The following contains spoilers to issue #1 of "Noble Causes."
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For the uninitiated "Noble Causes" is a new creator-owned bimonthly series published through Image Comics that follows the lives of the illustrious, and super-powered, Noble family. In an interview in January with Faerber we said "think British Monarchy, plus WWF, minus the massive amounts of testosterone, with the Fantastic Four thrown in for flavor." That's "Noble Causes."
As we noted above the end of issue #1 holds a bit of a shocker; Race, a major player in the "Noble Causes" family, dies, or rather is incinerated. So, everyone who read that issue asked themselves the same question, will Race actually stay dead?
"Ultimately, you'll have to just wait and see," Jay Faerber told CBR News. "I'm having fun playing with peoples' perceptions and expectations. In comics, death has really lost its 'oomph.' We've seen SO many characters come back after big, seemingly-permanent deaths that it's hard to get anyone to really FEEL anything when a character dies these days. Fortunately, one of the many advantages of working at Image is that I set the rules, as far as my own comic's continuity. Does that mean Race is going to stay dead? Wait and see."
While the comics market has shown incredible growth in the last year, it's still a shadow of its former self. Sales on comics from issue #1 to issue #2 tend to diminish dramatically, so the question is how did "Noble Causes #2" do?
"I'm VERY pleased to be able to say that the drop-off between #1 and #2 wasn't nearly as damaging as in most new series," said Faerber. "The slight drop-off is very, very promising about the book's future. It caused some anxiety as I waited for the numbers to come in, but once we got 'em, they were pretty easy to swallow. They can always stand to improve, of course, and we have every intention on strengthening the book's place in the market, both through strong entertainment, and aggressive marketing and promotion.
"If I can digress a minute," Faerber continued, "I've contacted about 300 retailers online, and invited them to join a 'Noble Causes' newsletter, which will provide retailers with sales-aids like downloadable flyers and shelf-talkers, and exclusive information for their store newsletters and Web sites. If any retailers are reading this, and haven't been contacted by me, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org." A little creator activism for you.
Back to the story itself, Faerber's well ahead of himself scripting wise and has a good idea where the story will go in the pages of "Noble Causes."
"I have scripts written up through #4. Past that, I have the next arc (#5-8) outlined, and a rough idea of what happens in the arc following that. I should mention that while the book's an ongoing serial, I have tried to break it up into arcs, so it can be easily collected into TPBs.
"The current arc deals heavily with Race's murder, and who did it, and why. So it's a very plot-driven arc -- very big and exciting. My problem when plotting the second arc was, how do I top that? The book is designed to be character-driven, so I didn't want another murder -- or something similar -- to fuel the next arc. So I had to work harder to come up with some interesting plots to intertwine, and keep things compelling. I think I've succeeded.
"Basically, by the end of issue #4, Race's murderer will be revealed, and dealt with, and a few other plots will have been simmering long enough that they're ready to boil over and take on front-burner status for the second arc. So the subplot of the first arc (Zephyr's pregnancy) becomes the front-burner storyline for the second arc. Another recurring subplot is the romantic triangle of Rusty, his wife Celeste, and her lover, Frost (who happens to be Rusty's half-brother). Don't worry, there's a scorecard in every issue. And then, at the heart of it all, we've got Liz, who's trying to keep her cool through all of this, and not just succumb to depression."
So while the next year's direction may be predetermined, Faerber tells us that he doesn't have a specific ending in mind for the series. "Because of the serialized nature [of 'Noble Causes'], it's not designed with a specific ending in mind. I'll just have to cross that bridge when I get there." There are no plans to end the series any time soon and Faerber says he'll keep the book going until it can no longer support itself or when he gets bored with it, something he doesn't see happening in the near future.
A staple of the book will be back-up stories in each issue. In issue #1 readers were treated to an 8-page bonus story illustrated by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti. Issue #2 features a story illustrated by Jamal Igle and Damon Hacker.
"We'll be having back-up stories in every issue. They'll usually be 8 pages in length, but in issue #4 (which wraps up our first arc), the lead story got so big, I extended it by a few pages, and cut the back-up down to 6 pages. #3's back-up story is by Jeff Johnson, artist of the upcoming 'Way of the Rat,' at CrossGen. I'm still finalizing who's drawing #4 and on. I may have one artist do all the back-ups in our next arc (#5-8), only because it's so time-consuming to coordinate and traffic a new art team on every issue."
And everything is running smoothly for the main story art team of Patrick Gleason and John Wycough.
"We're moving along nicely. Issue #2 is completed and will be out on time and Patrick is pencilling the lead story to #3 as we speak. #3's back-up story is half-pencilled so far, and half-inked. In fact, I expect the remaining pencils to come in this week. And I hope to firm up our back-up penciller for #4 very shortly, too.
"I've also been lucky enough to land some amazing artists to contribute variant covers. Randy ('Witchblade,' 'The Dollz') Green did a breathtaking wraparound cover for #2. ChrisCross ('Captain Marvel') did a real head-turner for #3, and Mike ('Powers,' 'Bastard Samurai') Oeming just turned in a great, stark image for #4. I'm really pleased and flattered that these guys agreed to contribute to the book, and I think their work will help the book get attention on the stands.
As for projects outside of "Noble Causes," Faerber's got a few things cooking.
"I'm developing 'Dodge's Bullets' with Mike ('The Waiting Place') Norton. The series outline is written, as is a 5-page script sequence that Mike is in the process of drawing. It's a modern-day private eye story about a wannabe rock star who moonlights as a PI in Seattle.
"'Trinity' is a fantasy project. I don't want to say too much about it yet. I tend to hate fantasy books, so I decided I should try and write one. My logic is that if I can find a way to have fun with it, other people will, too. It's being developed with an artist I found online named Jon Sommariva. He's got a real fresh style, and I think he'll go far.
"I haven't begun to shop around either of the above projects, although I've had inquiries about both, based on the web site teasers. So, once the proposals are complete, it shouldn't be hard to find each one a good home. Both are finite projects, as well. Either mini-series or OGNs."
On his Web site Faerber teased an upcoming project with Harris Comics, but it's still too early to talk.
"I can't talk about the Harris stuff yet, although I'm actively working with them on something. Maureen McTigue, the EIC, and I go way back -- she was the assistant on TITANS when I started on that book, so it's a lot of fun to be working with her again."
"Noble Causes #2" arrives in comic book stores March 6th.