JEFF LEMIRE Talks Extracting His SWEET TOOTH & New Projects

 

The last time we talked to Jeff Lemire about his non-superhero work, he made it very clear.

"If I had to choose, at the end of the day, if I wasn't as fast as I am at drawing and couldn't handle all these projects, to me, the things like Sweet Tooth and these graphic novels would always be what I choose first," he said.

So while Lemire fans may be disappointed that Sweet Tooth will end with issue #40 at the end of this year, it's clear that there are more creations coming from Lemire very soon. Despite his busy schedule writing Animal Man, Justice League Dark and an issue of the upcoming series National Comics, he will still make it a priority to work on his self-created characters.

 

"That's not to say I don't love doing the DC stuff," he told Newsarama. "I definitely do, and I try to put as much of myself into Animal Man as I do in Sweet Tooth. It's just that there's a different part of yourself that you put toward something you create from scratch. And of course, for me, there's the added joy I get from being able to draw my own stories."

One of those stories comes in August, when Lemire's new graphic novel Underwater Welder will be released by Top Shelf, his publisher for the Eisner Award-winning series Essex County. The Underwater Welder book will feature Lemire's artwork in a story that explores themes of fatherhood in a science fiction setting.

Readers will also get six more issues of Sweet Tooth. And its eventual ending should come as no surprise to those people who keep abreast of Lemire's plans, because he's hinted for a long time that the series would end soon.

Plus, the solicitation for July's Sweet Tooth #35 made it clear that the story of Gus and Jeppard is winding down, since that issue promises the reveal of secrets behind the plague that created young Gus and the other hybrids.

So what will Sweet Tooth be exploring between now and issue #40? And what will Lemire be doing next? In the third installment of our four-part interview with the writer/artist, Newsarama asked.

 

Newsarama: Jeff, in our last interview, we talked about how you're working with DC's Chief Creative Officer and Justice League writer Geoff Johns to make Justice League Dark a more important part of the "Justice League franchise." But I was surprised that you thanked Geoff Johns when you announced through DC that you were exiting Sweet Tooth. Was Geoff involved? Or just a supporter?

Jeff Lemire: I was just grateful because, in the early days of Sweet Tooth, before I'd ever spoken to him or even met him, he supported the title. I had only done indie comics then, and this was my first title for Vertigo. And Geoff sent me a really nice email after he had read the first issue, telling me how much he loved it. And then he gave us a nice cover quote on, I think, issue #2 or #3, saying it was the new must-read Vertigo book. I think that really helped sell the more mainstream fans on checking it out back then.

So for me, that was just really cool of him to do, since he didn't know me at all. It was long before I did anything for the DCU.

The truth is that the book sold well in trades, but the monthlies were just on the edge, barely making their money back. And Geoff and Jim, when I started doing DCU work, they made it pretty clear to me that they were going to do their best to support Sweet Tooth, even though it wasn't the highest selling book. And to kind of keep it going. So I was appreciative of that.

Nrama: I think anybody who starts a Vertigo book feels the same way as you do, in that they don't really know if they're ever going to get to tell their ending.

Lemire: Yeah, when I started Sweet Tooth, I really did think we'd be lucky if we got nine or 10 issues, you know? It's just an odd book. It really is kind of an indie book. It's one of the most indie kind of books that DC has published. I thought I'd be lucky if I got to nine. I had a plan for nine issues, then another one for 12 issues, and then one for 20, if I made it that far.

The ending was always the same. It was just the amount of stuff I could do before that. And it's awesome that I got to do 40 issues and got to tell the story exactly how I wanted to, on my own terms. And I did what I wanted, and the way I wanted it. It's pretty rare that that gets to happen.

Nrama: And the ending of the series is going to be a big, oversized issue?

Lemire: Yeah, it's double-sized, and I'm going to paint the whole thing myself.

A part of me is really restless to get to it. I still have to get through drawing issues #37, #38, #39, just to get to that.

 

That last issue has been so clear in my mind since I first wrote the pitch. It's like everything is built around this last issue, and I can't wait to get there and draw it.

It's exciting. But I'll definitely miss them as well. I've spent just about every day with these characters for the last three years. So yeah, I'll miss them.

Nrama: I know you were always planning to end this, but I've seen people say, "Sweet Tooth is canceled!" To be clear, this was your choice, to end Sweet Tooth at issue #40?

Lemire: Yes. The story is just coming to an end. This isn't a Superman or Batman where I can just pass it off to another writer. The story has an end. And this is the end coming up.

I decided on issue #40 because it was a nice round number. I think I would have been pushing it too far to try to get to 50. This was where it felt like it made the most sense to put the finish on the story.

Nrama: The last time we talked, I actually asked you if this was heading toward the ending. It just felt like you were wrapping up a lot of loose ends.

Lemire: The last arc, I started working toward the end.

Nrama: Anything you want to tell fans about the last few issues of the series?

Lemire: The next issue, #34, focuses on the series villain, Abbott, and we learn a bit about his past, finally.

And that one's actually drawn by Nate Powell, a friend of mine who did one of the short stories in issue #19. So he drew that issue, and I did a bookend sequence.

Then after that, it kicks into high gear. Issue #35 is the big reveal, where we learn the secrets about the plague and the hybrids and everything. That's all in issue #35. So that's a big one.

Then after that, I can't say too much about what's coming.

But I think you and I talked before about how the revelation of the plague and the hybrids and that mystery was never the big ending. That was always just one aspect of the book. So I wanted to get that out of the way, before the ending, so people weren't waiting for it.

Nrama: Yeah, we talked about that in detail, how it's actually about the journey of Jeppard and Gus, and the relationships of the characters.

Lemire: Yeah, it's about the characters. It is. It's about the relationships of the characters, and that's what I want to be able to focus on, and not people just waiting for some big, giant revelation that was going to blow their mind, because that was never my intent.

 

Nrama: The last time we talked, you made it very clear that if you had to choose between the DCU superhero comics and your Vertigo or Top Shelf work, you would choose the stuff you created from scratch. Right now, with the exception of your graphic novel Underwater Welder, which I know you already finished, you aren't doing any creator-owned stuff. The only things you're doing steadily are superhero stuff. So I know you have something in the works.

Lemire: The only things people know about is my DC Universe work. That doesn't mean I'm not working on other projects already. They just haven't been announced yet.

Nrama: And one of these things allows you to draw, I hope?

Lemire: Yes. I am drawing it. I'm actually not supposed to say anything about it. But I will always be drawing something. Don't worry. For people who like stuff that I write and draw, I will always be doing that.

I'm still finishing Sweet Tooth, until about September. But I'll be starting on something else I'm drawing, immediately after that.

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