When DC Comics relaunched it entire line last year, there were two new comics that emerged as surprise sales hits: Animal Man and Swamp Thing.
And while the company is planning several crossovers during the coming months, the team-up between Swamp Thing and Animal Man — titled "Deadworld" — is getting a ton of early buzz from fans, building anticipation for the story that starts this summer.
Last week, Newsarama had an in-depth interview with Swamp Thing writer Scott Snyder about what readers can expect as his series heads toward "Deadworld."
This week, we check in with Animal Man writer Jeff Lemire, as today's issue #7 begins a storyline called "Animal Vs. Man" and takes Buddy Baker and his family closer to their showdown with the Rot.
Newsarama: Jeff, this week begins a two-issue story called "Animal vs. Man." I know you've been building the showdown between the Red and the Rot, but what piece of that story does this two-issue arc tell? Jeff Lemire: Yeah, it's tough to break the series down into "arcs," because it really is one big story. But this "Animal vs. Man" story is going to be two issues where we realize how cut off Buddy Baker is from the rest of the DC heroes, in a way. You know?
He was definitely a superhero at one point, but we're going to really realize now that he's not a part of that community, that world. And when he needs help, he doesn't even know how to contact the Justice League or any of those guys. It would be like one of us wanting to call up a movie star or something. He doesn't even know where to start. So he's kind of on his own.
The story is about him and his family on the run, sort of like a road trip kind of thing where they're on the run across America. But the irony of it is the source of all his powers, animals, are what they're running from.
So this story takes everything he knows and everything his life was built around and turning it inside out on him. And things keep getting worse and worse for the family, and they're being stretched further and further as the story heads toward the climax with the Rot.
Nrama: I know you're also focusing on Cliff a little bit beginning in this arc. We've seen a lot of Maxine. Is your intention to give a little more attention to the Cliff-Buddy relationship?Lemire: Absolutely. I started to realize after the first four or five issues that Cliff was kind of getting the short end of the straw. And after that, I realized, well, that must be exactly how he would feel, you know? Maxine is so important to Buddy and she's got the powers, and they're on these adventures together and everything. And he's just a kid, so he's going to feel a lot of resentment, and he's going to be jealous.
So that seemed like a really good thing for me to play with and to explore. So in Animal Man #7, especially, we're going to see some really quality Cliff-Buddy, father-son time.
It seems like the story is built around Maxine, like all the stuff with the Rot, but Cliff is going to play a really important role in all of that, moving forward, in a way that people probably aren't expecting.Nrama: As we've seen what Buddy is going through, this feels very much like a fatherhood story as much as a superhero story. But as a mom myself, I really feel myself pulling for Ellen's side.Lemire: Yeah, I kind of do too. I always feel worse for Ellen. She's kind of helpless a lot of the time. At least Buddy can fly around and punch something. She's sort of stuck dealing with the aftermath all the time.Nrama: Will we see more of her point of view and her side?
Lemire: Oh, absolutely. I mean, to me, she's my favorite character of the whole book, really, to be honest with you.
Just like Cliff, and what I was just saying about him where the first few issues really seem like the Buddy and Maxine show, we're going to really now start to realize that Ellen and Cliff play a much bigger role in this whole thing with the Rot and the Red.
And it's going to really start to come out in the next three or four issues.Nrama: In May, with Animal Man #9, you've got some Justice League Dark guest stars, with John Constantine appearing. What brought that on? Were you already writing Justice League Dark when you decided to do that?Lemire: No, it was actually just a coincidence. I wanted to use those characters — I don't want to give away how they come into the story, but you'll see that it's really a natural point for Constantine to show up at one point.
And I came up with that part of the story well before I had any kind of knowledge that I'd be working on Justice League Dark. I wrote those issues well before all that. So it's a nice coincidence.
In fact, when I was writing those scenes in Animal Man, I was thinking, well, this is my one chance to write these characters. I didn't realize I'd have a lot more opportunity.
Nrama: You must have done well with them, if DC gave you the whole comic.Lemire: Yeah, I don't even think Matt Idelson, the editor of Justice League Dark, has even read those. So I don't think it factored into the decision.Nrama: It wasn't a test, huh?Lemire: No.Nrama: May also sees your first Animal Man Annual. What can we expect from that issue?Lemire: Oh, that was so much fun! I always loved annuals as a kid, so when they told me I got to do a 48-page story, I was thinking, wow, it's almost like a miniature graphic novel.
So there's this complete, huge story that I got to tell.
What I decided to do with this story is two things: expand upon the mythology of the regular series, with the Rot and the Red and stuff so it had relevance to what's going on with Buddy and stuff, but I also wanted it to be this big, self-contained story that people could just enjoy on its own.
There are a lot of fun things in that issue. We're going to see an earlier Animal Man and an earlier Swamp Thing together, fighting the Rot, in 18th Century America.
And Timothy Green II is a really, really cool artist. I've been looking forward to working with him so much.Nrama: Is he someone that you wanted to work with for awhile?Lemire: Definitely. When I first started working at DC, I made this little list — I think I still have the document somewhere — of some artists I'd like to work with one day, you know? And he was on that list! This was, like, three years ago.
So when we got him to do it, I was real excited. And his version of Swamp Thing is so cool. I can't wait for people to see it.Nrama: It's a comic creator's version of the bucket list.Lemire: Yeah! Pretty much.Nrama: The recent issue with Buddy's movie was a dark reflection of what's happening to him in the story, but so is the situation with his family. A lot of your stories seem to have a core set of relationships that reflect the more sci-fi elements that surround the characters. Lemire: Yeah, I tend to do that.Nrama: We've heard a lot about this crossover, and I know it's quite a ways off, but from what we've heard, Deadworld is a very nightmare-ish place. As Alec and Buddy are going through the "Deadworld" story, what can you tell us about what Buddy's family is going through then? Is it the same sort of reflection, with the family living a nightmare?Lemire: I can't say too much about it without spoiling things. But I will say that the crossover is not Buddy- and Alec-focused. The family is still a big part of that story. It's not like Buddy's going off somewhere alone and having some adventure separate from Ellen and the kids. They're all a big part of that story.
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