2003 shall be known as the year of Jay Faerber.
With the critically-acclaimed Noble Causes turning heads, Faerber is poised to dominate the charts with a variety of projects from a variety of companies. This week he stops by Ambidextrous to talk of things old and new, discuss why he likes soap operas, and how his contribution to the Image super-hero line is going to prove that Jamal Igle is the next big thing.
Brandon Thomas: For those slightly unfamiliar with your work pre-Noble Causes, give us a crash course in Jay Faerber history. When and how did you break in?
Jay Faerber: I broke in around 1998 (or 1999, I can’t remember) at Marvel and DC at pretty much the same time, after sending proposal after proposal to both companies, usually by targeting assistant or newly promoted editors. My first DC work was a 10-page Wonder Girl story in DC’s Secret Origins 80-Page Giant and my first Marvel work was the story in What If..? #114, the title’s last issue.
Thomas: The common prescription for “breaking in” usually involves self-publishing or a string of independent publisher work before moving onto the Big Two, but you bypassed this step entirely. How?
Faerber: At the time I was trying to break in, I really didn’t have any interest in working on my own characters. I was focused pretty singularly on working on characters I was familiar with at Marvel and DC. And since I was friends with Devin Grayson, and saw how she broke in right at DC, I knew it was possible. So I just continued to keep pitching away, going after anyone I thought might take the time to read one of my pitches. There were a lot of false starts (i.e., editors who liked my pitches, but couldn’t green-light them because the characters were already in development elsewhere, or editors getting laid off, etc.), but once I made that first sale at Marvel, I got Marvel work pretty consistently for a couple years.
I think it’s still possible to break in at Marvel or DC, but the challenges are different, because the market and the industry are different. Certainly, the entire way of thinking at Marvel has changed, and DC is showing signs of changing as well. But it’s still possible.
Thomas: What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you when you initially broke into the industry?
Faerber: I wish someone had advised me to consider my projects more carefully. I don’t really regret any of my creative decisions, but at the same time, I was pigeonholed for awhile as the “teenage super-hero book” guy, because I worked on Generation X, New Warriors, and then Titans. While it’s hard for new creators to turn down work (because there’s that fear that the offers will stop), you should really only take the assignments you believe in, rather than taking anything that comes along. But like I said, that’s tough advice to take, especially if you’re relying on your comics work to pay the bills.
Thomas: Noble Causes is without a doubt your strongest work yet. Is it merely a matter of you maturing as a writer over the years, or perhaps increased enthusiasm for a project you built from scratch?
Faerber: Both of those things, but the biggest reason is that Noble Causes is my vision. It’s hard to say that without sounding like I’m some arrogant jackass. But the simple fact is that I don’t have to make any compromises with editors or publishers. Obviously, it’s my vision as filtered through the great artists I have working on the book, but as far as the story content goes, it’s all me. So there’s definitely an enthusiasm there, but it’s both from the fact that this is a project I’ve built from scratch, and also that it’s a project where I call all the shots. I’ve always been a control freak, so this entire experience has just accentuated that.
Thomas: The genesis of the series no doubt stems from your love of soap operas. What was it about day-time television that struck you as exciting? What other products of media influences the way Jay Faerber tells his stories?
Faerber: What initially hooked me about the daytime soaps were the shades of grey they all operate in. On the good soaps, there aren’t that many completely good or completely evil characters. Many play both protagonist and antagonist, depending on who they’re squaring off against, and I love that kind of drama. To me, the best drama is when two characters are in conflict, and they’re both equally justified for behaving and reacting the way they do. It’s not just that one’s “good” and one’s “evil.” So I took that sort of flexible morality, and tried to apply it to this super-hero family.
I’m influenced pretty heavily by TV, more than anything else. Of course, other comics have been tremendously inspiring, but now that I’ve been doing this for a few years, it’s hard to look at comics the same way, since I’ve “seen behind the curtain.” But with TV, I’m still able to get sucked in, on a purely entertainment level.
Thomas: Will Noble Causes be a series of minis forever? Will we ever see the day when Noble goes monthly? Any trade collections in the works?
Faerber: The book will exist as a series of mini-series for the foreseeable future. If it becomes a huge hit, we may go monthly, but I’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. In the meantime, a trade of the first story arc (collecting Noble Causes: First Impressions and Noble Causes #s 1-4) will be available in February.
Thomas: You’re also writing Robotech, the latest in a series of 80s revival projects. Is this a new trend in comics or just a passing fad?
Faerber: I think the huge numbers on the projects are probably a passing fad. But it’s possible that some of the bigger properties could still remain profitable, and be published for years to come. They just won’t be topping the charts.
Thomas: What are you planning to bring to the title that will effectively set it apart from other similar projects?
Faerber: Honestly, what sets it apart from the other 80s properties has nothing to do with me. The original concept and execution were much more sophisticated than all the other 80s revivals we’ve seen so far, and that’s what sets Robotech apart. Its foundation is in story, not toys. So it’s never been a case of trying to take a bunch of toys, and building a universe around them. With Robotech, it’s about the characters first, and the cool robots a distant second.
Thomas: You’re doing a stint on Vampirella in the coming months. How do you successfully blend the aspects of sensuality and sex appeal that keeps Vampirella in that costume with a story that lets the audience know that this isn’t some run of the mill titty book?
Faerber: It’s a real fine line, that’s for sure. What I tried to do is acknowledge the absurdity of it within the context of the story. I just walk right up to it, and then move on and continue to tell the story. One of Vampirella’s powers is the ability to control peoples’ minds – it’s a classic vampire power. So I use that to help explain why she doesn’t get more odd looks when she prances around in that outfit.
Thomas: The over-reliance on superheroes in the industry as a storytelling device. Good thing? Bad thing? Necessary evil?
Faerber: I think it’s a bad thing, when you get down to it. I, personally, enjoy super-hero books. But in order for the medium to expand, we have to offer a more varied subject matter. So with that in mind, we need to continually provide genres other than super-hero stuff. I know that there are many comics that shy away from super-heroes, which is great. But we just need those books to find more readers.
Thomas: You’re writing a new title called Venture in January that will be one of the initial offerings from the new “superhero” line from Image. How did this whole thing start? Did Image get the ball rolling by approaching certain creators to contribute, or was Venture always in the works?
Faerber: I’m not sure how the other Image creators got involved with this super-hero universe, but for me and Jamal, it all started when Jim Valentino saw our work together in the back-up story in Noble Causes #2. He was floored with Jamal’s artwork, and asked us to pitch something. We sent in three very rough, brief ideas. Venture wasn’t even our first choice! But it’s what really grabbed Jim, so that’s what we went with.
Thomas: What’s the premise of Venture?
Faerber: Venture is the story of two men: one, Reggie Baxter, a tabloid journalist hungry to be taken seriously and the other, Joe Campbell, an immortal champion currently living in secret as a high school history teacher. The action starts when Reggie gets pictures of Joe using his super-powers, and realizes that he’s stumbled onto the story of the century. But the last thing Joe wants is to be in the public spotlight. So he and Reggie come up with a compromise — Joe will don a super-hero costume, so he can function in public, and Reggie will chronicle his exploits.
This is a new ongoing series from Image Comics, debuting in January 2003. It was co-created by myself and artist Jamal Igle, with whom I collaborated on New Warriors and Iron Fist/Wolverine. We’re really setting out to create something different. It’s a super-hero story, but it offers an in-depth look at both characters, as they struggle to remain true to their individual goals, while honoring their tenuous partnership. It’s played a bit like Unbreakable, or early Ultimate Spider-Man, with a focus on the characters, not the costumed super-hero action.
If nothing else, this book is going to finally put Jamal on the map. Jamal is one of the hardest working, most talented guys I’ve ever worked with. And he just “gets” my scripts. Sometimes he interprets things that I meant to write, but forgot to! That’s how in synch we are.
Thomas: Creative high point?
Faerber: Noble Causes.
Thomas: Creative low point?
Thomas: Finally…Is 2003 going to become the year of Jay Faerber?
Faerber: I think so, yeah. In terms of visibility, I laid low in 2002, concentrating on Noble Causes, and writing some of the work that will appear in 2003. The upcoming year will see more Noble Causes, Venture, Robotech, Vampirella, Xin, as well as another Image and another WildStorm book.
Thomas: I would like to thank Jay Faerber for stopping by and chatting about his upcoming work, and urge the masses to pick up multiple copies of Noble Causes from Image Comics. It is indeed the New Hotness…and speaking of….
The New Hotness…
So many good things on the stand that I can’t bear to play favorites. Just go and purchase Daredevil #38, The Filth #5, Spider-Man/Black Cat #3, Captain Marvel #2, Automatic Kafka #4, and Ultimate Spider-Man #29, and we’ll call it even.
I’m too busy living in the future to offer any more guidance than that. It’s “The New Hotness-The Books You Better Buy Next Week”:
Global Frequency #1 (Warren Ellis/Garry Leach/David Baron)
You remember that feeling you had after reading Planetary the first time? What about The Authority? Maybe it was even Transmetropolitan that did it to you? Pay attention for the undeniable sensation that you’ve been violently smacked over the head by something new at the hands of Warren Ellis returns on the Global Frequency. GF is a rescue organization that spans the globe containing 1,001 agents. These agents could be anyone you know, from the bank teller to the McDonalds guy to your own mother. And you’d never know it. Not until the world was preparing to end and the call goes out. Ordinary people from all walks of life saving the world from things usually reserved for the fancy men in tights to deal with. Black holes, hidden atomic weapons, and electromagnetic disturbance greet you in this first tale wrapped in a gorgeous cover by design maestro Brian Wood. One can’t help posing the question…why did it take so long for a concept like this to hit the stands? Someone is going to option the fuck out of Ellis’ latest brain-child, but until then you have to read the comic version. We should all be so lucky.
Batman #608 (Jeph Loeb/Jim Lee/Scott Williams)
You’ve heard about this one. Two of comics’ hottest creators hooking with one of comics’ hottest characters for a year-long engagement. Should be the shit right? Here’s a surprise…it is. It really is. How many creators could return to form after nearly a decade-long break from regular work and still kick the collective ass of ninety percent of the guys doing it today? His name’s Jim Lee baby, and with an artistic flair and sophistication that will trigger violent separation anxiety after we witness twelve months of this, he’s returned. Look at page 5 and tell me this man ain’t for real. The only thing better than a issue filled with poster-worthy shots of Bats would be if Jeph Loeb was present weaving a tale of kidnapping and lost cash that weaves throughout the rogues gallery (which Lee also excels at re-designing and rendering by the way) that will leave every corner of Gotham laid bare. Oh…oh hell…damn. Believe the hype. This book will be a ride for twelve months, and there’s no reason to be left behind…
Special thanks go to Retailer Jim who allows me to see the future, and then brag about it…