Published on November 25th, 2014 | by Lauren McPhee0
Ten Questions With…Michael Moreci
Michael Moreci is a comic writer I’m very pleased to have been introduced to through his new sci-fi/noir comic from Image, Roche Limit. At its center, its about the ambitions and dreams of mankind and their propensity to falter, to get out of hand, to become corrupt when pursued without care or regard for the costs. At it’s apogees, it’s the story of a missing girl, Bekkah, on a wayward colony in space around a strange anomaly and the investigation to find her, led by her sister, Sonya, a cop from earth, and her ex-boyfriend, Alex, Roche Limit local. Some of you, however, may know Michael from Hoax Hunters, Curse and Hack/Slash. He also has a new series coming out in January from Boom! Studios called Burning Fields which I’m already excited for. Meanwhile, however, Michael agreed to have a chat with us about Roche Limit, issue three of which comes out this week.
NTC: Firstly, how did Roche Limit come about? What inspired you or brought you to this project?
MM: It started with Steve Seeley, who I co-created the book with. He had an idea for a mystery set on a colony near a Roche limit. After learning what such a thing was, pieces came to me over the course of a few months. I was working on my own noir and sci-fi projects, so what eventually became Roche Limit, the comic, was a result of these ideas I had–I just needed that thing to put it all together, which Steve provided.
Ultimately, this is exactly the kind of book I’ve always wanted to do, a challenging, thought-provoking sci-fi story. It’s difficult and elusive, and I love that. Some of my favorite movies are Dark City, Blade Runner and Gattaca, movies that explore, beautifully, who we are as people, what makes us human. That’s what the best sci-fi does, in my opinion, and I hope to be achieving similar in Roche Limit. You don’t have to have the answer of who we are–what counts is asking the question in a compelling way.
NTC: The sci-fi/noir genres are a nice blend: are you working from any specific influences from either end?
MM: Ha, I think I covered this in the previous question, not looking ahead. But, yeah, the aforementioned films, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, Stanislaw Lem–all works and writers who were after capturing the human condition in one form or other and doing it through sci-fi. Those movies and writers have spoken to me and been my idols since I was a teenager, and I think I’m finally ready to try and walk in their footsteps.
NTC: The comic contains themes of dreams, visions and memory: how do you think these fit into the sci-fi/noir setting?
MM: Great observation. That’s central to the story because, as we’ll see more and more, nearly everyone in the book is after something, some great ambition. Alex thought his drug would make him a celebrity God on Roche Limit, a somebody rather than a nobody; Watkins is after an understanding that no person should tamper with; Langford wanted to pull humanity, by himself, into the space age. But what are these ambitions, ultimately? They’re visions, dreams, ideas that exist mainly in our head. Now, I’m not trying to discount dreams, the opposite, in fact–these things that exist deep within us, that aren’t even real, are so integral to defining who we are. We are, in so many ways, the sum of who we want to be, what we want to achieve.
But, at the same time, there’s great peril when you take that deeply personal core and try to put it into practice because the world doesn’t always abide by your wants and desires. And that’s when you get disappointment and people trying to obtain things they shouldn’t have, know things they should know. As the Talking Heads said–watch out, you might get what you’re after.
When you go after these things–or, with the drug Recall, try to live a memory–you begin to lose part of yourself. You become so focused on what isn’t real–these things that exist within you and you alone–that you lose sight of what is. And that’s a dangerous place to be, a place of fantasy and obsession, and it robs us of the very thing we’re trying to capture.
Sci-fi has always explored this well. My favorite Vonnegut book, Sirens of Titan, is all about fantasy, as is the film Solaris (another one of my favorites)–that danger in losing yourself. There’s a reason why the tagline to Roche Limit is “Come Find Yourself.” It’s enticing, a siren call, but you’re not finding anything, not like this.
NTC: Tied to the “careful what you wish for” trope is “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions” trope, especially for Langford: so, following on from themes of dreams and visions, how do good intentions feature in the outcome of Roche Limit?
MM: I think we’ll see, by the end of this volume, that there’s only one salvation for humans (and Langford does reach this conclusion, tragically too late). I’m reminded of one of my very favorite movies, Christopher Nolan’s Memento, which adroitly explored how deeply we’re willing to lie to ourselves in order to ensure that our world continues to make sense. Building off what’s been said, that’s a treacherous path, because no one is ever the villain of their own story. You’ll keep on lying and lying and convincing yourself that what you’re doing is worth it because it’s good—because you need it. Guy Pearce’s character needed this quest of his, however real it was (or wasn’t). Similarly, Watkins, Langford, and Moscow all have their own quests to reach some kind of fulfillment; in their minds, they are the good guys. Their intentions, to them, justify their mission.
NTC: Doubles are another theme in Roche Limit, as well as cycles, repetitions and rotations: how binding are these constructions? Is there any hope of breaking away or forging a new path?
MM: Yes, yes yes yes. This is big in the book, and I’m glad you caught this. Characters repeat what another character has already said; other characters finish another’s sentence in a different scene. It’s all about cycles and repetitions, absolutely.
You know, we just had an election here, and many of my friends are up in arms about the Republicans taking control of the senate. But, man, you look at it and you realize how it’s just the same pattern over and over and over. The Dems get in, but nothing really changes; then the Republicans get control back and, again, nothing changes. It’s all an illusion based on semantics and houses of cards—every candidate boasts big promises of change in one way or the other, but how many really deliver? All people are really voting for is an ideology, “values”. But what is that, even? It’s a fantasy that keeps the cycle of stagnation going.
Can we break free? I don’t know, I really don’t.
To me, there’s only one change that can be forged, which will see in the book—far more personal, intimate. I can say this without spoiling anything: Whitman once said “Create better people, the rest follows.” Maybe above all, the sin Langford and the rest are most guilty of is wanting more. What if, instead of trying to change everyone’s world, we just changed our own instead?
NTC: Langford’s narration at the beginning of each issue obviously brings together a lot of the elements we’ve discussed (visions, doubling, repetitions) and his poetic voice is so present throughout the comic: what inspired his narration and tone of voice and am I right in thinking that I’m being seduced by it?
MM: In a way, you are. Because he’s talking about things that are so deeply universal and human–ambition and failure, loneliness and pride–and touch upon some truths about who we are, as a race. He’s meant to so eloquent, because it sort of lulls you into accepting what he has to say about humanity’s legacy of greed and an inability to cooperate for the greater good.
His voice really comes from my own frustrations, and the realization of how stymied were are, coming out of the Obama administration. We’re always going to just be two sides, digging our spikes into the mud, pushing against each other with only the illusion of movement. If we lifted our heads from the ground, we’d see we’re exerting all our energy to go nowhere. And I think people recognize this lament and see the hope within it, the hope to build from within. Through kindness, fairness, cooperation, the preservation of our dreams, we can still achieve great things, but we have to stay focused. Langford lost his focus, carried away in his need to get what he wanted, and he lives a life of regret. We don’t need to suffer the same fate.
NTC: In my previous review, I stated that I thought Sonya’s development was lacking: do you think that’s a fair criticism at this point, and will upcoming issues address that criticism?
MM: I do, yes. I think she’s a product of her quest, it’s what defines her on Roche Limit. As we learn more about that, we’ll unveil her more and more. In issue 3, she really steps into the spotlight over Alex, which I enjoy–not only does it round out her character, but it adds a different note to the POV of our protagonists.
NTC: You include articles and infographics as part of the comic: what made you add these additional modes of storytelling and what do you think they bring?
MM: You know, part of my reasoning was the desire to do whatever I wanted in a comic with no restrictions. Just toss the kitchen sink into it, which was easy with Roche Limit because the story is so dense and the world is so rich–plus, I’m incredibly passionate about it. Part of me always thinks that my next series is going to be my last, for whatever reason, so I write my books without feeling I need to keep impressing things upon people, like creating a consistent “creator brand” or trying to wow big two editors. I write what I enjoy and, for the most part of my career, I’ve been able to do it on my terms–and I’m incredibly lucky because of that.
But, getting more specific, I just wanted to make Roche Limit a comprehensive and bold endeavor. I’m not content with making a middle of the road book–I’d rather fail miserably than just be average, than not at least try to hit a new height. I may not always (or ever) make it, but that’s my ambition, and Roche Limit is a reflection of that. The book is massive in scope–it’s a trilogy, with three distinct volumes that have all new characters–and unashamed to comment on big topics, like the nature of reality, love, and our failures as humans. In order to do so, I had to go big, to cram the issue and use every nook and cranny available to me and push myself to find interesting ways to tell the complete story, other than the sequential pages. It’s a challenge, for sure, but I’m loving the experience.
NTC: Lastly, we can’t ignore the crime aspects (overlapping narratives, missing persons, mysteries, clues) which drive the story: can you briefly comment on how the crime elements blend with the themes we have discussed? What makes Roche Limit more than your typical detective’s story?
MM: It’s weird, because there’s so many mysteries in this book–who/what are the ghouls? What happened to Langford? What happens to people when they’re exposed to the anomaly, as Bekkah was? What’s happening to all these missing girls? This tapestry is intentional, for a few reasons. One, the mysteries are all heading to the same place, more or less. And two, more importantly, inquisition is in many ways the soul of the book. For better or worse, all the characters live and die on their need to discover some kind of truth, whether about the cosmos, the human soul, the recipe for a drug, or the whereabouts of a missing sister. And, in turn, I think the book ask readers to form their own important questions about the human experience. I’ve always contended that, most times, the answers aren’t as important as the questions; the endpoint far less meaningful than the journey. I think this is reflected in Roche Limit.
As for crime, you know, I love the genre, always will. But, again, the stories I love most are the ones that focus on the experience. Take The Big Sleep, one of the greatest achievements in the P.I. genre–and the movies doesn’t make a lick of sense. But it doesn’t matter, the point is the investigation, rather than the solution. If you want a clear cut solution, go after Law and Order. But if you want an investigation, like Auster’s New York Trilogy, for example, you have to be willing to surrender the comfort of answers and sit with the questions instead.
NTC: And a special Need to Consume question to finish! Which is your favourite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle?
NTC: Ha! Why am I not surprised? Anyway, thank you, Michael, for your time. Issue 3 of Roche Limit is amazing and represents all that we have discussed here and more! Best of luck with the series in the future and Burning Fields when it comes out. We hope to chat to you again sometime!