This September, Zenescope releases one of the most provocatively titled graphic novels of 2012. Written by Jeffrey Kaufman with art by Marco Turini, "Whore" chronicles the life of one Jacob Mars following his expulsion as a government-employed contract killer. Without a guaranteed government check for doing some pretty nasty things, he's willing to do whatever it takes to earn some cash -- even if it involves taking jobs with no concern for moral or ethical ramifications.
Kaufman, a defense attorney who doubles as a comic creator, puts Mars through a number of different situations with the goal of earning some kind of payday. He spoke with CBR News about the concept behind "Whore," the deliberately incendiary title, gun-for-hire Jacob Mars' motivations and how Kaufman's legal background assisted him in crafting the plot.
CBR News: Jeffrey, what's the basic premise behind "Whore" and who are the main players involved?
Jeffrey Kaufman: "Whore" is about a real bad guy who did real bad things for the government, but whose job has been downsized. The main character, Jacob Mars, is the kind of person who does and says anything he wants without fear of reprisal. Now that he doesn't have a guaranteed check, he works for anyone willing to pay him, no matter the job. His motto, simply stated: "Every man has his price."
"Whore" is certainly a provocative title --
While the word "whore" normally is applied to a female prostitute, I always felt it applied to anyone who worked solely for money without any concern for morality or personal and/or social justifications. My main character is a whore, and pretending he's not or using a more socially acceptable title just felt like I was lying to myself so I could sell more books.
Tell us a bit about Jacob Mars. What are his motivations going into the book and how does he develop as a character throughout the graphic novel's story?
Mars is who is and who he was trained to be. The idea that a character has to grow seems pointless in a situation where I've created a character that I want you to dislike but can't help being amused by. To pretend a guy who has done the kind of work Mars has is actually a really nice guy is insane. Yes, he can have good tendencies sometimes, but he is a killer, a thief and an opportunist who just follows orders. He's not a soldier who gets to go home after the war to his family and work out his demons. He gets the job done for a price and that's it. Mars might be a wise-ass and charming, but he will do whatever it takes in any situation.
What kinds of missions is Mars contracted for during the course of the book?
Spin the wheel. If a client is willing to pay his price, Mars will do it. He'd put a bullet in nun or walk down the street in a banana costume. Sex, murder, protection -- nothing is off the table.
What is it about artist Marco Turini's work that makes him the right fit for the story you're telling?
Marco exemplifies the true Italian -- ridiculously happy and passionate. His artwork has such a natural feel to it that he perfectly makes my insane scenarios seem plausible. Marco speaks very little English and his wife translates my scripts. Maybe that's why she always gives me weird faces when we're Skyping.
In addition to being the creator of "Whore" and founder of Big City Comics and Resurrection Studios, you're also a defense attorney. How did that experience come into play in developing the concept for "Whore?"
I've tried a lot of criminal cases, and have done some really unbelievable things fighting for my clients including wearing a Tigger costume in a closing, which got me on Court TV's (now truTV) "Disorder in the Court: The 20 Most Outrageous Courtroom Moments." Understanding outrageous situations comes easy for me since it's my job. When I was creating situations for Jacob Mars, I just looked for the simplest answers and asked myself, "What would I do if I didn't have to worry about the law?"
Do you think comics is the best medium for "Whore," or could you see it told in other formats as well? And why did you decide to publish "Whore" as a complete graphic novel rather than a series of single issues?
I don't really know if this is the best medium for "Whore." I really love this industry and tried to produce a solid, entertaining story for it. Could this be a cable show or a movie? Probably. I see things visually in pictures, so I think it would work in any medium other than a regular novel or audio book. I follow one rule in both the law and in comics, which is, "If I can see it, I can sell it."
I prefer to tell a complete story. I wrote 29 single-issue comic books and just enjoy crafting a full story from beginning to end. I enjoy "kick you in the face endings" like in "The Sixth Sense," "The Usual Suspects" and "The Book of Eli." A great ending is something writers should strive for, and that's why the most memorable parts of my graphic novels are the endings
What are you most excited about when it comes to "Whore" hitting readers' hands?
Following up my last graphic novel "Terminal Alice" was a big concern for me. It was my first graphic novel and I just wanted this to be better. It was the best thing I ever wrote and I wanted this book to be better. I threw myself completely into "Whore," which sounds funny as I say it. While I really love Alex, Laura, Illena, Cara and Eve from "Terminal Alice," I can honestly say I know Jacob Mars. Producing a book titled "Whore" has to be the dumbest, but most honest, straightforward thing I have ever done. This industry hasn't always been easy on me, but I did enjoy writing and producing this book.
"Whore," created and written by Jeffrey Kaufman with art by Marco Turini, launches from Zenescope in September.