Comics
Published November 23, 2022

Tradd Moore Invents a Beautiful, Tormented Land for 'Doctor Strange: Fall Sunrise'

Acclaimed artist Tradd Moore opens up about his writing debut featuring Doctor Strange.

Known for his otherworldly imagery on projects like ALL-NEW GHOST RIDER (2014) and SILVER SURFER: BLACK (2019), Tradd Moore has taken on a new challenge both drawing and writing—not to mention providing epic covers for—the DOCTOR STRANGE: FALL SUNRISE (2022) limited series. We spoke with Moore about his creative process and how he approached the role of writer, as well as the inspiration for his depiction of the Sorcerer Supreme and much, much more!

MARVEL.COM: What are your earliest memories of discovering the character of Doctor Strange?

TRADD MOORE: You know, I don’t recall discovering Doctor Strange. There are a lot of characters like that: they exist before you, and you’re introduced to them at such an early age that there’s no moment of discovery; they’re just a part of the world.

I do remember that as a child I wasn’t a fan. [Laughs] Kids draw hard lines for no good reason—well, adults do too—and a hard line of mine back then was, “I don’t like facial hair.” So poor Doctor Strange was OUT! I was all about masks back then.

MARVEL.COM: Which stories and runs influenced you as a Doctor Strange fan?

TRADD MOORE: The original [Steve] Ditko and [Stan] Lee STRANGE TALES comics are the Doctor Strange Bible, for sure. Endlessly inventive and charming! I love that stuff.

P. Craig Russell’s one-shot DOCTOR STRANGE: WHAT IS IT THAT DISTURBS YOU, STEPHEN? from 1997 is my favorite Doctor Strange comic. Russell brings magic and whimsy to all that he does—his work evokes the spirit and lineage of fantasy and folklore.

Kevin Nowlan’s DOCTOR STRANGE: SORCERER SUPREME #1 cover from 1988 is the coolest thing on planet Earth, as is that whole era of his artwork. Late ’80s Nowlan covers can’t be beat! His colors from that era—check out his run of STRANGE TALES (1987) and WOLVERINE covers—are hugely influential to me.

[Mike] Mignola and [Roger] Stern’s DOCTOR STRANGE AND DOCTOR DOOM: TRIUMPH AND TORMENT (1989) is a great looking comic—I think about Mignola’s artwork often. Lots of powerful imagery in there!

MARVEL.COM: What about Doctor Strange and his world is most attractive to you both as a reader and a creator?

TRADD MOORE: At their best, there’s broad creative freedom in Doctor Strange stories, and in that freedom there’s a challenge. Magic makes the world wide open; what do you do with that space?

If the deep end is the starting point and “going off the rails” is the expectation, how far must one go to be satisfied? Can you create something new? Prove it! Break me down! Stagger me! Drag me deeper! I dare you to drown me!

Doctor Strange stories should compel us to reach beyond what we know, what we expect, what we dream; they should compel us to look inside ourselves and be honest with what we see.

I love fantasy, and philosophy, and abstraction, and extremes—that’s the attraction of Strange to me.

DOCTOR STRANGE: FALL SUNRISE #1 interior artwork by Tradd Moore
DOCTOR STRANGE: FALL SUNRISE #1 interior artwork by Tradd Moore

MARVEL.COM: What about Doctor Strange and his world is most attractive to you both as a reader and a creator?

TRADD MOORE: At their best, there’s broad creative freedom in Doctor Strange stories, and in that freedom there’s a challenge. Magic makes the world wide open; what do you do with that space?

If the deep end is the starting point and “going off the rails” is the expectation, how far must one go to be satisfied? Can you create something new? Prove it! Break me down! Stagger me! Drag me deeper! I dare you to drown me!

Doctor Strange stories should compel us to reach beyond what we know, what we expect, what we dream; they should compel us to look inside ourselves and be honest with what we see.

I love fantasy, and philosophy, and abstraction, and extremes—that’s the attraction of Strange to me.

MARVEL.COM: Have you always wanted to work on a Doctor Strange project or was this something that was pitched to you?

TRADD MOORE: DOCTOR STRANGE: FALL SUNRISE was my pitch to Marvel, and it was a new desire. I never saw myself working on Doctor Strange until the words left my mouth.

As we were wrapping up work on SILVER SURFER: BLACK, Marvel editorial kindly rolled out the red carpet for me and asked what I wanted to do next.

I said, “I’d like to write and draw a Doctor Strange series.” They said, “DEAL.” In reality, I said much more, but come on, spoilers, geez. That was late 2019, and I’ve been pushing this stone up a hill ever since!

I had been developing FALL SUNRISE in my head as an independent comic for a while—it had a different name at the time—but when the idea sparked to make Doctor Strange the lead character, I felt excited by the concept. It felt right. It wouldn’t be to the detriment of any of the new fantasy stuff I was coming up with—quite the opposite. Placing Strange at the center of the narrative helped glue a lot of the concepts together and gave the narrative a built-in gravitas.

DOCTOR STRANGE: FALL SUNRISE #1 interior artwork by Tradd Moore
DOCTOR STRANGE: FALL SUNRISE #1 interior artwork by Tradd Moore

MARVEL.COM: What was the genesis of DOCTOR STRANGE: FALL SUNRISE?

TRADD MOORE: I’ve tried, but I can’t connect all the dots right now. There’s too much! There are pieces of FALL SUNRISE spread out across my entire life. I’m trying to set a lot of unlikely pieces on the same canvas to see what they look like together. It’s like a collage, but then you pour molten lava on it, then you bury your face in it and scream, you know?

I’ll share an anecdote that stands out to me as some kind of FALL SUNRISE genesis:

I was in Rome and we walked into this beautiful church; I don’t remember its name. There was this big, ornate golden altar—angels, saints, crowns, crosses, Jesus, all the heavy hitters—and under the altar in a glass box was an immaculately sculpted and outstandingly sad sculpture of a dead woman lying down on her side unceremoniously with her head wrapped in a veil. No one was told to be quiet, but the whole place was silent. Under the church, or maybe it was a different one, there was an actual dead body of some holy person in a glass box for people to look at.

This macabre, transcendent, Catholic iconography was my upbringing; in my youth, it was all normal. I loved it so much! It resonated with me like nothing else, because I believed in it. It’s still beautiful. But [expletive], it’s so profoundly surreal to me now. I don’t say that with disrespect—it’s powerful. It’s moving. It’s harrowing. It hurts me deeply and makes me feel distant. It’s like I can’t recognize the world I’m in, or it’s me who doesn’t belong here.

A dead body lying at the foot of our attempts to imagine divinity—there it is.

MARVEL.COM: Which elements of classic Doctor Strange does this story tap into?

TRADD MOORE: The thing I love about Ditko and Lee’s STRANGE TALES is how off-the-wall creative it is. You never really know what’s coming next, because I don’t think Ditko himself knew what the hell was coming next. [Laughs] He was letting his creative whims pour out and be. I love that.

That sense of newness, that unhindered creativity, that insatiable striving, that unashamed individuality I see in every artist I love, that’s what I want to tap into here in FALL SUNRISE. 

Quality and perfectionism and dreams of posterity be damned—kill it all in me—I want FIRE! I want PASSION! I want NOW!

DOCTOR STRANGE: FALL SUNRISE #1 interior artwork by Tradd Moore
DOCTOR STRANGE: FALL SUNRISE #1 interior artwork by Tradd Moore

MARVEL.COM: What types of things are you doing that are different from past stories?

TRADD MOORE: Hmmm, I’m not sure. I’m not too worried about retreading familiar ground here—I’m in my own world putting down what comes. Don’t get me wrong, I steal from other art flagrantly and often, but I think that if you filter inspiration through yourself thoroughly enough, it comes out the other side changed and unrecognizable.

You make a thousand creative decisions every day, and with every one you just have to say, “Be honest, be yourself, move on.” I trust that if I’m true to my intuitions, the book will be unique! 

MARVEL.COM: On the basic level, what is DOCTOR STRANGE: FALL SUNRISE about?

TRADD MOORE: In FALL SUNRISE, Doctor Strange wakes up in a distant, medieval land called Pleoma in the midst of a terrible crisis. It’s the final day of the year, The Day That Is Seven, when the Sun stays in the sky for seven days. On this day, the walls of reality grow thin, allowing entrance to otherworldly entities, and a deadly ritual sets all of humanity at odds. Doctor Strange must uncover why he has been sent to Pleoma and what he must do to stop the ritual at the heart of this land’s torment.

MARVEL.COM: Is this project giving you the opportunity to draw other key Doctor Strange elements, like his enemies and allies?

TRADD MOORE: The world and characters in FALL SUNRISE are all brand new, save for Strange himself!

The Sanctum Sanctorum is in here though—I’ve very much enjoyed drawing that iconic Ditko window.

DOCTOR STRANGE: FALL SUNRISE #1 interior artwork by Tradd Moore
DOCTOR STRANGE: FALL SUNRISE #1 interior artwork by Tradd Moore

MARVEL.COM: How was it decided you would write this project as well as drawing it and providing covers?

TRADD MOORE: That was all included in my pitch! It has long been my professional goal to be a writer/artist, so here we are. Go for broke!

I’ve loved my previous collaborations, and I’ve learned so much from the writers I’ve worked with, but yeah, the vision has always been to get back to where I started: doing it myself.

Same with the covers—I’ve been drawing and coloring my own covers for years, and with this series, I wanted to tackle the design of them as well. The logo work of “Doctor Strange” and “Fall Sunrise” is hand drawn, the title bars are drawn onto the page, that kind of thing. I wanted the process to be tactile. It’s satisfying to imagine a thing and take it to completion yourself.

MARVEL.COM: Is there freedom in taking on all those roles yourself? Do you find yourself missing collaborative pieces?

TRADD MOORE: Yes to both! You don’t have to spend as much time on the explanation of an idea; you can just do it, which is creatively freeing. It’s a lot more work, but there are fewer concessions along the way. I mean, there are always concessions if your work is being published—you never make what you thought you would even if it’s only you making it—but it is what it is. Succeed or fail, it’s on you! It feels pure, in a way.

FALL SUNRISE is colored by the amazing Heather Moore—her colors on this series are stunning; I can’t wait for everyone to see what she has accomplished—and lettered by the estimable Clayton Cowles. I’m very hands-on and conversational with those processes, so I still get a lot of collaborative energy on the series. 

I’m working with Heather, editor Darren Shan, and assistant editor Kat Gregorowicz pretty much every day—I would miss that collaborative element if it were gone entirely. It gets lonely at the drawing table!

DOCTOR STRANGE: FALL SUNRISE #1 interior artwork by Tradd Moore
DOCTOR STRANGE: FALL SUNRISE #1 interior artwork by Tradd Moore

MARVEL.COM: How does Doctor Strange and this story showcase your art style?

TRADD MOORE: Some things just fit, you know? I think me and Strange fit. He feels like my own; I’ve certainly tried to make him my own in FALL SUNRISE.

And the story showcases my art because it is my art—there is no separation. Every concept, every figure, every tree, it’s all coming from the same place, and it’s what I want to be drawing.

MARVEL.COM: What has been the most challenging part of writing so far?

TRADD MOORE: Whew, the hardest part is putting it down and turning it off. It’s in you all the time. 

You’re thinking, you’re writing, you’re drawing; it’s compulsive. Next page, second draft, revision; now you’re second guessing yourself, now you love it, now you hate it, now you want to quit, now you can’t imagine ever doing anything else. All the time!

You have to learn how to put it down—I’m still learning. It’s a practice you have to learn just like anything else. It’s impossible to maintain a clear sense of objectivity because you’re too close to the work, and it’s hard to see the value in anything sometimes. So yeah, you do the day’s work, you put it down, you move on. That’s what we got!

Enter the world of DOCTOR STRANGE: FALL SUNRISE alongside Tradd Moore with issue #1, on sale now!

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DOCTOR STRANGE: FALL SUNRISE #1 back cover by Tradd Moore
DOCTOR STRANGE: FALL SUNRISE #1 back cover by Tradd Moore

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