By Kurt Anthony Krug
Jay Faerber ’94 uses his imagination for a living. “I’ve wanted to be a storyteller for as long
as I can remember. As a kid, I’d spend as much time as possible engulfed in comics or TV.
As I got older, I thought I wanted to be a comic book artist. I was even an art major for
a semester in college. But I quickly realized I lacked the dedication—and probably the
talent—to be an artist.
“After some soul-searching, I realized I wanted to be a writer. To me, that was the most important part of storytelling. So I switched majors and never looked back.”
Faerber, of Burbank, California, earned his undergraduate degree in English from Ship. In 1998, he broke into the comic book medium, writing the final issue of Marvel Comics’ What If? series. Since then, he’s penned the adventures of iconic characters such as Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Captain America, Wolverine, and the Hulk, among others. Notable work includes runs on Marvel’s Generation X, New Warriors, Captain Universe, Iron Fist/Wolverine, and DC Comics’ Teen Titans. He’s also worked on Noble Causes, Dynamo Five, and Near Death—all creator-owned series for Image Comics.
“I was fortunate enough to break in at Marvel and DC, and I got to write some of my favorite characters very early in my career, so that was great,” Faerber said. “(I) got a lot of that out of my system pretty early. The downside, of course, is that it was very early in my career, so I was a less experienced writer. I think I’d write a better Superman story today than I did fifteen years ago.”
Faerber reflected on the distinctions between his creator-owned, long-running Noble Causes, which chronicled the lives of the Nobles, a wealthy superhero family, and company-owned characters. “The main difference is… you’re writing characters that you own. Therefore, you have full creative control. If you’re writing corporate-owned characters, no matter how much creative
freedom you have, it’s never absolute. Everything is subject to approval.”
Of course, there are benefits to writing corporate-owned characters as well. Corporate-owned jobs offer a regular paycheck, sometimes health benefits, and less risk than creator-owned comics, he said. Plus, “It can be fun and rewarding to work on characters you grew up reading.”
In 2010, he completed the Warner Bros. TV Writers Workshop, which he called “boot camp” for new TV writers. He then was hired on The CW’s Ringer, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar as twin sisters Bridget and Siobhan. Though the series was canceled after one season, Faerber expressed pride in his work on Ringer and called it a “fantastic experience.”
He’s also scripted episodes for Avengers Assemble, an animated series based on Marvel’s Avengers franchise, and the short-lived CW sci-fi/romantic drama Star-Crossed. Currently, he’s writing for CBS’ Zoo, which completed its second season in September. Based on best-selling author James Patterson’s 2012 novel of the same name, Zoo focuses on zoologist Jackson Oz
(James Wolk) and his allies who investigate a pandemic where violent animal attacks occurring worldwide have become more coordinated and more ferocious.
“Zoo’s a great show. Full of big ideas and fun characters. It’s a fun show to write,” he said. “We deviate pretty wildly from the novel, so it doesn’t really help us out in terms of writing the show. But James Patterson is still very involved. He reads every outline, every script, and he gives us great notes. He’s a really smart guy.”
Besides Zoo, Faerber is writing his creator-owned Copperhead for Image. He has the best of both worlds working in either medium.
“TV is incredible because it has so many moving parts. It takes dozens and dozens of people to make an hour of TV. Whereas a single comic book can be made by three or four people, or even less. With comics, there’s a purity between the creator and the audience. Very few filters. TV, of course, has many filters: studios, networks, censors, etc.”
Faerber said there are some things TV does better than comics and vice versa. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, he said. “Two people sitting at a kitchen table and talking makes for a pretty boring comic. But it can be a great scene on TV,” explained Faerber. “I’m fortunate that I get to do both.”