As revealed at the end of last year, the Multiversity staff voted Jeff Lemire as the best writer of 2017. Not only that, but his “Black Hammer” garnered the #1 ongoing series spot from both the staff and readers, and “Royal City” was one of our best new series as well. Clearly, we feel that Jeff was doing some great work this year.
I reached out to Jeff after the staff voting for ‘Best Writer’ was done, and hoped that he would be up for an interview. Thankfully, he was. We spent the better part of an hour on the phone, talking about his 2017, and what we could look forward to in 2018.
This interview has been slightly edited for clarity.
I was doing just some tallying this morning and it’s insane how many books you worked on in 2017. You had three creator owned ongoings, “Black Hammer,” “Descender,” and “Royal City.” You had an OGN in “Roughneck.” You did the Bloodshot stuff at Valiant and you did, I believe, six different Marvel books”: “Death of X,” “Extraordinary X-Men,” “Moon Knight,” “Old Man Logan,” “Thanos” and “IvX.” Just from a time management standpoint, how many hours a day are you writing comics?
Jeff Lemire: This is the most common I get because my output is so crazy. I actually work very sane, very regular hours. I’m just super organized. Generally – and I know this interview’s supposed to be about by writing – but just as a way of answering the question fully, my Monday to Friday is spent at my studio or I’m drawing most of the day so it’ll be, I usually get to my studio around eight AM and I draw all day. I do an eight hour day, eight til four. Then my writing, I generally honestly, I do it on a weekend or an hour or two here or there at night during the week after my son goes to bed. It’s really not that crazy and even on the weekend I don’t really work full-time or anything. It’ll just be a couple hours here and there if my family’s busy doing other things or whatever. It’s not super crazy.
Drawing takes the bulk of my time, so that’s my Monday to Friday and then I try to write one script a week. Doing it that way, you can write four books a month and then draw one. That’s the method. In terms of sometimes it seems like there are more than four books a month coming out, I realize that but I stagger them. For instance I might write a whole arc of “Descender” in one month or something. I might just get really into the world of “Descender” and write five or six issues and then I’ll put “Descender” away for three, four, five months until I get really excited about it again. It allows you to stagger projects. While there may be six or seven books coming out every month, I’m not actually writing six or seven books every, I’m only writing usually three or four.
That also allow me, getting ahead like that, allows me never to have to worry about deadlines. If I’m not really feeling something, if I’m not really super excited about “Thanos” or “Descender” that month, I don’t have to force myself to work on it and just to work on it just to get a script done. I can wait until I get new ideas and get really excited and that keeps me fresh too ’cause then I’m never working just to work. I’m working ’cause I’m really into something. That shows always in the work.
Absolutely. I wonder if because you are an artist as well as a writer, do you think that your scripts leave more room for artists to do their thing? And because of that, do you think that you can churn out scripts in a faster way than if somebody’s meticulously plotting out every panel?
JL: Yes. Yeah, there’s a lot of truth to that. I’ve spoken to Matt Kindt about this ’cause Matt is also a cartoonist and he and I are both super fast and prolific. We often when we’re alone we often say, “I don’t understand how some writers can only do one or two books a month and seem to barely get those done.” Because it doesn’t take that long. We talked about it, and it is there’s something to what you said where because we draw, we’re used to breaking a story down in our heads visually in a way, it’s become so inherent to us that we don’t have to, there might be some shortcuts to the thought process that we automatically take without thinking about it now that other writers who don’t draw have to spend more time on that. I don’t know, I’m talking out my ass here. There might be something to what you said. You probably said it in a more articulate way than me but …Continued below
I can’t imagine that would be the case.
JL: I do think that me and Matt, since we draw our own stuff, we’re already fulfilling that side of our creative side so I don’t feel the need to visually control all the books I’m writing. I just try to work with artists who I love and let them be themselves and do what they do. My art direction tends to be very sparse because I know having drawn scripts that other people have written, the more freedom I have, the more of myself I can bring to in and the better the work is. I learned that a long time ago. It’s all about working with people you trust. I tend to work with the same artists a lot, who I know we have chemistry and my scripts can be really sparse in terms of art direction and giving direction on layout, things like that. I don’t really do a lot of that. It’s more focusing on character and pacing and things, plot.
That’s really interesting. You talk about working with people you trust and definitely see that. You do have a number of collaborators who now have been working with for a long time. You see really great fruitful things come out of that. “Descender” this year really took a step forward. I loved that book beforehand but it seems like there’s this unspoken telepathy right now that’s happening in the creation of that book where every issue just seems to be a little bit deeper and a little bit more comfortable than the issue before and that obviously can only happen over a period of time. It was really great to see that and it’s great that you’re letting these artists do their own thing because it does show in the work. Or at least I think it shows in the work.
JL: The big secret to being a good comic book writer is just having a good artist. Comics are a visual medium first, and I’m not saying being a writer isn’t important, but a really great comic book script drawn poorly is not going to be a very good comic book. But a really mediocre comic book script drawn greatly is still going to be a pretty good comic. It really comes down to the artist you’re working with and how your storytelling styles tend to come together. When I work with Dustin [Nguyen] or [Andrea] Sorrentino or Dean Ormston on “Black Hammer,” I found collaborators there that we together we create a third creator who’s better than either of us are alone. We don’t have to talk that much, we just trust each other and we each give each other what we need and we don’t overdo it and the work it just seems to come really naturally.
You mentioned “Black Hammer” and that’s where I want to take the conversation right now. What’s so cool about “Black Hammer” from a reader’s perspective is that you’ve created these worlds whether in your graphic novels or in your creator owned series that feel incredibly lived in. I loved reading those books and wondering about what’s happening on the periphery. But with “Black Hammer,” it’s the first that I feel like we’re getting a really, we’re not just getting a look at a story, we’re getting a look at an entire world. As a writer, how do you approach building not just the story involving five or 10 or 15 different characters but building up this entire world? Is that a different challenge for you? Is that fun? Is that terrifying? What happens with that?
JL: Yeah, it’s not terrifying, it’s super fun. That’s the joy of writing is world building and doing this stuff. “Black Hammer” is a very specific project and because I have the advantage of 70 years of superhero comic book history to draw from. It’s not like I’m building something in a vacuum. I have thousands upon thousands of amazing comic books out there that I’ve loved reading and grew up with as this basis to draw ideas from and that makes it really easy and really fun. You can pick and choose things from various eras of comic book history or various artists, writers that you love and ingest them and then do your own spin on them or combine different things into a new character. Honestly it’s just like a kid in a playground. I’m just having fun with it. That makes me want to build the whole world.Continued below
You start with the core cast who are stuck on the farm or whatever, those five superheroes and then the more you see of their backstories, the more the world just slowly gets built up and up to a point where now we’re doing spinoff miniseries because there’s just, I’m getting more ideas for characters who are on the periphery of the main story who have their own story that carry their own little miniseries or whatever. We’re going to do a whole bunch of different satellite books around the main series just to build the world more. That doesn’t come from me wanting to cash in or wanting to, I certainly don’t need more work. It comes from just honestly having all these other stories I can’t wait to tell and all these great artists I get to work with. It’s just so fun, that book. It’s probably the most effortless and just the most, in some ways the most rewarding project I’ve ever done.
JL: There’s something about that world of “Black Hammer” that it just feels like it’s more than anything than I’ve ever done. It captures everything I love about comics. It has everything I love about superhero comics in it. But it’s also done in a way that really reflects indie comics and alternative comics and the stuff I grew up creating myself. It combines both aesthetics into something unique. I love the world so much. Those characters are so real to me now.
This may not seem like the most natural comparison and it’s perhaps colored by the fact that they’re both Dark Horse properties, this reminds me of the start of the Mignolaverse. Mike Mignola when he created Hellboy, talked about putting all of his favorite things about comics in one book. It started off as this one thing and it just grew and grew and grew and now there are all of these satellite miniseries and worlds and all that. This feels like the start of something like that for you. Can you see this being something you’re still playing with 10 or 20 years down the road?
JL: Yeah, I really think that being at Dark Horse didn’t hurt either ’cause you’re in the neighborhood of Mike Mignola so you see that it’s definitely an inspiration. Talking to the editors there and stuff, you’re like, you realize we can do what he did. It’s very inspiring what he did ’cause like him, he had been doing a lot stuff at Marvel and DC when he first started his career and probably wasn’t completely satisfied creatively. And then he got to, when he did “Hellboy,” he got to cut loose and he had no more restrictions and he could just put everything he loved into this thing. You can see it. That’s what happened with “Black Hammer,” I’d been doing a lot of superhero comics over the last five or six years at DC and Marvel and some of those experiences were awesome and some were a little more up and down. As it’s going to be when you do a lot of stuff.
But then I could finally do a superhero comic that was just all my own and I could just literally take everything I loved and not have to worry about anyone else’s books. I could just make my own little world and pour everything into it. I can definitely see the “Black Hammer” universe going on for quite a while. I know that the main story, the story “Black Hammer” proper that I’m doing with Dean has a definite ending. I’ve already written it actually so I know it. It’s not coming any time too soon but I know what it is. The surrounding universe and these other characters, I could see telling stories in that for a decade from now still happily being coming up with new stuff to do in that world.
That’s super exciting to hear as a fan of that book. It’s incredibly exciting to hear that there’s that much fertile ground there to be planted in.
JL: Just to tease and stuff. We haven’t, we’ve only announced the Sherlock Frankenstein spinoff so far which just started coming out. There’s actually four other, at this point, four or five other Black Hammer miniseries being drawn and already written.Continued below
JL: It’s all coming.
That’s exciting stuff. That’s really cool. Let’s shift away for a minute from the creator owned stuff. Let’s talk about Valiant, because you’ve been one of the cornerstone creators of Valiant for the last few years and you’ve specifically carved out this really interesting role with Bloodshot. I have been a fan of your work before you went to Bloodshot and I had read “Bloodshot” as a kid in the 90s. I couldn’t think of a creator that I felt less would have fit with Bloodshot than with you. I’ve been so wrong and I’m so happy how wrong I was about that. It’s not the most natural fit for you. You and I talked at New York Comic Con a number of years ago right when you were starting with Bloodshot. We got into the things that appealed to you about the character. I’m interested now, three or four years later with the body of Bloodshot work under your belt now, what’s it about that character that keeps being rewarding for you and what can folks look forward to in the next few months of Bloodshot?
JL: Bloodshot was interesting because I’m with you: it’s a character that has zero appeal to me. I’ll be honest with you. I just couldn’t care less about that character when I was offered it. I never really read the old 90’s Valiant stuff and the character of Bloodshot himself was everything I didn’t like about superhero comics. He was this ultra violent action hero. It was two dimensional I thought. It just didn’t appeal to me at all. But then I started thinking, it’s almost like a challenge when someone offers you one of these characters. You’re like, well, how can I take this thing and make it something that does appeal to me. As soon as you start thinking that way that’s when you suddenly start building stories. Once the stories start coming if you fall in love with them it’s almost like you have to do them. Bloodshot was like that.
Bloodshot was so cold and so violent and inhuman. It just did not appeal to me. My challenge was well how do I take this thing that is cold and inhuman and make it relatable and make me care about it and the reader care about him as a person and the story just grew from there. I planned on doing 12 issues or something back when I got it but now I’ve done, when I’m done what I’m doing now it’ll be closer to 40 or something issues we’ve done. 50 or something and he just became this, I’m getting off track but he just became this character who I could explore any genre with which became really exciting where one arc it could be like an almost like a supernatural detective story and then the next arc it could be like an 80’s action movie like Predator and then the next arc it could be a horror story.
He could always be at the center of this and through these different genres I could explore different sides of his personality and that’s what I’m continuing to do with the new series “Bloodshot Salvation.” The first arc is this really intense emotional revenge story that’s the one’s that coming out right now. The next arc shifts and becomes a real supernatural horror story where we get into the dead side and then the third arc will be a crazy, I shouldn’t say too much but it will involve a lot of science fiction elements, we’ll say that. It’s just this thing where Valiant gave me so much freedom to make that character my own that any idea I came up with they seemed to support. Then that makes you, that keeps you excited. When you have no restraints on what you can do it just keeps you charged up. Well now I can do this. Let me try this. It just kept going and the character became really alive to me. I really built out a supporting cast in his mythology and I felt very invested in what I had built so you want to keep building.Continued below
I find it so fascinating that you and Kindt have found such a home there because again, I’m 35, when I was 10 or 12 or whatever, I was reading Valiant comics as a shitty kid who liked violence and didn’t go for some of the more nuanced things. You guys are such different creators for that but I love how you’ve been able to bring your sensibilities into these books. I read a ton of comics in my role at Multiversity and there’s something about the Valiant books that just feel so well considered. Nothing seems to happen that isn’t really well considered.
JL: I’ll tell you that the reason for that is two fold. The first reason is that it’s still a very small universe. They’ve been very smart about limiting the amount of product they put out even though they could try to flood it with more. They keep their output each month to around seven titles or something. As a result the universe stays small enough that it’s very controllable. That’s not the right word. It’s like what you said, everything that happens really matters. Everything is very considered and it’s easy to coordinate with the other books in the line without having them restrict you. We can build together rather than having 50 titles where you’re stepping on each other’s toes just because there’s so much stuff going on. That’s why it feels so cohesive.
But then the second reason, the most important reason is that Warren Simons is the editor in chief and Warren is as much as the creator’s visions it’s Warren’s vision as well. He’s been so good about who he’s cast as the creative teams on those books. He gives us so much freedom and he encourages us to be ourselves and to bring the best of what we do to the work. You almost feel like you’re doing a creator owned book really with these characters. You can see that with what Matt’s doing on “X-O Manowar” and with what I’ve done on “Bloodshot.”
JL: Anyways, Warren’s he’s definitely one of the best editors I’ve ever worked with in comics and it shows in the books.
That actually pivots nicely to something I want to talk with you about. Because you’ve done work for so many different publishers and because you’re keeping so many different things going at once, what is your relationship like with your editors? Do you want editor who’s checking in with you? Do you want to be left alone?
JL: It varies from project to project. In general, I’m a very organized and self motivated person I always have been so I don’t need someone checking up on me all time. I get the work done on time. I’ve never been late. In that aspect I don’t need someone breathing down my neck. I do find because I came to comics in a spot where I was already writing and drawing my own graphic novels originally I have my own voice at this point. I do better with less in terms of an editor. I don’t need to get on the phone and hash out the story with someone all the time. I do better when I’m left to my own devices. For the most part the editors that I work best with are people like Warren or when I was doing stuff with Vertigo with Will Dennis and Mark Doyle and those guys where they, I had a vision for the book and they trust it and they let me do my thing. When I run into a roadblock then I can call them but they don’t force their vision on the book.
The worst experiences I’ve had are things where you get an editor who, and I’m not going to say which books these were, who they are, you sometimes you get editors who wish they were writers and they want to put their fingers in every decision and co-write and question every plot point. At that point it’s like they’re just, then you start second guessing yourself, you’re just not writing from a good spot anymore. You’re not writing with confidence and you’re not allowed to do what you do well. I tend to do better with less. That’s why I like creator owned books. I really don’t have an editor I just handle it myself. I actually am going to bring Will Dennis into some of my Image stuff just because now I’m doing so much stuff it’s getting hard to keep track of deadlines and artists.Continued below
Again, I guess the short answer is I do my best work with less editorial input. Just having someone there to support my vision and when I do need help I reach out to them. Someone who’s not trying to impose their vision on what I do.
You were doing so much at Marvel this past year, whether it some of the Inhumans X-Men stuff or it was finishing up your “Moon Knight” run or “Old Man Logan” with Andrea Sorrentino. Just talking about Marvel work in general, you’ve worked for both Marvel and DC, what’s one of the differences in working with Marvel versus working with the Distinguished Competition? Not good or bad, what’s different about working for those two places?
JL: I don’t know. That’s a really good question to answer ’cause as far as the work itself, it’s not that much different. It just you’re working on a different universe. I’m naturally much more comfortable in the DC universe just ’cause those are the books I read growing up so I know the history and I have that sentimental attachment to the DC stuff that I don’t necessarily have to the Marvel stuff. Creatively it’s not different, it all just depends, there’s different personalities, different editors at both companies and that can influence things. Work for hire stuff for the big two is, it can be great and it can be sometimes frustrating. It just depends what editors you get, what character you’re on, what artist you get paired with. My Marvel stuff on a whole was pretty positive. “Moon Knight” and “Old Man Logan” and “Thanos” were all great.
The X-Men stuff was a bit more challenging just because it’s such a big machine, and there’s so many people involved. That can get a bit, that can just be more challenging in some ways. I don’t know if that answered your question. There’s not a huge difference between the two. Like I said, there’s different personalities at each company and that affects things both good and bad.
I’m interested, you’re going to understand the spirit in which I’m asking this question, for somebody who’s had so much success with creator owned stuff, with graphic novels, what’s the appeal of still doing work for hire at this point in your career?
JL: It’s a great question. I ask myself that a lot sometimes. I’m at a really great spot in my career right now where maybe four or five years ago I was still establishing myself with mainstream comic book readers because I had done a lot of indie stuff and had success there but in the more mainstream crowd, if you want to call it that, I was still establishing myself. I did stuff at DC with “Green Arrow” and “Animal Man” and then stuff at Marvel where I established a name there as well. In terms of broadening my readership that was really valuable. It helped bring more readers to my independent work and it helped me launch a bunch of Image books that have now been successful. Now I’m at a really good spot where to be completely honest with you, if I didn’t want to do anything for Marvel or DC right now, financially I don’t need to. I’m making a really good living off all my creator owned stuff and that’s what I always dreamed of.
I guess the only reason I continue to do it is ’cause I just love doing it. I really do love getting my hands on one of these characters, whether it be Moon Knight or Green Arrow or whatever and trying to bring my vision to it and do something interesting with it. I find it challenging and rewarding when it works. It’s just a lot of fun to work. I guess maybe the key thing is when you’re doing creator owned stuff as fulfilling as it is, it’s also all you. Whereas you go to the Marvel or DC universe and you get to collaborate on a different level that you don’t get in your creator owned stuff. I get to be part of a shared universe and get to work with different artists and writers and editors and stuff. It’s a little more collaborative and a little more of a community feel that you don’t always get.Continued below
It’s more like being in a band than being a solo artist.
JL: Yeah, I don’t know. As long as I continue to enjoy it I’ll do it. I still have a lot of fun doing it.
Let’s go over to Image for just a couple minutes here. “Descender” started before this year obviously but you launched “Royal City” this year. I was talking to a friend of mine about the book and he said that it just to him it feels like the evolution of your creator owned stories have led you to “Royal City.” He said it just feels like a culmination. I thought that was a great way to put it. It feels like the next evolution of your creator owned stories. Talk about that book and what working on that book is doing for you creatively right now.
JL: I started off, when I started making comics 15, 20 years ago, I don’t know how long it’s been now, but I was just by myself. I was writing and drawing my own material. I didn’t know anybody in comics. I didn’t really have any hope of ever being published and I didn’t care I just wanted to do what I wanted to do. I started doing stuff in I did stuff like “Essex County” and all my early work that was just my own little universe and my own place where I could go.
As much as since then I’ve loved everything I’ve done and, even things like “Sweet Tooth” and “Trillium” which were very much the same thing, it was me writing and drawing in my own little world. In the last five, six years I’ve done so much genre work, whether it be superheroes or science fiction that I really was starting to feel like I needed to ground myself again and get back at least with one project, get back to the kind of stories I was telling early on. Like Essex County, where it wasn’t so genre or high concept based, but it was more grounded in the real world. Real people, real problems, real life.
“Royal City” came from me trying to in some ways go back to those roots. But like you said, “Essex County” was a book I did 10, 12 years ago that was really about my childhood and where I grew up. “Royal City” is now me approaching the same sort of story telling but instead of telling a story about my past, it’s telling more of a story about where I am now in my life as a 40 year old man with a child and is married. I have different concerns and different ideas than I did when I was 27 and writing “Essex County.” I can see it being the evolution of in way. I get that ’cause it is like “Essex County” but “Essex County” 10 years later with 10 years more life experience under me and different perspectives.
When I go into that world of “Royal City,” it’s really is my escape from everything. It’s my own little place and it’s I don’t have to worry about anything. I tell these stories of these people and live in this world. I just love it.
I can sense when reading it how much the book means to you. That’s a similar vibe that I got from “Roughneck.” It’s obviously different in a way, but it felt very personal and it felt like there was a story there that you wanted to tell and it wasn’t necessarily, like you said, a genre story or high concept story, it was just more of a slice of life little story. How do you approach crafting a graphic novel versus crafting an ongoing series? Is it just that one of them is open ended and one of is more finite or is there something else to it?
JL: There’s a few things that go into those decisions. I started off doing graphic novels like “Essex” and then “Underwater Welder” and I hadn’t done one in a while. I had done “Sweet Tooth” and “Trillium,” but those were both monthly comics and I was starting to feel like I need, I just want to get back to getting back to doing a book where it’s a self contained thing. It’s not open ended. It’s a complete story. I hadn’t done that in a while so I just had the craving to do it again with “Roughneck.” And then I did “Roughneck” and I got it out of my system and I missed, I realized well, the monthly comic thing has so many rewards. As opposed to a graphic novel where you work for two or three years on this this thing every day and then it comes out and it gets a little press for a couple weeks when it comes out and then it’s just goes. People find it or they don’t.Continued below
It sits on a shelf and that’s cool, but the monthly comic…every single month you get that comic coming out. And then you get this constant feedback every time a new issue comes out, and you get feedback it re-energizes you and keeps you going and so instead of something that coming and going it’s more…it has a presence that continues for a longer period of time, and it feels like a bigger thing. And then yeah, it does allow you to be more open ended and go in different place whereas once you get on the tracks with a graphic novel, you know where you’re going and you have to go there. Sure you can discover new things along the way but not to the extent you can with a monthly book where you can really explore different things and really take the story in different directions.
A lot of that came too from the last half decade, decade or so, television has really become a much more viable storytelling medium than film in a lot of ways because film now become all about these big franchises, popcorn movies. Whereas if you want real intelligent challenging storytelling it tends to be with television now. That’s the stuff I’m watching and getting inspired by so instead of doing a graphic novel I started to think, well what if there was a monthly comic that’s more like some of these dramas I was watching on television like Transparent or Six Feet Under, things that I love where I could get deeper into these characters. If you put through the movies get there is instead of having two hours to get into a character, suddenly you have multiple seasons, 15 hours each to explore characters.
It just seems so much more, seems to have so much more potential for me in terms of exploring these characters and stuff to try that as a comic. Because monthly comics tend to be very high concept, very genre driven so love the challenge of doing one that wasn’t that see if it could survive out there. And Eric Stephenson [of Image Comics] really was excited about that too because there isn’t a lot of that out there. It felt like something different and challenging in a lot of ways.
You mentioned Six Feet Under which is my favorite show of all time. I actually think that that’s a great touchstone for “Royal City.” I haven’t thought of that yet. Now I’m going to have to convert my Six Feet Under loving friends. That’s really cool.
JL: It’s a huge influence on the book and on me. It’s one of my all time favorite pieces of art as well. I love that show and I watch it fairly regularly I’ll rewatch it. It was a really big influence on “Royal City.”
Two last things before I let you go. The first thing is I want you to talk about some of your favorite comics of 2017 or creators that came on your radar. What is one of the things that you’ve enjoyed reading this past year?
JL: There’s been a couple really cool discoveries for me of new cartoonists that I’ve really enjoyed. To be completely honest I don’t read a ton of monthly comics right now. I tend to wait, things I really like I’ll just wait and read the trades because I don’t have a much time to read comics as I used to. The monthly stuff, the stuff I follow, I tend to follow certain creators. I’ll read Jason Aaron’s stuff ’cause I have of tons of respect for him as a storyteller. I love his stuff. I love “Southern Bastards” and “The God Damned” and “The Mighty Thor” is a great superhero comic.
I really like “Paper Girls” a lot. I got into that this year. I follow Matt Kindt’s stuff too. “Dept H,” and his Valiant stuff I really enjoy. His “Divinity” stuff at Valiant was great. That’s stuff definitely comes to mind, monthly stuff. The stuff that hits me a bit more this year were a few graphic novels generally like myself. Tillie Walden is a creator who has limitless potential and talent and she released that book “Spinning” this year.Continued below
So great, so great.
JL: Everyone should be reading her stuff. She’s fantastic. I was just in Italy for the Lucca Fest and I was sitting next to this cartoonist who was doing sketches and I was watching her draw and her stuff was amazing and I got to know her. Her name is Flavia Biondi, I hope I’m saying that right. I don’t know what her books are called ’cause they’re just in Italian in the moment. Lion Forge is going to be publishing them in English soon. If you can remember that name, you should keep an eye for her, her stuff’s really good. I also read there was Nick Cave biography, graphic novel by the guys name is Richard Kleist. I really enjoyed that as well. There’s been some cool stuff that I have read this year. Comics wise.
And then lastly, in 2018 you’ve come back to DC with “The Terrifics” and “Inferior Five.” Give us a little hint of what your 2018’s going to look like and maybe if there’s anything about those stories that you think might be enticing to our readers, lay it out there
JL: I’ll talk about those two books and then there was one more I wanted to talk about actually. “The Terrifics,” really it’s obvious what we’re doing there. We’re trying to take everything we loved about the “Fantastic Four” and capture that spirit. I love “Fantastic Four,” I love the family feel of “Fantastic Four” and I love those early Jack Kirby, Stan Lee comics, they’re just, they’re the template for what all superhero came from. They’re just so rich with imagination, adventure and fun and every issue was just packed with enough ideas that would spawn whole series now. We really wanted to capture something in that vein. And even Tom Strong/Alan Moore stuff, the fun adventure stuff – kids could read it and adults could read it and it wasn’t dumbed down but it was just accessible and fun and big.
That’s really what “The Terrifics” is an attempt at, to take some underused DC characters and put them together into this wacky family feel and have them have just big fun adventures with lots of heart. It’s Plastic Man, Metamorpho, Mr. Terrific – who’s just a really cool character – and then we have new character, Phantom Girl, who’s mysteriously connected to the Phantom Girl from the Legion [of Super-Heroes] but I don’t want to spoil the connection yet. It’s those four characters bonded together by things that occur in the first issue and we go from there and just have big fun adventures full of heart. Tom Strong is going to be in the book which is really cool because that was one of the touchstones I was looking at when we came up with the idea. Tom and his family will guest appear in one big arc. What else? I don’t know if there anything else I can tease about that book.
Ivan Reis is drawing the first arc and then Doc Shaner is drawing the second arc. And they’re going to rotate from there. You get these two different feels, both of which capture different sides of what we’re doing. It’s real fun.
“Inferior Five” is like a passion project for Dan DiDio, me, and Keith Giffen. There’s a meta level to this book for me where Keith is one of my heroes. I grew up in the 80s, and Keith was the main man at DC then. I was obsessed with everything he was doing as a kid. His “Justice League” run, his “Legion” stuff, “Ambush Bug,” “Lobo,” everything, these were my bibles as a kid. I would sit and copy Keith’s drawings and stuff. The chance for me now to write for Keith to draw is so cool; it’s awesome. And the weird meta thing is that the concept of the book is these five kids in small town in the DC universe of the 1980s. It’s like Twin Peaks or It or something but the backdrop, the world is the world of DC comics from 1987. Every comic that DC was publishing in 1987 is the backdrop of this world.Continued below
The ironic thing is I was the one reading those comics in 1987 and Keith was probably the one making most of them. And now we’re doing this weird project set in that universe. We’re doing a Marvel style where we just broke down a script yesterday. We’ll just be on the phone on just throw ideas around and won’t even write an outline. Keith, we just have a conversation and then Keith goes and draws the book and Keith tends to draw something totally different than everything we talked about anyway in a good way. And then it comes back to me and I have to try to make sense of it. It’s really fun. And then some of the added aspect of that is I’m finally to draw some stuff in the DC universe too because every issue will have a five page backup story that I’m writing and drawing that will feature weird characters from 1987 DC, primarily the Peacemaker. Those backup stories will eventually connect to our main “Inferior Five” story. It is a crazy book but it was a lot of fun and Keith’s art has never looked better. It’s really cool.
Is that ongoing or is that a miniseries?
JL: We’ll see. I don’t know what expectations anyone has for this book ’cause it’s so wild. Keith and I both said we’ll do it as long we’re having fun doing it and as long as it’s selling. I guess we’ll see what happens. I know we have a story planned that’s probably around 12 issues and if the book’s successful it can go longer. We’ll see how it goes.
And then the other book that I’m real excited about is I have another Image book launching in March with Andrea Sorrentino, who I did “Green Arrow” and “Old Man Logan” with. It’s a supernatural horror book called “Gideon Falls” that Andrea drawing right now. I’ve written the first arc. It’s going to be real crazy, a really fun book. That one’s in March too.
It’s a good time to be a fan of Jeff Lemire comics.
JL: I appreciate you saying that. Certainly I’m living my dream. Honestly I’m getting to do all of these crazy books with artists I love and do my own stuff too. I never dreamed this could happen. I just wake up every day so grateful to be able to do what I do. All these people supporting my work I have to thank for that. Thanks.