One would never imagine Santa Claus as…..a private eye.
From the mind of television/video game writer Jeremy Bernstein, he wrote a comic book series about a supernatural Santa Claus moonlighting as a detective in this film noir-inspired series.
Here’s the synopsis:
A modern day noir, in which a down-and-out Saint Nick spends the OTHER 364 days of the year holding his own in the lonely city, just another average jake trying to make ends meet. He’s traded the red and white suit for a trenchcoat and fedora, traded the North Pole for back alleys and rain-slicked streets. Instead of days filled with jolly elves and hand-made toys, it’s long, dark nights filled with gangster, guns, and femme fatales… and the nicer they look, the naughtier they are.
When the wealthy, widowed JULIA BARTON hires Nick to find out who murdered her husband, it could be the big job he's been waiting for. But with only two days before he has to get back North for Christmas, Nick will have to crack the case with no time to spare.
Bernstein has television credits for writing on TNT’s “Leverage” and video game writing credits for “Dead Space 2” and “Pretty in Pink.” This is his first foray into comic book writing.
Latino-Review had an exclusive interview with the comic book writer about this new series. We discussed about the myth and legend of Santa Claus, the noir detective story arcs, the production of the series and his upcoming writing project with TNT’s “The Librarians.”
“Santa Claus: Private Eye” is now available on Thrillbent. New chapters released every Monday. Click here for the jump to their site.
Read the full text of the interview below.
Latino-Review: So today I’m not talking to you about video games or television, but a comic book series called ‘Santa Claus: Private Eye.” I’m just going to come off to bat with this question—where in the world did you come up with concept to make Santa Claus a detective?
Jeremy Bernstein: [Laughter] Honestly, I was looking forward in writing a supernatural detective show. I’ve seen vampire detectives. I’ve seen werewolf detectives. So I was searching for a supernatural creature that I’ve never seen as a detective before. Somehow I just went with Santa Claus with that. Initially, I thought it was very funny. The more I started thinking about it—the more it became a dark take on Santa Claus.
You look at him as an icon as cheerful and jolly, but people aren’t like that. So what happens if he is a person and where does it go from there? So that was the origin, which is almost a joke in my own head.
Latino-Review: Absolutely. When I’ve first heard of it—I thought it was completely a joke. This is not the happy, jolly Santa Claus—so why did you want to do it in a much darker tone?
Jeremy Bernstein: Perversely and undercutting my own part, I thought it would be funnier. It’s more that I was interested in deconstructing legends and myths. The question that became more interesting to me is with noir detectives are always down on their luck. They’re always struggling to get by. They’re always something depressing about them. They’re never happy people.
I thought about on how a Santa Claus would be and what would happen if he was there? That became the deconstruction of the character. What happens when everyone expects you to be the happy one all the time? And that became an interesting person. It became a character who I wanted to explore.
Latino-Review: Give me a little bit more background information on Santa Claus. He is moonlighting as a detective. I figured that being Santa Claus is a full-time job by itself already.
Jeremy Bernstein: Well, you certainly got a busy season. My take on it is to look at him on the other 364 days of the year. He’s been doing it for so long, the system could pretty much run without him. They still need him to drive the sleigh and drop the presents. For everything else, he got people for that. The elves take care of the mail. In the next chapter, we’ll meet Cymbaline, his secretary who is an elf. She keeps track of everything, because he has elves to do that.
So my take on him is not only that it becomes repetitive and thankless, but also kind of redundant. I’m being a little evasive, because some of the answers on what he’s doing and why he’s doing will be coming down the pike [in future issues]. I don’t want to give anything away.
I envision his operation that doesn’t really need a firm hand at the wheel to handle it. And Mrs. Claus has been taking care of a lot of stuff while he’s been busy on what he’s doing now. It’ll be something that may play out in future installments.
Latino-Review: Tell me this then. Since this is the opposite of cheerful and jolly. It seems like this is a more serious Santa Claus with possibly some violent elements to it?
Jeremy Bernstein: He won’t be the voice of violence. [Laughter] My goal is to write up noir detective. I wanted to write up a story that would work if you cut up Santa Claus and replaced with Sam Spade or Philip Marlow. I wanted the story to work basically just the same.
Once again, from a perverse sense of humor perspective, the notion of Santa Claus having a black eye is too good to pass up.
Latino-Review: Yeah, I even noticed you play with the concept of Santa Claus by even calling the character Santana.
Jeremy Bernstein: Yeah, Nick Santana.
Latino-Review: Very clever. The series is also going to introduce elves. However, it seems to me you’ll be introducing other mythical creatures besides elves and reindeers. What are other myths may be introduced and are they all tied to the Santa Claus legend?
Jeremy Bernstein: I wanted a supernatural detective solving non-supernatural crimes. The core story is noire detective. That said, when you’re playing with the notion that this guy who has his powers and his myths—those have to come into play at some point. You’ll see in chapter two that he’ll have a sense on who’s naughty and who’s nice. In chapter three, when he takes it to the streets to get a little bit more information, he’ll turn to Jack Frost—who has a habit in peeking into windows.
Latino-Review: Yeah, I did notice that. So for this entire series, how many chapters are you planning for it?
Jeremy Bernstein: Right now we have twelve chapters planned for our first story arc. With luck, we’ll do another one in the next holiday season.
Latino-Review: For this story arc, are we talking about one mystery or a string of mysteries tied together?
Jeremy Bernstein: It’s one case for this story arc. It’ll be along with a lot of background on our take on Santa on how he got to be where he is.
Latino-Review: Was it difficult for you to transition to comic books since you’ve came from the background of television and video games?
Jeremy Bernstein: I didn’t find it very difficult. And I was prepared to find it extremely difficult. I always had a very visual mind. When I’m writing for screen, I try to choreograph the action in my head. The biggest difference has to describe things in greater detail than I would before. I found that personally as the fun of it.
People have said that comparing television writing to comic book writing—when you’re doing comic book writing—you’re writing and directing simultaneously. I found that to be a really enjoyable challenge. And plus, I also had the benefit of working with a fantastic artist who was just amazing at turning what I wrote into what I meant. So with Michael Dorman, I couldn’t say enough good things about him.
Latino-Review: How exactly did you work with him? It’s like directing him for your vision on the project. How did you work specifically with Michael Dorman to help put your vision on to page?
Jeremy Bernstein: We had a very good and very fluid working relationship. I’ve written the script initially as a straight-up comic book series before Thrillbent got involved. So I converted it into taking advantage of the things that Thrillbent had to offer. I’ve sent Mike the script and he would break it down by chapters. Then he would send the layouts back to me on what he saw. By enlarge, they were perfect.
Once in a while, I’ll insert my input to ask it to make it look different or get more emotion out of this character. Usually, in a very short time frame, he turnaround with those changes and we have the layouts on exactly what we wanted. Then it would be turned into the inks directly from there.
There’s definitely collaboration from there. By enlarge, he nailed on what I wanted.
Latino-Review: Is comic books going to be your new calling or you’ll return back to television and video games?
Jeremy Bernstein: I hope to have it be a new tool in my belt. I like to keep doing it, because it’s a lot of fun. One of the reasons I took this as a comic instead of a TV pilot is that a comic could get made. It’s really hard to get things made in television. You’ll have ideas that are too expensive, too big or too risky in television. Comics are a great way to actually tell the stories you have inside you.
And this is one that I could not tell this story any longer. Absolutely, I hope to do more comics.
Latino-Review: So you have a lot more creative freedoms in this aspect then.
Jeremy Bernstein: The stakes are lower. It means people are more willing to take risks. Hollywood is very notorious in being very risk averse. But there’s little production costs for comic books. A space battle is easy to draw in a comic book as with a dialogue scene. To do a sci-fi epic, you’ll need a hundred million dollars to make movie nowadays. Or you can make it into a comic book with a whole lot less.
Latino-Review: What should we be expecting for this story arc for this Santa Claus?
Jeremy Bernstein: You should be expecting some answers. Hopefully it’ll be a fun mystery with a really interesting character. I would be delighted that no one looks at Santa Claus the same after reading this story.
Latino-Review: As I was cruising through the comic, it did really feel like a film noir movie.
Jeremy Bernstein: That’s what we were going for and again Mike nailed it on the art. I get to write the voice over and the bantery things. Mike got to do lines, lighting and the coloring as well. Everybody really embraces the aesthetics which what makes it so fun for me.
Latino-Review: Could you talk about some of your upcoming projects you may have besides “Santa Claus: Private Eye?”
Jeremy Bernstein: I just came off as the writer on “The Librarians” for TNT. It’s the follow up to TV movie series with Noah Wyle that aired on TNT a few years back. That’ll be a regular series with Rebecca Romijn, Christian Kane and John Larroquette. Noah Wyle will still be involved on the show as well. The promo for that just hit the web [recently] and making the rounds.
I have a lot of other projects in the works and we’ll what hits first.
Latino-Review: As a guilty pleasure, I have watched those Noah Wyle TV movies. And I thought I was the only one who watched those movies.
Jeremy Bernstein: [Laughter] When I got hired on to the show, I went back to watch them and I was like “I’ve never heard of these.” Then when I mentioned to people that I’m working on “The Librarians,” people would ask me, “Is that the Noah Wyle thing?” Yes. How everyone does know about this? They had a really strong fan base. I think it’ll be only bigger after the show and it’ll be a lot of fun. I certainly had a blast working on it.
Latino-Review: Just out of curiosity, by doing “Leverage,” “The Librarians” and “Santa Claus,” are you a big fan of fantasy? Is that what’s going on?
Jeremy Bernstein: That’s a big part of it. I’m a big genre geek. I’ll tell you that one of the great delights of my life is currently reading “The Hobbit” to my daughter who is four and a half years old. My father introduced me to “The Hobbit” when I was two or three years old. And I’m pretty sure his father did the same thing for him. I’ve not only grew up a fantasy geek, but I was born into it. So it’s delightful to play in that world and that genre.
Latino-Review: It’s a pleasure speaking with you and I wish you good luck on your future projects.
Jeremy Bernstein: Thanks so much and thank you for speaking with me too.
“Santa Claus: Private Eye” is now available on Thrillbent. Click here to jump to the site.