By William Wright
One of the best and most consistent series Image Comics continues to put out month after month is writer Jay Faerber and artist Scott Godlewski's new sci-fi Western Copperhead. This series takes interplanetary Western elements that made a series like Firefly so compelling, and mixes it with the complex world building and originality of Saga. Simply put, Copperhead is the best book you currently don't have on your pull list, and if you plunk down the measly $9.99 to buy Copperhead, Vol. 1: A New Sheriff in Town TPB it will dig its claws deep into your mind.
As issue #8 of Copperhead arrived in shops this week, Jay Faerber caught up with Bleeding Cool to talk about the series and why this part western, part sci-fi, part crime procedural is so damn infectious.
William Wright: The series is 7-issues into your run with the 8th about to hit shops this week. For new readers that haven't checked out the series yet. Give us your elevator pitch for Copperhead…
Jay Faerber: Copperhead is a western set on an alien planet. It's about Clara Bronson, a single mother who's the new sheriff of Copperhead, a grimy mining town in the middle of a desert. It's part western, part sci-fi, part crime procedural.
WW: The thing that I've loved about Copperhead so far is the perfect balance between character development and world building. The characters like in a rich world, full of different races and cultures, but you still take the time to develop them as people. Is it difficult to balance the two in the series?
JF: It can be a bit of a balancing act. The longer we go on, the more impatient people seem to get to learn more about Clara and Boo's backstories. So we're probably going to have to start increasing the little dollops of information we've been serving up, so our readers don't get too frustrated.
JF: I don't have a tightly written overall plan for the series. I know some of the mile-markers we want to hit. I know how some of the character relationships will play out. But I like to be surprised. So I like putting things in motion and seeing how they play out, and adjusting and pivoting to keep things interesting. So no, I don't have a definite end game for the series. This isn't the kind of series that's built around a specific journey or drive, so setting an end game is harder. Scott and I always say that we'll keep doing the book until we get bored, or the audience does. And for the moment, at least, no one seems bored. So we see a bright future for the book.
WW: At times in the series, Clara seems to be barely treading water between being a single mother, new position as Sheriff, and then being thrust into the deep end policing aliens as a human. How is she keeping everything together at this point?
JF: Clara's damned good at compartmentalizing. She's able to be a loving, nurturing mother, but can turn on a dime and be a real hard-ass when she has to deal with Copperhead's less-than-savory elements. And she gets a lot of help from Missus Sewell, the alien nanny she hired at the end of the first arc. That's one of those things that was unplanned, by the way. And now that I look back on it, it looks like something we obviously set up. I like finding those happy accidents in writing. The other aspect of Clara's life, apart from being a mother and a sheriff, is her as a single woman. And we're getting to see that side of her in the beginning of this second arc, as she goes on a date with school teacher Thaddeus Luken.
WW: Deputy Budroxifinicus' (A.K.A "Boo") relationship with Clara continues to to develop and there are issues of resentment that she got selected for the position instead of him. How will that play out in this next arc?
JF: As we saw at the end of issue #7, Boo was taken captive by the escaping outlaws. So issue #8 (on sale the second week of June) is an entirely Boo-focused issue. Clara doesn't even technically appear. So we'll get to know Boo more, and get to know more about his role in the recent war. We also saw him get offered a shady alliance with mining tycoon Benjamin Hickory in issue #6. But we don't know if Boo is going to accept this offer or not. That's something that we'll really get into in the third arc and beyond.
WW: What can you tell us about the return of Clara's ex-husband Clay and how that will influence the direction as the series moves forward?
JF: I don't want to say much about Clay. Other than the fact that his story is coming…
WW: This sci-fi western is extremely different from your previous superhero and crime books you put out through Image. Was it harder to sell a completely different type of genre book to readers and retailers? Was there any initial misconception that Cooperhead might be a superhero book or that you're pigeonholed as a specific type of writer?
JF: I don't think it was particularly hard to sell Copperhead. It's the highest-launching book I've ever been associated with. And I credit my incredible partners, Scott Godlewski, Ron Riley, and Thomas Mauer. Each of them are crucial in putting this book together each month. I don't worry anymore about being typecast as a writer. Back when I was doing stuff like New Warriors and Generation X and Titans at Marvel and DC, I started to get concerned that I might be pigeonholed as the "teen super-hero writer." But I think I've expanded my bag of tricks a little bit since then.
WW: At the same time as Copperhead is into the second-arc, you launched another new Image series called Secret Identities, which appears to have more in common with your work in Noble Causes and Dynamo 5. What can you tell us about the book?
JF: Secret Identities is indeed a super-hero book. It's one I put together with co-writer Brian Joines, artist Ilias Kyriazis, colorist Ron Riley, and letterer Ed Dukeshire. It's about a team of super-heroes whose newest member is secretly a mole working to bring the down from within. The story is really told from the mole's perspective — the readers are in on that secret from very early in the first issue. So the question is: will the mole (a wind-powered hero named Crosswind) betray the team? Or will he turn into a genuine hero after faking it for so long? At its core, the book is a super-hero book in the classic mold. It's got colorful characters and over-the-top action. We're not looking to reinvent anything, or make some profound commentary. It's just a new lens through which to explore super-heroes in general, and the idea of secret identities in particular.
William Wright (aka BigJ) has been working as a freelance writer since the days when magazines were actually physically printed. William actively writes about comics for Bleeding Cool, Bloody-Disgusting, and is a huge fan of all things horror.