Tony Moore has recently completed Realmz #01, the first prequel issue to the Realmz ongoing series released through his company, Limitless Comics. Although he works with other artists, he has created, written and drawn the series himself. With Realmz, Tony is creating his own unique mythology. It’s an epic fantasy series that’s really very different and original. At the same time, he regularly records videos discussing his creative process, personal insights and struggles, and various issues in the comics community. I was overjoyed to have the opportunity to interview this true champion of independent comic books!
JR: When did you start Limitless Comics and how long has it been running for? How long have you been on this journey and what is the Limitless Comics origin story?
TM: Oh boy, I hope you’re sitting down for this one! I really picked up the mantle of Limitless Comics back in 1996. I was collecting comics and enjoying them when I started seeing more and more hero comic books coming out. That was the big growth of Image, McFarlane and Liefeld. I thought people were missing comic books about fantasy: dragons, ghouls, fairies and witches. I’ve always loved that! I was seeing more heroes and mutants being created, but less fantasy was being exposed. About 1995 I started etching things out. I talked to my brother then and he said, “Why don’t you do a Lord of the Rings type thing?” And I said, “No one’s going to be interested.” He said, “Make them interested!” That’s when I started to make all the characters you see now. I always felt that fantasy had taken a backseat to the new generation of comics. I wanted to bring that back to the forefront. That’s been my journey ever since!
JR: What inspired you? Did you start out as a fan of comics and then decide to make your own? Or were you always writing and drawing and then discovered comics and decided that it would be a good medium for you to work in?
TM: I’ve always been drawing, writing and collecting comic books. I have an older brother who is two years older than me. We both used to come up with superhero characters and put them in our own small comics. It seemed like every time we created a superhero character, we found out that Marvel or DC had already done them. That’s when I made the transition. Once they started into the variant cover world, and adding new characters that we had never seen before just for a boost in sales, that’s when I started saying, “The story doesn’t make sense.” I was getting confused and understanding less of the story but spending more money on tinfoil variant hologram covers. That’s when I kinda gave up.
JR: For brand new fans just hearing about Realmz for the first time, what would you like to tell them about the story, world and characters that you’ve created? How is the Realmz universe different from world we know?
TM: That is the tricky part: it’s lightyears away! I have to be careful because some of the wording I use, people question. For example, I use “Moonslip” to describe days. I’m trying to bring out my own language with Realmz.
I have a book prior to issue #1 that I created in 2007. It was based on a character, a young king, named Mason. He was the ruler of the Realmz. There was a great Extinction War going on. The wizard Ulislum took the young king because they were losing the war to this giant creature, Emberge The Undying. Ulislum took the young king and spliced him into safety which was into our universe. There he could heal. As he healed, we found out Emberge had found a way to come to our universe. So in order to save the universe, he had to take the king who is still not healed and bring him back to the Realmz.
Issue #1 does not have the young king because a lot of people were telling me they enjoyed a character I created called the Orphaned Godchild. People told me I should base the story around her. That’s when I created issue #1. It seemed like people weren’t ready to hear about the young king Mason in our universe. They wanted to focus on the Realmz and how it was created and all the turmoil there. That’s why I put out this book I’m working on now. It takes place prior to issue #1.
JR: The new book that’s out now on Indiegogo is Realmz #01. This is a prequel that takes place 8 years before the first three books. What aspects of Realmz or the story did you feel you needed to go back in time to touch upon?
TM: In Realmz #1 that you read, there were lots of unanswered questions. People were asking me about the Orphaned Godchild: why is she angry; why is she fighting Barouxx The Breaker? They look like they met before. Why was the wizard angry enough to banish her to the Realm of Forgotten Souls? So I said to myself, “Let me go back to beginning: let’s go back to her birth.”
So Realmz #01 out now on Indiegogo is about her birth and the situation with her father. It brings the spotlight on the Thunderbringers and who they are. She is the last descendant of the Thunderbringers. Why is she so powerful? Why does everyone want her dead or want to kill her? Why is Barouxx The Breaker in the Realm of Forgotten Souls? I wanted to go back to the beginning before the Extinction War happened, to let people see her birth and why the sentence of death was put on her. I want her to be the key character in the book. I want people to see her beginning, Ulislum the Wizard, Barouxx The Breaker and the Darkened Forest. I wanted to provide a lot of information about the different Realmz. Issue #05 will be the final prequel issue then the story will pick up with issue #1.
JR: It’s interesting that fan feedback influenced you to focus on the Orphaned Godchild story. That’s something special about indie comics: there’s this two-way communication and feedback that can influence the creators’ works.
TM: Yes! This is the greatest time to be an independent comic book creator. We have more room to grow. In the mid-90s when we were trying to do this, a lot of people would say, “Oh it’s good but it reminds me of this comic,” or, “I’m not going to purchase this because it looks too much like that comic.” Now it seems like creators are getting really creative. I’m seeing a lot of independent comics and thinking, “Wow, this is a story!” They’re not afraid to make characters look like their own. Before, we used to try to make our characters look like Marvel or DC characters to try to draw people in to buy our book. But now we’re not afraid to branch out and make our own creations.
JR: One thing I really like about Realmz #1 is that it gives the reader an intimate glimpse into the minds of the characters and their inner thoughts and feelings. You feel like you’re traveling along with them. I can tell that this aspect of storytelling is really important to you. Can you tell us a bit more about this approach?
TM: I wanted Realmz to be that comic book that after you close it, you still think about the character. With the Orphaned Godchild, I want you to say, “Wow, when she travels she’s so angry! It seems like even when she’s sitting there relaxing with the fire going, she’s fed up!” I’m trying to let people know she still has anger that’s growing, and she needs to find a way to channel that anger and control it. Sometimes when I read about characters, the writers aren’t going too deep or making you feel that character.
That’s one thing I wanted to do so you think about that character once you finish reading. I want people to go through her mental journey: I wanted different types of anger, joy or fear.
JR: I haven’t seen anything that looks like the style of Realmz before. The drawing is your own unique style and much of the work has a very painterly quality to the colors rather than just flats or cel shading. Who are some of your artistic influences and how did you arrive at the look of the Realmz books?
TM: Thank you again. I’ve had a lot of people comment on my art. I had one gentleman tell me, “Your art is so bad that it’s good.” I laughed about that. I was always trying to collaborate with other artists, but when I did, it took away from my characters.
There are a few artists I’ve always loved: Erik Larsen is one. When Michael Golden pencilled Avengers Annual #10, his artwork made a big impact on me. He wasn’t afraid or trying to copy styles. John Byrne was another giant. But it was Walter Simonson, the gentleman who drew Thor and Beta Ray Bill, who really inspired me. Something about his art made me not afraid to put out my own work. I think the people who buy my books understand that story will overshadow artwork. I do have a colorist, Iwan Jookoo, who really compliments my art! He adds more than just colors: motion blur and backgrounds. Now I’m getting more comfortable, and I think other people are getting more comfortable with my art. I’m still focusing more on the story and the dialogue. Art is great for the eyes, but story is great for the soul.
JR: At the end of issue #1, you have a thanks and dedication page where you mentioned that getting to the release was a difficult and winding road with countless dead ends and challenges. What obstacles did you have to overcome to get to that point?
TM: A lot of marketing, a lot of begging. When someone commented on the book, I would have to make a personal relationship with that person. I would say, “Keep me updated on what you think about the characters and what you think I should do.” I was trying to bring that closeness with the people commenting and liking; trying to make them feel that I’m depending on them and working for them. It works if you have a connection with people! Before that, I would be putting out pages saying, “Realmz is coming – look out!”
I don’t have enough money to have someone to market for me. Not only do I have to write and draw the book, but I have to also be the cheerleader for Limitless Comics. Sometimes I spend an hour and half every few days thanking people, getting feedback and answering questions. Really the hardest part for many independent owners is to market for yourself. If you don’t have that connection and that superstar look to your book, it’s really hard to get people to give money, no matter what it is.
But People are passing the word about me along to other people and other online groups. So I think it’s working, but it’s really a long road. Honestly, this Indiegogo has been really hard. I’m almost in demand mode. It almost hurts me because so many people before were telling me, “Let me know when it starts. I’m in!” And I haven’t heard from them. It makes me feel like maybe I did something wrong, or maybe I’m flooding FB with Realmz too much. I don’t know whether to pull back or power forward. I’m trying to find that happy medium. It’s a very thin line.
JR: In the dedication page, you also give thanks to a few people who have helped you in your journey. How important is it to comics creators to have a personal teacher or mentor to guide them and offer instruction and support?
TM: It is so important! Anyone who is starting out: once you start and pick up the mantle to create your independent comic book company you have to have someone who’s been in that field. I’ve been blessed to have three people with me. Jim O’reilly is one of them for he worked for Topps Cards and Marvel Cards. He showed me self control and how to not get too overwhelmed. He taught me how when people comment or insult you, don’t let it get to you. He said, “You’re going to get a lot more negativity than positivity. Just learn how to focus on you and your company.” Another gentleman named Rog Mahan; they’ve both put power dampers on me.
JR: With all the characters and places in Realmz, do you plan to make a character and place glossary for readers to reference while they’re reading the books?
TM: I was just about to inform my audience that when backers purchase a tier on Indiegogo, I am going to add in a 20-page who’s who in the Realmz. I really want people to understand, connect and grow with these characters. When I write about my characters and post, people say, “You’re giving away a lot – wait for your book.” I don’t need to hide anything. I want you to know about the characters.
JR: What do you think the indie comics community need to do to grow and thrive? How can we attract new fans? How can the creators in the community facilitate that?
TM: We need to connect, unify and grow as one. There are a lot of indie companies out there. One thing about creators is that we have a problem working with each other. I’ve written to companies saying, “Maybe in future we can collaborate.” They reply, “We’ll get back to you,” and they don’t post one another’s work. We need to learn how to relax more and converse. There’s room at the table of success for everyone to eat.
JR: I saw one video you made where you were saying that recently, there have been many new creators, indie publishing companies and books arriving on the scene, but that many of them don’t do a good job of introducing fans and readers to their characters before starting to promote the books. Can you offer any advice to new creators on how best to gather a fan base and introduce their work before starting to promote?
TM: One of the things I see: people think that to attract an audience you have to give this cliffhanger effect. They’ll show a small section of page of a character doing something, and they’ll say, “This character is the strongest mutant in the universe!” and that’s it. They think if they leave more to the imagination it will bring in more people, but you can’t do that; you need to give people something! Less is not always more. People starting out think that great art, a snappy line and posting all over social media will attract people, but it really doesn’t. You have to give everything you’ve got when you’re starting out, and you can pull back later when you get a fan base.
JR: Are you doing any comic shop signings or tabling at convention artist alleys to promote and sell Realmz?
TM: I actually have not done any conventions yet. I live in Boston, and the comic cons here are so expensive! The Boston Comic Con is $650 per table per day! There’s a major comic shop here called New England Comics. They usually don’t want to deal with indie creators. There’s another comic shop called The Million Year Picnic in Harvard Square. I want to talk to them after this Indiegogo finishes up. I love talking, interacting and giving out posters and artwork. I love doing it! But Boston is a little harder. They’re not too big on the indie growth push. I do have three shows set up for 2019: two in New Hampshire and one in Rhode Island in July and August.
JR: Where can fans find out more about Realmz and Limitless Comics online?
TM: Find me under Anthony Moore on Facebook.
JR: What does epic fantasy mean to you? Is it a means for readers and creators to escape from the mundane world? Is it a lens to look through to see new truths about our world? Why did you choose the epic fantasy genre to work in with Realmz?
TM: I wanted Realmz to be that book that you enjoy following. Have you ever read a comic book that’s good but just has a certain level to it that doesn’t amp up or decline? When I say epic, this is real! When you read the book, I want you to clap your hands, say, “Whoa!” get closer to the page, look and say, “Did that just happen?” There will be fairies, dragons, titans and demigods. I’m going to bring them together and create an explosion. I want them to collide together and create something limitless! When you hear the word “epic,” it’s supposed to be on another level. It tells people, “You’re not going to believe this!”
Interview by: James Ross
Editor’s Notes: Realmz currently has 16 hours left to go with 2,247 dollars raised so far for its flexible 4,000 dollar goal. Get in on the funding today to help bring this to life!