Zeb Larson chats with comic book writer Michael Moreci…
Zeb Larson: When you first thought of this story, did you imagine it as a Sci-Fi story or a crime story? Is it both, or is it something else?
Michael Moreci: It’s hard to say, because what I took form both is the existential underpinnings that exist in both genres (sometimes, of course). I always call back to Blade Runner—what is that movie? Sci-fi? Noir? Both, I’d argue, though they intersect in their leanings to examining the human condition, as both genres do so well. Roche Limit ascribes to something similar, as I did use stories that defy conventional categorization as the stars I steered by. But underneath them all was this philosophical bent that really speaks to me, that made their stories so much more.
ZL: Were there any literary influences that played a part in the creation of this comic? How about from movies and games?
MM: So, so many. Kurt Vonnegut, Stanislaw Lem, Raymond Chandler, Ray Bradbury on the literary side. Blade Runner, Gattaca, and Dark City on the cinema side.
ZL: A lot of this comic is about man’s place in the universe. Do you think of yourself as a student of philosophy? If so, who do you study?
MM: Ha, actually, I was once a student of philosophy, literally. That was my undergrad minor. I’ve always found myself wondering about humanity’s place in the universe, who we are, and what makes us uniquely human. I know those are some really large brushstrokes, but what it all leads to is examining things more closely, trying to understand who we are on a deeply personal, physiological level as well as the grand, cosmic scale. There’s so many questions we’ll never have the answers to—our lives are all too short and filled with trivialities; it’s comforting to sit back and remember how small and precious we all are.
As for specifics, I’ve studied Descartes, William James, Carl Sagan, Leibniz, and Bulgkov, amongst others, and try to dig into religious texts every now and again.
ZL: Much of this comic’s narration is very bleak in terms of how we as human beings fit into the cosmos. How much of this do you agree with?
MM: Probably too much for my own health. I think, in terms of the harsh outlook, there’s two things going on. One is my reaction, to a degree, of the Obama years. Don’t get me wrong, I like Obama. But if there’s one thing these two terms have taught me, it’s that we as people are all but incapable to banding together to accomplish shared goals for the good of us all. Things like gun control, health care, and enforcing a livable minimum wage, to me, are slam dunk essentials. These luxuries (as it would seem they are, given how ardently they’re fought against) should just be there for everyone, no questions asked. But, here we are. We’d rather fight and fight and fight over our cultural differences—which have no bearing on policy—than take measures to ensure basic necessities are being met for all people. As long as we live in this “us and them” dichotomy, we’re truly fucked as people. I hate to say it, but it’s true.
But, it’s not all doom and gloom. I do think there’s salvation for people, we do have a window to peace and harmony—and we’ll see what this is at the end of the fifth issue.
ZL: Just about every person you meet in this comic has had their hopes and dreams fail on them. Langford at one point says that hopes and dreams are still important. How are they important?
MM: Going off the previous answer, I think they’re vital because they remind us of what we’re capable of. If we can dream of a unified world, of an existence ruled by peace and equality, why can’t it be so? Space exploration is the perfect framing for this—we, as people, are explorers. We’re endlessly curious, endlessly reaching beyond our grasp, and I mean this in a good way. We look at the night sky and imagine the possibilities, and that’s a beautiful thing. We just need to turn that gaze to our world at hand sometimes—that wondrous curiosity—and see how we can make our world better.
ZL: What was the inspiration for this story?
MM: I’ve been wanting to write an existential story since the word go in my life as a writer. You can’t do it every time, but I know I’ve always had this kind of story in me. I had some ideas kicking around when my Hoax Hunters co-writer Steve Seeley mentioned an idea he had for a mystery set on a colony outside a Roche limit. My mind was immediately off to the races. All the pieces came together and Roche Limit was born. It took a few iterations and a lot of background work—I’ve never written so many notes for a story, ever (I have notebook full of my working things out and documents a mile long). But when it all came together, it was the lightning flash moment.
ZL: What do you see as the advantages of telling a Sci-Fi story in a comic book format?
MM: I think mainstream sci-fi, in cinema and TV, is required to be a little to mainstream. Not to be a snob, but I feel we’ve gotten a little too loose with the classification of sci-fi; some things I see that are labeled that, to me, are just action movies in space. And that’s a totally different thing. To me, sci-fi is built to hold a mirror up to some aspect of our world, whether its politics, culture, religion, etc, and put it in a speculative story. If you agree, then comics is the absolute best place to tell a sci-fi story. You’re not encumbered by studio demands or budget or audience testing, none of the BS. You can embrace the genre and take huge risks, and we thankfully have a reading base that accepts that, so it all works out. Comics is the medium where you can be bold and have a concise vision executed.
ZL: What we know about Langford and his eventual failure can be read as a critique of what great men can accomplish. Was that in your mind as you were writing?
MM: I think what I’m getting at here is, in simple terms, keeping your eye on the ball. We all have tremendous capacity for so many great and terrible things, and we might achieve the former while pursuing the latter if we’re not careful. It’s easy to get carried away and forget simple objectives. For Langford, it was exploring space, and he turned that ambition into this grand project to take the entire world with him. Had he simply went after his goal, I’d say he’d be a lot better off. In light of my feelings on our broken political system, I think our only real hope for improving the world is to better ourselves. Whitman said “create better people, the rest follows.” That’s what it boils down to, in my outlook of the world.
ZL: What’s the long-term course with this series past Issue #5?
MM: Roche Limit is a trilogy consisting of three very unique parts, each five issues long. Each volume takes place many years from each other and incorporates a whole new cast—the thread that ties it all together, as readers will see, is thematic (and place, in terms of the actual Roche limit colony). It’s a big sci-fi story, grand scale, grand themes. Like I said—comics let you take risks.
ZL: When you’re not creating, what do you do for fun?
MM: All I really want to do outside of work is spend time with my family. I read when I can—when the everyone in my house is asleep—and I am passionate about Criterion films. I like to keep things pretty simple.
Thanks to Michael Moreci for taking the time to do this interview. Images courtesy of Vic Malhotra.