Ambient Hum Introduction
I wrote this introduction while in Tampa this summer and its great to finally share it because it captures my thoughts on this world I’ve created.
Moon Racket! is the story of two buddies living on the moon, making noise and eating cheese. It is also the story of my attempts at learning how to draw and write a comic series.
Comics as a medium has been a passion of mine since my early teens. Sadly I never really got around to the actual act of writing and drawing comics, rather spent time circling around the activity itself. And so it was that all of my previous attempts never amounted to any completed comic work - save a four page story for a Guardian/Observer newspaper comic competition called Coffee Beans. To help me fight through this inherent procrastination, the barrier for Moon Racket! was purposely set very low. The result was that for nearly a decade this world and it’s characters would be my main creative outlet. But lets start at the beginning.
At the start of 2010, I had a serious case of brain crack. Brain crack is a term coined by CGP Grey in an episode of the excellent podcast, Hello Internet, ‘…the longer we procrastinate on something we want to do, the more our brains build up expectations of how amazing it’s going to be. It’s like crack for your brain’. The project was based on an idea I had, after a hazy summer evening out in Athens when I was 21. I couldn’t let this idea go but I also couldn’t move it forward in a meaningful way either. Two events would enable me to break my brain free and allowed me to create my first real body of comic work.
Throughout the 2000s, my creative adventures had been spent developing and honing my web and graphic design skills. I had started life on the internet to help me publish my comic work, the issue was that I fell in love with the web itself. The web combined a lot of what I loved about comics in the first place, but in a vastly different format. The web in the early 2000s was an exciting place. I swam in this space for years until the internet landscape changed (which I attribute to Twitter and Facebook) and it stopped being exciting. Another piece of technology would also come out around this time that offered another creative avenue to explore, the iPhone. With the introduction of the iPhone 4, what was possible on this mini computer in your pocket was starting to expand. I decided that I would try and use this this $880 (the going rate with taxes) device to create a comic, each panel would be the size of the phone screen. While the idea was well conceived, it was beyond ambitious.
This entire series of characters was borne from a few images drawn on an iPhone 4 back in 2012. These were done using the crudest of styluses available at the time, which was a thin aluminium tube with a soft sponge attached to the end of it. The key elements of Corgan were there, the booties, long eyes and circles at all the joints. As I drew these characters, their world started to come into view for me. They lived on the moon. The moon was ostensibly made of cheese (and that would never run out of course). After realising that the little moon worm I had drawn was an organic being, he would need some form of air bubble around him to breathe (please don’t argue with my logic, it’s fragile). Very quickly however I hit technological limits. The combination of the crude stylus, the tiny screen and the poor feedback they both provided (when compared to my trusted Muji 0.38mm blank ink pen and Midori paper notebooks), would mean that I would stop this experiment early on. I count the experiment as a success, because it allowed me to create a new world to get lost in and finally shifted my attention to something different, setting my brain free.
In the early 2010s, my life was transitioning from being a single man, to a fiancé, then husband and finally a father. I was living in the Middle East during this time, which was also going through its own transition as a region, as part of the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring started of as a series of anti-government protests and uprisings that started off in Tunisia and would quickly spread to Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain. Nearly a decade late, the chars of that movement are being felt in Syria which erupted into a civil war shortly after. I felt powerless to stop the strong humanitarian disaster that was unfolding around me, culminating in the image of Alan Kurdi washed up on the shore. An image which still haunts me to this day. My brain would retreat and search for a creative outlet to help me manage through this time.
I can’t even remember how or why I would end up calling the entire series Moon Racket!. What I do remember is that the form of logo was crystal clear in my head once I had settled on the name. From this word mark, I originally intended for the series to be filled with onomatopoeia (which is the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named). I don’t think it happened as often as I would have wanted, but that is certainly something I am looking to lean into more in the future.
Many decisions, that defined the Moon Racket! world would also arrive in a completely organic manner. It felt appropriate that the technology used throughout the series would be locked in the 1980s, while the architecture that was on display would be of the future. Strangely (even to me), the Moon and surrounding planets are characters themselves, complete with eyes, arms and hands.
In developing the the style of art, I went off what I felt looked right, a tactic laced with struggle and self doubt. It took a while to kick my propensity of cross-hatching and tried to create a vernacular that was is my own continues. Having never previously really spent any time developing a dynamic cartoony style of art before, the art would evolve the more I drew. My annoying perfectionism would take a back seat as I kept reminding myself that nobody was paying any attention, so it didn’t really matter. Keep moving. Keep drawing one strip after the other.
Even though he was the basis of the entire series, I struggled a great deal with the design of the Corgan character. In developing the shape of his body I would struggle with shape and form. I would keep adding new elements to his body, but would never feel truly comfortable in his depiction, until recently. By contrast Corgan’s third iteration, which has arrived years after I stopped drawing him in the manner he is presented in the this volume, now practically draws himself and rolls off my pencil.
Unsurprisingly the characters and this world, never really took off beyond a limited number of readers. This was expected, considering it would take me over a year to write and draw 20 strips. I didn’t publish nearly enough to build a habit with anyone, but mainly with myself. I ran out of energy, as things in my professional life started to take over and I need to focus a lot more on that side of my life. I decided to put the series on hiatus and capped it creatively, published in March 2017, with a movie poster style image capturing all the characters. The characters would come out of retirement briefly in 2021. I finally was able to fulfil my original vision of creating these on an electronic device. This time it was a 12.9” iPad Pro with an actual stylus (the Apple pencil). After I finally learnt how to draw and colour these characters, I ended up taking an extended break from them.
I could not imagine that these characters would stay with me as long as they have, but maybe that is down to the fact that I have not said all that I wanted to say. The next evolution of the Moon Racket! world is not in the artwork, rather it will be found in the type of topics that I would like to discuss. In defining the direction I want to take these characters in, I am reminded of my mother’s admiration for the political fables presented in Kalīla wa-Dimna, and using it as inspiration for future stories.
For now however, it feels good that the original groundwork for these characters and their world is collected in a single place.
Moon Racket! Ambient Hum is available to buy as a paperback.