From “Essex County” to “Animal Man” and beyond, writer and artist Jeff Lemire came to Comic-Con International in San Diego this past Sunday with plenty to talk about. Luckily, he was given a platform with a DC Comics Focus panel.
While the panel was intended to focus primarily on Lemire’s DC/Vertigo work, the beginning offered a chance for him to discuss his Top Shelf graphic novel “Essex County.” For fans of the heart-wrenching, interlocking story of family love and loss (originally published in three installments), there was some great news: This year, “Essex County” was chosen as one of the top five books for the 10th anniversary of Canada Reads, a program created by the Canadian Broadcast Company to highlight the best work by Canadian authors, and Lemire announced that the graphic novel has been optioned for a feature length film to be directed by famed visual effects designer John Dykstra.
Lemire was quick to point out that there would likely be some liberties taken, but said, “If they can keep the heart there, it should be interesting. (“Essex County” will be Dykstra’s directorial debut.) Lemire went on to discuss his popular Vertigo title, “Sweet Tooth.” It seems that Lemire never thought that the story of human/animal hybrid Gus would make it past its first nine issues. The popularity of the book has allowed Lemire to expand the comic’s universe to the point where instead of being a quick short tale about a post-apocalyptic world, “It’s become a book about family.
“A monthly book can be kind of grueling,” Lemire went on. With a rather insane schedule he must keep to juggle his duties on “Sweet Tooth,” the creator has enlisted a bit of help. After each major arc, a guest artist will take over for Lemire on the visual side. The first artist up will be fellow Top Shelf creator Matt Kindt (“Super Spy”). Following Kindt’s run and the next arc, Lemire will switch art duties with “American Vampire” artist Rafael Albuquerque for a single issue.
Lemire will also add two new books to his already heavy workload — with the relaunch of the DC Universe, he’ll write both “Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown” and “Animal Man.” Lemire has a bit of a new take on the Frankenstein mythos and plans for the book to be completely “over the top.” He said that he is interested in the fact that the monster is made up of many different people’s body parts and wants to focus on how those different people’s parts create the whole being of Frankenstein’s monster. The series will have one-off stories between each main arc that focus on different time periods, the first of which takes place in Vietnam in 1969. Lemire will be joined on “Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown” by artist Alberto Ponticelli.
As for Lemire’s work on “Animal Man,” he described the book as being “very much horror.” “Animal Man” launches this September with art by Travel Foreman. Lemire was excited to get a chance to work in the DC Universe proper, beaming, “I have a lot of history with these characters.”
Lemire finished off his panel with a quick trivia for prizes in which two fans walked away with “Sweet Tooth” art prints, and one truly luck fan received a piece of original artwork by naming the next graphic novel Lemire will be releasing through Top Shelf. The title that won that fan a piece of Lemire’s art was “Underwater Welder.” Remember what we said earlier about this guy’s heavy workload?