“For every Kirkman there’s a thousand creators like me, working day jobs and squeezing in their art when they can” Skybreaker creator Michael Moreci discusses the new frontier of digital comics and the lure of the wild west

Michael MoreciThe guys at MonkeyBrain Comics are churning out so many new comics at the moment it’s like they’re trying to create their own version of Marvel Now or DC’s 52 – but with a much higher hit rate! The latest to come out of the House of Misfits is Skybreaker from Hoax Hunter‘s writer Michael Moreci and newcomer Drew Zucker. This tale of the half Sioux half/Christian antihero who is out for revenge in a post-civil war/wild west, is another great example of MonkeyBrain‘s eye for talent and exciting stories so we got in touch with Michael to find out more.

Skybreaker_01Where did the inspiration for Skybreaker come from?

MM: Good question. I’ve always had this love of Westerns and, somewhere along the line, I had this vision of a Western antihero rising from his grave (which happens in Skybreaker #1) and causing whole lot of havoc. Of course, the book fleshed out over time, but the foundation is that image, mixed with my love of the genre and this period of American history.

How historically accurate is the book? Have you done a lot of research into native American culture or the wild west in general to get the tone right? How important is that kind of accuracy for you?

MM: I ended up doing a lot more research than anticipated. Being accurate historically, to a certain degree, is really important to me—though I never discount the power of verisimilitude. I ended up doing a lot of research mainly into the Native American side of things, trying to really understand their experience in that time. Tribal rituals, dress, cultural practices, all those things were really important to me. We don’t get too much of it in issue #1, but there are more of those specifics in forthcoming installments. But I also dug into genre pieces in general: Deadwood, Lonesome Dove, Hell on Wheels, Leone movies, The Proposition, etc. Things to, at the very least, mentally, put me in the right frame of mind.

Skybreaker_01.inddWe haven’t seen many Western titles in recent years, have you always been a fan of western books and how do you keep such a well established genre feeling fresh?

MM: I love Westerns, and I think it’s an incredibly fertile genre to tell compelling, and relevant stories about American culture. I really thing that period, more than the Revolution, is representative of our country today. There’s this rugged individualism and this thirst for freedom through the obtainment of wealth (land grabbing, the gold rush, and the rise of banks) that is, in some ways, the blueprint for modern capitalism. There’s also this stark duality in the country, which we all see today. It’s no accident that Skybreaker takes place post-Civil War and is about a man split in two—he’s half Sioux, half Christian. It’s a fascinating time because, on one hand, you have the country coming together with the development of railways and travel and means to, physically, be unified. But this time, to me, is also a period where people began to realize that just because we share the national boundaries doesn’t mean we share the same views and values. So, to make it fresh, you contextualize all this in cultural relevancy, and show how it matters. At least, that’s what I hoped to do. And, hey, if nothing else, it’s a cool, violent Western.

The story feel like it has quite a spiritual side to it, and the review notes mention Skybreaker is half Sioux/half Christian, is that going to be a recurring theme that runs through the coming issues?

MM: Oh yeah, as mentioned above, duality plays a big role in the book. And there is a spirituality to it as well, you’re right. I want to be contemplative about the harsh violence being presented—Skybreaker is not your typical, “hey, look at this cool awesome sweet violence!” comic. I’m not Mark Millar. The violence is meant to be a meaningful and jarring, especially as we see Skybreaker come to terms with the toll the violence of the time had on his life.

Skybreaker_01.inddHow does working on Skybreaker compare to your other books like Hoax Hunters and what were the main differences you found when writing them?

MM: Skybreaker is totally different from Hoax Hunters, and I like it that way. One, I never, ever, ever want to be the writer who does that one thing. I do not want to be the horror writer, or the superhero writer. I’d get bored in a month. I have a wide palette when it comes to my tastes and interests, and I always want to push myself, creatively, to do new work. That said, Skybreaker is a much more serious, and somber, book. It’s theme heavy, where Hoax Hunters is plot heavy. I could never place a value on which is better, because I love them both for very different reasons. But my thinking in Skybreaker is often to question what something means—what, specifically, I’m trying to say. In Hoax Hunters, my focus in on fun and excitement and keeping the mystery fresh.

How did you meet up with Drew Zucker Have you worked together before and what particular positives do you think he brings to the book?

MM: Drew and I started this project a good year back, but I had to drop it—my schedule was too full. But Skybreaker kept burning a hole in my mind, and I knew I had to get back to it. I called up Drew and we hitched our wagon to MonkeyBrain. The rest is history.

Drew is a workhorse and a talented artist. And, best of all, he gets the book. It’s hard to find artists who really are on the same page—it’s hard to pair with anyone in life in such a way. But he understands the bleak nature of the book and represents it with his stark tones and the desperate feel he creates. Every page he gets better and better—it’s been a joy to see him develop.

Skybreaker_01.inddMonkeyBrain are doing a brilliant job carving a niche for themselves as a digital only publisher, How did you get in touch with them about producing Skybreaker?

MM: A friend of a friend, really. Chris Roberson is a gracious enough guy and was willing to hear out a pitch from someone he didn’t know. He liked it and took a chance, which not a whole lot of publishers do. Comics needs more MonkeyBrains, more people like Chris and Allison.

What are your thoughts on the growth of digital comics on the iPad? Do have one yourself and do you read comics on it?

MM: I love print and always will. But, I think digital is great as well, and I do read plenty of comics on my iPad. Look, comics is not a lucrative business. For every Kirkman there’s a thousand creators like me, working day jobs and squeezing in their art when they can. If digital is a way to ease the financial burden on this pool of creators, I think it’s a worthwhile endeavor. By the time the a product has gone through the hands of the publisher, retailer, and distributor, not to mention production costs, there’s so very little left for the people who actually make the book. Digital might just piece a significant piece in the puzzle of solving this problem. Not to mention there’s so much potential with cool stuff you can do with digital, like Waid’s Thrillbent or (the now defunct) Double Feature Comics, which included commentary and looks at the creative process.

Finally, how long a run can we look forward to with Skybreaker and what can we look forward to from you next?

MM: Skybreaker is five issues long, about 85 pages total. Issue two will release May 1, issue three June 19, the next two to come shortly after. As for what’s next, I have more Hoax Hunters coming and a few other projects I’m developing. Maybe more Western? I hope so—I’d love to make this an anthology, like Brian Wood did with Northlanders. We’ll have to see!

Skybreaker is available exclusively via ComiXology. For more information about Michael visit www.michaelmoreci.com or follow him on Twitter