Spoiler alert: Plutona — the superhero at the center of the upcoming comic of the same name — dies in the first issue. Actually, that’s not quite true. In fact, she’s already dead when five kids find her in the woods on the final page of “Plutona” #1, slated for release on September 2.
Truthfully, we aren’t spoiling anything since series co-creator and writer Jeff Lemire says that knowing what happened to the titular heroine is what the comic’s story hinges upon. The five-issue miniseries, co-created and illustrated by Emi Lenox (“EmiTown”) and colored by Jordie Bellaire, follows the five school-age children that find Plutona and how the death of a superhero affects all of their lives.
Lemire also shared exclusively with CBR News that he will be writing and illustrating backup stories for each issue that will tell, in his trademark style, Plutona’s last adventure.
CBR News: The final page of the first issue is literally the kids finding Plutona lying, presumably dead, on the ground. You mentioned that the details of her death aren’t central to the story, but are you worried at all that the proverbial cat is already out of the bag?
Jeff Lemire: There wasn’t much sense hiding that page because the whole concept of the book hinges on that event. Like I said, it’s not so much the discovery of that body but it’s about what happens after that. We weren’t really shy about getting that image out there.
What isn’t out there yet is news that you’re writing and drawing a backup feature for “Plutona” that you’ve described to me as Plutona’s last adventure.
That’s right. The idea came out of our initial conversations when Emi and I were just sitting down and developing the story and getting excited about where it was going. Just out of the spirit of collaboration, we thought it would be fun for me to draw a little bit of it at some point whether that be a variant cover or something else. The initial idea that I had was, “What if I did a backup strip?” It was initially just going to be a one-page thing inside the back cover or something. I wanted it to be like a Silver Age/retro adventure of Plutona where you get to see her being a superhero. And then more recently as I sat down to do it, it expanded a bit more. Now they’ll be two or three pages each. I found a balance between doing a Silver Age/retro story and something a little bit more modern. It’s not just a goofy one-off adventure of Plutona. We’re actually seeing a bit of her personal life. It’s the other side of the coin. In the main story, we get to see the kids and we get to learn more about them and see how the discovery of Plutona affects them and their lives. In the backup strip, we get to see more of Plutona as a person and who she was. And, without spoiling too much, what she left behind too. It’s been fun to take a little bit of a bigger role in the art.
Does Plutona’s last adventure tie directly into the start of the series?
Yes, that’s the obvious intention. In “Plutona” #5, at the end of the story, things will circle back together to create a perfect synergy where the end of my story meets up with the first issue of “Plutona.” That mystery of what happened to her will be revealed in the backup strip.
If the first story of “Plutona” wraps after five issues, do you have plans for a second arc?
Not at this point. Right now, it’s a five-issue story and it’s a complete story. But it does seem like we’ve created a bit of a world here so I wouldn’t be surprised that if the book is successful that we come back to it at some point. Maybe a story set down the road where the kids are older. It’s hard to discuss that right now without spoiling the end, but we’ll see. And if not on “Plutona,” I think it’s completely possible that Emi and I will continue working together on something else if not another Plutona-based story.
You’ve been writing superhero comic books for five years, first at DC and now at Marvel. And your love of Silver Age DC Comics is well documented. Are there female superheroes from comics, novels, TV or movies that have influenced Plutona? So much has been made of the “alpha female” since the performance of Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in “Mad Max: Fury Road”?
Purely from a visual point of view, in terms of her costume and stuff, Emi had a few ideas of her own that were predominantly a lot more alien-looking. But we moved away from that and we made her more relatable and human. In terms of the costume, I wanted something that felt kind of classic and Silver Age-inspired so I showed Emi a lot of the Dave Cockrum Legion of Super-Heroes outfits, which I guess aren’t Silver Age but are more 70s but they had that goofy, colorful look that I thought would be a good jumping-on point. And then Emi did her own thing with it.
In terms of the character herself, we obviously don’t learn much about her in the main story because she’s not an active part of it. We learn more about the kids in terms of what she brings out of each of them. But in the backup story, I wanted to create a really modern take on a classic Silver Age superhero like I said. You have that goofy, retro look to it but the character herself is a very modern woman and not, portrayed in any stereotypical or old-fashioned way at all.
You’re establishing an interesting dynamic with the kids in the book that feels very much like a cross between “The Goonies” and “Breakfast Club.” Are those Stephen Spielberg/John Hughes movies of the 1980s a major influence on this series or your personal narrative in general?Jeff Lemire: I wouldn’t say that they’ve been a big influence on anything else that I’ve done, but “Plutona” is really different from anything that I’ve ever done. I think a lot of that comes from the notion that the original concept and the characters originated with Emi and not me. It’s kind of refreshing to have the initial seed of the idea be somebody else’s so you can go in new directions and try new things that aren’t me rehashing my old stuff over and over again. I think the movies that we looked at more than John Hughes’ stuff would have been “Stand By Me” and a movie called “Mean Creek” by Jacob Aaron Estes.
The first kid we meet is Teddy, who has an implied proclivity for “tugging” but he’s also a capespotter, meaning like a weather spotter, he tracks various superhero sightings in his logs. In his notes in the first issue, we see the names of other superheroes inhabiting this world like C.O.M.B.A.T. and Swat-Dog and Dr. Bion and Silhouette. Will we see some of these other superheroes in “Plutona”?
I don’t want to spoil that [Laughs] but I did develop five or six different superheroes that we came up with that are an active part of Plutona’s world. And yes, we mentioned a few of them in the first issue. There is this bigger world outside of this really small suburb where the kids live. Through the trees and over the trees, you see the big city and it’s alluded to that there is an active superhero and supervillain community there. And that’s all a part of daily life for these kids. They see them on the news and online. Just like spotting celebrities or anything else in our world.
You mentioned that this story is different than other stories that you’ve done in the past but there is one kid named Ray that has a black eye that I am guessing he didn’t get from a ninth grader. Will you be exploring the individual lives of these characters and in particular, Ray’s relationship with his father?
Yes, we introduced all of the kids in the first issue and over the course of the next four issues, we get to see more and more of their personal lives, and how this discovery that they’ve made changes things for them both personally and as a group of friends. We’re going to see more of Ray’s relationship with his dad and more of Teddy’s relationship with his parents and so on.
Is Ray named for your pal Ray Fawkes?
Yes, all of the characters have a loose tie to us. Emi’s mom’s name is Mie, which is the character that looks a lot like Emi. [Laughs] And I believe her brother’s name is Mikey. Or maybe it’s her uncle. And Ray is Ray Fawkes. And Teddy is my dad’s name. We have loose alter egos in the story — all three of us.
You are definitely teasing that like Superman, Plutona’s powers may be from another world. Does she have a secret origin like the Man of Steel or are her secrets darker?
We’re going to see some of that in the backup strips but it would be foolish for me to spoil any of that here. We definitely get to see some of her personal life. She becomes a three-dimensional character in the backup strip. But I don’t want to spoil anymore about that.
Emi couldn’t join us today but for a long time, you wrote and drew all of your own projects. Over the past couple of years, you have been producing more projects done in collaboration with some really unique artists. What does Emi bring to a project?
More than anything else, when you are lucky like I am and you get to pick and choose your own projects, it’s really important to have fun and you really want to work with your friends. And Emi is one of my best friends in the industry for sure. We go back a few years now, to when she was interning at Top Shelf and I was doing “Essex County.” We became friends and we started hanging out at conventions. It’s fun to hang out with her and that’s the whole way that this book came about. We were hanging out at San Diego a couple of years ago and she had this basic idea for a story about a group of kids finding a superhero’s body in the woods. From there, it was just us chatting over coffee and coming up with the story.
On a creative level and an artistic level, I think she brings a style that isn’t your traditional superhero comic book style. It’s a much more cartoon-y and much more lively style. And I think it’s perfect for a story like this that’s taking an alternative look at the superhero genre. Plus, she gives the kids a lot of life and a lot of personality that maybe they wouldn’t have got if maybe they were drawn in a really rigid, slick, mainstream superhero style.
She has a style that’s closer to animation in terms of style versus what you think of when you think of traditional superhero comics that feature an over-rendered style. It’s more universal in its appeal. This is a superhero comic for people that don’t really like superhero comics. [Laughs] And I think her art is good entry-point for readers. It’s not what you expect and it will probably draw a different audience to the book. And I should mention Jordie Bellaire, too. She brings a big amount of mood and styling to the book. Jordie and Emi is a really great combo.
Final question, you’ve obviously enjoyed tremendous success at Vertigo over the years with projects like “Sweet Tooth” and “Trillium.” You released “Descender” through Image and your back again for “Plutona.” You also have “A.D.” coming later this year with Scott Snyder. Why is Image a good fit for the types of stories that you want to explore at this stage in your career?
Image has been fantastic. It’s been everything that you would expect that it would be. You have just complete and total freedom and support to do the type of book that you want to do — no matter what kind of book that is. [Image Comics Publisher] Eric [Stephenson] and the whole team are just there to support you. They have the infrastructure in place to help you get the book out but really it’s on you to do what you want and to succeed or fail based on your own ideas and your own execution of those ideas. And at this time, that’s what I want for my creator-owned stuff — just complete freedom. It’s great and obviously, everything that they’re publishing right now is so good and that brings extra attention to all of the books. People are much more willing to check out the first issue of an Image book than they are from other publishers.
“Plutona” #1, by Jeff Lemire, Emi Lenox and Jordie Bellaire, is slated for release on September 2.
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