What becomes of a costumed hero who has failed the people closest to him? Screenwriter Denis Faye (the forthcoming "High Midnight") explores this idea in the self-published one-shot "The Monocle and Jimmy Specs," available now through the book's website. Illustrated by Rikki Niehaus, the issue features a retrospective on our stiff-upper-lipped hero's career, along with the now-aged Monocle's final adventure. CBR News caught up with Faye to discuss the project and its pulp influences.
"I like to think of this as a redemption tale," Faye told CBR. "My goal with Jimmy and the Monocle was to make them as human as possible while still honoring certain superhero tropes. I'd describe The Monocle as an aristocratic thrill-seeker who, for all his talent as a detective and crime fighter, still doesn't really think things through. It's meant to be ironic that his symbol is a corrective lens and yet he can't see the world as it is, even in his final moments. Jimmy is just the opposite. He seems like a Polly-Anna-ish, idealistic goofball, but once you get past that facade, there's a lot of torment inside."
For reasons that become apparent in the story, Faye admitted that spinning this issue into an ongoing series would be difficult. He did say, though, that are more stories to tell in this universe, particularly the first meeting between the Monocle and his sidekick. "Also, I'd love to tell the stories of the other heroes in this universe -- but I'll tell you now, these probably wouldn't be happy stories," the writer said. "As a screenwriter, I tend to write stuff that's more mainstream, which I love, but I also love having this forum, where I can play around in the dark places. Ultimately, I'd love to piece this stuff together and put out a trade paperback/graphic novel/whatever the PC thing to call them is nowadays."
In addition to the lead story featuring the last days of the Monocle, Faye has also written a prose backup story bearing heavy pulp adventure influences. "I love the prose of pulp fiction. It blows me away how guys like Raymond Chandler could just crank this stuff out like sausage -- but it's poetry!" Faye said. "Also, if you read the old pulps, they're really twisted. No boundaries whatsoever. The Monocle takes on some challenging taboos, so I thought the pulp world would be a good place to put it.
"And Rikki has such a gorgeous, Golden-age inspired style. That pushed me to try to match the feel of her art with words, if that makes any sense."
Beyond pulp, Faye looked to a stable of comics luminaries for inspiration on his first project in the medium. "There's not much in comics that doesn't inspire me, but for this book, I looked to Will Eisner, Alan Moore, Eric Powell -- I love the way Eric Powell's 'The Goon' can make all that gangster speak sound so funny and unforced," the writer said. "I didn't want Jimmy's 'gee whiz' lingo to sound funny, but I did want it to sound natural. Chris Ware's 'Jimmy Corrigan' had a big influence on the Monocle, the way such heart-wrenching stories can be told with so few words.
"Also, and this is going to sound really weird, but the first issue of DC's original 'Crisis on Infinite Earths' probably had a lot to do with my mindset, the way all the villains and heroes on Earth-3 fly into the eye of the storm in one, final heroic act. I don't know if going down in a blaze of glory is the right way to do things in the real world, but it's something I certainly like to write about."
Faye also cited Michael Chabon's "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" as an influence for both the comic and prose stories. "Also, I read through tons of old pulp books," he said.
In Faye's story, readers see the Monocle during his time as a hero and also at his end, with a turning point in his relationship with Jimmy Specs filling in a lot of information about the space between. Curiously, though, an event that ends in tragedy in the comic portion is treated for subtle laughs in the prose. "The comic part was always intended to really knock the wind out of the reader. Thanks to Rikki's art, I'd like to think we succeeded," the writer explained. "So, with the prose part, I figured I'd try to do it all over again. Even the darkest pulp fiction has a few smirks in it, so I tried to do that to make the reader think he/she was getting a reprieve from the despair. Then SLAP! We're reminded of Jimmy's lament. At least that's what I was trying for.
"Sometimes people laugh in their darkest hour. Life is weird like that. I thought if we saw that side of this story, it might lend an extra dimension to it."
As to what's next for Faye's comic book career, the writer hints that readers may see more from him sooner rather than later. "This book has opened or at least unlocked some interesting doors for me, so we'll see." He is, of course, keeping his day job in film. Faye's "High Midnight," which he describes as a vampire western, is in development at Treasure Entertainment, with Mary Lambert ("Pet Sematary") attached to direct and William Balwdin and Thomas Kretchman attached to star. "Stan Winston's studio has signed on to do the FX," Faye added. "I spent an afternoon at his workshop once. It was one of the biggest thrills of my Hollywood career so far."
"The Monocle and Jimmy Specs" is independently published and distributed, meaning it might not be available at your local comic shop. But fans can buy copies online.Â "We're going all-indie on distribution and it's working pretty well," Faye said. "We're in most of the bigger shops around Los Angeles and I've been sending books out to people who email me via our website. Just yesterday, I sent a couple books to the U.K. and Australia."
That said, the writer is looking forward to a day when he no longer has to do it all himself. "As I said, I'll probably continue to expand the universe because I love it so much, but going at it solo means it'll take time," Faye said. "If there's a publisher out there that wants to swoop in and lend a hand, I'm all ears. I'm not really interested in being the next [Dark Horse founder] Mike Richardson or Larry Young [of AIT/PlanetLar]. I just want to tell stories."