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One murder mystery revealed from three perspectives — in stark black and white. That’s the heart of Point of Impact, writer Jay Faerber‘s new Image four-issue collaboration with artist Koray Kuranel, which debuts Oct. 10. In anticipation of the launch, I cajoled Faerber into discussing this project as well as his appreciation of investigative reporters, a preference for giving his stories a strong sense of place, and how writing for television has affected his comics writing … among many other topics.
Tim O’Shea: In the opening pages of Point of Impact, readers lose a character fairly fast (Nicole Rafferty)–and yet in her absence the mystery of her death makes her a focal point of the book. How challenging is it to construct a story with a character who has a presence due to her forced and permanent absence.
Jay Faerber: It is a challenge, for sure. But I think a character’s absence can be a very effective way of defining that character. A big part of the inspiration of why I chose to tackle this particular story is because I wanted to explore how one person is viewed by the different people in his or her life. We all play different roles for each other, and I thought that would be an interesting way to approach a murder mystery.
The story is constructed using three different perspectives in examining the mystery, how did you decide upon what professions each person would have? And in the era when newspapers are struggling, why did you opt to develop an investigative reporter as one of the three (as opposed to say a blogger or other media platform journalist)?
I picked three occupations (or archetypes, really) that appeal to me, as a writer. I love cop stories, so Abby’s a cop. Boone isn’t exactly a private eye, but he’s similar — he’s someone with a background that lends itself to mystery solving to some degree (he’s an ex-soldier) and he fills the same role of an “outsider” that most private eyes fill. And Mitch is an old-school kind of reporter because I love investigative reporters — from Carl Kolchak to Woodward & Bernstein. So I went with the admittedly older investigative reporter, rather than the more current blogger or whatever. It just speaks more to my interests, I guess.
With Point of Impact, what do you enjoy most about utilizing the assets of black-and-white comic dynamics?
I just thought Koray’s art looks great in b&w. And it was my idea from the get-go to have the whole book be b&w — covers, ads, everything. Printing technology has come far enough that it doesn’t really save much money by printing in b&w, so we could’ve easily had the ads and such be color. But I instructed Image to make them b&w so that the whole book has a cohesive feel to it.
In terms of the ads being in black and white, was there any pushback from Image on that aspect?
Nope, none at all. They’re a pretty agreeable bunch. And I should point out that it’s not even mandatory that we run ads in our books. If I had enough content to fill the entire book, they’d be fine with that.
In terms of developing the looks of the characters and the environment, how much did they evolve from how you initially envisioned them versus what artist Koray Kuranel committed to the page?
I gotta be honest, this book’s been in development a long time — years, really. So I have a hard time remembering a time when the characters didn’t look the way Koray draws them. He truly brought them to life and I can’t imagine them looking any other way.
I normally like to set my stories in real cities, and load up my artists with lots of reference. But for this story, we set it in an intentionally unnamed city, so that Koray wouldn’t be hindered with having to adhere to any photo reference or anything.
While you have a preference for setting stories in real city settings, after trying to step away from that tradition with this project, does it make it more likely you’re open to doing it again?
Y’know, after thinking about my earlier answer I realized it’s not that clear-cut. In Dynamo 5 and Noble Causes, those series were set in fake cities — Tower City and Crown Pointe. Near Death was set in Seattle and then Los Angeles. An old crime OGN called Dodge’s Bullets was also set in Seattle. So I guess the difference with Point of Impact is that the location is never specified. I like stories with a strong sense of place, whether that place is real or fictional. So Point of Impact is a departure in that regard. I don’t think I’m likely to do it again, though — just because, as I said, I enjoy stories with a strong sense of place.
There is some confusion as to if Near Death is an ongoing series that ended in August–or is it potentially on hiatus?
Well, here’s the thing — sales weren’t as high as we needed them to be on Near Death, so we ended it with issue #11. However, I’m too in love with the Markham character to accept that he’s gone forever, so I’m hoping to be able to bring him back somehow. Maybe we’ll do a mini-series, or a one-shot or something. I’m also shopping the book around as a TV pilot, and if that gains any traction, we’ll have a much easier time bringing the book back.
Both Point of Impact and your ongoing series Near Death are distinctive for featuring essays in the single issues, when did you realize that was something you wanted to include in your comics?
I’ve been including the “Under the Influence” columns — where I talk about comics and books and TV shows that influenced me as a writer — since I was working on Dynamo 5. I’m a big nerd and I like talking about stuff I enjoy. Plus, I wanted to help increase the value of the book, to give the readers a little more bang for their buck. And those essays appear only in the single issues, they aren’t ever collected in the trades.
While “Under the Influence” columns never get repackaged in the trade paperbacks, have you ever considered printing a “Under the Influence” collection?
I’ve thought about it once or twice, but (a) I don’t think I have nearly enough essays to warrant a collection and (b) I doubt many people would be interested in that kind of thing. I think it makes a nice little bonus for a book you’re already buying, but as a separate product … I dunno.
Am I right in thinking you’re done with the days of writing for the big two (DC & Marvel)–are you much more content creatively with your creator-owned work?
I sometimes get the itch to tip my toe back into the Marvel and DC waters, but it happens pretty rarely. I was lucky in that I got to work on a lot of my favorite Marvel and DC characters really early in my career. I say “lucky,” but it was also kind of unfortunate, because I got some of those assignments before I was really ready for them. I’m a much better writer than I was back then — it’s been almost 15 years. So I’ve had the chance to work on those characters and it wasn’t always everything I hoped it would be. It was one of those “be careful what you wish for” kinda deals.
But regardless, I’m really happy writing my own characters. Creating something from the ground up is incredibly satisfying.
Last TV season, you wrote three episodes of CW’s Ringer–has the experience writing for TV had an impact on how you approach writing comics–or are the mediums two vastly different to get comparative to any great degree?
There are enough similarities that yeah, I tried to learn a lot from my time in the Ringer writers room. The biggest difference is that the writers room is so incredibly collaborative. Writing comics — especially creator-owned comics, where I’m “the boss” — means not having to really defend your ideas. Whereas in the writers room, you’re in there with half a dozen (or more) other writers, all of them more talented than me, so if I pitch out an idea, I’ve gotta defend it and fight for it and not get defensive and territorial if someone takes that idea and uses it as a springboard for something else.
I basically came away from that experience demanding more of myself as a writer. I try not to settle for the first idea that pops into my head in a given scene. I just make myself work harder for it.
Anything we should discuss that I neglected to ask about?
I just wanna remind folks to pick up Point of Impact #1 on Oct. 10. And I’ll be signing at the Image Comics Booth at the New York Comic Con on Oct. 12 and 13.