INTERVIEW: STEPHEN MOONEY ON THE HALF PAST DANGER HARDCOVER

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With the eminent release of the Half Past Danger hardcover, I decided to chat to Stephen Mooney about what we should expect from it and about his journey from the original idea up to its release.

I’ve attended a few panels where you’ve mentioned wanting a hardcover. How does it feel to finally have it in your hands?

Man, you’re killing me! I’m DYING to hold it in my hands, but as yet I’ve only seen digital copies! As you mentioned, I’ve been hoping for a hardcover collection of the series since day one, so to have it go the way I’d wished is incredibly gratifying and satisfying. I’ll see it the same day as everybody else, on launch day in Dublin at The Big Bang!

IDW do some great hardcover collections so I am expecting good things. Apart from it looking great, which is a given, what else should we expect?

Lots of good stuff! Creator’s commentary, cover gallery, sketchbook, character designs, pencilled pages and also a few surprises.

I also noticed you posting recently about a German edition of the collection. That must feel a little strange given your choice of villains.

It really is. I was very bemused when the publishers got onto me, but also delighted. Foreign editions are what legitimate, REAL books get, right?
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It must be great having your book in even more readers’ hands?

Well that’s the hope. I’m still so grateful for the fact that anybody at all has read the bloody thing. I was utterly terrified at the beginning that the whole venture would be a total damp squib, and I’d be laughed outta town. Moreso than usual, like.

I want to go back to the beginning. How did you come up with the title?

Um, y’know, I’m not sure. I just said it out loud one day. I think myself and Stephen Thompson were just spitballing and saying faintly-ridiculous things out loud to each other a few years ago, as we were wont to do, and out it popped, fully formed. It made me laugh, so it stuck.

How long has it been from script to having the hardcover in your hands?

Just over two years. Around 26 months. Bloody flew by, too. Could be time to get a real job…

You wrote the script for all six issues before you properly started on the art. Why did you choose to go that route?

I think mostly to reassure myself that I had the ending nailed down. If I started drawing away without a cast-iron destination point, i’d be worried that I’d start adding pages here and there and that the whole thing would become far too freeform. I needed to know that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and that it knew when to switch on.

Did the story change at all during the process of drawing the book?

Nope. Maybe the odd line of dialogue here or there, but for better or for worse I stuck with my blueprint.

Issue one was coloured by you but from issue two it was Jordie Bellaire (a seemless transition by the way). What did having Jordie on board bring to the book?

A ridiculous level of professionalism. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think my own colours are all that bad, but Jordie’s just in a whole other league. She cottoned on instantly to the atmosphere and palette I was striving to achieve, knocking out page after page of brilliance in next to no time. there’s a reason that every company in comics wants to work with Jordie. She’s one of the very best. And I was utterly blessed to have her. Pays to get along with of your mate’s girlfriend!

It has to be said that she also completely pulled my ass outta the fire. I was struggling badly with getting the colours completed on time, and she saw that I was floundering and offered her help. She’s alright, that one.

I have attended panels Jordie has given on colour and learned quite a lot just from that. You must have learned a lot about the process of colouring.

I learned a HUGE amount. I can’t overstate it. Just watching her work was an education in itself, but the times she sat down with me in my studio and worked through some colouring quandries with me really opened my eyes to what was possible in the craft. Managing to realise those possibilities being another issue altogether of course!

You also had an excellent group of creators on the variant covers. What was it like seeing your characters drawn by other artists and in such a variety of styles?

Man, so much fun. And so surreal! REAL artists like Tommy Lee Edwards, Lee Bermejo and even that Shalvey fella, drawing MY characters. And in Tommy’s case, he even drew Irish as me! Brilliant. I’ve also been collecting all of the original pieces to display in my home. The people that drew the covers; those guys and Nick Runge, Nick Roche and Rebekah Isaacs are just all so bloody lovely and genuinely helpful. They all gave their time as favours, so incredibly generous. I won’t forget it in a hurry. I tell ya, some of the best folks in the world are comics folk.
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The book has a great cast of characters. I think Tommy Flynn is probably my favourite. Do you a favourite or maybe one that surprised you by becoming one over the course of doing the series?

Well, Tommy is too much like me for me to actually like the fecker, but he was great fun to write. I adore the other three, and my favourite changes all the time. I think I most enjoy drawing Elizabeth or maybe Ishi, and my favourite to write would be John. But I genuinely enjoy them all. Which is good, as it looks like I could be stuck with them for a while yet.

One thing I liked about the book was having an Irish character who drinks and fights but doesn’t feel like a stereotype. You also highlighted the fact that Irishmen joined up to fight in World War 2. Were things like this important to you?

So very important. Shalvey always gives me a hard time for the amount of time and energy I spend romanticising Ireland and the Irish, and in a way I guess it is quite blinkered and naive. But at the end of the day I love the Irish wit and personality, and really wanted to see a new Irish character in mainstream American comics that didn’t have a flat cap and smoke a clay pipe, Banshee-style. So while Tommy Flynn does drink a lot and end up in quite a few fights, he only drinks when he’s miserable, and he would much rather run a mile from any potential scrapes. He just often finds himself with no alternative. And that way ADVENTURE lies!

Speaking of drinking and fighting, the scene I like most is the bar brawl (I think its in issue one). Does any scene stand out to you?

I love that bar scene, I really like the scene in the tent where John and Irish share a drink, I like the attack on the German base camp and the train and sub sequences also.
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The book wears its influences on its sleeves. You’re obviously a big movie guy. Have you a fantasy cast in mind for a big screen version of Half Past Danger?

Ha, I get asked this all of the time, but I really don’t know! The only solid one I could name is Alexander Skarsgard for John Noble, since I had him in mind when i created John, and based his facial features on Skarsgard’s. Skarsgard played a marine in Generation Kill that was a big influence on John noble.

As for Elizabeth, I’d happily cast an unholy mix of Natalie Portman and Rachel Weisz, if such a thing were possible. No idea who’d play Ishi. That Irish eejit doesn’t bring anybody to mind…

To be honest I haven’t thought about a movie version of HPD very much at all because it’s just so far fetched a concept. To my mind, HPD is a comic book. Anything else that may happen down the line, all well and good, but the chances are beyond remote.

For someone who hasn’t read the single issues and is thinking of picking up the hardcover, how would you pitch the book to them?

Here’s the back-of-the-dvd- blurb:

DAMES. DINOSAURS. DANGER.

Summer, 1943, and in the midst of a war waged by monsters,
Staff Sergeant Tommy ‘Irish’ Flynn never expected to encounter a real one.

But on a remote island in the South Pacific, Flynn and his squad
come face-to-fanged-face with creatures long thought dead.

As the world falls apart, a unique set of characters come together:
An embittered Irishman in a war not his own,
a beautiful and enigmatic British agent,
a U.S. Marine Captain with incredible resilience and a secret
and a mysterious operative from the land of the Rising Sun,
all served up in a stew of piping-hot Nazi intrigue.

History meets Prehistory in this two-fisted race against time.
And there ain’t no time like HALF PAST DANGER.

With the collection out soon, the obvious question is when will we be seeing more and have you come up with a title?

Hopefully more by the beginning of 2015, and yep, I have a title, but i ain’t telling what it is in case it changes! To be honest, i like HALF PAST DANGER 2

Anything else we should expect from you in 2014?

I’m working on various cover gigs for American publishers at the mo, as well as having just finished illustrating a Wolverine book that’s due out in April I think. Other than that, I’ve been tipping away at the script for HPD2 and shall continue to do so!

Thanks a million for having me, I tremendously appreciate all of the support and awards that ICN gave Half Past Danger in 2013! Viva Irish comics!

The Half Past Danger hardcover is out on January 29th and Stephen Mooney will be doing a launch at The Big Bang in Dundrum on the day. He will also be taking part at another event in Cork on February 1st also courtesy of The Big Bang. Check out their Facebook page for details on both events.