Two of the biggest names in modern comic books - Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire - are uniting for an unusual Image Comics project that combines comic book panels, prose with illustration, and an oversized magazine format.
A.D.: After Death is a new three-part, 80-pages-per-chapter, serialized story beginning in November, written by Snyder with fully-painted art by Lemire. The story is set in a future where a genetic cure for death has been discovered, but one of the men involved in is taken on what Image calls a "mind-bending journey" that bring him "face-to-face with his past and his own mortality."
If the critical and sales success of other recent Image work by the pair - each working separately on series like Wytches and Descender - is any indication, the release of A.D.: After Death should be quite the event as the two combine talents for the uniquely-formatted series. Their combined efforts were behind the crossover between stories in Animal Man and Swamp Thing when DC began its "New 52" initiative, and the two have a well-publicized friendship.
Lemire talked with Newsarama to find out more about the series, why Snyder's returning to prose (having begun his writing career as a novelist), and why this project gives Lemire freedom as an artist as well.
Newsarama: Jeff, three chapters, 80 pages each, in an oversized magazine format. Before we get to the story, why did you guys choose this format?
Jeff Lemire: It wasn't something we envisioned from the start. It really evolved with the project.
When we originally started working on A.D.: After Death, it was actually just a short story. But the intention was, like, a 20-30 page short story. It was much more of a streamlined, sci-fi, high-octane story. A little more genre.
I was just going to draw it and Scott was going to write it. And we were going to put it out as a 20-page one-shot as a fun side project.
But when we actually sat down and started working on the story, it took on a life of its own and grew in scope and ambition. And it became much bigger.
So we were thinking we'd do a 150-page graphic novel. One big book. That's kind of how we proceeded for the last year and a half or so.
And then about six months ago, we got deeper into it, and it just became obvious that the story had these three natural break points.
There's three arcs, or chapters. And we realized, well, why don't we serialize them and put them out in three sections?
The new structure that gave us really helped us solve some of the story problems we were encountering. So it just clicked together.
Nrama: Scott is returning to prose for this story as well, as it combines comic books and prose. Was that something he wanted to do?
Lemire: That was just, again, a story thing. The sci-fi fit well with comics, but we were looking to dig a bit deeper with this project to get a bit more personal. And yeah, that was mostly Scott, because he was really the one driving the story and the themes and stuff.
Like you said, he comes from a background of prose. And so it just seemed like a great opportunity for us both to do everything that we love to do - incorporate the best of what we do into one project.
So for Scott, that meant prose. And for me, it meant finding a way to visually making the prose sections match to the comics section, making it cohesive and all part of one world.
Nrama: They're oversized too, right? Is that to showcase your art on this project?
Lemire: Yeah, we're going to print them sort of magazine size, tabloid size. That came about because Image previewed a few pages in their Image Plus magazine. And when I saw them printed that size, oversized, I fell in love with seeing them like that.
So I asked if we could do it like that.
One thing just came after another to get it to the current iteration.
Nrama: Let's talk about the world of A.D.: After Death. The world has conquered death, right? Is that the problem? Being immortal?
Lemire: It's set in a future where there's been a genetic cure for death. We follow a number of people who have been alive for 800 years now in this isolated community, and they won't ever die.
And our story focuses on a man named John Cook. I don't want to spoil anything, but there's a lot of mystery around John and the role he played in creating this future.
He's obviously very torn by living eternally and living in this future world. And also, he's trying to hold onto his sense of self and his past.
That's where the conflict starts to arise.
Nrama: You're drawing the story for Scott's scripts and prose, but as a writer yourself, did you guys come up with story together?
Lemire: No, the story itself is pretty much - Scott's the writer of the book. I kind of acted as his sounding board. He would run stuff by me, particularly when he'd run into something that he couldn't figure out. We would brainstorm it together. But for the most part, Scott's definitely the writer of the book.
So I got to focus, for the first time, really, in my career, on drawing, and on the visual aspects. I've only ever drawn stuff that I'm also writing. So I've never really had the chance to just sort of focus completely on the visuals. That was really interesting and freeing for me.