Fan-favorite comics writer and “Ringer” and “Star-Crossed” staff writer Jay Faerber visited the CBR Speakeasy in North Hollywood, CA to speak with CBR TV’s Jonah Weiland about his newest Image Comics series and the events that led to him going creator-owned all those years ago with “Noble Causes.” The writer discusses how a lack of satisfaction with jobs that only paid the bills took his creative focus away from what he really wanted to write, what writing for TV has taught him about comics and which writers he uses as his own personal writer’s room when testing out new comic ideas.
Faerber also discusses what an easy transition it would be for “Near Death” to make the jump from comics to TV, teases Markham’s never-mentioned first name and the future of the series, as well as whether the next issue will be a new #1 or pick up where the previous series left off. The writer then tees up his September-debuting Image series “Copperhead,” a sci-fi Western drawn by Scott Godlewski and where his Western influences come from. The discussion ends with Faerber’s feelings toward teenage hero titles he grew up loving and wrote earlier in his career, plus what he does to escape the grind.
On why he decided to pursue creator-owned projects so early in his career: I don’t think it was ego. I think it was just ideas and it was also — for a while I was doing both. I was doing “Noble Causes” and I was doing “Titans” and I was freelancing, taking short runs or fill-ins on other books to pay the bills. It got to a point where the books I was taking for a paycheck weren’t books that I was passionate about like my Image titles. I decided even though these Image books aren’t making a lot of money, like I’m not paying my bills with them, I would rather be able to focus my creativity on those jobs and I just went out and got a day job.
It was hard at the time, just in terms of feeling like, “Oh, I’m a failure, I’m not a full-time writer.” I quickly got over that. It was so much more fulfilling to just — I worked in real estate. I could set my own hours and work from home and spend all my creative energy on the stuff that I was really passionate about. And now, I haven’t had a day job in years, but that’s — now television’s my day job, which is a whole different creative endeavor. But it’s still nice to balance to those two because TV is very structured and there’s a lot of people to please above you, whereas comics, here’s my own outlet where it’s just me and my collaborators.
On how the lessons he learned writing for TV have affected his comics writing: I think it’s made me just take my time a little more. Be a little more thorough, not just go with the first idea I have. In the writer’s room, the first idea you have, I mean every idea you pitch, or any idea everyone pitches, is challenged in some way. And not in a bad way, but just does this idea hold water. Let’s scrutinize it a little more and we’ll push it and tug it and just make it the best — either discard it or make it the best version of that idea possible.
With creator-owned comics when there is no editor, one of the pitfalls is there’s no editor, you can do things on a whim if you want to. I’ve gotten a little more deliberate, I guess, in my plotting, and just I can sort of hear the echoes of my writer’s rooms of “Ringeer” and “Star-Crossed” — all people who I’m still friends with — kind of in my head. “I don’t know about…” “What about this?” and ” What about that?” So it’s just helped make me a better writer, just in terms of holding myself to a higher standard.
On “Near Death” being the most TV-like of his comics: It’s my first prolonged, full-on crime book where there’s no supernatural elements or fantastic elements. It’s just a straight crime series. I love that stuff. I’ve grown up on “Magnum P.I.” and “The Rockford Files” and crime shows through the years and this is where I got to finally funnel all those influences into this one project.
If it’s only ever a comic book, I’ll have no complaints and be perfectly happy. It was never done as like, “Here’s my pilot for a TV show.” It was done as a comic. But yeah, there’s no doubt that it could fairly easily translate to television.
On the world of “Copperhead,” his new sci-fi Western from Image Comics: It’s set on a distant planet called Jasper in the 24th Century, and it centers on a mining town called Copperhead that’s built around a copper mine and it centers on a woman named Clara Bronson who is the new sheriff of this town. In the first issue, she arrives with her young son to take over as the sheriff and it’s more of a Western than a sci-fi book in the sense of the approach to characters and the kind of stories we’re telling. It just has sci-fi trappings — they have hovercrafts and laser guns and stuff, but it’s still a Western story. And a little bit of a police story, too. There’s a murder-mystery.
I’ve had this idea for years. The initial germ was like, “What if ‘Deadwood’ had aliens?” which is not an original idea by any stretch. I believe I heard that “Star Trek” was originally pitched as like “‘Wagon Train’ in space.” So the Western sci-fi thing is not new. There’s “Firefly,” of course. But what I hadn’t seen done prominently was all those things are like a moving set — a spaceship or whatever, where the characters are on a journey. They’re going to new places. I wanted to set it in a town where the story comes to us, where you have those Western archetypes. You have the town sheriff; you have the doctor; you have the bartender; the crooked mine owner; the saloon, the brothel, all that stuff. Our setting is permanent, and new characters come in and out of the picture.
On why he rarely reads teenage super hero comics these days: I don’t think I’ve outgrown them or moved on like I’m above them or anything. I love that genre, and the people doing them are doing great work. I guess there’s only so much you can do, only so many tunes you can play with those set of characters and I feel like I’ve read enough of it that it starts to seem familiar to me. Which is not a knock on anybody doing the work they’ve done, or are doing, but just nothing really grabs me. “Invincible” I still read. That’s my big super hero book, just ’cause I love it and I love that it’s Robert [Kirkman] and it’s creator-owned and Ryan Ottley’s art is amazing. That’s something where he can do whatever he wants and change characters in whatever ways he wants to because he owns them. There’s no trustees or corporations to be beholden to.