Jeff Lemire is one of my favorite modern comic creators. I’ve loved his work on Animal Man and am eagerly anticipating his upcoming work as author of Green Arrow. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview this stellar comic creator. Read on for the exciting, in-depth interview!
Note: All images in this post are courtesy of DC Entertainment.
Silverwolf: What inspired you to enter the comic industry? When you write and draw, are there any comic creators you look to for inspiration?
Jeff Lemire: I’ve loved comics for as long as I can remember. I’ve been obsessed with them since I was 4 or 5 and they have been a constant in my life since. There is no other medium I’d rather be working in. I never really thought I could make a career out of comics, I just wanted to tell stories. I started out self-publishing my own comics and eventually worked my way up from smaller publishers like Top Shelf to Vertigo and DC. Now I try to keep a nice balance of creator-owned work like Sweet Tooth and The Underwater Welder, which I both write and draw as well as mainstream writing work.
I’m constantly drawing inspiration from all sorts of comics and creators, whether it be favorites like Joe Kubert, Eddie Campbell and Alan Moore or peers like Matt Kindt, Glyn Dillon and Scott Snyder.
Silverwolf: Your run on Animal Man has been widely acclaimed. What do you enjoy most about writing the stories of the Baker family? Obviously, I’m guessing you can’t talk too far ahead, but have you planned for what happens to Buddy and company after the end of Rotworld?
Jeff Lemire: I enjoy that I get to write all 4 members of the Baker family and make them all central to the book. After Rotworld, I really want to move away from the book’s close ties to Swamp Thing and let it stand on its own. I also want to add more variety to the title and tell new stories free from the “Rot” mythology that informed the first 18 issues of the series. Buddy’s celebrity is something I’m particularly interested in exploring.
Silverwolf: Your Vertigo series Sweet Tooth is coming to an end soon. What have you most enjoyed about working on that title?
Jeff Lemire: It’s really gratifying to get to develop and tell a story over the course of 800 pages. To really create an epic adventure for the little hybrid kids of the book. I had no idea how ling the series would last, and to be able to really let the story expand and grow at at’s own pace and to get to tell the entire story I envisioned was so amazing.
The monthly format also gave me a lot of opportunity to experiment with format and storytelling, all of which I can bring into my next projects. And, having to produce 20 pages a month on a deadline also helped me grow a lot as a story teller and artist. I didn’t have the opportunity to be overly precious about the work. I just had to finish an issue and move on to the next, which in a way was really freeing for me.
Silverwolf: You’ve also got an upcoming title called Trillium which involves a time-travel love story. What inspired you to write this new series? What are your goals for this title?
Jeff Lemire: I’ve always really wanted to try a love story in comics. There really haven’t been all that many that have been really successful. I also wanted to take a crack at really hard sci-fi. World building and designing a version of the future is something that really interests me at the moment. So Trillium really combines all of that into a time-spanning epic.
Basically two characters separated by thousands of years, but both on the cusp of a great new age of human exploration. And through mysterious circumstances they are flung together and fall in love, and that love will bring about the end of the universe.
Silverwolf: Some recent big news is that you’ll be taking over the reigns as writer of Green Arrow (my favorite DC hero) in early 2013. How do you view a character like Oliver Queen? Obviously, he’s vastly different than someone like Buddy Baker or the members of Justice League Dark. What can you tell me about your plans for the character and his adventures? What kinds of villains and challenges will he confront?
Jeff Lemire: The biggest influences on my run are Mike Grell’s Green Arrow run, Bendis’ Daredevil, Dennis O’Neil and Denys Cowans’ Question and Frank Miller’s Daredevil. I want to try to capture the feeling I had while reading those great books without ripping them off.
In terms of general tone, I want the book to be very aggressive. Fast-paced action. International in scope, but still very grounded in reality. A noir-laced crime-superhero saga. And Andrea Sorrentino’s amazing art is perfectly suited for that. Bold, distinct and dark, but also graceful.
I want to strip Ollie down to the bone and then build him back up into the hero he is destined to be. In addition to learning how to become a better hero, this will also include a growing social consciousness for Ollie, which will start to inform all of his decisions moving forward. I think Green Arrow’s politics are a necessary part of the character.
Some specific things to look for, a brand new villain who has mysterious ties to Oliver’s late Father, Robert Queen. He arrives in Seattle in issue #17 and starts to dismantle the lives of both Ollie Queen and Green Arrow, attacking him on all fronts.
This will be the start of a huge story that will peel the layers back on Ollie’s past and his secret destiny to be the world’s greatest archer.
Silverwolf: What series (or even individual comic or graphic novel) has been your personal favorite to work on and why?
Jeff Lemire: It sounds like a cheesy pat answer, but the truth is whatever project I’m working on at the moment is really my favorite. I move on very quickly when I finish something, and don’t really look back. Having said that, Essex County was definitely a major breakthrough for me critically and the 2nd book in the trilogy, Ghost Stories will always be very special to me.
But then again Sweet Tooth and The Underwater Welder are both really important to me as well. And I’m really proud of my Animal Man run. So they all kind of linger for me in different ways. But Ghost Stories is still my personal high water mark, I think.
Silverwolf: Is there any advice you’d offer fans who are interested in breaking into the comics industry?
Jeff Lemire: Just do comics. Stop worrying about publishers or trying to get the work seen and just tell the stories you want to tell, the way you want to tell them. Even if that may not be the most popular or commercial approach. Worry about all that other stuff later. The work itself is what’s important.
I never aspired to make a living doing comics or work for DC. I just did the books I wanted to do in my own style. And all that other stuff came later as a result of me finding “my voice” as a storyteller first, on my own.
Silverwolf: 2013 is obviously going to be a big year for you with all the amazing titles you’re working on. What are you most excited about for your next year in comics?
Jeff Lemire: Green Arrow is something I’m really excited about. I’ve written the first 5 issues and seen the finished art on the first 2 and I think its going to catch some people by surprise. I’m also really looking forward to Trillium and continuing to do new creator-owned stories as well!
Silverwolf: Thanks very much for taking the time to chat with us today! I’m definitely looking forward to everything you’ve got planned.
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