October 27, 2009

Getting Rebel-ious with Pepe Moreno

Hey there Comic Attackers, we have a special interview for you today with comic book artist/writer, Pepe Moreno! Pepe is making a comeback on the comic book scene beginning with the re-printing of his 1984 hit, Rebel. This new, enhanced version is a 75+ page over-sized graphic novel that’s jam packed with extras and is produced through I.D.W. The book has been remastered for 2009 with the help of comic legend, Larry Hama (GI Joe, Bucky O’Hare), who helped with some rewrites. If you’re in the Los Angeles area tomorrow, October 28th, you can meet Pepe at Collector’s Paradise from 4pm-8pm, where he’ll be signing copies of Rebel in the store! To get you pumped for the event, Pepe took the time to speak with us about Rebel, politics, and video games.

rebel-coverCOMIC ATTACK: Rebel was originally published in 1984, but for the 2009 re-boot you’ve added some changes to make it more applicable to a modern audience. What’s it like revolutionizing a comic book for 2009?

PEPE MORENO: The changes were in form rather than in content. Graphically, I’ve always wanted it to be more dramatic and cinematographic but kind of difficult to take chances in “analogue”- by that I mean on paper with permanent inks and airbrush, no undo buttons no Photoshop layers… no Photoshop period. Printing was also a little less predictable back then and you always wanted to play it safe.  I have not changed the drawings, the panels or the composition, the “art” is still the same but I have added light (and shadow), depth and speed… and special effects.  Just everything I’ve always wanted… the results speak for themselves, and I’m very happy with it. The dialogue was updated (modernized) and made tighter and we took advantage to plug some holes left open in the original story. The original script had a slightly different physiology; these guys were also young and hip and I wanted to stay with that. The book is fun and easy to read, and I got to work with Larry Hama again, and that was quite a bonus.

CA: Considering you serve as both the artist and the writer on Rebel, can you tell us what your work process is like? For instance, once you come up with an idea, do you write out the script first or begin sketching out the characters?

PM: I tend to visualize things first… I think of the kind of scenes and situations that I would like to see and that gets me excited. Once I have the setting and the basic story in my mind, then I’m ready to go. With the vision in my head, everything else kind of falls into place on its own. Like you kind of reverse engineer the vision to come up with the details.

CA: The events of the story take place after America’s second Civil War; what in your mind, caused that war?

PM: The underlines of a civil war and war in general tend to always have the same essentials. Look at the country right now for instance, the underlying tensions are as loud and clear as at any other time in history. Democracy goes a long way to defuse tensions (as it allows for “tribal” factions to take turns). All it takes is an event (or series of events) that breaks the civil barriers and that takes away peoples comfort zones. And humans tend go primal when threatened. Look at what happened in Bosnia, out of the blue and all of the sudden -even after hundreds of years of peaceful coexistence- all hell broke loose putting everything back into the Stone Age. And it did not take long for it to get as bad as it can get, did it?

REBELCA: In this post-apocalyptic world the military has essentially taken over as the governing force of the U.S. in the guise of the Sanitation Police. Given laws like the Patriot Act, the disturbing fact that large corporations control many of today’s news outlets, and government actions like raising taxes and stricter gun laws, do you foresee Rebel’s present as a possible future for the United States?

PM: No, not really but you never know. I was playing the devil’s advocate on the subject (and as a story teller you should), and just started to imagine what would happen if all the communications and electronic devices we have all become so used to were removed overnight.  Like in the Rebel story, imagine what would happen if for some reason we were to have no electricity for two continuous months or more (and that’s not entirely impossible). I tend to think that the best of human nature comes up under adverse circumstances… but for how long? That’s the real question, and I’m not entirely sure we would make it before we start craving guns (if you don’t have an arsenal already).

CA: “Ironically enough, the ones that talked about God all the time were the scariest of the bunch and the ones to really look out for,” is a quote taken from the exposition page of the story. Given how many established religions nowadays enact cult-like rituals and practices, do you believe there is a touch of truth to this quote in 2009?

PM: There’s nothing wrong with religion per se as it serves a constructive purpose in any society. Most religions are based in very essential and noble human principals (nature), but I’m always weary of those who need to wear their religion on their sleeves. Never mind when they think that they are right and everyone else is wrong and we should follow in their ignorant ways… or else. Faith, like love of country, is a quiet thing, something between you and your God (whomever/whatever it may be and the last time I checked it was a free country).  So I’m always weary of those who preach too much or invoke the name of God too often, as it may have very little to do with God. Funny that when that happens it often has more to do with hate and causing harm than it does with love, caring and respect. Same thing goes for those who need to wrap themselves in the flag (whatever flag) and call themselves “real Americas”… like what are the rest of us?

CA: You had mentioned in an earlier conversation that you brought in a group of street-wise people to help with re-structuring the flow of dialogue for Rebel’s reboot- What was that process like?

PM: They were kids, the same ages as the ones in the story and a few hard core types I meet here and there. Like this ex-marine instructor who came to be a security guard (Mexican American), he had the funniest things to say and in the most entertaining ways. Like when you know your stuff (shit) you tend to say things differently. Kids also do that these days, when you have made your most basic point then they close it with “like stuff and shit” and move on to the next subject… love it. The language of knowing your shit is simple and far more compelling then when you need to make things (shit) up.

REBEL 2CA: There is some very vivid imagery in the graphic novel that may have more of an impact on audiences today than back in 1984. Within the first few pages we see the ruined remains of the World Trade Center; one tower is still standing tall but the other is half destroyed, eerily reminiscent of the September 11th attack.  Later in the story, explosions rock the sole remaining tower and it disturbingly falls in the exact same manner that the Towers fell in reality. Considering what happened in 2001, what impact do these images have on you today?

PM: Yeah imagine the shock when it did actually happen… and around the same time when the fictional story took place. Was I predicting the future? No, I would not pretend that cognitively or otherwise… and the book itself is an irrelevant thing as it compares to the real human tragedy of that dreadful day. It so happens that it did happen; nothing more and nothing less. In the last page of the book we have a memorial page that kind explains the sentiment… not an easy thing to convey in just a few words or in just words for that matter.

CA: Along with yourself, Larry Hama (GI Joe) is credited as co-writing the script of Rebel. What was his role exactly on the project?

PM: Yeah, I talked Larry into it. He was not part of the original script but Larry was my editor at Marvel and we know each other from back then. He knew the subject and he’s a damn good writer. I wanted him to rewrite the outline with me and help me oversee the changes.

CA: Why did you choose to go with the company IDW to republish your work? What did they have to offer that other publishers didn’t?

PM: Well, they kind of choose me, but having said that they have a great deal of respect and appreciation for quality stuff. They are a great alternative for non-superhero stuff (not my cup of tea) and they do a fantastic job with the printing. You also get to keep your IP which is always nice to have, and that’s very important, especially nowadays.

REBEL 1CA: Rebel is often compared to the movies Mad Max and Death Race, what do you think of these comparisons?

PM: I was influenced at the time by Mad Max (or the Road Warrior) and Escape From New York… so the comparison is okay by me. Death Race may be the other way around given the time chronology, but it was a great amusement to me when it came out. I would have done a few things differently with the story (for sure) but it was the closest thing to the Rebel book I have seen in awhile. Interesting.

CA: How long did you live in Spain, and what was life like when you were there?

PM: I came here literally as soon as I was able to, and right after my compulsory military service in Spain (and two years as a DJ back there). I was in my 20’s, and I got busy here right away and kind of never left, nor wanted to.

CA: Why did you eventually move to the U.S. and how did you break into the comic book industry?

PM: I was publishing already in Spain and in Europe (I started very early), and I even did a story for Metal Hurlant before I left, but I have always wanted to come here… it was my culture already and like the center of the Roman Empire (so to speak). Not the place here perhaps, but I’m an American and love this country with great passion and in all the essential ways it matters most… and no, I don’t have a big American flag behind me to prove anything or to express the gratitude and affection I feel for what the idea of this county is, and what it means to me.

CA: At the end of Rebel, there is a section where you provide a number of original photos of New York City in 1982. Can you tell us some of your best memories of the time you spent in the Big Apple?

PM: It was so post-apocalyptic like back then. It was still the Cold War, the world was different and culture was different. 9/11 changed everything, but even without that my kids even tell me that the world seemed rawer and more adventurous back then… and I have a feeling that they may be right. I lived in a loft in Brooklyn at the time and the inspiration for the book was everywhere.  In fact, many of the fantasy scenarios were just like that in real life back then.

REBEL 3CA: Besides being a comic book creator, you’re the President of the video game company Digital Fusion, which has produced such games as the Beach Head series, Panzer Killer, and Tiger Hunt. What does the future have in store for the company and the world of gaming?

PM: Things are changing again (they always do and that’s where I live) but as an underlining principal I’ve always believed in “digital fusion” (which also happens to be the name of the company I’ve created). I’m still making games, although smaller, but the most interesting thing is the blending of the different mediums and the immense entertainment possibilities that comes with that. We’re indeed at the verge of another renaissance.

CA: You also write and illustrate political cartoons for your blog,; in one of your more recent political cartoons, you play off of the fact that both the Taliban and conservative personality Rush Limbaugh, condemned President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize. What, in your opinion, has the President done to deserve this honor and can you validate your perspective on this matter?

PM: The point of the cartoon was not about the merit of getting the Nobel Prize at such an early stage. That’s a genuine discussion and debate but a polite, respectful and on the merits one. To just root for the President to fail (or worse) has nothing to do with it… and as far is these characters and their motives go, I’m not sure it is necessary do anything else but to ridicule them.  Besides –and discussion aside- it is a good thing, something to be proud of. Same if we would have won the Olympic bid.

PEPECARTOONCA: In many of these cartoons conservative talking heads like Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh are the subjects of satire. Why do you take issue with them as opposed to the conservatives that legislate these opinions?

PM: Well, the crazy talk seems to be permeating into everything, but that’s not where I’m jumping at. Anything to do with legislation, democracy and civil debate is more okay by me whatever the point of view is. To me, it is not about political affiliation or ideology (it’s quite a mixed bag for me if you were to pin it down), but about ideas; better ideas and more intelligent methods. There’s nothing wrong with being the opposition, in fact we need to have a genuine opposition, but it needs to be made up of ideas and not just rhetoric.  That’s the way it works and should be, but these guys have nothing to do with that… at all. These buffoons are not interested in the debate, and if you believe they are than you are been fooled. Just follow the money trail and see where the ideals lay.

CA: What type of literature do you like to read?

PM: I’m always interested in human nature and understanding how things work. I love science history and reference books. I have not read any novels for awhile but I love the SF and Cyberpunk classics. I love reading about history, especially first person accounts and day-to-day experiences… details please! I appreciate the craft and the literature of writing and the language, as I know how difficult it is for me to get it right…

CA: How about comics?

PM: Not superheroes.

CA: Pepe, thank you for taking the time to chat with! In closing, what’s next for you and Rebel?

PM: As I have mentioned earlier there’s a new sense of convergence again… I’ve ridden in these waves before and good stuff always comes out of it… something new and something exciting.  More immediately, all of my books are coming out again (re-enhanced of course). Working on a comic book (like) format for the I-phone and the Internet but with new technology and a business model that actually makes money. I’m working on new comics and story lines but not like anything you have seen before… it’s not in my nature to do the same things over and over again just so that I can get one of those “doing the same thing over and over again” life achievement awards. To be continued… of course.

Be sure to stop by Collector’s Paradise on October 28th for the signing event, and for more info on Pepe and Rebel, check out the following links:
Andy Liegl



  1. billy

    Good interview Andy. I love getting a glimpse into the minds of creators.

  2. Thanks Billy, glad you liked it!

  3. InfiniteSpeech

    wow! loved it man..nothing like knowing your shit!

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