Another title from AHOY’s editor Stuart Moore (alongside an art team of Fred Harper, Lee Loughridge, and Rob Steen), Highball is described as “Battlestar Galactica meets The Hitchhiker’s Guide.” More specifically, it’s about a brave space pilot who can “only hit the target when he’s dead drunk,” and his many misadventures he inevitably, um, stumbles into. But even amid some trademark AHOY wackiness (including a “disturbingly racist A.I.”) it’s very much a series that explores pertinent issues like authority and even identity.
Moore was kind enough to answer a few questions as issue #1 hit shelves today. He tackled his love of big-time space thrillers, working with the artistic team, his sci-fi perspectives, and much more.
AIPT: What’s the elevator pitch for Highball?
Stuart Moore: You mean the “Space Elevator” pitch? As in, surface-to-orbit physical transports, first popularized in Arthur C. Clarke’s The Fountains of Paradise, and seen recently in an episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks? That’s a strange question…
Oh, you mean…! Highball is about the finest pilot in the Earth Corp, an ace marksman with only one fatal flaw: He can only hit the target when he’s dead drunk.
AIPT: Is it tricky tackling more “touchy” subjects like drinking?
SM: Is drinking touchy? It’s stunningly easy to do. You can get alcohol almost anywhere. You can buy it in liquor stores, convenience stores, gas stations, and restaurants. Alcohol is one of the easiest things to acquire in this country — easier than pot, books, candy, video games, groceries, drinkable water, potted plants, a loyal dog, an advanced degree, a funeral plot, a meaningful relationship, or a child who doesn’t hate you for bringing them into this world. I’m drinking right now as I write this, and while I’m about ten blocks away from my house, I could have done it with much, much less effort.
I guess that is touchy.
And that’s the point of Highball, really. Our hero thinks he drinks in order to sharpen his trigger finger. But it’s possible he does it so he doesn’t have to think about what happens after he pulls the trigger.
AIPT: How do you continue to inject humor into your works (like Ginger)? Does that become more complicated somehow?
SM: I seem to have fallen into writing a lot of humor, which I enjoy. Even the Marvel novels I write have a big element of funny—but the thing is, humor comes in a lot of different forms. When I write Captain Ginger, I just toss cat jokes and characters into a blender and see what comes out. HIGHBALL is more arch, almost farcical, but I hope people will also come to care for the characters as the mistakes they make become more and more hideous.
AIPT: And speaking of Ginger, this is another space-centric story. What’s your draw to the stars, and does it become easier or harder to write about given so many other properties/titles?
SM: I was actually worried about that, because AHOY also publishes Captain Ginger. But the books feel very different to me, and June Brigman’s sensibility is miles away from Fred Harper’s.
As for outer space stories…I guess I just like ’em. My usual goal as a writer is to say something real or true within the framework of a thrill-ride genre piece. I love the sense of wonder and scope embodied in space travel, and I hope my readers will feel the same way.
AIPT: What was it like working with Fred Harper, Lee Loughridge, and letterer Rob Steen. What do they bring to the table?
SM: Fred is a conceptual genius and a hell of a renderer, too. He took every little idea I had (like, “why is gravity so rigidly enforced on a starship, anyway?”) and just pulled and stretched them like taffy in all different directions. He’s wonderful to work with, too; it’s a great collaboration on every level.
Lee and Rob are the best at what they do. Fred had some ideas about different color schemes for the various planets and settings; Lee took them and made it all work beautifully. Rob did such a great job on issue #1 that variant cover artist David Rubin incorporated some of his display lettering into the cover.
AIPT: Is there a sense a story like this could only be written now? Is there something about the flippancy and weirdness of our culture that demands, “drunken space rogue”?
SM: To me this is a very American story. The characters know they’re all participating in something kind of wrong, but when they try to do something about it, they’re so lost that they wind up making things even worse.
And yes, tonally, I feel like we’re living in kind of a dark farce right now. I couldn’t write anything more frantic or self-destructive than the stuff on Truth Social.
AIPT: Is this story/book married to a specific kind of sci-fi tradition? I get a very British kind of sensibility, like Red Dwarf or Blake’s 7.
SM: I totally see why the book looks that way, and the cynicism might be Brit-influenced, particularly in the first few issues. But again, the notion of the puffed-up hero seems more American to me. And the trouble his friend Chuck gets him into…very West Coast, my friend.
AIPT: Why should anyone pick up issue #1 of Highball?
SM: I hope it’s funny, fun, colorful, and will provide a little outlet for the frustration people might be feeling about the world right now. Also, there are a lot of sci-fi comics right now but not a lot of full-on space adventures. Finally, as with all AHOY books, we’ve filled this one with extra features, including comic strips, a prose story, and my own “Blu-ray commentary”-style annotations, which can be read on the editor’s page. It’s a juicy package, I think.
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