Do More, with Jay Mooers

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By Dominichi Hawkins

I am always jealous of those who can do it all. I’m talking about creators who write, draw, color, letter, and publish their own works. Sometimes they are better at one thing than another, but not 38-year-old Jay Mooers from Dartmouth, Massachusetts. This guy is proficient at all of it. His stories are on-point and so is every stage of his art. This makes the jealousy level even higher for me, but provides the reader with a well-rounded, timely, crafted piece of work from one man with a vison.

IM: How did you come to start making comics?

JM: I used to dabble in comics when I was younger. I never really collected them, but I was always fascinated and intimidated by them. There were just so many, and I knew with my compulsive nature, I would have to find a way to collect them all. I instead collected funny comics like Garfield and Heathcliff. (When I was young, my family got two cats, so I was into cat things at the time.) Through college, I started discovering my true passion was in telling stories. My degree project was my first graphic novel. But then, I put that style away and continued as a hired illustrator, portrait, and mural artist. I had many started concepts rolling around in my head, with sketches and outlines filling my bookshelves. In 2009, I decided to write and illustrate my first novel to completion, titled Illweed. Once I had realized I could do complete works on my own, I went back to my treasure trove of almost-forgotten stories and found one that I wanted to write next, Autumn Grey. I wrote about 200 pages before the massiveness of the story completely overwhelmed me. I had to find a way of breaking it down into manageable chunks. So I teamed up with a friend of mine, Kristi McDowell who, with her expertise of comics and her editing skills, helped guide me through my first issue. When it was finished, I tried to peddle it to friends and family. I had just finished the second issue when Kristi introduced me to Free Comic Book Day, where I brought my books to a comic shop and actually sold out of them. It was remarkable. I had tasted comic blood and I wanted more.

IM: What made you want to start your own label?

JM: I originally didn’t want to start my own label. I wanted to be taken under the wing by a publishing company like Image or Vertigo. I had no experience and had no idea the sheer numbers of comics that were thrown to those publishers on a daily basis. All I knew was that I wanted to tell my stories my way. I quickly learned about all the wonderful options in printing and digital comics that were available for someone who wasn’t taken under the wing of a massive company. So, Kristi and I started our own label called Eden Park Tales. Autumn Grey was its flagship comic and we planned other ones to follow. We knew that if the world liked our comic enough, the big names would hopefully come looking for us.

IM: Tell us about Eden Park Tales and the types of books you’re producing.

JM: Eden Park Tales was created as a sandbox for fantasy tales. We led it with Autumn Grey, which is a tale about a fictional place in New Hampshire where faeries and monsters go to hide away from the world, and how it affects the people who live there. I then brought my original novel Illweed under the label. Then Kristi’s graphic novel, A Planet’s Cry, about time on Earth breaking down and different time periods melting into each other, brought us even more attention with the comic community. Kristi and I have gone our separate ways since then, but we are both thriving in very different genres. 

IM: What is the hardest part about being the do-it-all guy?

JM: Yes, I am a do-it-all guy. I write the story, draw, ink, color, letter, publish, and then promote and sell the books. It is a daunting task and I know I’ve taken on at least five full time jobs doing this all on my own. I enjoy working with other people on many other projects, but stories like Autumn Grey and my future comics, Dusters and Bloodlines, along with my second full-length novel (due out at the end of the year) titled Scales and Sand, are all very personal pieces. These books are my art. Every bit of each of these tales is created from my own experiences, dreams, and imagination. They are like abstract portraits of their creator.

IM: Tell us about your new novel Scales and Sand.

JM: Illweed, my first solo project, keeps selling well through the years. I’ve sold out of copies at conventions on several occasions. I’ve even received emails from children and parents asking for a sequel. I toiled with the possibility of a sequel and couldn’t find the right tale. Illweed felt complete to me, but the world it existed in seemed riddled with possibilities. Scales and Sand takes place in the same world as Illweed, and there are little references and goodies throughout the book for those who have read the first book. But Scales and Sand is completely free-standing and independent of Illweed. While Illweed was geared towards a younger audience, Scales and Sand is a longer and  more serious story about a girl and her family who are ambushed in the Red Sea, a hostile desert. She is brought to a mysterious city, deep in the Red Sea, where she uncovers the great secrets of this hidden world.

IM: Who are the main characters?

JM: Aria Dannes is the main character. She is a girl from an upper middle class family. She is privileged and takes it for granted. When her family is ambushed and carted away by the mysterious Mirans, she loses everything and must learn that her actions make her a better person, not her materials. Captain Cadence Cree is a leader from the Miran Empire who doesn’t remember anything about her past. But when she meets Aria, unfamiliar memories start to stir and the cloud that covers her mind begins to break apart. The main antagonist in this tale is a man who calls himself the Crimson Foil. He’s a mysterious man with little regard for others. He will kill them and cast them aside if he feels they are in his way. His casual manner of murdering is only dwarfed by his passion for playing music. Who is this dangerous man, and why is he lurking through the halls of Mira?

IM: What is in the future for your label?

JM: After the trade books of Autumn Grey and Scales and Sand come out this year, I’ll be working on the next chapter of Autumn Grey and the first issue of a new series, Dusters. I’m hoping to continue growing my fan base and to get this book into the hands of people who can promote it far better than I can. 

IM: What other books do you have getting ready to release, or just recently released?

JM: Autumn Grey #5 was released a few months ago, and the trade of 1–5 will be available very soon. I have a short story in a current Kickstarter, titled My Peculiar Family. I also have a few other projects on the drawing board, including a second comic for a new convention in Saratoga Springs called 0Chase Con, and a fun time traveling story I’ve been working on with a writing friend of mine, called The Hunter’s Paradox. 

IM: If you could give a piece of advice to any creators wanting to “break into comics,” what would it be? 

JM: Do it! Draw, write, make something that you can show people! I spent too many years sitting on my ideas. These days, you can easily print something yourself. Bring it to conventions, or comic stores, or even into online groups. Social media has made it much easier to share your ideas with the outside world. Don’t be afraid of criticism. Every time I get a bad review or someone insults my work, I puff up my chest and feel even more determined to prove them wrong. 

IM: Where can people find your books?

JM: You can order my books through my website, www.edenparktales.com or get them digitally through Comixology. Some comic stores that carry them are listed on my webpage. Feel free to check out my site and download the freebie teaser book! It’s the best price—free!

 

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Learn more about our interviewer at: Dominichi Hawkins

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