Jay Faerber on ending Noble Causes

A comics interview article by: Joey Davidson
Funny how innocent correspondence can turn simple questions into an exclusive reveal. While talking about his Image properties currently under production, Jay Faerber revealed that the montly title Noble Causes would be coming to a close with issue #40 in November. He addresses some of the considerations that take place between creator and publisher when deciding how to proceed with monthly titles. In addition to his insight, I also got a chance to catch up with what’s new with Dynamo 5 and Gemini.

Joey Davidson: Not to overstate the obvious, but exactly how busy are you?

Jay Faerber: I've got a manageable workload, I suppose. Dynamo 5 and Noble Causes are my only monthly commitments. Gemini is just a mini-series, and I only have one more script to write for that one. Once that's wrapped up, artist Jon Sommariva and I will be starting our next collaboration.

JD: I'll bite. What's next for you and Jon? Are we looking at another mini or something from the Faerberverse?

JF: It'll either be a mini or a one-shot, simply because it's not possible for Jon to commit to a monthly book right now, with his day job and with the level of detail he puts into those pages. As for the subject matter, it'll connect to the Faerberverse, but that's all I'll say right now.

JD: You've got three series in the midst of action-packed moments that you're delivering monthly. How've you managed it so far? Are there any challenges you find yourself facing with keeping the plot points of the separate books so different and unique of one another?

JD: Of the three Image titles you are working on, two of them come with family-centric moods and plots. What is it about the family dynamic that has you writing two separate stories with that quality at the center?

JF: It's really just coincidence, I think. Maybe, on some very deep, subconscious level, I have family issues to work out or something, but really, I never set out to write two separate books about super-hero families. It just panned out that both concepts were good hooks and had premises I wanted to explore. I did, however, make it a point for Gemini to have no family issues whatsoever, simply so I don't get perceived as a one-trick pony.

JD: Issue #15 of Dynamo 5was rather Scrap-centric; will we be seeing more of these single team member portraits as the Dynamo crew remains split up? I mean, stuff to develop characters for when they get back together...they are getting back together, right??

JF: All I can say is that we will be focusing on each of the characters, in one way or another. Just because they quit the team doesn't mean they're out of the book.

JD: The current story seems like it has the potential to be charged with sibling rivalry. Is there any chance for some girl-on-girl violence between Scrap and Slingshot?

JF: I don't really foresee Scrap and Slingshot coming to blows. Dynamo 5 has their family dysfunctions, but not exactly in that way. Plus, Scrap and Slingshot are probably the two most mature members of the team, so they'd be the least likely to resort to violence.

JD: How about Gemini? This one is probably my favorite of your titles at this moment. The concept is original enough to float way past the mini-series schedule the book is on now. Any plans to take the story beyond this first arc?

JF: No, Gemini has got a very finite story. Five issues is all we'll see. When you get to issue #5, you'll see why it's a finite story. The whole "super-hero whose identity is a secret even to himself"-thing doesn't really lend itself well to too much exploration (at least in my opinion). The conflict in that situation is whether or not the lead character will ever learn of his secret double life. Once he does, the conflict is resolved. And if he doesn’t, you can only string out the possibility of him discovering it for so long before it becomes tedious.

JD: With issue #2, we had a chance to see another codeword controlled hero; Lynx. Would it be too crazy to suppose that a lot more of the hero community in Gemini is dealt with in the same way?

JF: Well, you may have noticed in issue #2 that there are even more super-heroes controlled by The Constellation than Lynx and Gemini. I don't know if we'll see any more by issue #5, though.

JD: How about other minis concerning other heroes like Lynx?

JF: No plans for that either. I think Lynx has a great visual, though, so you may see him show up in some of my other books.

JF: The only time I ever have trouble, frankly, is fight scenes. It's really tough to come up with new and inventive places for fight scenes to happen, and there's only so many ways to stage them. My solution is to start letting my artists have a lot more say in how the fights are laid out. If I'm not the one doing all the choreography, chances improve the fights will be different each time simply because of the different approaches of the artists involved.

JD: When I hand Noble Causes over to a friend and say, "read this," they always ask me for some sort of description. My answer always stems from something like, "think a really good soap opera meets superheroes." Have you compared some of the melodramatics in your books to daytime TV?

JF: Noble Causes has always been unabashed soap opera, and was absolutely influenced by daytime (and nighttime) soaps. What initially appealed to me about soap operas was that, with the daytime dramas at least, they have so much airtime to fill that they can afford to go far more in-depth with their characterizations than nighttime TV or movies. Characters can be far more complex and multi-layered. Plus, like comics, soap operas tend to really mine their old continuity. Daytime TV fans can be every bit as obsessive as comic fans (and I mean that in a good way!). So there are a lot of similarities, and I chose to simply shine a spotlight on them and play up those similarities.

JD: With #32 of Noble Causes you took a time jump. I, personally, like the direction the story has taken. Why did you want the time jump? What were you looking to achieve? Has that decision panned out as you planned so far?

JF: We did the "five year jump" because we wanted a way to make the book accessible to new readers (particularly, readers of Dynamo 5 who were put off by the fact that NC was in its 30s and had a large amount of back story). Marvel and DC have it easy -- they can always just bring in a new creative team whenever they need to boost a book's profile, but when you're working on creator-owned stuff, it's not that simple. So I figured that jumping ahead five years was a good way to shake things up -- both for me, and for long-time fans. It also provided a clean slate for new fans to get on board. It basically leveled the playing field -- new fans and old would both be lost, frankly.

Another thing we considered doing was restarting with a new #1. I had more than one retailer encourage me to do this, but I really wasn't crazy about that idea. For one thing, we'd already re-launched the book a couple times (as various mini-series, and then as an ongoing) so there were already numerous "issue #1's" out there. Plus, I'm proud of the fact that NC has lasted this long. I wanted to wear that "issue #32" as a badge of honor. So I decided against renumbering, and took a leap of faith that we could get the word out there about the new direction.

As for your question of whether it's panned out as I planned ... well, that's complicated. We haven't seen a big boost in numbers. There's been a bit of an uptick, but the book's still selling well below Dynamo 5 levels. I have heard from a lot of new readers, both in terms of fan mail and posts on message boards. So it's gratifying to hear that people are picking up the book for the first time.

However, lately I've come to realize that I just don't have much more to say about these characters. I've been writing them pretty consistently since 2001. That's a pretty long stretch. The book hasn't been published every month since then, but it's been fairly consistent, and I've always been thinking about the characters in some way, shape, or form. After the five-year-jump, I've been receiving lots of compliments on the book, and that's very flattering. So I'd rather work towards a planned ending while we're still going strong, rather than fizzle out, you know? So I've come to the decision that it's time to put the characters away for awhile. The book's going to end with issue #40, which goes on sale in November. The Noble family will still be kicking around the Faerberverse, so we'll still see them in supporting roles from time to time.

Once we wrap up issue #40, Yildiray and I will be starting work on a brand new project. I can't talk details yet, because we haven't really nailed anything down. But it'll be part of the Faerberverse, and will feature a new character that we'll co-create. Yildiray is probably also going to draw the second Dynamo 5 Annual in between the end of NC and the launch of our new series. In fact, the annual may serve as the new character's first appearance, but that's still up in the air.

I want to thank Jay for taking the time out to speak with me and for finding it somewhere in his infinite wisdom to trust us with his secret about Noble Causes for nearly a month. Big ups go to Captain Blue Hen Comics in good ol’ Newark, DE for giving me the opportunity to interview Mr. Faerber. Jay was a pleasure to work with and I wish him the best in these coming months.

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