Filed under: Interviews | Tags: animalman, DCNew52, Flashpoint, frankenstein, Jeff Lemire, Swamp Thing, Thought Bubble, travelforeman
A long time ago in a city far far away, Comics Anonymous attended Thought Bubble. Remember that? Yes ok – it’s all so very 2011, however we’ve got one last tasty morsal from that weekend that we’ve still to share with you which, due to some technical issues, had taken some time to get to you – but here it is!
As you’ll know by now we had a great weekend and were very lucky to catch up with some of our favourite comic creators. Even luckier, we managed to catch Jeff Lemire for a chat on the Saturday, which was fortunate as he wasn’t then able to attend on Sunday. Meeting Jeff was an absolute pleasure – he was fantastically friendly and more than happy to discuss some of our favourite current books. So here’s what he had to say:
You’ve got two of the top books in the DCNew52 – did you know you were going to end up with these while you were working on the Frankenstein Flashpoint tie in?
No, I had no idea, as far as I knew that was a standalone mini-series. I was working on the second or third issue when the New 52 stuff started happening behind the scenes. DC offered me a couple of books that I wasn’t crazy about, but I’d been having such a good time on the Frankenstein book that I actually pitched a Frankenstein book to them, which then obviously became part of the 52. They were looking for another project for me to do, and someone mentioned Animal Man.
Did you feel daunted taking on something so massive?
Yes, I suppose if you stop and think about it, but I’ve been so busy and it’s almost better that way because you could start to over think everything. It’s better to keep working and look back on it another day.
There’s a lot of difference between the Flashpoint Frankenstein and the DCNew52 book – did a lot of those changes come from you?
Yeah, it’s almost like the Flashpoint one was sort of a warm up. I was just starting to get to grips with the character and understand where I was going to take him, and then I got a second chance to get it right. You don’t often get that opportunity, it’s good to have a clean slate and then tweak things and take out things I wasn’t crazy about.
What do you think about some of the comparisons with B.R.P.D?
I’ve been getting a lot of that. It’s inevitable, the Hellboy universe is popular and so iconic now. I can’t really say that it was a huge influence on what I’m doing. From my point of view, I was more influenced by the Grant Morrison miniseries. I was trying to expand upon that. The creature commando characters have been around since the seventies and when I went to DC with the idea I had a shortlist of some of the obscure DC properties that I would like to include. So really from my view it was about expanding on what Grant had done and updating all those characters.
So what about Animal Man, where are you taking that book?
Animal Man has really become my passion. We have really big plans for that book. Scott Snyder and I have really big plans for crossing over Swamp Thing and Animal Man soon, with a really epic storyline next year between our two books. It’s all plotted out and it’s getting really exciting, but we’re not really allowed to talk about any of the details yet.
The art in Animal Man is absolutely amazing – how much say did you have on picking Travel Foreman?
Getting Travel on the book wasn’t really my call. There was a couple of artists that the book was offered to and they turned it down. And then someone at DC suggested Travel, and I wasn’t that familiar with his stuff, but as soon as I saw it I knew it was perfect. I think we seem to have a strange chemistry going on, it’s really working between us. The whole visual aspect of that book is at such an incredible standard – the monsters, the more horrific aspects of the book, a lot of that is just stand-out.
It’s so different from anything else we’ve seen in the rest of the 52
Yeah it’s really distinct, people really seem to be responding to that. I think people want to have distinct voices in comics, they don’t want it all to be the one style. Hopefully in the next few years we’ll see a lot more distinct voices, putting their original stamp on these characters. That’s the fun thing with these Marvel and DC characters, they’ve been about so long that it’s interesting to see people interpret them in different ways.
Some of the single character books in the DCNew52, like Animal Man and Swamp Thing seem to have come across as more popular than the ones DC expected like Justice League – do you think there’s a shift in what people are looking for in comics?
I think there is a bit of a shift, the audience is really broadening – there was a time when your average comic book fan was between 25 and 45, kinda geeky – and there’s still loads of those guys about, but there’s way more woman reading comics and there are people getting into comics who didn’t grow up reading them, but are interested in the art form. I think as the audience broadens and diversifies then so should the books, and I think that’s why my books have been successful because the people coming into it, these are the kinds of books that they are drawn to, because they are not the typical kind of books that you would expect.
Certainly the family aspect of Animal Man is something really new and fresh to see in comics.
A lot of the characters in this universe have had such fantastic lives. None of us have those lives, but many of us are married and have kids, we’ve all got family – so it’s something that we can all latch onto.
So is the DCNew52 taking up most of your time just now?
No, to be honest Monday to Friday most of my time is still spent drawing Sweet Tooth, and then the 52 stuff I tend to only do at weekends or on nights (laughs). I shouldn’t say that, but I squeeze it in! The majority of time though is still spent on my own stuff, which is how I prefer it, because that’s really my passion. I love doing the DC stuff, I really do, I put as much of myself into it as I can, but I don’t think it would be creatively satisfying if I was just writing characters for other artists all the time. I really like to draw my own stuff as well. I am lucky though as I can balance it and can do both of those things at the same time.
Do you have anything else planned?
Yeah, there’s probably a new DC book next year, but I can’t talk about it yet. There’s also another graphic novel for Top Shelf coming out in July. It’s called The Underwater Welder and it’s around 210 pages. It’s kind of all about my experiences of being a new father and expecting my first kid, told through the story of this underwater diver working on an oilrig who is expecting a child. He’s deep sea diving in the ocean and strange stuff starts happening, he starts having memories of his own father and mysteries in his past. It’s kind of like 2001: A Space Odyssey meets…I don’t know what.
As I’m sure you know by now, we’re big Jeff Lemire fans – he made our Best of 2011 list at the end of last year for his amazing contribution to comics throughout 2011, including Sweet Tooth, Animal Man (see reviews of issues #1 and #2) and Frankenstein (reviews of issue #1). Also, if you haven’t already read it, Essex County is a truly amazing read, that could completely change your view on what comics can achieve as an art form.
All photos courtesy of Fiona Watson Photography.
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