After pulling moderator duties for Scott Snyder’s spotlight panel, the tables were turned on Jeff Lemire when Snyder put the spotlight on the Canadian writer-artist to talk about his comics career. The two DC Comics creators later brought out Matt Kindt, writer of “Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.”, to talk about the upcoming “Rotworld” storyline and field fan questions.
When asked how he broke into comics, Lemire admitted he had never considered it a real career growing up.
“It was up there with playing professional hockey — it was impossible,” he said. But Lemire talked about being in film school and becoming drawn to comics because they let him tell the story exactly the way he wanted to without anyone else getting in the mix. He then committed himself to drawing three hours a day after school — “and I was terrible,” said Lemire, who said he just kept pushing himself, self-publishing a few little things before pitching “Essex County” to Top Shelf.
“And things just kind of took off from there,” said Lemire.
Snyder asked Lemire where the ideas for his Vertigo series “Sweet Tooth” came from, saying the post-apocalyptic book feels deeply personal with the amount of heart in it, as well as the way it deals with growing up and longing for home.
“I don’t know, I just draw some stuff in my sketchbook and for some reason just kept drawing a kid with antlers,” said Lemire, who said he was offered the chance to pitch Vertigo and decided to do the craziest thing he could. “Sweet Tooth” was the result.
“It was literally the same day I was writing the pitch that — this is kind of personal — my wife and I were trying to have a baby at the time, and I was writing the pitch, and I used to work in a basement, and she took the pregnancy test in the washroom right beside me,” Lemire said, recalling when he found out his wife was pregnant, adding that one of the baby names the two mentioned was Gus, which he passed along for the antlered-hero of the book.
Lemire also talked about the upcoming conclusion of “Sweet Tooth,” saying he’s excited to build up to the payoff he originally envisioned for the series. “I might be sad when it’s done. But for now, I can’t wait to get there,” he added.
Talked turned to Lemire’s newest book, “The Underwater Welder,” which Snyder told the crowd is “literally the best comic you will read all year long. It’s incredibly moving, imaginative and fresh.” Lemire said the book started with a sketch of the main character of the book before he even knew what the story was, not unlike the origin of “Sweet Tooth.”
Lemire also talked about drawing Batman for the Damon Lindelof-written short story “The Butler Did It” that was released digitally last month as part of DC’s “Legends of the Dark Knight.” Lemire said because there are so many interpretations of the character, he wasn’t sure how his Batman should look. He had Jock’s design in mind, but said he just ended up with him looking like a “Sweet Tooth” character.
The latest New 52 project for Lemire is taking over the writing duties on “Justice League Dark,” saying that Vertigo books like “Swamp Thing” and “Kid Eternity” were what kept him in comics, and that the book allows him to play with all of them as superheroes. He said he was bummed to leave his writing duties on “Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.”, but is excited about future plans to bring the character into the “Justice League Dark” fold, along with Tim Hunter from “The Books of Magic.”
“It’s like all the Vertigo stuff I love in one book,” he explained before talking about a new villain he’s created who will be a Moriarty to Constantine’s Sherlock. His origin will be in September’s “Justice League Dark” #0.
Matt Kindt then joined the panel to talk about the “Rotworld” storyline that runs through upcoming issues of Lemire’s “Animal Man”, Snyder’s “Swamp Thing” and Kindt’s “Frankenstein” book.
“Rotworld” is going to be a nightmarish look at the DCU,” said Snyder, who put up a slide, featuring a rotten, decayed version of Hawkman, as well as a dead Flash, that the crowd applauded.
Lemire added that the only characters, heroes and villains left “un-rotten” are the ones that can tap into the Red or Green, adding that B- and C-listers like Poison Ivy and Beast Boy will be stepping up to take on the rotten versions of A-listers. The story will follow Buddy Baker from “Animal Man” and Alec Holland from “Swamp Thing” as they try and make their way through the future world.
“Imagine a world where if you don’t have a connection to the Red of the Green, you’re basically going to get turned into a rot monster or die, right?”
“Unless you’re Constantine,” said Lemire. “Somehow he survives.”
They also said to expect to see Gotham and Metropolis in the expansive apocalypse and talked about how Frankenstein will have a unique role in the storyline, teasing that something happens in both “Animal Man” and “Swamp Thing” #12 that will alter the world dramatically and set the stage for a unique story to be told in “Frankenstein.”
“For me, part of the fun is to imagine what would happen if the DCU was transformed in this horrifying way,” said Snyder. “It is this horrifying, nightmarish, rotten version of the DCU.”
The fan questions came fast and loose after that, with someone asking the creators if there were other DC characters they’d like to write. Snyder talked about writing to Brian Azzarello, asking how long he was planning on staying on “Wonder Woman” because he would be interested in taking the character on.
“The girl is mine. Go sniff around another tree,” said Snyder doing his best Azzarello impression, noting that Azzarello will be writing the character for a long time.
Snyder talked about Arcane and his role as the avatar to the Rot, and Lemire mentioned that Animal Man will have a throw-down with the character in the next issue of his series.
“One of the fun things about dealing with Arcane is that even though he’s this great villain in “Swamp Thing”, his history hasn’t been explored,” explained Snyder. “Like the first time you see him, he’s an old man in that weird Transylvania castle — so who is he then, if the Rot loves him so much? Who has he been that he gets to be the avatar?”
Lemire was asked about his next Vertigo series that will launch after “Sweet Tooth” ends, and he joked the series would be called “Meat Tooth”, about a little girl with elk antlers. He did say that the new series — which, like “Sweet Tooth,” he will both write and draw — would launch in 2012 and feature new themes and ideas he hasn’t explored.
When asked how about their writing process, Snyder talked about how he breaks down a storyline, focusing on the character first. “For ‘The Court of Owls,’ Batman is being humbled by Gotham to learn that there are some mysteries he cannot solve,” the writer said.
The two also talked about how important it is to have the emotional aspects of a character controlling story direction — a thing both writers find extremely important. Snyder had some advice for aspiring comic book writers, too.
“Comics are tough because corporate entities own these characters, and sometimes you will get notes that you don’t agree with and the only way to survive — and to tell the story you love, is to have an incredibly clear compass of what you think it’s about for that character on an emotional level.
“So that when they say to you, ‘Guess what, in issue #13 you have to have Doomsday — or you’re losing your back-ups, or you can’t use this character — you have to be able to be like, ‘I know what this story is about emotionally for Dick Grayson or Bruce,'” Snyder continued. “You have to know what the story is about for your character, and be flexible with the plot.”
Snyder ended the panel by talking about the difference between writing literature and comics, saying, “It’s wonderful to be able to create things with your friends. I can’t believe I get paid to do it.”
Stay tuned to CBR News for more info on Jeff Lemire’s upcoming projects and news from Comic-Con International 2012.