In 2014 Jules Feiffer published Kill My Mother (Liveright Publishing), a noir crime narrative set in 1933 — and then later moving forward into 1943 — involving not only hard-boiled characters, but also their exploits within the entertainment industry. Feiffer followed that up in 2016 with Cousin Joseph, the second book in what was now projected as a trilogy. That graphic novel is, in many ways, a prequel to the earlier book. Taking place in 1931, readers are introduced to police detective Sam Hannigan, a figure who looms largely over Feiffer’s recent run. His spirit is likewise prevalent in the new graphic novel, The Ghost Script. With this book, Feiffer wraps up his series, which he has called an “accidental noir trilogy.” In this interview, Derek talks with Feiffer about the “accidental” nature of his writing and how the idea for a trilogy came into play. They also discuss his writing style, where, curiously enough, Feiffer sees himself as both instigator and observer to what unfolds under his pen. Over the course of their conversation, Feiffer meditates on his love of noir fiction and films, the challenges he faced in writing this trilogy, and the overriding influences of such legends as Milton Caniff and, especially, Will Eisner. He also discusses the impact of 1950s red scare and the blacklist, which is the temporal setting of The Ghost Script, what that time meant to him as a young writer, and how those politics are not entirely alien to us today. The guys had the pleasure of talking to Feiffer back in 2014 when Kill My Mother was released, so it’s only appropriate that Derek talk with him again upon the completion of his noir trilogy.
On this Veteran’s Day, the Two Guys salute one of the most talented, and certainly the most satirical, men to serve in the U.S. military: Jules Feiffer. They talk with him about his latest book, and his first graphic novel, Kill My Mother (Liveright), and about his decision to write within the noir/crime genre. Derek and Andy are particularly curious about the artist’s interest in classic film noir, his handling of fast and smart dialogue, and his use of a cinematic technique to tell his story. They spend a good deal of time asking Feiffer about the evolution of the narrative and the ways his characters unfolded during the creative process. Kill My Mother is set in the 1930s and early 1940s, and Feiffer reveals to the guys — and much to their surprise — that this is just the first in a planned trilogy of stories. The next book, Cousin Joseph, will be a prequel to the recent graphic novel, and then the third will take place during the McCarthy era and deal with the blacklist. Along the way they discuss Tantrum — a “novel-in-pictures,” not a “graphic novel” — the impetus behind the classic The Great Comic Book Heroes, his experiences writing for film and the theater, and his relationship with Will Eisner and his time on The Spirit. This is a great interview, and Andy and Derek are grateful for the time that Jules gave to them. Plus, they’re excited because this is the first time they’ve ever had a Pulitzer Prize winner and an Academy Award winner on the show!