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AICN COMICS Q&@: Ambush Bug talks with writer Jeff Lemire about ANIMAL MAN, GHOSTS, SWEET TOOTH, & more at NYCC!

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Q’s by Ambush Bug!

@’s by DC Writer Jeff Lemire!!!

Hey folks, Ambush Bug here with an interview from this year’s New York Comic Con. This time around I had a chance to catch up once again with the mega-talented writer Jeff Lemire, writer of such great books as ANIMAL MAN, SWEET TOOTH, JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK, FRANKENSTEIN: AGRENT OF S.H.A.D.E., and the upcoming GHOSTS anthology with Geoff Johns and a lot of other talented folks. Here’s what transpired from the DC booth on the floor of the con…

AMBUSH BUG (BUG): OK, so I’m here back here at the DC booth, I’m here with Jeff Lemire, nice to meet you, Jeff. I’ve never met you face to face before.

JEFF LEMIRE (JL): Yes, it’s nice to meet you.

BUG: So, you have been doing a lot of books lately for DC.

JL: Yes.

BUG: OK, so let’s talk about some of your, all of your projects that’s going on here. How about let’s start with ANIMAL MAN?

JL: Sure, yeah, I mean...

BUG: That’s been a favourite of mine since the revamp.

JL: Oh, thank you. Oh yeah I know, it’s a real joy to write that book. I think right from the start it seemed the perfect fit for me, you know, at the DC Universe. To tell sort of darker horror stories that still have a superhero edge and to keep one foot in the bigger DC Universe. It was a great opportunity for me, and you know, especially working with Scott Snyder and kind of building this collective mythology between Swamp Thing and Animal Man which is culminating now in this big “Rotworld” story that we’re doing.

BUG: Yeah, and that’s what I was wondering. How much collaboration goes into doing the “Rotworld” stuff because those two books seem to be really, really intertwined.

JL: Yeah, well, I mean we kind of had like a huge, one big huge plotting session around Christmas time where we sort of plotted out the over, the major beefs of both books together, you know, all the way through. And then, we’d go back, and we’d each write our own scripts and then share them and give advice and stuff, but [??] we’d talk multiple times during the week, you know.

BUG: So, they’ve hinted at, well, they’ve talked about the Red, and they’ve talked about the Green, and the Rot, is kind of like, is that the Black? Are there other colors coming?

JL: It’s sort of the antithesis of life, so it’s decay, and you know, it’s not necessarily evil it’s not an evil force, it’s just a necessary element of life, but it’s on our game the classic Swamp Thing going, it’s kind of become the avatar of the Rot and we kind of established this thing with whoever the avatar is, whether it’s Alec Holland as Swamp Thing, or Maxine, or Arcane, that the Red, the Green, the Rot will kind of take on the personality of the avatar. Since Anton’s so corrupt, the Rot’s gone out of control, and now Buddy and Alec are going to have to team up to try to defeat it. But, what “Rotworld” really is is that it’s too late, the Rot has won, and we get to see what happens to the entire DC Universe, everyone, the Justice League, Teen Titans, the whole universe after the Rot’s won, and the heroes have lost.BUG: OK, and so is this going to be, are the two books going to continue to be intertwined like this, or is there going to be a time when you’re breaking off?

JL: Well, this is sort of, yeah, this is sort of the big, the big build up that we’ve been working on from the beginning. This storyline will sort of be the culmination of that. And then, I think it’s really important that after “Rotworld”, both books kind of separate, and it’s important both books kind of survive on their own after that and kind of build their own mythologies a bit before we try to do anything like that again.

BUG: Yeah. I really liked the Zero issue that you did.

JL: Ah, thanks.

BUG: Where you established that Buddy Baker is not the, their first choice, that he’s kind of just like holding the place for his daughter. And then I read at the same time SWAMP THING issue, and he’s like the flip side of the coin where he’s the one that’s destined to be the one.

JL: Yeah, he really doesn’t want to be it.

BUG: So, the way that all sort of has worked out, what type of, I mean, it’s been all of culminating into the “Rotworld” story. Then, you said it was going to be splitting off after that. Is it going to be tying into other books as well in the DC Universe?

JL: No. I think, like I said, I think these books have been so intertwined that afterwards it’s really important that they each kind of exist on their own for a while. So, no more crossovers or anything like that for a while. I have a story planned afterwards for ANIMAL MAN that will be very specific to Buddy Baker, and I think it’ll be important to move away from the Rot to establish other threats outside of that mythology, you know, just to rot in his universe and not make it so specific. As much as we love doing the story, if we just keep retelling it over and over, fans will get bored and the book will dip in sales so we need to challenge him with something new to do. New threats, new horrors, and things.

BUG: Well, last ANIMAL MAN question, but I wanted to ask, you seem to be doing the impossible by making a married character with kids actually really entertaining and readable, and you seem to be doing that successfully where it seems like no one wants married superheroes or heroes with kids in comics. What’s your theory on that?

JL: Well, I think the difference is that as opposed to Spider-Man or Superman being a husband and father is very integral to the core concept in ANIMAL MAN. Without that element and the family element, he’s really just a seedless superhero with animal powers, you know? And, it’s the family aspect that makes him unique and worthwhile. Whereas, Superman and Spider-Man, being married isn’t part of their core concept. You know, Superman is the alien who learns from humanity and tries to inspire us. He has nothing to do with being married, you know, the core concept when you boil it down. So, I think that’s why Animal Man gets by because it’s so necessary to who he is. As opposed to, you know, Spider-Man is the kid who’s learning to take on his responsibility and stuff, and when you marry him, it just adds this layer to it that isn’t really part of his core, I don’t think. Well, that’s my theory, you know?

BUG: True. OK. Well, let’s move on to GHOSTS. So, tell me about that. So, how did that come about?

JL: Yeah, well, Geoff and I are really good friends’s just the kind of thing where we, you know, where we, like Scott and I, Geoff and I talk a lot about just our different books we’re working on. Even if we’re not collaborating, we just, you know, bounce ideas off each other. “What do you think of this idea,” and stuff, and so we’ve become good friends, and I think we just, we always just said, “oh, it would be fun if I could draw something that you wrote one day,” and this Vertigo anthology came up, and it seemed a great opportunity. We’re both very busy, obviously, but since they’re short stories, it was like, “oh yeah, we can handle that,” you know? And, Geoff really wanted to do something, you know, when you think of the GHOSTS anthology, you think of horror stories or something like that, but he, you know, I think wisely he stressed we actually do something very light hearted and very, you know, very kind of funny and whimsical, which I think kind of resulted in something kind of cool. It’s called “Ghosts For Hire”, and it’s almost like a modern version of Abbott and Costello if they were, like, you know, haunting. If Abbott was hiring Costello to haunt people’s houses. It’s quite cute and it’s got a good heart.

BUG: How many pages is your story?

JL: It’s eight pages, They’re all eight pages stories in the series, and the other artists in the anthology are really amazing too. Actually, I think the most special part of that anthology is that Joe Kubert’s final story that he ever drew...

BUG: Oh, wow!

JL: going to be in the anthology. He still was working on it when he passed away, and his sons wanted Karen Berger to print it as is, just penciled and lettered the way he had on his desk.

BUG: That’s really cool. Well, is that, GHOSTS is that reminiscent of the old DC series, GHOSTS?

JL: Yeah. Vertigo, like, every season it seems to be doing these anthologies now that are kind of like a fun take on one of those old, cool DC comics like STRANGE ADVENTURES, and I think there’s another one planned for next year that I hope I’ll be a part of as well. They’re a lot of fun for me.

BUG: So, it seems like a lot of the stuff you do has a lot of, its feet really rooted in horror. Do you consider yourself a horror writer?

JL: No, not really, you know, I was never really a fan of horror growing up. I really did not like horror movies. I was terrified by them, I wouldn’t watch them. I didn’t read horror fiction at all. But, I just think that stories I like to tell do tend to have a more sort of mature, darker streak to them in the horror characters by themselves that kind of allow you to get away with a bit more, so it’s really worked out for me. But, you know, I think Animal Man, the fun thing about that book aside from the family aspect, is that it’s a horror comic, you know, with a superhero edge to it, so that’s something I want to continue past “Rotworld”, you know, just for the other threats, like I said other than just Rot monsters all the time.

BUG: Yeah. What kind of inspiration—I keep on going back, to ANIMAL MAN, I’m sorry.

JL: That’s alright.

BUG: As far as the twisted forms of all the animals and the Rot creatures...

JL: Well, you know, a lot of that’s the artist’s a visual medium, and my scripts really are just a jumping off point for those guys to do that stuff. So, you know there might be some little specific ideas I have, and then they’ll latch onto that and then build up from it. So, you know, it really helped establish the look of that book and a lot of the stuff we consider the Rot now. He should get credit for that, and then, you know, Yanick Paquette and SWAMP THING and Steve Pugh, who’s doing ANIMAL MAN now really sell that as well. Really just having fun, being disgusting, and really doing these twisted just body horror. It’s weird, but it’s really unique, and I think people are responding to it.

BUG: You’re an artist yourself, and so when you’re communicating with your artists, what kind of feedback have you heard back from them as far as, do you think you have a little bit of more of a closer kind of a way of communicating with them because you’re an artist yourself? Have you ever transferred that?

JL: You know, I don’t know. When I first started working for DC and writing for other artists, I think maybe I was a little too hands on, and getting maybe too specific directions in terms of like a page layout or stuff like that. And maybe I think the results weren’t as good because it just started to restrict. The artists were so worried about doing what I wanted they didn’t let their own imaginations go. So, when I got ANIMAL MAN and FRANKENSTEIN: AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E. in the New 52, I decided just to kind of step back a little bit and just really take care of the visual side all on their own and not trying to be so controlling. As a result, they get to put more of themselves into it, and they’re more invested in it, I think, and it shows. ANIMAL MAN turned out really great, so...

BUG: Well, and you just announced another Vertigo book you’re going to be doing?

JL: It’s a book called TRILLIUM. It’s a big sprawling science fiction love story. It’s two storylines. One’s set in the far future follows a female botanist on this remote post in space, and the other storyline is two brothers in World War I in the trenches, and somehow those two stories come together and then turns into this big kind of cosmic love story that, hopefully, will be pretty compelling.

BUG: Is this, sci-fi and stuff like that, is that a big interest of yours?

JL: Yeah, I love sci-fi, I mean, I’m a big fan of, like, classic hard sci-fi like Arthur C. Clarke and Larry Niven, and Isaac Asimov. I grew up reading that stuff, and I still love it. So, I always want to do my take on that. Some of my favourite films, I think, are things like Kubrick’s 2001, and BLADE RUNNER, and ALIEN, and all of that stuff. I really, really love drawing, like, space suits and space ships, and designing that stuff is a lot of fun, so I really wanted to, at least once in my career, try to tell a really good sci-fi story, so this will be my shot at that.

BUG: OK. So, is there an area of DC that, DC Universe is so expansive there’s all these kinds of nooks and crannies that you can kind of explore.

JL: Yeah.

BUG: Is there an area that you’re really itching to?

JL: ...I mean, I’m working on another DC project now that’s been announced. And, I can’t say what it is yet, but it really is very different from the dark stuff I’ve been doing in ANIMAL MAN. It’s much more of a hard crime sort of thriller corner of the DC Universe with one of the characters, and I’m having a blast with that, so I can’t wait to talk about that more.

BUG: OK, well, yeah. I can’t wait to hear more about it. So, what else are you keeping busy with?

JL: ...excessively dark ANIMAL MAN, finishing SWEET TOOTH, finishing TRILLIUM. I just co-wrote the backup feature to JUSTICE LEAGUE #13 with Geoff Johns as well which comes out next week, and that’s actually a big hint of what I’m doing next for DC in there.

BUG: Oh, it is? Alright, I have it at home. I need to crack it open...Let’s talk just a tiny bit about SWEET TOOTH that’s wrapping up. What can fans look forward to in the final issues of that series?

JL: Obviously, it’s hard to say without spoiling the end of the book. The story, but I’ve always said from the beginning that I knew what the ending would be, and for me, after working three years on the book, it was really gratifying to get to finally execute all these scenes I’ve had in my head for three years. To see them out on the page, and I really think the last issue is really going to be something special. You know, obviously this is the last time I’m going to draw these characters in an official capacity, so I’m just putting all of the energy I have left for it onto the page, and putting everything I’ve got onto the page.

BUG: So, it’s a finite ending...

JL: Oh yeah, it’s...

BUG:’re not going to go back?

JL: You can’t go back to the world after I’m done with it.

BUG: OK. Very cool. Well, you know, thanks so much, and I’m a big fan of your work, and it’s really great to meet you here at the Con.

JL: Thanks. Likewise.

BUG: Look for Jeff Lemire’s books ANIMAL MAN and SWEET TOOTH every month and GHOSTS in stores today from DC Comics!

Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over ten years. He has written comics such as MUSCLES & FIGHTS, MUSCLES & FRIGHTS, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND & has co-written their first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in late 2012 as an 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment to be released March-August 2012. Also look for Mark's exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-80 which begins in August 2012.

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 31, 2012, 5:36 p.m. CST

    No JL Dark questions?

    by asummerstorm

    Since Lemire took over the still insipidly titled "Justice League Dark" it has become a lot of fun, reminiscent of a good World of Darkness campaign. Glad to have folks like him and Scott Snyder ushering in new excitement over at DC.

  • Oct. 31, 2012, 9:37 p.m. CST

    Agreed, love him on JLDark

    by Ambush Bug

    But he said since he is leaving the title soon, he didn't really want to talk about it. Sorry.