You probably know Michael Moreci as a writer of comics like Roche Limit at Image Comics, The Flash at DC Comics, and the upcoming Wasted Space at Vault Comics. But Moreci recently leveled up as well with his first published novel, Black Star Renegades.
"In the tradition of Star Wars, a galaxy-hopping space adventure about a galactic kingdom bent on control and the young misfit who must find the power within before it's too late," reads the book's description, and amidst this galaxy-hopping adventure, readers will also find a tale of characters trying to define their place in the world and their relationships with others.
We spoke with Moreci to talk about Black Star Renegades, his upcoming comics work, his plans for the future, and the Snyder Cut. Of course we talked about the Snyder Cut. Read the interview below. Black Star Renegades can be found now at your favorite book store or online.
BC: Let's talk about Black Star Renegades. It was a really bold choice to use just words and no pictures. How did you come up with this new take on a comic?
MM: It came to me one stormy night. I'd been drinking whiskey since noon, and I forgot to hire an artist for this story I wanted to tell. So I thought to myself, "what if there was NO artist at all?" and the innovation took off from there.
But seriously, I'd always wanted to write a novel. In fact, I have before! It was unpublished (thank Crom). I'd been pitching an editor at St. Martin's for years with no luck, then one day he called me up and said, "Mike, you love Star Wars. Write me something Star Wars." And all I had to do was open my drawer and say, "here you go!" and we were off and running from there.
What was it like going from the backwater industry of comics publishing to the fancy, grown-up world of book publishing? Did you have to wear a tie?
I do, but I wear it knotted around my forehead and off to the side, John Rambo style.
Other than that, there's a lot of similarities, a lot of differences. It's weird to do something in one big chunk and have that one thing be the focus of all attention — the writing, the marketing, the sales, everything. I'm used to comics, where you're grinding month in and month out, which can be a real challenge. Getting a comic completely finished — art, letters, etc. — in 30 days isn't easy; I love the task, but it can drive you nuts.
Ultimately, it's the same thing in so many ways. You're doing what you love, but so are a thousand other people. Because of that, you have to fight like mad to get your thing noticed above all the other things. Comics and books share that, completely. Granted, books have a much broader readership, which makes it a bit easier, and because there's no behemoth of licensed characters dominating the room you have waaaaay more flexibility, but it's still not easy. The same challenges — and the same rewards — exist in both spaces.
Black Star Renegades is a love letter to Star Wars and captures some of the spirit of Guardians of the Galaxy too, but what about some more personal influences? Where did you draw inspiration for the stories and characterization that are the real soul of the novel, like, for example, the relationships between Cade and Tristan, Kira, and Mig, or in Ga Halle's backstory?
Well, the thing is, Star Wars IS personal to me. I grew up poor on the South Side of Chicago, and Star Wars was so much to me — an escape, an inspiration, and a vision that, like Luke, I could get off the damn rock I was stuck on and do something else with my life. But I do draw from other things, too. I mean, Kira wouldn't exist without my wife. She comes from a family of no-nonsense Mexican women, and that DNA is all over Kira's character. Ga Halle was a tricky one, and that comes from a lot of people I've known over the years, good people who ended up doing bad things. But, while I don't justify these actions, I do understand that they don't see themselves as the villain, and neither does Ga Halle. No one is the bad guy of their own story. So I thought in those terms as I crafted her, wanting to create a villain who you could read and say, "I totally acknowledge that you're evil, but I understand why you're evil." And Cade and Tristan are my brother and I; he's the overachiever, I'm the ne'er do well.
Let's talk about that Star Wars thing though. Surely comparing Black Star Renegades to Star Wars has helped sell people on the book, but has it caused you any grief? On Amazon, the vast majority of views are positive and praise the book, but there's one review on there that complains the book is "fan fiction." Does that bug you at all?
I mean, in a way. The only thing that bugs me is the way people throw around the term "fan fiction" like it's a four-letter word. Like, if my book was taking cues from Shakespeare instead of Star Wars, those same people who dissed it as fan fic would be like, "Ooooooh, ahhh, yes, very Hamlet-ian, very Hamlet-ian indeed." Solomon said there's nothing new under the sun — we're all inspired by the world around us and its ingrained in the things we do. Star Wars is a huge part of my life, and I wear that on my sleeve. So what? If you look at Star Wars itself, you can say it's fan fic of samurai movies and Flash Gordon, and Flash Gordon is fan fic of John Carter, and so on and so on. What matters is the journey you take with the book, or movie, or whatever. Did you enjoy it? Did you have a good time? If so, great. If not, that's fine too — but don't slap my hand for doing the same thing literally everyone else does. In one way or another, we're all kinda writing fan fic.
Praxis, the villains of the story, are evil fascists hell-bent on dominating the galaxy, but their opposites in The Well really aren't so great either, failing to take action when needed and seemingly more interested in their own status and survival than in their stated mission of keeping peace in the Galaxy. What are you trying to say about authority with this story? Are you some kind of anarchist?
Maybe I am? Well… no. Probably not. I don't believe that institutions are inherently evil. But I do believe that the institutions we have right now pretty much are. Or at least negligent. I don't want to get too political, but while there's certainly one political party that I demonize over the other, I don't think either have much to be proud of in terms of upholding their elected office to its letter — you know, representing the people. I wanted to paint the Well as a ground that boasts about their commitment to benevolence, peace, all those niceties, but really, when push comes to shove, their main interest is in protecting their status quo. So when Praxis came along, their philosophy was, "well, we could do something about it, but that requires us to do something about it," which seemed pretty appropriate to me. At the end of the day, the Well decided to serve themselves, rather than the galaxy they vowed to protect because doing so would threaten their power and comfort. And to me, that's the relationship we're caught in: The bad guys are terrible, and the supposed good guys aren't so great either.
Despite finding success outside of comics, you're still slumming it here with a new series called Wasted Space. What's Wasted Space about, and how did you hook up with the rest of the creative team for that book and the publisher, Vault Comics?
Yeah, I figured I'd keep it real and do a comic here and there.
Kidding, kidding! I'll always write comics; I love 'em to death.
So, Wasted Space. Pretty simple: Take Preacher, Philip K. Dick, toss them in a blender, and you're pretty much there. It's a sci-fi romp about false prophets, angry gods, drugs, and quite possibly the end of the world. And, quite honestly, I think it's the best comic I've written and been part of. Hayden Sherman's art is out of this world — he's channeling [Frank] Miller's Ronin and early career [Howard] Chaykin, and Jason Wordie's colors match it perfectly. Jim Campbell remains one of the best letterers in comics, and Vault has been SO awesome in making this book as good as it can be. I'm super proud of what we've done, and I very much think it's the right book at the right time, given our sociopolitical climate.
You're also working on a sequel to Black Star Renegades, due out in 2019. What can we expect to see there?
Deeper and darker. I mean, not too dark — the book is meant to be read by anyone as young as, say, 12 all the way to adulthood (see: Star Wars), but the journey for the characters is far more intense. This is war now. This is real, and what the characters achieved in book one, well, there's a reckoning for that. And they have to deal with it.
Also, there's a lot more Kira. If you liked her in the first book — personally, she's my favorite — then get ready for her to step into the spotlight in a major way.
If Black Star Renegades is a hit as a franchise, it could end up adapted as a movie. And soon enough after that, some comic book company could end up licensing the movies to make an official comics adaptation. If you could choose anyone, who would you want to see on the creative team for the comic book adaptation of the movie adaptation of Black Star Renegades, and why?
Hmmmm… well, Wes Craig has to illustrate it. There's no doubt about that. He can capture that energy and fun and big galactic weirdness so perfectly. I'd have Ben Percy write it — he knows how to nail humor really well, and he can pull back and be serious too. Jordan Boyd would color it, because he rules, and Jim Campbell on letters.
You've written a few members of the Justice League at DC Comics, so we'd be remiss in not asking your opinion on "The Snyder Cut" of the Justice League movie. Does it exist? Do you want to see it? Why won't Warner Bros. release it?
Oh boy. I think there is a cut. There has to be, even if much of it is rough. He was so deep into production that I'd venture to guess he was close to done with principal shooting. Do I want to see it? Not so much. I thought Justice League was fine, but I don't know what Snyder brings to the table really elevates or smoothes out the issues I had with the film. I guess I'd be curious to see his vision, but I'm not sure that what exists in the cut we saw, that there's enough there to elevate that movie into something great.
You've conquered comics and books, you've got movie and TV deals in play, and you've even succeeded in my field of clickbait journalism for sites like Tor.com. What's next for Michael Moreci? Are there any other creative medium's you're looking at? You don't play an instrument, do you?
Ha! Well, the only reason I write so much is because I literally can do nothing else. Nothing. I can't even fold clothes.
Learn more about Michael Moreci at his website. Find Black Star Renegades at your favorite book store, or see where to order online here. Wasted Space, from Vault Comics, hits stores on April 25th, so preorder now!