for the second issue of his comic book Noir City.
JULIAN DARIUS: You and your co-writer, Rich G. Valerius, have been working on Noir City a while. How did it develop?
CODY WALKER: We started back in 2004 in college. We met in a creative writing class and talked about comics that we liked. After we realized that we both loved Batman: The Animated Series and old film noir, we decided to create our own universe. Originally, we wanted four different series. Rich would write two set in Noir City (The Jacket, Revolver 666) and I would write two set in Millennium City (Meet the Quantums, Forces of Valor). We had a number of scripts written, but The Jacket was the only one I was able to find years later when we decided to make a comic through Kickstarter. We decided to change the title to just Noir City so we could incorporate all characters into the book.
In 2012, we decided to hire an artist and put the whole thing together. We found Allen Byrns through the conceptart.org forums and hired him to do the issue.
After doing the first issue, Allen wanted to focus on other projects, so for issue #2, we found an artist named Nathan Judah who lives maybe a mile away from where I teach. We’ve been working very closely together and I think we made a pretty great issue together.
One thing that’s funny is how much the second issue has changed from its original creation. I realized that we had killed off a character and never really dealt with the impact of her death in the second issue script, so we rewrote places to make sure not only that her death meant something but that she would still have a role after her death. After that, I found a new love for this character who was supposed to just be ostensibly “friged.”
DARIUS: Was that a response to Women in Refrigerators and the rising consciousness about female depictions? Or did that evolve organically out of the story? Or a combination of both?
WALKER: It definitely stems from WiR and from my interactions with Sue from DC Women Kicking Ass. I had been thinking about gender issues for some time and very resistant to the whole WiR idea for a long time until one day when it all clicked. I remember the specific moment:
I was talking to my cousin who is ten years younger than me and he was mad about a woman who was criticizing the way women are marginalized in video games. He wasn’t particularly sexist, but he didn’t see the representation of women in video games as being a big deal. I was pointing out the lack of female leads in games and the oversexualization of the women who ARE in most games and that’s when it all hit me; I was making the same arguments that Gail and Sue were making about comic books.
A month or two after my conversation with my cousin, I went back to the second issue of Noir City and made a startling revelation; we had COMPLETELY ignored Amanda’s death because we were simply more interested in our lead character. It was never intentional on our part, but whether or not it was intentional doesn’t matter. We should deal with the emotional impact of her death. So, I came up with a cool twist that we could put on her death that gives her something to do after death and it keeps her in the story.
Things got even better when I wrote her obituary to act as a “previously in” for the back cover. I started fleshing out this one off character and I began to imagine her family and how she reacted to them. A whole new part of Noir City was revealed to me as I explored this character who was supposed to just die and it felt really liberating.
Amanda is my favorite character now and she’ll keep coming back provided we can keep putting out issues. She’s really fascinating and her story is far from done.
DARIUS: I love your story of your “click” experience and how it’s made your art better. It’s a great testament to how paying attention to gender isn’t just political correctness or being sensitive; it actually leads to new and better stories, because it’s based on taking female characters seriously as people, which is usually a prerequisite to good writing.
This first Noir City storyline focuses on the Jacket. Having read issue #1, it seems like you’re using this storyline to explore the city and kind of set the tone for the series. Will you be doing more of that? How much of the city’s super-hero history or backstory will come out in issue #2? How long do you see this first storyline as running?
WALKER: Definitely. We want to slowly reveal this world to readers (which is probably part of our problem). Noir films don’t shove exposition down the audience’s throat; they expect people to be patient and smart enough to figure things out on their own. In a way, it’s sort of antithetical to modern superhero comics that are made like pilots to TV shows. The best example I can think of is Jeff Lemire’s Green Arrow run. The first issue is written like a poor TV pilot where characters call each other by the full names and then remind each other of how they are connected.
“If it isn’t my best friend FIRST AND LAST NAME! I haven’t seen you since we ESTABLISHED CONNECTION!”
“It sure has been a long time! Have you talked to ANOTHER CHARACTER about PLOT POINT THAT MIGHT BE IMPORTANT?”
Yes it eases readers in, but it’s also really annoying.
In issue #2, we learn a little bit more about the Jacket and his backstory, but never more than glimpses and that’s all we really need. Yes, he is going after the mob for killing Amanda in issue 1, but there’s more to it than that. We see that he is on a quest for redemption more than anything. Later issues will be more focused on the inner-workings of Noir City, but this issue is meant to give more of a glimpse at who Glen used to be before he was the Jacket. Issue 3 will introduce our femme fatale character Deidra Fate and issue 4 will center around mob boss Vincent Charge and give insight into what kind of a guy he is.
The first arc is planned to be six issues, but it leads into a much larger arc that will be the first 12 issues. There is a player behind the scenes who we keep hinting at that we’ll get to. He’s seriously the best villain and I hope we’ll get to him one day. He’s too good to just unleash at the beginning though (or maybe we did, technically). We could go on for years, though. We have an entire world to develop.
DARIUS: You mentioned you’d originally conceived of other titles, starring other characters. Do you still want to write those stories? Would those get incorporated into later issues of Noir City, after this storyline concludes?
WALKER: Rich and I had talked about doing a Revolver 666 detective novel, but nothing came of it. We were a bit ambitious in our thinking and I don’t know if we could pull it off. It’s something that I think we should revisit.
As for the Forces of Valor, I want to use those characters in Noir City. I want the Jacket to meet these old guys who used to be capes and see what they’re up to. I particularly want to bring in Gadgetman because he was the first superhero I made when I was 10 years old. He’s a character that I would just really like to see in print.
Also, I wrote a short story on our website for an Iroquois superhero named Thunderfist and I’d love to write that character regularly. He’s really fun and the ideas from Iroquois mythology are ridiculously cool.
No matter what we do though, the Jacket will always be the primary force through these issues. It’s his story of redemption and his reluctance to become someone better than he is. A morose, dark, Batman-like figure who is basically thrust into a Superman-like “please lead us” position. That’s where I’d like to take this story, ultimately.
DARIUS: So do you see Noir City continuing indefinitely? Having spin-offs?
WALKER: I do indeed. I mean, we have an ending in mind. Rich has a brilliant last page idea and has talked about what he would do afterward as well, so it could go on for a very long time, but it’s a matter of finding a publisher or becoming independently wealthy to fund it.
As far as spin-offs, I’d love to because it’s a world that shouldn’t be contained to just one book. It was designed for four different series, but without funding we’ll never be able to go beyond these two issues.
DARIUS: Returning to the issue of pacing, I think it’s a major concern in comics. On the one hand, you have the nostalgia for single-issue, done-in-one stories. On the other, you have the obvious reality that comics are mostly serialized graphic novels these days. I completely respect what you’re saying about noir being a slow reveal, and I think you’ve got to follow through on what’s artistically right for the work.
At the same time, there’s another factor here, which is that this is a DIY comic. You don’t have a big company funding the comic, so you’re forced to go an issue at a time. So there’s a tension between what might be artistically the right choice and what might be commercially, because your readers have to wait a longer time for the next chapter, and you’re basically investing in this big story that kind of can’t move too fast, for budgetary reasons. Is this something that worries or frustrates you? Or is this not something you worry about?
WALKER: In the first issue, we didn’t care at all. We just wanted to put it together and send it out into the world. But with that, the issue is flawed in places. For me, I think the pacing is a bit long. The whole thing consists of two scenes and three characters. So, for the second issue, I was really trying to tighten it up and bring more out. More characters interacting. Various players moving about the board so to speak. Yet, the issue is still a bit self-contained. I don’t think one has to read the first issue in order to get the second. Maybe I’m wrong, though. I might just be too close to it.
DARIUS: How do you plan to proceed? Is Judah the title’s regular artist? Is there a plan to move on right away to issue #3, or will there be a pause? Do you plan to run a Kickstarter for issue #3, or is it too early to say?
WALKER: Depending on the success of the Kickstarter, I would love to make another issue. It’s really tough to say at this point what we’ll do though. If I could just keep moving with it, I would.
I think Nathan is a bit cautious right now as well. He has invested a lot of time in these pages and he deserves to be paid for them, but if the Kickstarter doesn’t make, then we’ll have to go to plan B and raise money through Indiegogo to pay him.
If Nathan is willing to come back, we would be MORE than happy to have him. He’s an excellent artist and super easy to work with. His pages are gorgeous and he really gets what we’re going for. But, again, he needs money to keep it going, so we have to raise the money for him.
DARIUS: You’ve edited a book for Sequart (Keeping the World Strange: A Planetary Guide) and contributed to several others. You’ve also got upcoming books from Sequart. I know there’s a lot from you in the pipeline. And of course, you’re Sequart’s Webmaster. You’ve done a great job, and I hope Sequart fans will support you in your comics effort!