Exclusive: Artist Drew Moss Talks “The Colonized” And Beyond
Every once in a while a comic comes along that just takes you by surprise. When IDW started The Colonized back in April, I thought it was a weird concept. You had a group of anti-government separatists who found themselves invaded by aliens. If that wasn’t enough, the aliens accidentally reanimate the dead. I thought I’d give it a shot and see if it was really as weird as it sounded. Well it was as weird as it sounded but it turned out to also have a fantastic story backing up that crazy concept. Chris Ryalll crafted one of the most insane and fun stories I have read in quite a while. When issue two came around I wanted to see if it was just a fluke. Luckily it wasn’t and I was completely enthralled by the series. One of the best things about the comic is the art from Drew Moss. After the third issue I knew I had to track him down and talk to him about the series. He was nice enough to give me a bit of his time to talk about his work on the series. We discussed what inspired him to draw in the first place, how he came up with the awesome alien designs, and what’s next for him. Read on to see how much fun Moss has had doing what he loves.
I got into drawing by watching cartoons as a child. I’m a child of the early 80s. I was watching the old Spider-Man cartoons, Herculoids, Space Ghost, just a lot of the Hanna-Barbera stuff. That was a huge influence on me. I lived in West Virginia then, and my grandfather would get me comics from the corner store. It would be random stuff too. It would never be one issue after the next [laughs]. It would be anything from Tom and Jerry, Spider-Man, to Thor and Batman. After seeing all that art…I’ve just been drawing ever since.
Looking over your Tumblr and Deviant Art pages you draw a wide variety of things but it seems like you might enjoy drawing stuff like monsters a lot. Is that a fair assessment?
Yeah, it just seemed to spiral into monsters. Monsters are easy in a way. Once you learn basic skeletal structure, once you learn basic anatomy, monsters are just a tweak of that. You can go crazy. There are rules, but then there are no rules, but then there are rules. Once you learn the basic rule you just let your imagination go with monsters.
So let’s jump right in to what you’re doing now. Chris Ryall had a little feature in the back of the first issue of Colonized talking about how the two of your first crossed paths thanks to a Kickstarter reward. Can you talk a little about how you two came together and how this series came about?
What’s amazing is one day a friend of mine (Mike Exner III) emailed me and said ‘would you pay a hundred dollars to get your portfolio reviewed?’ I was like no, I would totally never do that. He said it was too late. He did that for me. The crazy thing that blows my mind is that he’s an aspiring writer, he could have done that for himself. Being a writer he could have gotten his writing reviewed by Chris. Instead he chose to help me. I will never forget that. It’s like one of those things when people tell you there isn’t any general goodness. There is. There are people out there that think of other people before themselves. He taught me a life lesson right there. So we did the Kickstarter thing.
Months and months had past. I had forgotten because I was having my second baby, my second son. I got an email from Chris, just a group email saying ‘I’m sorry guys, I’ve been really busy and I’ll get your portfolio reviews as soon as I can. I really apologize. I wanted them done before this.’ I emailed him back. I was really overwhelmed with the baby so I just said look man I don’t know what a COO or Editor in Chief does, but I’m sure it’s a lot more than I do. I don’t mind. Take your time. Whenever you get to me is when you get to me. Don’t worry about it. Then he emailed me almost instantly. He thanked me for being understanding and told me to send him my portfolio and he’d review it on his way to Chile. He was going to something over there- for a con I think. He did and he got back to me with a really detailed review and asked me if I needed work and if I would like to do a pinup in one of his comics. I said yes and it just rolled from there. He gave me a job in the Zombies vs. Robots annual. I got to draw next to Sam Keith, Ashley Wood, and Andy Kuhn. That was amazing. I just kept thinking ‘why am I in this book?’ These guys are awesome and then it’s me.
With Colonized, I actually got a really good offer from another comic company. I emailed Chris and said ‘I want to thank you for what you done for me. I don’t think I would have got this offer or kind of taken seriously as an artist, but you really gave me my shot to do my thing.’ He emailed me back and was like ‘Well crap man, I get back from vacation and everything is kind of screwed up.’ He said he was going to offer me a miniseries and I said ‘Really? Yes! I’ll do it’ He said you haven’t even read it and I told him that’s fine I’ll do it. He wanted me to read it. He said ‘read it, you might think it’s really dumb.’ I told him I didn’t really care, I’d do it. That’s how The Colonized happened.
It’s really a crazy story with the separatists, the aliens, and zombies. When you actually got around to reading the script, what were your thoughts when you realized what you’d gotten into?
When I read it, I thought it had a little bit of everything. I immediately thought of DC. I thought of like Wally Wood, Jack Davis, I thought of Bernie Ricen even. You know from Creepy and his early work Eerie and stuff. Chris said let’s try to hit that classic style. Me, I’ll do anything genre stuff. As an artist there are times when you have to adjust the way you normally do things to assist with the story.
The design started and the minute we solidified the alien design, everything else was easy. The aliens might have had four or five different designs. When the final designs came in and we had no noses, big head, little tufts of hair on the side, after we got that Chris said ‘That’s it! I love it. That’s our alien and I’m going to make a toy one day of that.’ That’s awesome. I love drawing them. That’s one of those things I never thought would happen to me- I can draw these aliens with my eyes closed. I really can. When you create something that’s yours it stays with you forever. I do get people who ask me to do that at cons and I’m glad they ask for it. I can knock this out in a minute or two! When I first read it, I thought it was really good but it has everything in it so it’s going to be really challenging at the same time. It was great.
So it seems like it was a quick back and forth then you really had the design nailed down?
Yeah, maybe three or four times. Chris would say ‘Drop the nose, it’s too comedic.’ Although there are elements of humor in there, it’s not a comedy. His thing was making it familiar. That’s why they walk like gorillas by the way. I want them to look almost human-like when they’re standing, but when they’re moving it’s alien.
I wanted to say I was really impressed with the spacesuits especially. It makes the aliens look kind of sleek and different.
That’s a nod to Wally Wood, totally. He always drew the coolest space suits. He always had the big glass domes. They were complex but simple. It’s a total nod to him. I’ll never be that good, that guy is amazing and he’ll always be amazing. I am going to try though.
You do get to do some crazy stuff. You have the zombie animals and the aliens. Is making the book as much fun as reading it?
It is. It was, it’s done now for me of course. It was bittersweet doing that last page on issue 4. I told Ryall I was happy it was over, but I was a little sad that it was. I don’t get to draw these guys anymore. Of course if the response is good and people ask for it, there may be a sequel. You never know. There are some dangling things Ryall left in there to spark a sequel if we were to need one. I’m hoping the response is good. If people dig it and especially if they buy the trade. People tell me they buy the first issue to see if they like it then they’ll buy the trade. If they do that, that’s awesome too. Email IDW and tell them you like the series and would like to see it continue. Maybe it will happen. You know it’s really up to them. If it does, maybe next year we’ll be able to have Colonized 2 and I’ll be able to draw more aliens, different ones, and maybe more zombified animals.
There’s one more issue left. Is there anything you can tease us with? Something you’re looking forward to readers seeing?
There hasn’t been a lot of action. It’s been building though. The third issue has action, but the fourth issue is all action. There are explosions and just a lot of stuff. I can’t say, but I will tell you it was my favorite issue to draw. There was a moment in issue 3 where you find out the aliens can fly. I didn’t even know about that! Ryall was like ‘they can fly.’ No way! Can they? You’re kidding me! That really brought the whole comic book element. Why can they fly? Just cause. They just do it. It was really one of those kid moments when I found out I was going to be drawing them flying, or air walking as it were. It really made me giddy. Really cool stuff happens. You really get to see the aliens do their thing. Lots of twist and turns. I feel it’s a good open ending. I’m thinking you can’t end it here. There’s got to be more! I hope people will want to see more. If that’s the case I’d be happy to draw it if Chris will have me.
You can tell you’re excited about it. It’s always a good sign to hear the creative team is just as excited as the readers are about the book.
It’s one of the first things I can say that about. I’ve done stuff for anthologies. I was Mr. Anthology for a while. I’ve done stuff for comic book companies overseas as well. I’m always very critical about my work so I’m always doubting it. For once I’m really excited to see all the Colonized as a whole. I think the art gets better as it goes. Maybe I learned more or I’ve grown drawing it as much as I have been, but I’m super excited. I think the trade is going to have some extra sketches and stuff like that.
Let’s say you found yourself in the world of The Colonized. How do you think you’d do in that zombie/alien world? Which character do you think you would be most like?
I think I would probably…do aliens count? [laughs] I think I would be most like Gerald. He’s kind of confused by everything. Huxley seems to be pretty focused in. He’s like ‘There’s aliens and zombies. This is overwhelming but let’s kill zombies first and let my head wrap around the aliens thing later.’ Gerald just follows Huxley’s lead because he’s overwhelmed by everything. He seems mystified by everything. I think I would be like that. I don’t think I would be that take charge, this is the plan guy. I would go with the flow and hope I don’t die. Most people would like to be, or think of themselves as, the Alpha guy. I can imagine myself running around and freaking out.
Definitely not one of the extremists. I’m not into guns. My grandfather hunted a lot. It’s not that I’m not into guns because I don’t like them, it’s that I’m not a careful person. I will shoot myself and I don’t want to do that. I do respect guns, that’s why I don’t own one. I will drop it and shoot myself. I’d be the guy on the news who shot himself in the leg.
What’s next? Do you have any projects lined up or anything you’re starting to kick around we should be on the lookout for?
- Prior to this questions Drew had to take a brief break to take a call about some projects he will be working on that aren’t announced yet. He couldn’t talk much about them and wasn’t too sure what he could and couldn’t say. I’m going to redact some of it but give you a little taste of what he said.
- Let’s just say he has something coming up in November that’s a licensed property. He said “I get to draw something I’ve known for a while. It’s a new take on a character I’ve known for a while. I’m very excited.“
- He also has something lined up with Marvel superstar writer Cullen Bunn. It’s for Oni and it will be announced sometime in the next few months. Moss spoke very highly of Bunn much like he did Chris Ryall. He’s known Bunn for a while and even did a little work for his children’s novel Crooked Hills.
Final question. It seems like you’re getting to do a lot of stuff you want to do and are genuinely excited about, but is there a dream project for you? Is there one thing you’d really want to take a crack at?
I just want to do at least one issue of Spider-Man. When I was a child I grew up with my grandparents. My mother and I lived with them, my father was overseas. Every day I would watch the 1967 Spider-Man. To me they were new. They were at least 10 years old at the time, but to me they were new. My grandfather…after dinner we would sit on the front porch. He would have me tell him what happened on Spider-Man that day. Me being 4 or 5, I didn’t remember everything so I would make it up as I went. Every day when we were done he’d tell me to watch tomorrow because he wanted to know what happened next. It would happen every week day for almost three years. To have a guy do that…I mean have you ever listened to 4 or 5 year olds talk? Have them rattling on for about an hour and a half had to kill him. He did it every day. He passed away when I was in the 10th grade. I promised that I would do it for him. Just once. If I make it to that goal and I get to draw an issue of Spider-Man, it will be for him. That’s my dream goal. My dream comic.
Our thanks to Mr. Moss for giving us his insights into the series and what went into making it as fun to read as it is. We featured mostly Moss‘ aliens for The Colonized, but you can check out more of his art on his Deviant Art page here or his Tumblr here. You can also get in touch with him on Twitter @drew_moss. I highly encourage you to click around and check his stuff out. There are some truly great drawings there. I’ve talked to several comic book writers and artists, and I have to say that Drew Moss is up there as one of the nicest and most genuinely enthusiastic about what he does. You could tell he’s absolutely having a blast and is really excited the series is getting received well. This is a series I’ve really loved too, so I encourage you to do like he says and contact IDW if you want to see more. What do you think about what Moss had to say? Do you hope we see more from Ryall and Moss?