Reviewer Lizzy Walker had the opportunity to interview David Gallaher, author of the werewolf Western graphic novel series High Moon, just in time for the full moon…
Look for our review of volume 1 of High Moon, coming soon! You’ll definitely want to check it out after you read what David has to say!
LW: I’m familiar with and enjoy The Only Living Boy immensely. In fact, I recommended it for my academic library’s juvenile collection. High Moon has a very different feel to the tale of a lost boy in a strange world not his own, yet it feels familiar all the same. How different were these two worlds for you to write?
David: THE ONLY LIVING BOY comes from a place of innocence, wonder and exploration. It’s an emotionally complex story, but set against a background of High Adventure. It’s about fighting the good fight because it’s the right thing to do. HIGH MOON is a little more cynical and far more visceral. It explores man’s inhumanity and cruelty. It’s about fighting the good fight because nobody else will.
THE ONLY LIVING BOY is about finding yourself amid very challenge and adverse circumstances. It’s playful and defiant in the way I think great children’s literature is.
HIGH MOON by its nature is more violent, mythical, mysterious and savage. I don’t really enjoy violence or horror, so that’s a real challenge for me, but I do enjoy writing about the heroes sworn to uphold justice and protect those that can’t protect themselves.
LW: You have an excellent grasp on writing a Western horror. How rooted in actual American history is High Moon and how much research did you have to do in order to get a solid footing in this time period? What made you decide to write in such a specific time period and genre?
David: I was never much a fan of Westerns, but there were a few old radio westerns that I loved — HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, GUNSMOKE, and THE LONE RANGER — so I challenged myself to write the sort of western that I would want to read. As a big fan of American history, I through I’d approach the story from that angle first. I really tried to find moments to pin the story against.
I wanted to be authentic, down to the architecture, the weaponry, the costuming, and the other flourishes. I didn’t want HIGH MOON to be a generic western, I wanted it to align with the economic anxieties, troubles and tribulations that were experienced on the frontier.
The Sherman Silver Purchase Act was a United States federal law enacted on July 14, 1890. Farmers were straining under growing debt and sharply falling silver prices. It created a lot of economic instability in the country. Given werewolves own aversion to silver, this seemed like a good place to story telling the story of HIGH MOON. Combining that event with the stories of Jim Bowie’s botched expedition to the San Saba Silver Mines and well… it all seemed to fit.
LW: One of the most interesting characters in the book was the mysterious Tristan Macgregor. Is this a character you want to explore further at some point? Would you consider writing an arc devoted to him?
I love writing Tristan. He’s this crazy throwback character, basically an Arthurian knight in a world of cowboys, armed with this Tesla-made prosthetic arm. Steve and I have an outline for a Tristan spin-off that covers his adventures, his loves, and his loses. We’d love an opportunity to tell it.
LW: Which part of the first volume proved to be the most challenging to write?
David: There’s one scene about slavery during the Civil War that was particularly challenging to research and write about concerning black slave owners. It’s a cruel aspect of American history and was eye-opening for me.
One of the things I love about working on the series is that teaches me things that I never learned in history class. There are heroes like Bass Reeves, for instance, that have yet to really receive their due in the annals of history.
LW: Is there something in particular about the Macgregor storyline that you were the most invested in when you were writing it?
David: The foundation for the Macgregor storyline is based in Irish Mythology and Scottish History. It’s endlessly appealing to splatter those elements across a western landscape. Macgregor, for instance, is named after the Scottish outlaw, folk-hero and cattleman. It’s fun to tease all of our mysteries out on the pages, especially when they are illustrated by Steve Ellis.
LW: If you could add anything else to this Wild West world, what would it be? Unless that would be giving up too many mysteries you want to keep hidden for now!
I can say this… one of the things that I’d love to have included, but it didn’t quite mesh with our timeline, were the Bald Knobbers, a group of masked vigilantes in southwest Missouri. They began as group dedicated to protecting life and property, aiding law enforcement officials. They have a remarkably fascinating history, but didn’t mesh with the timeline we’ve established.
LW: Tell the Monster Librarian readers a little about yourself.
I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. I traveled a lot as a kid, before my family settled down in Maryland. I spent my formative years in an old Civil War town littered with racists, mysterious military bases, and a twenty-five acre forest in my backyard. Those pieces of my childhood eventually became the basis for HIGH MOON, BOX 13, and THE ONLY LIVING BOY that I write from my studio, BOTTLED LIGHTNING.
Aside the projects I write for our studio, I’ve had the opportunity to write for Marvel, DC Comics, Image Comics and Amazon Studios. I also had the great fortune of being the editor of ATTACK ON TITAN and SAILOR MOON for Kodansha Comics. As a writer and as an editor, I love being involved in bringing great stories to reader of all ages.
LW: Why bring back this particular book? What’s its history that makes it a cult classic?
David: Convention after convention, HIGH MOON is the one story that our fans consistently ask us about. I think they like the rough and tumble cinematic presentation of it all. As a webcomic, under DC Comics’ Zuda imprint, it build quite a following week after week, where it was notable for its cliffhangers. When the imprint folded, fans were left with all of the lingering questions. Brining the series back allows us to answer those questions and bring in a whole new audience of readers. I don’t know what makes it a ‘cult classic’ but Steve and I put a tremendous amount of passion into every page. We hope it shows.
LW: What are some of your favorite books/graphic novels?
David: I was deeply influenced by the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Rudyard Kipling. Madeleine L’Engle’s work on A WRINKLE IN TIME was also deeply influential. I tend to read much more classic literature than modern literature, but I recently enjoyed NO GOOD DEED by Goldy Moldavsky.
LW: Why should libraries be interested in High Moon?
David: I think HIGH MOON presents an interesting opportunity to remind readers that American history is wild, rich, and wonderful. If we can use monsters to help new readers discover more about the American frontier, well… that’s great teachable opportunity for libraries.
LW: What else would you like librarians and readers to know about your work?
David: Steve Ellis and I travel the country speaking at libraries. We frequently give talks about making graphic novels, participate in library conventions, and give readings. We adore how much the graphic novel has become an important piece of library collections around the country. We hope that conversation continues and we love being a part of it.