Multiple Eisner Award nominee Jeff Lemire takes his indie-infused superhero-style to Seattle as the new writer of “Green Arrow.” DC Comics announced earlier this week that Lemire, who is currently writing “Animal Man” and “Justice League Dark” for the publisher, will be joined by “I, Vampire” artist Andrea Sorrentino as the new creative team on Oliver Queen’s solo series, beginning with February’s “Green Arrow” #17.
Lemire, who admits he never really connected with the Emerald Archer in the past, has developed a great appreciation for the character while writing him these last few months and reading some classic Green Arrow stories from the last 25 years, namely Mike Grell’s “Longbow Hunters” and Andy Diggle and Jock’s “Green Arrow: Year One.”
Created by Mort Weisinger and George Papp in 1941, Green Arrow has never quite reached A-list status, but his popularity is certainly on the rise. The “Arrow” television series, starring Stephen Amell, is an early-season hit for the CW, and the character is set to join Geoff Johns and
CBR News: We’ve talked countless time about your love for classic DCU, but I don’t recall you ever talking about Green Arrow. Are you a long-time fan of the Emerald Archer?
Jeff Lemire: I am a huge DC Comics’ fan and I love a lot of the characters, but Oliver Queen has never really been on my radar. I didn’t read much of his stuff in the past. For whatever reason, he never really resonated with me. When he was offered to me, I did a double take because my initial reaction was, “No interest.” But as soon as I started thinking what I could actually do with it, I became really interested.
I’ve been writing the book now since July, and I’ve really fallen in love with the character. I haven’t felt this good about a project since I started “Animal Man.” It feels very natural and the direction I have for the book has been embraced by editorial. I’m honestly really excited about it.
Oliver Queen is a different cat from the characters you usually write for DC Comics. He’s not a misfit, per se, like Buddy Baker, Frankenstein or even John Constantine.
He’s pretty grounded in a way that, like you say, is different from most of the stuff I’ve done for DC and Vertigo. I am usually working with horror or magic-based characters. But I think that was the point. I really wanted to do something different than what I’ve been doing. I really wanted to flex some different muscles. I’ve been doing books like “Animal Man” and “Sweet Tooth” and my big, fun team book with “Justice League Dark,” and I really wanted to do a book that was, for lack of a better term, a crime book. I really wanted to do a hard-hitting, thriller/action/crime book like the best Batman/Daredevil/Green Arrow books have been in the past. It was something I was interested in trying and I’m having a blast with it.
And getting Andrea Sorrentino on art was a real win for me, because I really wanted to make a really bold new take on the character, as well, give the book a really distinct look and separate it from the rest of the superhero comics that DC and Marvel are putting out. He’s certainly delivering on that.
In the announcement posted on The Source, you teased the series would feature a big, new mythology and new villains. We’ve just gone through the relaunch of the New 52 — is this another relaunch?
It really is a departure from what happened in the first 16 issues of the series. It keeps that same continuity — all those things happened and we’re not rebooting by any means, but it’s definitely a drastic change in direction and tone. Obviously, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t writing #17 as a new #1 in a lot of ways so new readers can jump on and get right into it, but at the same time, not throwing out what Ann [Nocenti] and J.T. [Krul] had done in the first 16 issues.
I really wanted to explore Oliver’s past and build this new mythology around him and his… I’m going to spoil stuff, so I better be careful. But it’s going to be a really big, sprawling mythology that reaches into the history of Seattle and the history of the Queen family. Through that, we will see a series of new and old villains — some new ones that I’m creating and some old favorites that I want to bring back. Like I did when I got “Animal Man,” I went back and read as much “Green Arrow” stuff as I could, and Mike Grell’s stuff really stood out for me — tonally and just the way he approached the character. There is definitely some stuff from the Mike Grell run that I really want to mine and some of those characters will come back.
It’s the kind of work that if things go well, I could do for a long, long run. I have pretty big plans.
Can you talk about his supporting cast?
The supporting cast is obviously really important to Ollie, and I’m doing a mix of old and new. J.T. and Ann introduced Jax and Naomi, who are Green Arrow’s behind-the-scenes, war room staff, and one of those two characters will continue on during my run. [Laughs] Then I am introducing a new character. Not a sidekick, but a sort of right hand man for Ollie named Henry Fyff, who I love writing. He’s a really fun character. He helps lighten the mood and is a real foil for Ollie in a lot of ways. We’ll see them as a supporting cast. One key character from Mike Grell’s run that going to play a big part in the supporting cast, as well.
Is it Shado?
I don’t know. [Laughs] Maybe. [Laughs]
Your creator-owned work, “Essex County,” “Sweet Tooth” and “Underwater Welder,” as well as your DC work like “Animal Man,” has been dramatic and action-packed, but you’ve always left room for quieter moments and lighter ones, too. Is Ollie capable of those human beats?
To be totally frank, a lot of my stuff tends to deal with fathers and sons. Ollie, in a lot of ways, is perfect for me in that sense because his legacy and his relationship with his dad, who has passed away, is the heart of that character. It’s something I’m very familiar with. In a lot of ways, it’s what “Underwater Welder” was about and what “Sweet Tooth” is about — father and sons and the relationships between them.
My take on Oliver Queen is that the burden his father has passed on, not just the company, the physical and literal burden, but the burden of his legacy, defines him. Ollie is someone that exudes confidence and arrogance but it’s always just to cover-up self-doubt. His feeling of self worth is really what he’s about; that’s the emotional hook and the emotional core of the book that I’ll be mining. Then I’ll build this whole mythology around that, expanding upon his relationship with his father.
There’s going to be some romance, too. You mentioned a character, Shado, and yes, she’s coming back. There is going to be some romance with Ollie and Shado and a new character, as well — sort of a love triangle. I think there will be lots of opportunity to do some strong, emotional content, balanced with some pretty fast-paced action.
The CW is having success with its new TV series, “Arrow.” Does a successful TV series help or hinder what you’re trying to accomplish with Green Arrow?
It can only help. There are just more and more people that know the character so that can’t hurt the book. Like you said, the series has been quite successful so it’s a win all around. But I’m certainly not lock and step with the series. I don’t have to follow characterizations or storylines that they’re doing. We’re free to do our own thing, but in general, having seen the first couple of episodes of the series and knowing what I have planned, my take on Green Arrow will probably be pretty accessible for the people enjoying the show. It’s much more grounded in reality. Like I said, I am approaching it more like a crime book than a superhero book. I think it will be more accessible to readers that aren’t traditionally superhero book readers. I think that will help.
There were some hot rumors on some of the websites and forums that you were leaving “Justice League Dark” in favor of this project but you are staying with both series, as well as “Animal Man,” right?
I’ll be honest, when I first got “Green Arrow,” there was a little panic period where I had to really look at my schedule and see what I could realistically handle. I was definitely never going to leave “Animal Man,” so there was some thought that I would leave “Justice League Dark,” but things evened out and got pretty far ahead on everything again and I realized there was no need to panic. I have plenty of time to do both.
The great thing is that one of my best friends, Ray Fawkes, who is a really talented cartoonist and writer from Toronto, and he’s a huge fan of the DC mystical characters, as well, is coming on as my co-writer on “Justice League Dark,” beginning with #15. The two of us, hopefully, will be on that book long-term.
I really want to stay on “Animal Man,” “Justice League Dark” and “Green Arrow” for quite a while. And now that Frankenstein is in “Justice League Dark,” I get all my toys back, so I’m pretty happy with those three books and hoping for extended runs.
How much crossover will you have with Geoff Johns’ “Justice League of America” series since Green Arrow is a member of the team?
Geoff will do whatever I want him to do. [Laughs] That’s how I am approaching it. No, obviously Geoff and I have a really great relationship, and again, it’s another connection that really helps my book, making Green Arrow a part of that bigger world. Geoff is letting me do my own version of Ollie and making it work with what he wants to do. The important thing is that we are consistent with who that character is and what motivates him.
Green Arrow has enjoyed some great partnerships over the years, with Hawkman and Green Lantern among others. Any chance we’ll see explore you any super-sized team-ups in “Green Arrow?”
It’s interesting you say that. Geoff and I have talked about the possibility of doing a newer version of the Green Arrow/Green Lantern team-up with the new Green Lantern Baz. That would be fun. There is nothing concrete, but it would be fun!
“Green Arrow” #17, the first issue by writer Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino, is expected in February 2013.