[Noble Causes]If you ever wanted to see what would have happened on "Melrose Place" if the cast members had superpowers when they slapped each other around and flung each other into the pool, Jay Faerber's new ongoing, "Noble Causes," may be the book for you.

"The barebones description is: the Kennedys with super-powers," Faerber told the Comic Wire on Sunday. "It's a soap opera, to an extent, about the glamorous (or at least, seemingly glamorous) existence of this super-rich, super-beautiful, super-powered family.

"The book centers around Liz Donnelly, a completely average woman in her early 20s, who works at a bookstore in Georgetown. Her world is forever changed when she meets Dash Noble, the, er, 'dashing' youngest son of the Noble family, and there's instant chemistry. The two start dating, and we meet the Noble family -- and the world they inhabit -- just as Liz does. She's our 'guide' in this series, essentially. The lead story in our introductory one-shot (entitled 'Noble Causes: First Impressions') is Liz's first time at the Noble Manor, where she has dinner with Dash and his family."

For a relative newcomer to the industry, Faerber has had steady work for several years now, and is now the writer of DC Comics' "The Titans," and could presumably have a steady flow of assignments for years to come. So why roll the dice by fronting the money to do a self-financed comic through Image Comics?

"For creative freedom, pure and simple. Probably the biggest deciding factor was the cancellation of 'New Warriors.' If you'd given me my choice of books to write at Marvel, it would've been the Warriors, and to have that dream realized -- and then go sour so quickly -- was pretty disappointing. I've spent a lot of time looking back on that experience, and second-guessing myself. I want to make it perfectly clear that I enjoyed working with Bobbie Chase, and I'd work with her again in a heartbeat. I learned a lot from her, but we disagreed on how to pace the book. I wanted to let our subplots play out slowly, as a way to keep readers interested. She wanted to provide quick resolutions to everything, so nothing was dangling. So I'll always wonder what would've happened if we'd done things 'my way.' Would the book have survived? Who knows. Maybe it would've been cancelled at issue 7, instead of 10. I have no way of knowing. But by developing 'Noble Causes,' I'll get to tell a story following my own instincts, just to see how it all turns out."

The shorthand description of "Noble Causes" as "Kennedys with superpowers" doesn't fully convey what Faerber has in mind (although it makes for some amusing mental images):

"I want to tell stories about a cast of characters who are under a tremendous spotlight. The entire world is enchanted with them, and their actions are heavily scrutinized. When something serious happens to one of these characters, I want to try and evoke a sense of 'where were you when such-and-such happened,' like with JFK's assassination, or Princess Di's death. The kind of events that are literally felt across the world.

"The stories themselves will be rather soap opera-ish, in that the Nobles won't be protecting the Earth from invaders, or stopping evil dictators. These super-heroes are SO popular, they don't need to fight crime anymore, really. The world has other super-heroes for that (and we'll see some of them, once in awhile, and how THEY view the Nobles). The conflicts and suspense of this book will stem from the characters' interactions with each other. I've got around 12 regular characters, so that's a good number of people who all have different agendas and desires.

"And let me assure you that when I say the book is going to be soap opera-ish, I don't mean it's just going to be women getting slapped in the face or pushed in pools. I just mean it's going to be completely character-driven, and serialized. We're going to construct arcs (in 6-issue blocks), but even the arcs will flow together."

There was once an Image book (now a DC/WildStorm book) that downplayed the actual superheroics of the superheroes featured in favor of the stuff that's normally squeezed into a few pages of subplots and dangling plot threads otherwise. But Faerber says that's about all that "Astro City" and "Noble Causes" have in common.

"Well, 'Astro City' is almost an anthology within a shared universe, basically. The big difference here is that NC will follow one cast of characters, for the duration. And while the public's perception of the Nobles will be a factor of the series, I don't plan on doing any 'man on the street' stories, where we really get inside the head of an average citizen, and how his or her life is impacted by super-heroes. I have to admit I haven't read all the 'Astro City' [issues], but the ones I have seem to have veered into that territory more than once."

And while family superheroics have been covered in the past, most famously in the pages of Marvel Comics' "Fantastic Four," the Storms were never like this.

"While the FF are often called 'dysfunctional,' there's never any question that they really love each other. That's not really the case with the Nobles. They're a lot more vicious and mean towards one another, a lot of times. And, unlike the FF, this is a bigger cast, complete with in-laws, illegitimate kids, and even surrogate android siblings!"

When it came time to choose an artist for "Noble Causes," Faerber went looking in a place that, so far, is still perhaps under-utilized as a recruitment venue for comic book work: The Internet.

Faerber said had an open call for submissions online for "a few reasons. For one thing, I enjoy coming across new artists -- I like seeing fresh stuff. But the other factor is affordability. Unlike Marvel and DC, Image doesn't offer any sort of advance, so most Image creators don't get paid until the book comes out. That means, we all work months in advance, for no money. I know that most artists at Marvel and DC can't afford to do that, so I chose to find some new, hungry artist who'd be willing to make the sacrifice of not seeing any cash up-front, in order to get some comic book work."

Going to the Internet certainly seemed to work, Faerber said.

"My very first response blew me away -- it was from a guy named Billy Dallas Patton, and as you now know, he's the guy I chose. I knew he was the guy for the job the second I saw his stuff. I couldn't conceive of finding someone better than him, in an online search. But to be fair to the other entrants, I kept the doors open for a few more days, just in case. I received a lot of nice samples, but no one was better than Billy, so after a few days, I offered him the job."

Once Dallas was selected, the rest of the pieces fell into place fairly quickly.

"Well, Billy already had a working relationship with Damon, our lead inker. I think met on a chain gang in Tulsa. Or maybe it was online. Anyway, he recommended Damon, and after seeing how they looked together, I was sold. Pat Gleason, the guy penciling our back-up stories, was introduced to me by Brian Vaughan, and I've kept in touch with Pat over the years. His inker, John 'Waki' Wycough, is another guy that Billy found, also online. Waki can ink ANYTHING, and Pat's pencils are no exception."

And while the public's first look at "Noble Causes" won't be coming for some time, Faerber's team is already hard at work.

"The project came together in a weird way, so we're kind of jumping around. But we're nearly done with both the 'First Impressions' one-shot (shipping in August), and the first regular issue (shipping in November). And I've got the first six issues pretty thoroughly outlined."


In case you missed the news this weekend -- covered in depth, to put it mildly, in Friday's Comic Wire Extra -- after well over a decade of false starts and legal wrangling, DC and Marvel Comics are bringing together their two all-star teams of superheroes in the project fans have been waiting for since the Reagan administration: "JLA/Avengers."

The announcement was made Friday afternoon at Megacon in Orlando, Florida. Some new details came out of the panel discussion where the 2002 miniseries was announced (after playing with the minds of those in attendance and showing a mock-up for the "announcement" of a "Fantastic Four/Titans" crossover):

The four issue miniseries will have wrap-around covers on each. The advance teaser art put together by series artist George Pérez was auctioned off on Saturday to benefit ACTOR.

As for the original pages that Pérez did in the early 1980s, they won't be included in the project in any way.

The pages' current owner, "Rob Liefeld can sell them on eBay," series writer Kurt Busiek said at the panel.

Pérez, in fact, prefers that those pages from the past remain in the past.

"I'm not the same artist I was 18 years ago," he said. "I, myself, would not want these pages published. They don't represent me."

Pérez is also happy that this won't be the only hotly awaited superhero project of 2002.

"I want to thank Frank Miller for doing ['Batman: The Dark Knight Returns' sequel] 'The Dark Knight Strikes Back.' Hound him instead of me."

As for nitty-gritty details, the project is still in such an early stage that few details are available -- Pérez, Busiek and editors Dan Raspler and Tom Brevoort all planned to get together and discuss the project over the weekend -- but the miniseries won't be an What If?/Elseworlds imaginary project as some crossovers have been labeled.

The sometimes reluctant Justice League of America member Batman will be in a fairly classic mode, Busiek said: "Three words: World's Greatest Detective! That Batman."

And the Avengers' Scarlet Witch will be in the costume that Pérez created for her when he worked with Busiek on the relaunched "Avengers" series: "The gypsy one!" Pérez stated loudly, when asked at the panel.

Otherwise, though, fans will have to wait for the project to be more developed before squeezing more details out of the creators. The most common answer to questions at the panel was "It's not out of the question."


[Erik Larsen]Fans of Erik Larsen's work might be noticing a slight hiccup in some of his ongoing assignments, due to recent illness. But it'll be a brief one, as he's back on his feet now.

"Just letting you know -- I'm getting better," Larsen posted to his "Savage Dragon" message board on Friday. "Still recovering from pneumonia and bronchitis -- pretty nasty stuff. I've been laid out for a few weeks and feeling completely wiped out. Things are improving. I just finished 'Savage Dragon' #83 (which will be in stores on March 28th) and I'll be starting on 'Defenders' #5 next week (#4 is a fill-in by Ron Frenz and Scott Hanna). I completely bombed out in terms of scripting 'Defenders' #3 -- usually I'll script it and Kurt will do a quick rewrite to better nail down certain characters (I'm still finding a voice for Dr. Strange and my Silver Surfer and Namor generally needs a tweak or two). This time out I didn't do anything. I'll be back scripting with #4 and back drawing with #5. On 'FF: World's Greatest,' Keith Giffen will be laying out issues #6 & 7 -- generally I do storytelling roughs but I had to skip out on those due to illness -- again, I ought to be back in the saddle with #8. 'Savage Dragon' never gets fill-ins so there will be a bigger gap between issues than there has been. Having this time off gave me a chance to really rethink my overall story on the book and I read through the entire run (something I haven't done in a while). In any case, things will be changing again and fans of the 'old' 'Savage Dragon' as well as the current 'Savage Dragon' are going to really love where this book is going. The record breaking 'Savage Dragon' #100 is going to floor people.

"Things are looking up. I'm not 100 percent yet but I am in good enough shape to get some work done -- that's the plan!"


Here's what's news and press releases in CBR's Comic Brief since the last edition of the Comic Wire:

  • Jay Faerber and Image Join Forces for "Noble Causes"
  • Funk-O-Tronic Expansion ... PART TWO!
  • "The Copybook Tales" to be collected

And we've said it time and again, that you shouldn't just swing by CBR every Monday and Thursday. For one thing, there's two fistfuls of great content every weekday. But there's also the possibility that you might miss, oh, a massive Comic Wire Extra report on the new JLA/Avengers miniseries, including interviews with Kurt Busiek, George Pérez, Dan Raspler and Tom Brevoort. If you missed it on Friday or over the weekend, go read it now.

That Comic Wire Extra upstaged Comic Wire, which featured:

  • Giffen Locks and Loads on New "Suicide Squad" monthly
  • Geoff Johns on the Once and Future Hawkman


A special thanks to Karen Gorrell.

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