Comics

Balancing Personal Vision and Superheroes: An Interview with Jeff Lemire

Michael D. Stewart
Banner Art from Animal Man #1. Interior art from Superboy #2, Animal Man #2 and Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1.

As a writer-artist and a writer, Jeff Lemire has a tough balancing act ahead of him. In a PopMatters exclusive, Michael D. Stewart raps with Lemire at the historic New York Comic Con.

When it comes to Animal Man, writer Jeff Lemire has a tough balancing act ahead of him. Both in terms of the character and Lemire’s own shift from writer-artist to just writer. Animal Man, especially during his recent Vertigo years, has been about the balance between superheroics, family and strange dark elements. Lemire’s current work sees him writing and writing-drawing several series at once.

“It’s really two different parts of my brain – writing and drawing – so it’s somewhat easy to shift between the two,” he said between signing at this past New York Comic Con. “90 percent of my time is spent drawing because it takes so much physical time to do, but I’m always thinking and writing as I’m drawing.”

He’s done the writing-drawing thing on such wonderful books as the epic Essex County, the mysterious The Nobody and the ongoing post-apocalyptic Sweet Tooth. These have all been intimate stories, firmly planted in his indie comic roots. The transition from that style to the larger scope of superhero or near-superhero comics can be tough.

“I think the important thing is to stay yourself,” Lemire said. “Keep that small, quiet voice and then apply it. The good thing about these iconic characters is that they’re like ciphers and symbols. The most successful superhero stories are when someone brings a personal vision to them.”

He gave a glimpse of what he was talking about in his short Superboy run prior to the launch of the New 52. Conner Kent on the farm in Smallville became more akin to Lester Papineau, the boy who dreamed of superheroes on the farm in Essex County. “You do you’re thing, but with superheroes,” added Lemire.

His plans for Animal Man, as revealed thus far in issues one and two, takes a dramatically different turn than his previous DC work, but not Animal Man’s recent runs. “My take on the character is, to Buddy Baker [Animal Man], his family always comes first,” he said. “There are really dark things trying to tear them apart. We’re going to see how far they can stretch before they break, and if they don’t break, they’re going to have to evolve into something new as a family to survive.”

There is a larger, ethereal connection between his Animal Man and his earlier work, in so far as the intimacy he achieved in books like Essex County and even Sweet Tooth, lends itself easily to the dynamic between Buddy Baker and his family. The bond between characters is strong, and in these early issues Lemire has stressed that as well as the dark and otherworldly, creating the balance he knows all too well.

“I’m excited that DC is letting me bring a really dark vision to this book [Animal Man], even though it’s a DC book” Lemire confesses. “And I’m getting away with a lot of crazy stuff.”

That excitement comes through on the pages. And while the journey of Buddy Baker from DC superhero, to Vertigo near superhero, back to DC but not a really a superhero, has not been arduous – readers quickly embraced the title, sending it into a third printing – the care and craftsmanship Lemire has shown has been nothing short of reverential…or as reverential as you can get in the New 52.

But as Lemire said, it’s about personal vision. That’s one of the bullet points for the New 52. As far as talent goes, DC’s employ of Lemire crosses that point off the long list.

Animal Man #4 is out shortly.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta


Keep reading... Show less
Film

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

The Force, which details the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts, is best viewed as a complimentary work to prior Black Lives Matter documentaries, such 2017's Whose Streets? and The Blood Is at the Doorstep.

Peter Nicks' documentary The Force examines the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts to curb its history of excessive police force and systemic civil rights violations, which have warranted federal government oversight of the Department since 2003. Although it has its imperfections, The Force stands out for its uniquely equitable treatment of law enforcement as a complex organism necessitating difficult incremental changes.

Keep reading... Show less
6

Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.

"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image