Launching a new superhero series isn't easy. For every series such as Image Comics' "Invincible" or DC Comics' "Fallen Angel," there's a number of series that last only a year- if even that much. Through dedication for all participants, Jay Faerber's "Noble Causes" has proven to be one of the most successful original superhero launches of the past few years and one of Image Comics' most acclaimed titles. With the brand new ongoing series heating up, CBR News caught up with Faerber to find out what is new with the Noble clan and re-introduce the concept to readers.
"This version of 'Noble Causes' is the way I intended the book, from the beginning, to an extent," Faerber told to CBR News. "I never intended to bring Race back, for instance. But the current book's tone, and its pace, is what I wanted to achieve from the start, and it's only possible by doing full-length, 22-page stories on a monthly schedule. I can introduce and resolve subplots in the manner each of them deserve, and have enough room for more meaningful scenes.
"'Noble Causes' is the ongoing saga of the Nobles, a family of celebrity super-heroes. The family's patriarch is Doc Noble, a two-fisted inventor more at ease with machines than with his own family. Or so it seemed. Recently, Doc's been acting uncharacteristically emotional, while at the same time, he seems to be losing his scientific edge.
"Doc's wife is Gaia, a powerful sorceress from another dimension who is the true power behind the Noble family. She runs Noble Industries, the family business. She has a nasty habit of caring more about what the public thinks than what her own family thinks.
"Rusty is Doc and Gaia's first-born, a short-tempered guy whose brain was placed in a robot body when he was nearly killed in battle. He's currently dating Cosmic Rae, a magnetically powered super-hero. She convinced him to join a government-sponsored mission to rescue some scientists from another planet. What she left out was that Rusty's bitter ex-wife, Celeste, and his hated half-brother, Frost, were part of the crew.
"Frost is Gaia's son, and is shunned by the rest of the family. While on the mission I just mentioned, he learned that Cosmic Rae is actually a robot -- something Rusty doesn't even know. He agreed to keep her secret, but with Frost, there's always a price.
"Zephyr is Doc and Gaia's only daughter, and their youngest child. She's a teenager who slept with Draconis, the family's greatest enemy, as an act of rebellion, and is now pregnant with his child. Draconis' son, Krennick, is seemingly obsessed with Zephyr, even going so far as to hire prostitutes to dress up like her.
"The super-fast Race is Doc and Gaia's second son, and he's married to Liz, a perfectly average young woman. Liz is an outsider within the Noble family -- the first one to ever witness what goes on behind the family's closed doors. She's also incredibly grounded, and serves as a perfect foil for Race. The two of them just finished helping Race's longtime friend, Krennick, prove his innocence in a murder investigation. It was after this adventure that Liz announced she can't go on with the marriage, which leads directly into issue #6."
Faerber's cut his teeth on a multitude of superhero books- from Marvel Comics' "Generation X" to his controversial run on DC Comics' "Titans"- and explains why this book offers such unique creative opportunities. "Well, the short answer is that I own 'Noble Causes,' and that, by definition, means I can tell super-hero stories I couldn't tell in any other venue. But it's more than that -- the concept behind 'Noble Causes' is so broad that it allows me to basically tell any kind of super-hero story I want to. I can do fantasy-type stuff with Gaia's background, sci-fi / explorer stuff with Doc, straight-ahead super-hero stuff with Race, etc. It's limitless.
"Plus, there's the fact that I set out to craft stories that aren't really just good guys vs. bad guys. The focus of the book is much more about the interpersonal family dynamic we've got going, and the conflicts that arise within it."
In much of "Noble Causes," readers have been privy to the many trials and tribulations of the Noble family, causing some to wonder if there will ever be a "quiet" day for the group. Faerber says yes and it's coming soon. "Issue #7 is a change-of-pace issue, with guest art by Gabe Bridwell, and it features Race treating Liz to a 'day off.' You really nailed that one!"
There's been a trend to "darken" superhero books of late and while "Noble Causes" has seen its share of "mature" stories, Faerber said you shouldn't expect the book to turn into the superhero version of "The Shield" anytime soon. "I dunno, man. We already had a teenage girl get impregnated by a demonic super-villain. But I think it's all in the execution. I don't see 'Noble Causes' as a 'dark' book, but it will sometimes explore more adult themes. That exploration will always remain tasteful, however. Basically, no nudity or severe swearing."
Also appearing in "Noble Causes" will be Venture, a character co-created by Faerber and unsuccessfully launched as an ongoing series. But don't hold your breath for "Venture" Vol.2, as Faerber says, "I don't think we'll be seeing a new Venture series any time in the foreseeable future. Jamal Igle, who co-created the character with me, is busy drawing Firestorm, and frankly, there isn't much demand for the character. I'm happy to be able to give him a little page-time in 'Noble Causes,' though. He's mostly a background character, although he gets a good chunk of space devoted to him in issue #8."
There's a new artist onboard "Noble Causes," the franchise that has launched the careers of artists like Patrick Gleason, and Faerber is happy to gush about his newest artistic discovery. "Fran Bueno's the name, and he's just fantastic. He's a Spanish guy who lives in France, and he sent samples into the Image office one day, about a year ago. Eric Stephenson forwarded them to me, suggesting Fran might be a good fit if I decided to bring 'Noble Causes' back. I asked Fran if he was interested, and he was, so we went to town.
"He's got that great 'cartoony' style that makes it easy for him to immediately establish a character's look. 'Noble Causes' is a pretty exaggerated book, full of over-the-top spectacle, so it's fitting that the artwork is exaggerated, to a degree. The other thing that makes Fran such an asset is his professionalism. Issue #6 hasn't hit the stands yet, but he's about two pages shy of finishing issue #8 as I write this -- for an Image book, that's pretty far ahead."
To many it seems that the "buzz" surrounding "Noble Causes" has calmed down considerably, despite a vocal and dedicated fanbase, but it doesn't bother Faerber. "We're just facing some incredibly strong competition. You've got characters that most fans grew up reading, being written and drawn by some of the best creators in the business. Books like 'Noble Causes,' featuring original characters (especially original characters without corporate backing) face an uphill battle. But we've only had five issues come out of the current series, and I get e-mails from new fans all the time -- fans who have just started buying the book with this incarnation, so that's really promising. I've also heard from fans who prefer to buy the trades. The bad side to that is that, as of this writing, there is no trade planned for the current series. I'd love to do one, but right now, there aren't any plans for one.
So if you've been waiting for one, you might want to consider checking out our back issues. All five (minus Tyler Kirkham's cover to #3, which has sold out) are in print, and available for re-order."
Speaking of trade paperback collections, as Faerber indicated in the previous paragraph, many fans these days seem to "wait for the trade" with superhero comics and though some creators are bothered by that trend, it's not upsetting to Faerber, though he does offer some words of caution. "I don't blame them. If that's the format they prefer, they should support it. But it's not a guarantee that every series will continue to have a life in TPBs. Those things are expensive as hell to print, so as much as I'd love to see every series have one, it's just not feasible. DC and Marvel can afford to take more chances and collect less 'sure-fire' hits into TPB form, but for other publishers, it's a gamble. I guess my point is, you may end up waiting for trade that will never come."
Though the preview pages included in this interview offer a taste of what's to come, Faerber is happy to whet fans' appetites with some additional comments. "Expect lots and lots of surprises! The big outer space storyline kicks into high gear in the second half of our first year, and the mystery of Doc's behavior really deepens. And it's probably about time Zephyr had that baby, don't you think?"