the book where I figured it out—what I want to say and how I want to say it. I want to explore high concept sci-fi, which I love so much, and I want it to have a cerebral backbone. To me, Roche Limit will always be a book that mined classic sci-fi and maintained a unique philosophical core from beginning to end. That’s the type of story I want to tell—fun, engaging, spectacular sci-fi with, hopefully, something profound and moving to say along the way. Roche Limit not only taught me that I can do this, but that people were interested in reading it. This book changed my career, and my life.
KC: The biggest lesson learned on RLC is that this work is everlasting. Meaning, what you produce better be something you can live with because it's being printed and shipped. It's online. People are going to the store, taking that time to go and remove money from their sock or where ever they keep their trap money and buying your work. So you owe it to the them and the story to do the best work you can. I learned a lot about myself during RLC but I'm going to keep it to myself.
With Monadic being the end of the trilogy how has your approach changed from the beginning (Clandestine for Kyle)?
MM: I’ve learned to be a lot looser and face the strange (as Bowie would say). In the beginning, I tried to make the book fit into my idea of mainstream sci-fi, but I lost sight of the fact that sci-fi is at its best when it’s breaking the rules. Clandestiny saw me really take the leash off and just go as weird as I wanted, embracing things like a forest that brought your deepest desires to light, and showing how that probably isn’t a good thing. I mined deeper, philosophically, and delivered what I found in pretty unusual ways. The result, I think, is some of the best work I’ve done. And Monadic is, simply put, batshit crazy—I figure there’s no point toning anything down at this point. Either you’re on for the Roche Limit ride (and you should be!) or you’re not.
KC: I don't know if anything's changed out of consequence of it being the end. I think the change taking place is because we're (as Matt put it) 100 and some odd pages into working with one another. So it's easier to anticipate things. Easier to communicate (or more importantly, when not to). I know we all just want to make a good book that we can stand back from and admire, sending it off into the throngs of scrutiny that awaits comic books.
Was there anything that you found particularly challenging or blocks you hit in the creation process? On the same note what was the most enjoyable part of your creation experience?
KC:Yeah, blocks happen every other day. It's how you cope or get over them. Before I'd just walk away from it for a length of time that would hurt the schedule. But as you get deeper into this industry you understand how many moving parts you fuck over if you're waiting to feel good about your ego. I've learned that you can't knock every page out of the park, but you can try to give a shot so long as you're not delaying the next creator down the line. And surprisingly, if I just bare down and do the work without worrying about how much I'm going to hate it by completion, the result is usually something I enjoy more than if I took the major amount of time.
Some delays are just going to happen, life exists outside of comics, the difference is when you work at a regular job you're afforded some distance from that part of your life. Comics is always around the corner of your home or wherever you might be staying. It's in your knapsack. So when you're not doing the job, you feel like a piece of shit but where that line blurs is when you're on an a decent schedule but you still feel the ache of not working when you're hanging at home. Harder to relax or relate. It's not an impossible job and there is so many more career paths that leave you devastated, but as a comic person you're putting yourself in the way of risk by not following the instinctual path your friends and family are taking. It's taunting in a different sense. But we love it. So who cares in the end?
Best thing you could say about everyone involved in Roche Limit Monadic is?
MM: Kyle, Matt, Ryan, Tim, Vic, Jordan, Lauren, Sarah, Ben—I couldn’t be more fortunate to work with supremely talented people. Art, design, colors, letters, everything created a whole that I never could’ve dreamed to be as good as it is.
My brothers in arms, Kyle and Matt—we dug deep in the trenches, deep in ourselves, and I don’t think we could’ve accomplished what we did without each other. We all challenged each other, pushed, and made each other better. It sounds bold, maybe arrogant, but I don’t think there’s many books on the shelves as ambitious as Roche Limit. We didn’t always hit the mark, but, damn it, we tried to do something big and thoughtful and even profound, and I’ll always, always be proud, if nothing else, of our attempt. I’m even more proud to have done it with people I consider friends.
KC: Best thing to say? I don't know. We all give a shit about the book. We all are willingly to argue over it. Willing to stay awake for days, for this book. To say no when it would be really awesome to say yes to the people in our life. I'm pretty sure we're all prone to that, but when you can look down the line and know that the next person is willing to go to the same length if not further, that's the best thing I can say about everyone involved.
Why do you love Roche Limit: Monadic?
MM: It’s no secret that I love Star Wars with a passion as fiery as the sun. One of the greatest things about the Star Wars story, and it hits me every time, is its life-affirming philosophy. In the end, for as dark as Roche Limit was at times, it’s ultimately a life-affirming story in the way that I, personally, find life worth living. That’s the message I wanted to deliver from the very start—that, despite our failings as humans, we are all, each and every one of us, a remarkable species, and we’re beyond lucky to be alive. We all live, we all die, and that’s okay. In fact, there’s something beautiful in both, living and dying, and I hope, that by the end of Roche Limit, readers walk away feeling something like that. The beauty in being alive and unique, of having a soul (or whatever it is you want to call it); and, the beauty of dying, and going to the next part of the journey, wherever the soul goes once we live this world.
KC: I love it because Sasha uses Hello Danny's spinal cord as a fucking spear to kill another person. That's the kind of book we put out. It's ridiculous.