Special Edition NYC was a two day celebration of all things comic book for the comic book fan. It was a convention for comics the way a convention should be: no shoulder to shoulder traffic, no two day long lines and no HIMYM panels. Just row after row of some of the most talented creators in the business signing books and meeting fans and it’s where I got the chance to speak with the clever and always dapper Jamie S. Rich. Manning his booth with an easy smile and kind words for every one who he met, Jamie and creators like him were the reason Special Edition NYC was “special” in the first place. In one of the best conversations I had that day with ANYONE, we spoke about his upcoming projects, high school, Matt Wagner and modern noir.
Comic Attack: I’ve seen “Archer Coe” being sold on Comixology and it’s getting stellar user reviews. How did you come up with the concept for the story?
Jamie S. Rich: At the time I was just wanting to do something like “You Have Killed Me” which was a crime book I did with Joelle Jones. It came out in 2009 and that was a very straightforward, traditional private detective story and I liked working in that format but I wanted to give it a different wrinkle. I wanted to find a different way to play with that story so I came up with the idea, “What if he had mystical powers?” and make him an old school character like [Will] Eisner’s The Spirit or Mandrake the Magician and have him wear a domino mask and I just started working to form them. Then I met Dan Christensen [the artist on “Archer Coe”] and it was just a match made in heaven. My ideas really fit his Pulp-y style, so once it came together we were sympatico about wanting to do something that was a little odd and that takes people to interesting places.
CA: So it sounds like you are a fan of old school noir.
JR: Yeah, I really loved the really old film noir and Raymond Chandler novels and that sort of thing and I loved crime comics. Sandman Mystery Theater is one of my all-time favorite comics and so I was a little scared to step into that genre because I loved it so much that I didn’t want to screw it up but Joelle Jones was the one who pushed me to do it because she wanted to draw it. I had actually been trying to experiment more with the private detective idea. I did a story for Dark Horse Events called “Integer City” which was set in a retro ’60s sci-fi future but with an old man detective. I’m just curious how this particular type of detective character can be done differently in different settings.
CA: How do you feel about more current noir like for instance Brian Azzarello’s “100 Bullets”?
JR: Oh Yeah! I love 100 Bullets. I love Sin City. I love what Darwyn Cooke’s doing over at IDW with [Richard Stark’s] Parker books. The Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips stuff [Incognito, Criminal, Fatale, etc.] I try to read a lot of that stuff. It’s just a genre I’ve always been attracted to.
CA: What do you think draws you to that genre?
JR: Well, I got into film noir back in high school when I was taking night classes at the local community college. I was taking a class that was about reading the novel, watching the film and comparing the two and one of the films we did was “The Maltese Falcon”. I was also getting into existentialism at the time, like you do when you’re that young…
CA: Yeah, I know that life.
JR: [Laughing] …but the professor talked about how these detectives and Sam Spade in particular was a character who sets his own code in life and he has to stick to that and regardless of what happens he has to get to the end of that case. He has to fulfill what he’s promised to do. Something about that kind of mission attracts me. What I’m finding is what happens to these types of characters is that they’re trying to help people that are almost their own worst enemy. The outside forces are gonna crush them or they will do it themselves, yet you carry on anyway and do what’s right and so they’re a hero despite themselves at times.
CA: How much of the driven, Byronic hero lifestyle finds its way into your actual life?
JR: I think a good amount [laughing] because I think you set your own standards and morals. You choose “This is how you treat people, this is how you act, my word counts for something,” and whatever you do, you’re gonna have to accept the consequence of that. Sometimes you’re gonna do something that’s not the right choice or the hard choice and how you deal with that defines you as a person.
CA: Who are some of your other writing influences?
JR: For comics, Matt Wagner has always been my mentor and I’ve been lucky enough to have gotten to be an assistant editor on Grendel and I’ve gotten to know Matt over time and he’s given me advice and he’s one of the most encouraging people you can have in your life. Harlan Ellison and F. Scott Fitzgerald were big influences on me. Peter Milligan is someone that I’ve always liked and I would actually think back to Ann Nocenti and Longshot and how that really changed how I looked at superhero comics and it showed me how you could play with a genre and make it your own.
CA: What else are you doing right now?
JR: I’m doing a book with Image comics called “Madame Frankenstein”. It’s a 1930s horror comic. It’s kind of like the Universal Monsters version of “My Fair Lady” as well as a book called “The Double Life of Miranda Turner” with George Kambadais and we’re doing that with Monkeybrain Comics and putting it out through Comixology.
Big thanks to Jamie for the fantastic interview. Pick up all his projects in your favorite comic shops and on Comixology today and of course follow him on Twitter: @ and check out his website: Confession123.