I’ve been following the releases of a crime comic called Propeller on Comixology, produced by writer Ricardo Mo with art by Alberto Muriel, a gorgeous black and white story with a twist, mashing up the 1950s crime story vibe with a super-human element. The book is a fast paced read where nobody is completely on the side of the angels and also had some of the best drawn rain I have seen in ages!
We’ve reviewed the last couple of issues on DownTheTubes and after chatting with the Bournemouth-based writer on Twitter, I thought it was about time we got his side of the story.
Issue 3 of this splendid series is about to drop on Comixology and it is well worth seeking out.
Imagine we are in a grey interview room. Ricardo is hand-cuffed to the desk and we have refused him a lawyer…
DownTheTubes: The one that I always like to start with is, what is your first comic? what comics did you start reading? As you’ve grown as a comics reader what comics have you enjoyed and what have shaped you as a writer?
Ricardo Mo: My first comic was The Beano. More specifically, I started with a stack of Beano and Dandy annuals inherited from my older brothers. It didn’t take too long to burn through them and that’s when I worked up the courage to ask my parents for the weekly comics. And in an uncharacteristic display of sadism they made me choose one. The Beano had Dennis The Menace so won out.
My first American comic was a reprint of Batman #333, an issue from the middle of the legendary Lazarus Affair storyline. I had no idea what was going on but I enjoyed it anyway. Again, I asked my parents if this could be a regular thing and again they agreed, this time with no painful caveats.
And this gifted me my favourite memories of my dad – waiting for him to arrive home from work, him pretending to have nothing for me, then the wry smile as he retrieved the latest issue from his briefcase. It was the same every month and while I only vaguely recall the content of those comics, I remember his routine vividly.
This is where most comics fans tell you they kept collecting and expanded to other superheroes and still have every issue in longboxes. That is not my story at all. I stopped reading comics regularly and settled for discovering the occasional gem in trades (Batman:Knightfall, Watchmen, Preacher, We3, Y, Sleeper) while I gained familiarity with the Marvel Universe purely through their animated shows and just generally watched movies as my preferred medium.
In the past few years I’ve rediscovered a real love for comics and I’ve become particularly interested in writers and artists telling their own stories. Luckily for me, this shift has reflected a similar movement in comics and creators. So now I can find something different like High Crimes or Deadhorse without having to search too hard. It’s a great time to be a fan of fresh, original work and an inspiring time to be a creator.
DownTheTubes: Propeller especially seems to have influences outside comics, Noir movies and novels perhaps? What influences your writing style? Do I see some Hitchcock in there? Possibly some Columbo? The Third Man? Am I close?
Ricardo: As I mentioned, for a long time I was consuming primarily movies to fill my entertainment needs. And if I had to choose a favourite fimmaker, someone who repeatedly set benchmarks for quality and style, it has to be Hitchcock.
There are nods in Propeller to Columbo and other such things that Alberto (Muriel, the artist) and I have enjoyed over the years, but in terms of story and structure and visuals, that’s all directly inspired by the Master of Suspense.
Comics has more than its fair share of Michael Bay and John Woo explosions and fistfights and gunplay. But I look around and I don’t see nearly enough measured, genuinely suspenseful Hitchcock. Maybe that’s because there isn’t great enough demand for it, but we’re told to make the comics we want to read and that’s what we’ve done with Propeller.
DownTheTubes: Can you tell us about the Propeller series? How did it come about and where it’s headed?
Ricardo: It came about because I thought, rather ambitiously, that producing a complete story would be a much better use of my time and money than a dozen failed pitches and nothing anyone could actually read.
I seem to have inherited my parents’ occasional sadism though because, despite knowing I was already stretching myself and asking a lot of Alberto by committing to a four-issue mini, I couldn’t stop myself from seeding a second arc. So there are a couple brief scenes and comments in those first four issues that won’t pay off fully until later.
The good news is that Alberto, HdE (letterer/designer) and I will definitely be producing that second arc/volume. I’m writing it now, in fact. And, like the current volume, it seeks to deliver super powered thrills with a Hitchcockian flavour you can’t find elsewhere in comics. And it’ll look gorgeous and have professional-standard lettering!
DownTheTubes: The characters in Propeller are all flawed. What draws you to that sort of writing?
Ricardo: Write what you know.
In all seriousness, characters who don’t always make the right decisions and don’t behave in an unnaturally good-natured manner all the time are just that much more interesting for me to write. I find it easier to relate and find their voice if they aren’t just boy scouts.
DownTheTubes: In the afterword in Issue 3 of Propeller you ponder if having released the series makes you a writer? How do you feel about this now?
Ricardo: I feel the same way, which is that I don’t ever know what to call myself or what I qualify as. There are certain milestones I need to reach before I’ll be entirely comfortable putting “Writer” on any official documentation. But I feel strongly that if somebody else is comfortable calling themself a writer, it’s not my place to strip them of that title. And I have no time for gatekeepers trying too hard to protect their definition of a word or role.
It is nice to open up Comixology and see my name on there though. And with every issue that gets released, I feel slightly less like a fraud.
DownTheTubes: What else are you working on?
Ricardo: The second volume/arc of Propeller. And Alberto and I have something else in the pipeline that might appeal to a similar audience. Alberto has been creating characters and sending me sketches and designs. I can’t wait to put a script together that sends his wonderful cast on a colossal adventure.
My hope is that I can spend the next ten years answering this question (at least in part) in essentially the same way… “Working on something with Alberto & HdE”. I got incredibly lucky assembling such a talented and professional team for my first comic. So I’ll stick with them as long as they’ll have me.
DownTheTubes: What else are you enjoying? Anything you can recommend?
Ricardo: Ryan K. Lindsay is a creator who’s going places and his best-so-far Headspace [published by Monkeybrain] has just wrapped. Next up is Negative Space [from Dark Horse], which has me very excited. There are artists on both those books, but who can be bothered to remember artists’ names, right?
Kidding… it’s Eric Zawadzki, Sebastian Piriz, Marissa Louise and Dee Cunniffe on Headspace, and Owen Gieni on Negative Space. Both books look great.
I’ll have a hole in my life when High Crimes from Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa ends. And I’m always happy to plug Ryan Ferrier and Brian Level’s fantastic The Brothers James and Eric Grissom and Phil Sloan’s strange masterpiece Deadhorse.
DownTheTubes: Where can we find your work?
Ricardo: The self-publisher’s best friend, Comixology. Propeller starts here: http://cmxl.gy/1HqnCn9 for those who might want to give it a shot.
And keep an eye on my twitter @RicardoMoTron for more info on future projects.
DownTheTubes: Will you be doing any upcoming conventions or appearances?
Ricardo: I’ve never been to a con, even as a member of the public. I’m hoping to remedy that later this year with a visit to ThoughtBubble. I’ve heard it’s one of the best, so seems like a good place to start.
DownTheTubes: Many thanks Mr M for taking part in this.
Ricardo: A pleasure.
• You can find HdE on Twitter @E2009Hd
And many thanks to you for reading.