Reading With Pictures is a nonprofit initiative working to link comics and classrooms and moves comics even further into education. Their latest project is a fantastic anthology featuring the work of Jill Thompson, Fred Van Lente, Jeff Brown, and a host of top comics talent. Find out more about how you can order the book and help out Reading With Pictures here.
In the meantime, today we introduce you to Reading With Pictures’ media director, Michael Moreci, who is also a writer: His debut graphic novel, Quarantined, will be released later this year. He’s also been published in FutureQuake, Something Wicked, Accent UK’s Victoriana anthology, Insomnia’s Layer Zero: Survival anthology, and the Reading With Pictures anthology, and his second graphic novel is in the works. Here’s his history of loving comics.
Do you remember your first comic book or graphic novel?
Oh, yeah, absolutely. It was a Spider-Man with Hobgoblin on the cover (I know I have it somewhere, but it is buried deep in my collection). Also around that time, I remember getting some garage sale comics—a Fantastic Four—with She-Hulk, not Thing—and some Detective Comics, one of which has the first solo appearance of the Red Tornado, a childhood favorite of mine (mainly because his toy, which included spinning legs, was really great).
What do you love about the graphic novel as a format for storytelling?
There’s just so much that can be done with graphic storytelling, the simple relationship between words and pictures. But it’s not just words and pictures—comics are also formed on continuity, the manner in which panels progress and the spaces in between. Exploring that interplay is fascinating; manipulating it even more so, to the effect of controlling how a book is read. And this isn’t to mention the endless possibilities of comics—you can create the most elaborate action scenes, or warp a mind-bending narrative like The Invisibles, or have a series with epic scope like 100 Bullets.As a creator, I love collaboration. I’ve been fortunate to work with tremendous artists, and the thrill of seeing my scripts transformed into art never, ever gets old.
Whose work do you admire?
There are so, so many. Brian Wood is a writer who jumps out because we share similar styles; we’re both interested in pulling out the individual human story within a cultural context. Grant Morrison brings out the playful postmodernist in me; I don’t think there’s anyone out there who gets the synthesis between text and art quite the way he does (or, at least is able to play with it in such a way). I can’t get enough of Kirby’s pure love of comics, the way his exuberance explodes on each of his pages. Brian K. Vaughn is another influence—I gravitate toward writers who blend great concepts with rich, compelling characters. Alan Moore goes without saying. Jonathan Hickman’s boldness has, more than once, made me reconsider how I approach the graphic storytelling form. I can go on, but the truth is that I’m living/creating in a very good time. Right now is almost a golden age for writers, there are so many great ones working on any assortment of titles, from personal dramas to noir to superheroes.
Who do you read outside of the graphic novel format?
I try to maintain a diverse reading diet, as much as my time allows. I enjoy literary crime fiction (I just picked up a book called Noir, written by a French novelist named Olivier Pauvert, that I’m really excited to crack open). I also try to stay in touch with current events, though more through nonfiction books than day-to-day news (and I use the term news loosely). Philosophy at times, general history at others—I’m all over the map, really.
How many graphic novels do you read a month? How many of those are manga?
I’d estimate around five or six. It depends on what I’m reading—for instance, right now, I’ve been digging into a lot of early Kirby stuff, and those books are so, so dense. I really don’t read much manga, though I’ve always wanted to explore it more. There’s also the matter of keeping up with my pull list, which is no small feat.
How did you first get involved in the field professionally?
That’s actually an unusual story. I first got my start writing short comics for UK presses. It’s funny, I had gone to grad school and studied prose fiction writing, theory, and criticism, and the first thing I wanted to do upon graduation was write comics. Unfortunately, I knew very little about the comic industry—I always loved comics and had created them up until college, but I had no idea how to, as they say, “break in.” The first thing I decided was to focus on writing (my illustration skills are not that strong). I had the concept for Quarantined in my mind—and had for a while—but wanted to do cut my teeth writing some shorts. The UK is friendlier to the short comic form; they have that great tradition the centers around 2000AD. So I submitted to FutureQuake, a magazine that publishes 3-5 page shorts, and was published. I picked up steam from there, but still have a long, long way to go, at least in mind.
What kind of reaction do you get when you tell people what you do?
“So you’re an artist?” Nope, not an artist. Us poor, beleaguered writers have the double-whammy of having to explain what it means to be a comic creator, as well as describe what a writer’s role is. Luckily, I live in Chicago; you pretty much can’t throw a rock without hitting a comic shop or a comic creator (though I wouldn’t throw a rock at either). The community is pretty tight-knit and there are plenty of outlets to spend time with like-minded people. Nonetheless, the fact that I sometimes need to explain what I do is very welcome—it means I’m actually doing it.
Do you collect comics? What is the most valuable piece of art, graphic novel, or comic book in your collection?
I collect in the sense that I buy a lot of titles from week to week. I also enjoy scavenging cons for older titles that aren’t in good shape but are still readable. A few weeks ago, for example, I found an old issue of Kamandi (by Jack Kirby) and a few of George Perez’s Fantastic Four, allfor 50 cents. I also picked up X-Men 24, though it was in pretty good shape and cost me a whopping five bucks. Some stuff I’ll go out of my way to collect—recently I bartered with a friend for the entire Ronin run, in pristine condition.
Is there something you covet adding to your collection?
I’d love to get my hands on Alan Moore’s Miracleman, though I doubt that’ll ever happen, even in reprint form. It’s painful to see it stuck in this legal entanglement where none of the parties involved are winning and all the fans are losing.