Creature Comforts: An Interview with Jeff Lemire

At the Calgary Entertainment Expo (June 17 – 19, 2011), I somehow managed to charm the award-winning Canadian artist and writer into doing an interview with me. I was especially excited after having sat through the DC panel where Lemire went into some details about both titles he will be working on for the upcoming DC relaunch: Animal Man and Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE.

Jeff Lemire

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the man, I’ll give you a few details on where he’s from, but also the other titles that he’s worked on in the past. He was born and raised in a small farming town in Essex County, Ontario and initially attended film school before pursuing a career in the comic industry. In 2005, he self-published the Xeric Award-winning comic book Lost Dogs before finding at home at Top Shelf Productions. From there, he produced the Eisner and Harvey Award-nominated Essex County Trilogy in the late 2000s. Lately, Lemire has been working on Sweet Tooth, a full-color monthly title published by Vertigo and Superboy for DC.

Kim: Hey Jeff, I just wanted to start out with you telling me a little bit about Sweet Tooth.

Jeff: Sweet Tooth is sort of a Post-Apocalyptic fairytale for adults. It’s about a group of human-animal hybrid children trying to stay alive in a violent world. They’re trying to find the secret to how they came to be and what it means for humanity.

Kim: And where did you get the idea or inspiration for that sort of story?

Jeff: Growing up, I always really liked those Post-Apocalyptic comics and movies, and so I thought it would be really fun to try doing one. But instead of writing a story that was really action oriented, I wanted to focus on the quiet moments, the character growth and then building up from there. I’ve also always wanted to do a long form science fiction story, so this was a great chance to combine all of those things that I like together into one.

Kim: What are your thoughts on becoming popular so fast? Sweet Tooth seems to have just exploded onto the shelves and people can’t seem to get enough of it.

Jeff: Yeah, it feels fast for a lot people, I know – like I just sort of came out of nowhere, but there were ten years of me working really hard at what I do without anyone really knowing who I was. So, for me it doesn’t really feel like it happened so fast. I mean, I can’t complain, the public is certainly really supportive of my work and that’s really gratifying.

Kim: Do you feel that, as a Canadian, that it was harder for you to break into the industry?

Jeff: No, not at all. I think the great thing about the world in general (not just comics), with social media and the internet, that it doesn’t really matter where you live any more. It’s the work that’s important. And Sweet Tooth, you know I’m Canadian, but the other books I work on there is Animal Man and Superboy, there are Brazilian colorist and American editors and Italian artists – it doesn’t matter where you’re from, it’s just so easy to share each others work and to collaborate.

Kim: And speaking of Superboy, it’s really only been out for about a year (10-issues) now, so how do you feel about it suddenly getting relaunched?

Jeff: To be honest? I’m kind of happy. I mean, I enjoyed working on Superboy, but I had never intended on working on it for much longer anyways. So, for me, it was a great chance to tie up everything that I was writing and put a nice ending on it before moving on to work on two titles I’m really excited about.

Kim: So DC, didn’t give you any sort of hinting that it might be coming to an end?

Jeff: Well, I’ve known for quite a while. They gave me enough head’s up that I was able to craft an ending to the story I was working on. They were also generous enough to give me an extra issue in August to finish everything that I wanted. I think people that have been enjoying the series will be satisfied and feel that they’ve been given one complete story.

Kim: It’s good to hear that DC is providing artists and writers the chance to finish what it is they have been working on before the relaunch. I mean, Secret Six will be given a proper ending and now you’ve mentioned the same with Superboy. I think it’s important to make sure that the fans aren’t left with a bitter taste in the mouth before they venture into this new project.

Jeff: Yeah, exactly. As exciting as it is to move onto new things, you can’t just ignore the fans. You have to find a balance to please them as well. You don’t want them to feel like what they’ve been enjoying for the last couple of years has been pointless.

Animal Man

Kim: So, since we’re talking about the relaunch. There are 52 titles planned for September and you’re of course working on two of them: Animal Man and Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE. If you weren’t working on either of those titles, which of the others listed would you have wanted to write or do the art for?

Jeff: Those are really great questions, so I’m going to answer them separately. If I was writing, I would love to write Swamp Thing . And as far as being the artist? I’d really love to draw Swamp Thing.

Kim: Swamp Thing across the board!

Jeff: I can tell you the books I’m excited about, maybe that’s easier. I’m really excited about both of Paul Cornell’s books (Demon Knights and Storm Watch). I think those will be a lot of fun. I’m excited about Justice League Dark. I think there is some really cool stuff. The new western book (All Star Western) looks like it’ll be really great. I’m excited for the genre titles.

Kim: I was glad to hear during the DC panel that they’re planning on branching out beyond the superhero titles, into some more horror themed titles. I mean, I’m a big horror fan, but there’s a severe lacking of horror comic books out there.

Jeff: Yeah. Well, Animal Man is definitely a horror comic. One book I would love to do, that isn’t mentioned in the relaunch is Doom Patrol.

Kim: Do you have a preference between writing and drawing? Is there one that you enjoy doing more than the other?

Jeff: No, not really. I mean, I always prefer to write and draw my own stuff. Unfortunately, I can’t draw three or four books a month, but I kind of have the best of both worlds. I get to write and draw for my own book (Sweet Tooth), but still get to work with great artists and on these great characters for DC.

Kim: How’s it going to be for you? I mean, you’re writing three book and still doing the art for one of them. That’s a lot of work.

Jeff: Yes, it is. I’ve pretty much been doing it for a year now and it’s just about getting into a schedule and a routine and working hard.

Kim: Do you get any sleep?

Jeff: Yeah, I’m good. I’m a fast drawer.

Kim: Last question – which is totally unrelated to comic books. I just got married in October, so I’m looking for marriage advice!

Jeff: Oh.. I don’t know. The only advice I would have for you, is not to get married. Kidding! I’m just joking. I mean, really.. we’re all just trying to figure it out every day, aren’t we?

Kim: Which would you say is the best comic book couple out there?

Jeff: Commissioner Gordon and Batman. I mean, that’s not the couple you’re looking for.. but.. . I’ll say Sweet Tooth and Little Pig Girl.. or Buddy Baker and his wife from Animal Man are my real favorite.

Kim: Awesome. Thank you so much, Jeff.

Jeff: Thank you.

If you want to learn more about Jeff Lemire and his upcoming projects, you can follow him on Twitter @JeffLemire
or check out his blog: http://jefflemire.blogspot.com/

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One Comment

  1. Posted June 29, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    I heart Jeff Lemire in the most hetero way. Awesome interview , Kim!

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