While Jeff Lemire has recently been making waves with the announcements of his upcoming The Black Hammer at Dark Horse and Descender at Image, his DC work continues to be amongst the premiere offerings of the publisher. I had a chance to sit down with Lemire to discuss what’s coming from him in The New 52.
Kyle: Congratulations on another well-deserved Eisner nomination for Trillium. It’s kind of funny to think about this – Trillium is sort of an opening shot in this line up of sci-fi titles that have started to release from other creators. Where do you see Trillium sitting in this “new sci-fi revolution” we’re seeing in comics?
Jeff: Yeah, well I think Saga was the first shot. It was so inspiring to see a sci-fi book do so well. I think every nerd has a sci-fi story they want to tell eventually, and this is the time. Where does Trillium sit? I don’t know – it just came out so you kind of have to look back in maybe 5 years from now to see where it stands and if people are still talking about it. I tried to experiment a lot and tried to tell an emotionally affecting story set in a big, cosmic setting. It’s hard to analyze your own work when it’s so fresh still.
Kyle: And I know you have a special attachment to the stuff you draw yourself. Do you have plans to do more of that soon?
Jeff: Yeah, I’m working on a graphic novel right now for Simon & Schuster that I’m drawing that’ll come out next fall. Then I’ll probably do another ongoing monthly thing that I’ll draw after that.
Kyle: Justice League United is one of my favorite titles coming out of DC right now. It’s very exciting and a lot of fun, the origins of that title though – it changed at one point from Justice League Canada when it was announced initially to Justice League United. Is there a background story as to why that changed?
Jeff: No, it’s pretty simple. I was really just taking over Justice League America and I wanted to move the team to Canada, which they were totally cool with, so we changed the title to Canada and then as we got closer to publication, I think they realized having Canada in the title might be a little bit too specific for international readers and American readers. So it just made sense. We want to get as many people reading the book as we can, and it didn’t affect the content of the story at all, so it was cool with me. No drama.
Kyle: The tone of Justice League United is very DC animated universe-esque. Was there an outward attempt to aim for a more fun tone?
Jeff: Yeah, very much. I feel like there are so many super hero comics that are very serious and take themselves very seriously. Green Arrow, for example, is very much that, I write some of that stuff too. But I think there needs to be more balance, and I think sometimes we forget that these are super hero comics. They should be fun, and the characters should be having fun. And I really tried to bring that back. A lot of the stuff that I read when I was younger, that I gravitated towards, had a sense of humor to it, and a sense of fun and wonder.
Kyle: It’s kind of opening up a lot of the cosmic stuff of the New 52 as well. Was that one of your long term goals with the series?
Jeff: Absolutely, yeah, that’s some of my favorite stuff in DC history is all the cosmic stuff. It was one big corner of the universe that hadn’t really been exploited too much aside from the Green Lantern titles, you know, so I felt there was a lot of potential there. I’m really getting into Raan and Thanagar and the politics there and seeing other alien races and the Legion of Super Heroes coming, which blows everything wide open.
Kyle: So what can you tell us about the Infinitus Saga?
Jeff: Ultra the Multi-alien, the child that they found in the first arc was a big part of that moving forward, and what Ultra is destined to become is something that has a huge impact in the 31st century. So we see a few Legionnaires come back to deal with Ultra, and that kind of spirals from there into a massive cosmic saga. I grew up reading Legion and the great darkness saga so this is my attempt to throw down the gauntlet and do one of those big sprawling space opera stories with like 40 super heroes running around the galaxy. It’s been a blast.
Kyle: Can we expect to see your Legion further beyond this story, possibly?
Jeff: I don’t know. I would love to. That’s definitely a property I have a lot of ideas and opinions on. I think there’s a lot of untapped potential right now. So that would be something I would definitely be interested in. Who knows?
Kyle: I hope so. Do you have a favorite Legionnaire, Jeff?
Jeff: I do. And it’s Ultraboy. Or Brainiac 5. Or Mon-El. Those 3.
Kyle: You get one choice sir!
Jeff: I always dug him (Ultra Boy) more as a kid, I love that idea that he was as powerful as Superman but he could only use one at a time, that’s so fun. It kind of limits him. Superman can be too powerful sometimes to write plausible threats for him, whereas Ultra Boy had that power but it was limited in a really fun and interesting way. He was very charismatic as well.
Kyle: The storytelling potential of that is pretty strong. I always liked the fact that his powers comes via a whale, being named Jo Nah.
Jeff: Those costumes are so cool, and for some reason his costume always got me. I just liked drawing it as a kid.
Kyle: So we can expect some good Ultra Boy scenes perhaps?
Jeff: Yeah I haven’t really had a really good one yet. I’m on the fourth script of a six issue story so I’ve got to really find a good moment. You’ve got to find one moment for everyone, because there’s so many of them. I’ll find his.
Kyle: And that’s going to run through the next, what, 5 issues of JLU?
Jeff: Yeah, it starts in the Annual. Then it goes for 5 issues after that. So 6 issues total.
Kyle: Is Mike McKone going to be penciling?
Jeff: No, Mike’s done on Justice League United. He’s moved on. Mike, he’s awesome to work with, I love him, but he always knew he was only going to do the first arc because I think he has some other projects he wanted to get done. So we’re bringing in an artist named Neil Edwards from the U.K. I think Neil worked with the same studio as Bryan Hitch, so they have a common thread in their style, and he’s great. He’s been great so far.
Kyle: Equinox is going to have her profile increase over the next few issues as well. Are you excited to have your own character that you created taking the forefront of the story?
Jeff: Very much so, there are a couple of cool things; like the Futures End issues where we jump 5 years into the future. I got to play with her and where she is 5 years from now, so she’s much more confident and much more entrenched in the larger DC universe, playing a bigger role, so that was fun. And in the Legion story, she’s someone who’s lived in a small isolated community, and all of a sudden she’s in space with 40 other alien super heroes, and her reaction to that is a lot of fun to play with, and her being an aboriginal woman and meeting Dawnstar who is an aboriginal woman from the future, and learning that she’s a huge inspiration for the next thousand years, is this really great moment that I’m really proud of.
Kyle: have you heard much from the basis of the character, Shannen Koostachin’s family?
Jeff: Yeah, it was kind of misreported. The character wasn’t really based on Shannen. Shannen – that story is very inspiring – she was a young activist who was killed, and I wouldn’t presume to try to tell her story in a super hero that without her family’s blessing or anything. The idea of creating a teenage character who was based in the same area, she is certainly one of the inspirations for her, but the character wasn’t really based on her.
Kyle: It’s good to have that clarification! So, with the little bit of time we have left I’d like to talk to you about Green Arrow. It’s a fabulous run, probably one of my favorite DC comics coming out right behind JLU, it’s coming to an end sadly. Was it always planned it would end at issue 35?
Jeff: No, I didn’t really know when it would end whe? I started it. I knew there was the big Outsiders story I wanted to tell and the Richard Dragon story, so I just kind of let it happen at its own pace. There were a couple of things that Andrea (Sorrentino) wanted to tackle project-wise and I think he was really a collaborator in every sense on this book, a real co-story teller, and I didn’t want to do the book without him. I feel like we had created something special together. I know he was anxious after 20 issues to move onto something else, move on to a new character and keep things fresh for him, so I knew that was coming. And the Futures End thing provided us with a unique opportunity to literally tell the end of Green Arrow’s story. Because he dies in Futures End, I could literally tell the story from my last issue to his death, the last 5 years of his life, and finish his story essentially. So that’s kind of a unique thing, because usually you just pass the character on so they can tell the rest of his life in one big issue.
Kyle: You are actually going to be able to hang on to Green Arrow and Animal Man and JLU, and you’ve got Frankenstein in Futures End. Isn’t it funny that you seem to have the same characters following you throughout the New 52?
Jeff: You fall in love with them, you invest in them, and you put a lot of yourself into them. You spend months and months and sometimes years writing the characters and it’s hard to let them go, you know? So whenever you can keep them and keep evolving them as characters, I always grab those opportunities.