Today, August 20, 2014, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips deliver the first of their creator-owned works with Image Comics under their new, precedent-setting arrangement announced at the January Image Expo. Under their new deal, they no longer pitch to image – they just create, and Image publishes. This series aims to capture the same unbridled gusto, naiveté, ambition, and yet seedy and corrupt nature of the Old Hollywood, and by all accounts, it does just that.
Although the series begins in a similar fashion as those crime noir classics with a tightly narrowed focus, Brubaker quickly widens the scope of his story as the issue gets underway. We see hints of things to come from aspects of World War II playing out in the background to the morally bankrupt Hollywood executives seeking to exploit up-and-coming actresses and on-their-way-out writers for as much as each was worth. Newsarama had the opportunity to talk briefly with the much-in demand writer about this series, some of his thoughts about what it signifies for the industry, and the influences on The Fade Out.
Newsarama:For many comic creators, the notion of having one's creation splashed across the big screen is the epitome of success – something you experienced recently with Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which leans heavily on your run from the series. Yet, from a creative standpoint, you have achieved something few – if any – other creators have with the new arrangement you and Sean Phillips have with Image. For readers unfamiliar with the announcement that came out of the January Image Expo, would you mind sharing some of the details about how this agreement came about?
Ed Brubaker: I feel like I've talked about that a lot, so I'll keep it brief so as not to bore everyone. Basically, since Sean and I have this 15 year track record of regularly putting out books, and have spent all that time building this faithful readership, Image gave us a deal where we have total freedom and creative control. For the next five years, we can do anything we want to, and just worry about making the comics good. We don't have to worry about anything else. We don't have to pitch ideas or worry if something is going to be commercial enough. We just get to do our thing.
That's why I felt free to do something I thought I might be the only person interested in, with The Fade Out, which has actually gotten the highest orders we've ever had for anything.
Nrama: In what ways (if any) do you think it sets an important precedent in the comics publishing industry?
Brubaker: I think the important thing was what it said about Image because I can't think of anyone else in comics that could make that kind of deal. But as I said, Sean and I have a long track record, so they know what they're getting into.
Nrama:Shifting our direction to The Fade Out #1 – your newest project with Phillips – what led you to tell this particular story?
Brubaker: A lifelong fascination with noir films, and that era of Hollywood. My uncle was a famous screenwriter back then, and wrote several old noir films, so I grew up hearing about Hollywood's Golden Age.
Nrama:There were certain elements of this book that were reminiscent of The Black Dhalia, Hollywoodland and L.A. Confidential. What were some of the primary influences that informed you and Sean as you began to flesh out this story?
Brubaker: Just real life, and my own interests in that era. I'm certainly trying as hard as possible to make sure I'm not treading the same ground as Ellroy because that would be pointless. I had the idea for this story a few years back and then started doing a lot of research into the era. And for Sean, we put together a huge reference file for him to use to try to study the period and get the details right.
Nrama: Not only are you working with your long-time creative partner, Sean Phillips, but you are also bringing your regular colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser, along for the ride. What was the appeal in keeping the creative team from Fatale together for this next project?
Brubaker: If it isn't broken, don't break it, basically. Sean and I love Bettie's colors and she's a joy to work with. Sean is my first reader, and now Bettie is my second, on both my books. I always look forward to her comments every issue on this and Velvet.
Nrama:In the back matter for the issue, you mention that you also had to bring in help conducting research for this series. How was this process different from your other works?
Brubaker: That was more about collecting reference photos and organizing them in a way so that it saves Sean time. We're trying to create a realistic period piece, so hiring Amy as our research assistant is saving Sean weeks of internet searching, looking at old movies and digging through old books.
Nrama:Issue #1 felt different from many other first issues as you keep the cast of characters narrowed down to just six in this first 40-page installment. Given how extensive one might expect the cast to be, given the Hollywood setting, what was your rationale here?
Brubaker: No rationale, just the limitations of writing the beginning of a story and not having an unlimited amount of pages. We can't meet every cast member in the first chapter, even in an extra-length issue. In fact, there are some important characters we won't meet until issues 3 and 5.
Nrama: Just for clarification – is The Fade Out going to be an on-going series from the start or a mini-series? What's the long-term goal for this title?
Brubaker: It's ongoing until it's done. I have no idea how long it'll be. I decided a few years back to stop artificially announcing how many pages a story would be ahead of time. It's hard enough stopping at page 24 every issue (sometimes I don't), so why say ahead of time how many issues something will be?
As for the long-term goal, it's always the same. To try to create something worth our reader's money, that we can be proud of. Something that doesn't suck. Specific to this project, I want to tell a big story, blending fact and fiction, using this period to broaden my scope. I want The Fade Out to be an epic noir story, but that does more than just plays with that genre. It's not a deconstruction, it's something else.
Nrama: What aspect of this first issue do you think will have readers coming back for more?
Brubaker: If I could answer that, I'd be a rich man.
Readers can buy The Fade Out #1 in local retail stores or digitally on August 20th