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DF Interview: Jay Faerber unleashes Copperhead
By Byron Brewer
A new frontier isn’t easy, even though some things stay the same -- no matter what planet you’re on! Things like domestic disturbances, corrupt businessmen, and plenty of secrets.
That is the world new sheriff Clara Bronson is facing, and it is not without danger on both a public and a personal level in a new ongoing from writer Jay Faerber and artist Scott Godlewski called Copperhead.
Dynamic Forces moseyed on over to Jasper and caught up with scribe Faerber in Miss Kitty’s saloon in an unidentified town. This is what he told us.
Dynamic Forces: Congratulations, Jay. As we are doing this interview, Copperhead #1 has sold out completely and is being fast-tracked to a second printing to meet customer demand. How good does THAT feel?
Jay Faerber: Pretty damned good! I launched my first Image series in 2001 and have worked there pretty consistently ever since. And Copperhead is my most successful book so far by quite a wide margin. I attribute that to our incredible creative team, of course. Artist Scott Godlewski, colorist Ron Riley, letterer Thomas Mauer -- they're all turning in fantastic work.
People accuse Image of setting really low print runs so they can almost guarantee a sell out, but that certainly wasn't the case here. We weren't prepared for it.
DF: For the uninitiated, tell us about Copperhead. An SF western?
Jay Faerber: Yes, Copperhead is a sci-fi/western. It's set on an alien planet called Jasper, in the town of Copperhead. The town exists to support a big copper mine. The book's a western in the classic sense. It's thematically a western, it just happens to feature aliens and other sci-fi elements. The lead character is the new sheriff in town, Clara Bronson. The book starts out with her arriving in town with her young son, Zeke. And we follow her as she gets the lay of the land and is faced with her first big case as the law in this rough-and-tumble town.
DF: Tell us more about Clara.
Jay Faerber: Clara's a single mother and a police officer. She took the job in Copperhead because she didn't really have any other options. There are hints that she and Zeke might be running from something -- that maybe she didn't leave her previous job under the best circumstances. Clara's a devoted mother and can be very maternal. But when she's wearing her uniform, she's all business. She's also headstrong, stubborn, and a bit of a jerk, quite frankly. We'll learn more about her, and what made her that way, as the series progresses.
DF: What are some of the challenges Clara faces/will face as the new sheriff of Copperhead?
Jay Faerber: Clara's new in town. She doesn't know anyone. That's her biggest challenge. A good cop knows her beat, knows the neighborhood, knows the people. Clara doesn't. So she's seen as an outsider. She'll have to win over the trust of the very people she's sworn to protect.
Plus, Copperhead is a mining town. It's rough. It's unruly. Every payday there are fights in the saloon. Its population is comprised of humans and aliens alike who live in harmony... sorta. There are squabbles and conflicts, all of which Clara will have to learn to navigate.
She's not totally alone, though. She's got her deputy, Boo, to help her.
DF: Can you explain Boo? (laughs)
Jay Faerber: Boo -- short for Budroxifinicus -- believes he should be Sheriff. He's lived in Copperhead longer than Clara. He knows the town and its people. But there's a problem. He's an alien. And not just any alien. He's part of an alien race that just lost a war with the humans. So he's sort of a second-class citizen. And he's understandably bitter about it. He's got a very dry sense of humor and he's very passive aggressive. It'll take awhile before he and Clara iron out their differences.
Oh, and he looks kinda like a humanoid dog.
DF: You know, there are a lot of strong female leads in comic books these days, crossing genre. Is Clara part of this trend?
Jay Faerber: I think we all want to get to a point where a character being female isn't noteworthy or an issue at all. But we're not there yet. I honestly don't remember exactly when or how Scott and I decided our lead should be a woman. It may have been his idea, it may have been mine. When I first suggested the series concept to Scott, it was just "a classic Western town on an alien planet." None of the characters were conceived at that point. It was never a calculated move on our part to make Clara a woman. We never thought "here's a niche we can fill!" The only deciding factor was that it made for a good story. There were interesting things we could do with her. I think it's a commentary on the futuristic society in this book that she's still having to deal with sexism.
DF: Why is artist Scott Godlewski right for Copperhead?
Jay Faerber: You've seen the book -- the answer should be self-evident! (laughs)
But seriously, Scott is a fantastic collaborator. He helped build this world from the ground up. So it's not that he's just great at drawing it -- which he is -- it's that he's great at conceiving it. He's both a great artist and a great designer. Not all artists possess both of those skills. He's also a great storyteller, and his narrative instincts are dead-on. We're really working on the same wavelength, which is what you want in any collaborative endeavor.
DF: What was the inspiration for this very appealing cosmic western?
Jay Faerber: I don't know. I had the idea for a long time to do a Western town on an alien planet. To take all the Western archetypes -- the sheriff, the doctor, the bartender, etc. -- and populate it with aliens and sci-fi tech. I was never a huge Western fan, though. I've watched them, sure, but I'm not near the authority that some people are. So I think that gives me a unique approach.
Bottom line -- I've been doing superhero books for the past 15-plus years, and gritty crime books for the past three. This gave me a chance to do something new, to stretch myself as a writer.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Jay Faerber for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Copperhead #2 will hit stores October 8th!
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