Meet the Time-Traveling Spies of Michael Moreci’s ‘Transference’ [Interview/Preview]
Michael Moreci has been building his name as a stand-out genre comics writer in the past few years, starting with paranormal investigator series Hoax Hunters at Image, co-written with Steve Seeley, and more recently with the sci-fi noir odyssey adventure Roche Limit, with art by Vic Malhotra.
His new series, Transference, sees him unite with artist Ron Salas at Black Mask Studios for a high concept tale of time-travel and counter-terrorism, as an elite special agent transfered into his own past-self must track down an enemy agent to save the future. ComicsAlliance chatted with Moreci about his relationship with comics, working with Ron Salas and Black Mask, and why he's not afraid to court Hollywood through comics. He also shared an exclusive eight-page preview of Transference #1.
ComicsAlliance: What's the hook for your new series, Transference?
Michael Moreci: Time-traveling spies!
Okay, there's a little more than that. But that's the basis, which, as far as I know, is unique. We've never seen espionage/spy stories handled in this way, nor have we seen a time travel story like this. I'd say I'm handling time travel in a pretty cool, original --- and realistic --- way. It really adheres to Einstein's theory that time exists like space, and that we should experience all at once. Only we don't, we experience it linearly. In Transference, the technology we're dealing with is basically freeing your relationship with time so that you can send your consciousness back in time. What that means is you're confined to your own body and life --- your consciousness is confined in this way. That is, until, a technology upgrade is introduced and falls into the wrong hands...
CA: What was the inspiration behind the series?
MM: I'm a time travel nut, in books, movies, comics, you name it. I love time travel stories, and I've always wanted to do my own. But, time travel stories are really, really hard. Not only are they a mess, plotwise, but they've been done to death, making original stories so very hard to come by (and that's why Looper is one of my favorite movies in recent years, because it uses time travel to tell a much grander story --- it's not about time travel, but rather about choices and free will). I think --- I hope --- that the way Transference deals with time travel is enjoyed as a fresh take that comes at time travel from a new angle. I've literally been working on this book for four years now, and I wouldn't have stuck with it this long had I not believed there was something there worthy of the pursuit.
CA: Tell me about your comics background. How did you come into comics as a reader?
MM: I got my hands on comics at an early age. My mom worked at a toy store chain (the long gone Child World) when I was a kid, and she always brought home these... "remainder" comics --- meaning, the store would bundle a bunch of comics together, and whatever was leftover she brought home.
I had very little in order, but there were so many gems, including a bunch of [John] Byrne Fantastic Four, which started me on lifelong obsession with that series. From there, it was mainly 7-11 spinner racks and garage sales that filled my need until, when I was like 12, a comic shop finally arrived in our neighborhood. And with it came the wave of Image, Malibu, Valiant, and all those other publishers I'd never heard of. Suffice to say, my mind was blown. It was in that window that I said to myself, "Yep, I'm going to make these amazing, crazy things."
CA: And how did you break in as a writer?
MM: The first comic I sold was this collection of newspaper-style comic strips I wrote and drew in the sixth-grade about a boy and his pet dinosaur. Just jokey stuff, where the kid would throw a stick in one panel, in panel two the dino would run off, and in panel three he'd come back with a tree. I sold them to kids at school, and I remember my parents finding a bag of money in a backpack and thinking I was doing something with drugs or along those lines --- we lived on the South Side of Chicago, so this assumption wasn't too far-fetched. They were relieved when they found out I was making and selling comics!
Anyway, I got back to really doing comics in earnest when I was in my twenties. I wrote for a bunch of anthologies, just cutting my teeth and all that. Eventually, I became friends with Tim Seeley, and he noticed my work. One night while we were out drinking --- so many good things happen when drinking --- he offered me a spot to run a backup story in Hack/Slash, along with this brother, Steve. That story become Hoax Hunters, which ran for ten Hack/Slash issues before transitioning into its own Image series. That was definitely my break, and things have, thankfully, grown from there.
CA: Ron Salas must be great to collaborator to work with. How did he come to the project?
MM: By me begging him! I'm kidding, sort of. Ron, honestly, is a bucket list artist to work with. Don't get me wrong, I've been more than fortunate to work with incredible artists, like Kyle Charles, Colin Lorimer, Riley Rossmo, and so many more, but Ron is a guy who caught my eye when I was trying tremendously hard to break into Image (with very little luck). I thought his series Existence 2.0 was incredible, and the work he did was amazing. Eventually I found a contact for him and, somehow, managed to impress him enough so he'd want to work with me. We'd been kicking around Transference for probably two years before we managed to put it together.
CA: What sort of working process do you and Ron have together?
MM: We're pretty loose, actually. I send him a script and, so far, he's enjoyed what I'm doing. We're pretty in sync and have kept out of each other's way, and I mean that in a good way. I know, without a doubt, that whatever decisions Ron will make when interpreting the story to the page will be the right ones, and I haven't been wrong in that trust yet. And we're more than lucky to have a great team around us, with Tamra Bonvillain on colors and Jim Campbell on letters. Both are doing great work in making this book what it is.
CA: Why take this project to Black Mask Studios? What do you think they're bringing to the industry right now?
MM: For starters, Matt Pizzolo is a really smart and savvy guy who loves comics. He's passionate about making good comics and being smart about the business, having a model that encompasses merchandise, book sales outside the direct market, and transmedia development.
I think comics has a weird relationship with business, especially when it comes to developing stories for TV and film, like this is something that, if it happens, great --- but you're sort of shamed if you actively pursue it, like wanting your story to succeed in other mediums and grow makes you, somehow, love comics less. It's strange.
Not to mention that, for many creators, this arm of your career is vital to your ability to make a living as a comics professional. We'd all love to work for Marvel and DC and have that security, but for those of us who haven't had that opportunity, for whatever reason, we need our work to be fully utilized.
There's also the creative freedom component, which is crucial. Matt has let me make Transference the way I want, the way the entire team wants. He's never said anything like, "We need more X and Y and less Z." Never. It's a great model, and the proof of its success is abundantly apparent --- their last two releases, We Can Never Go Home and Space Riders, are amazing, unique books that have been met with a lot of success. Matt is bringing in great people to do unique comics, and I'm thrilled to be part of that.