Jay Faerber, known for his superhero comics “Noble Causes” and “Dynamo 5,” launched a new crime series this month called “Near Death.” It follows a former hitman named Markham as he tries to make amends for his misdeeds after a near-death experience. Faerber is also a writer on the Sarah Michelle Gellar series “Ringer.” “Ringer” airs Tuesday nights on the CW. Faerber recently talked to The Oklahoman about his new comic-book series. Here’s what Faerber said about crime fiction, his inspirations, and working in TV and comics at the same time.
NERDAGE: What kind of crime fiction do you like to read? Were any particular inspirations for Near Death?
JAY FAERBER: Right now, Lee Child and Robert Crais are my favorite two crime authors, although you could arguably say they’re more thriller writers than crime writers. But I love their stuff. Robert B. Parker was also a huge influence on my writing in general, going as far back as high school.
Those authors influenced NEAR DEATH, as did TV writer-turned-novelist Stephen J. Cannell. He cranked out tons of cop-and-private-eye shows in the 1980s and was another huge influence on my writing. The character of Markham (right down to the fact that he has no first name) owes a lot to 80s TV shows.
NERDAGE: There’s a bit of a possibly supernatural element in issue 1, but everything else is played pretty straight. Are the rules of the Near Death world the same, basically, as our own?
JAY FAERBER: Yeah, we won’t be dwelling on the supernatural stuff at all. If anything, it’s an inciting incident and it’s something only Markham saw. For all we know it could’ve been a delusion.
NERDAGE: How would you pitch this book to a potential reader?
JAY FAERBER: NEAR DEATH is about a hitman who has a “near death experience” and gets a glimpse of Hell. What he sees has such an effect on him that he vows to change his life and try to balance the scales by saving a life for every life he’s taken. So each issue of the book features Markham on a mission to save a new person. Most issues are self-contained, done-in-one stories. You can jump in at any time. I want to keep the book as accessible as possible.
We’re launching it at a time when DC is relaunching every single one of its titles. The competition’s a bit daunting but hopefully that means there are more people coming into comic shops this month, and I’d like to think some of them will want to sample stuff outside DC and Marvel.
NEAR DEATH is a big departure for me — it’s not about families or super-heroes, and I think it’s going to surprise some people. It really should appeal to people who enjoy CRIMINAL and STUMPTOWN and Darwyn Cooke’s PARKER adaptations.
NERDAGE: What appeals to you about Markham? Is he on the road to redemption?
JAY FAERBER: I’ve always been attracted to the idea of a bad guy trying to go straight. What interests me about Markham in particular is that he’s trying to go straight for purely selfish reasons — he’s afraid of what’s going to happen to him when he dies. He doesn’t actually care about the people he’s protecting. He’s still a bit of a sociopath. So the question becomes: is a man a hero if he does good things for a selfish reason? Or do his motives have to be pure? I think it’s an interesting question to explore as we tell crime stories.
NERDAGE: Tell me about working with artist Simone Guglielmini.
JAY FAERBER: Simone is a dream come true. He’s fast, easy to work with, disciplined, and his style and influences are perfectly aligned with NEAR DEATH. I found him online and we’ve never even spoken, much less met. But he’s already become one of my favorite collaborators.
NERDAGE: You’re now working on the TV show “Ringer” and continuing your comics career. What are the things you enjoy about each field?
JAY FAERBER: We’re in the middle of shooting my first episode of RINGER, and I gotta tell you — there’s nothing like seeing words you’ve written spoken out loud by actors. It’s pretty awesome. While both mediums are collaborative, with comic books the actual writing is fairly solitary. When you’re working for Marvel and DC you get notes from editors and such, but with Image, I have complete creative control. The collaboration doesn’t start until the script is sent to the artist. With TV, the entire writing process is collaborative. We break stories as a group, in the writers room. And it’s not until a story is thoroughly worked out that an individual writer goes off and writes the script.
Both methods have their pros and cons, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have a steady TV gig AND a monthly comic book series, so I get the best of both worlds.
NERDAGE: Anything else you want to share?
JAY FAERBER: Read NEAR DEATH and watch RINGER (Tuesdays on the The CW)!
- Matt Price