A couple years ago, writer/artist Jeff Lemire was considered an "up-and-coming" comic creator for DC Comics.
But this year, it's starting to look like he already arrived.
Not only is Lemire co-writing DC's much-hyped summer event, Trinity War, but DC is trusting him to save the solo title Green Arrow from near-cancelation just when the character has a hit TV series.
Working with another rising-star creator, artist Andrea Sorrentino, Lemire has been turning around the sales slide that Green Arrow experienced after the title was rebooted in 2011 (then tossed from writer to writer). The title, which stars archer Oliver Queen, has been climbing back up the sales chart since the new creative team took over with February's issue #17.
This fall, the series should get another sales boost when Green Arrow will tie-in to Zero Year — the current storyline in DC's mega-seller, Batman. (DC announced to retailers in June that several comics will tie-in to Zero Year, including Action Comics, The Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern Corps, Batgirl, Batwing, Catwoman, Detective Comics, Birds of Prey, and Nightwing).
The Zero Year tie-in gives Lemire the chance to get Batman into his book (which is not only a sales plus for most comics, but it also means readers get to see Andrea Sorrentino draw Batman again). But it will also reunite Lemire with Batman writer Scott Snyder, after the two worked together last year on the Animal Man/Swamp Thing crossover "Rotworld."
Yet long before the Zero Year tie-in gets here, critics have already started to hail the new direction on Green Arrow. Fulfilling a promise to "build a brand new mythology" for Green Arrow, Lemire has already introduced several new and revamped characters, concepts and villains, including this month's appearance of a new Count Vertigo with a completely redesigned look.
This month's Green Arrow #22 also had a significant surprise ending [spoiler warning], as Oliver Queen found out from Shado (another revamped character) that he has a half-sister, Emiko. The young girl, who is Shado's daughter, was also parented by Ollie's father.
Newsarama talked with Lemire about Green Arrow, plus we snuck in a question about what DC fans might expect when we read the Lemire's first Trinity War issue in this week's Justice League of America #6.
Newsarama: Jeff, when we recently interviewed Andrea Sorrentino about the way he created Count Vertigo's look, we hadn't seen the character within the story — particularly the unusual way his powers are depicted. How did this visual depiction come about? And what does it say about Vertigo's powers?
Jeff Lemire: I think everything done on Green Arrow so far as been a collaboration. I put forth ideas — sometimes visual ideas — and Andrea usually pushes everything harder than I imagined and does really inventive things with it.
And then I see those and it gives me new ideas. And we feed off each other, playing off each other.
I think when collaborative comics are at their best is when an artist and a writer can do that, you know? And it doesn't happen as often as you think. It's such a pleasure to write a script and know that, no matter what I write, he's going to make it better. Because he's got such confidence, it makes me more confident with the writing too.
Vertigo's look came together pretty quick. Andrea did a couple different sketches, but they were all pretty much in line with what you've seen. We really wanted to give him more of a militant look, and less of the royal buffoon thing. We wanted someone who looked more like a mercenary or terrorist or something like that, you know?
As far as the powers, and how he's drawing that, again it's just kind of him going nuts with my pretty simple ideas. I'll say something like, Oliver's world starts to twist around him, and Andrea will take that and do something insane like what he did with issue #22. It's pretty great to know that you're working with someone who's going to take your ideas and just enhance them so much. Working on this book has been so fun because of him.
Nrama: But that visual interpretation of his powers begs the question... how would you describe his powers now, and how do they work? I mean, looking at the way Andrea's art works, it makes it feel even more like a mystery.
Lemire: Yeah, it's cool. The best thing for us is that we've got the Villains Month issue in September, and we'll get to do the Count Vertigo special. That's where we'll really get into this guy and his past and really identify what his power set is exactly, and how he got these powers, and who he is.
I think the script I came up with for the Villain Month issue is probably the darkest thing I've ever written. It actually creeped me out a little bit. I've never creeped myself out before.
Andrea is drawing it right now, and he loves it so much. I feel like every image he does is better than the last.
I really think that villains issue is going to be something special.
Nrama: Let's talk about Shado. How did you come up with your approach to this character?
Lemire: Yeah, Shado is a Mike Grell character, back from his run on Green Arrow. I love Mike Grell's run; I've always said that. And there are a couple of characters he came up with and used in that run, like Shado and Butcher, and I felt like, if I was going to do Green Arrow, I really wanted to bring them both back.
But it being the New 52, you have to give them sort of a twist.
So with Shado, I tried to be true to who she was, and to the core of the character, but still get more of a contemporary feel.
In issue #23, we'll see her origin and how it ties into both Count Vertigo and The Outsiders and Oliver's father and everything. So it will all really come together next month.
Nrama: We found out a secret last issue about Emiko. Is she a character that Green Arrow will utilize for awhile going forward?
Lemire: Oh yeah! I have huge plans for all these characters. It's not just this one story. I've purposely pushed Komodo and Emiko off to the side for a couple months, just to get breather and focus on some other things, but they're going to be back with a vengeance after the villains stuff. And we're going to really see the repercussions of the revelation that Oliver has a sister and that his father obviously had many secrets that he didn't know about.
So Oliver's relationship with Emiko is something I'm really looking forward to exploring. It might not go the way he wants or expects it to go. She might not, necessarily, end up being his sidekick.
Nrama: Yeah, I'm sure there were a lot of people who jumped to that conclusion. Let's walk through what's coming up. You talked a little about issue #23, and about Villains Month. Can you tell us anything more about those issues and what comes next?
Lemire: Yeah, issue #23 really focuses on Shado, like I said, and we get to see her origin and the origins of her relationship with Oliver's father. And how Count Vertigo and her captivity under Count Vertigo kind of ties back to The Outsiders and Komodo.
And then the next issue is Villains Month, obviously, about Count Vertigo.
And then after that, what I'm writing right now is sort of a big, climactic arc over everything I've done so far. It's going to be called "Green Arrow vs. The Outsiders."
It's Shado and Green Arrow trying to get Emiko back, and facing off against Komodo, but it's also about Oliver returning to the island. We get to see, intercut with what's going on today, we get to see the secrets of what happened to him on the island. And that's something I've been dying to write. So I'm having a lot of fun coming up with that story and weaving it all together.
So it's going to be a big arc for the book.
Nrama: What about this news that we heard from June's retailer summit that Green Arrow will be tying into Batman: Zero Year?
Lemire: Yeah, we've got a Zero Year issue where we get to see Oliver's first adventure as Green Arrow after he returns from the island. And we'll see his first meeting with Batman. It's going to be really great to see Andrea drawing Batman. It's going to be really fun.
Nrama: I assume you got to work with Scott Snyder again, your collaborator on "Rotworld" in Animal Man and Swamp Thing last year?
Lemire: Yeah, I'll be working a bit with Scott Snyder, and we talked about what things in Gotham we can take to reveal. I've got a classic Batman villain that we get to show for the first time in the New 52 in Green Arrow, so that's going to be a lot of fun.
Nrama: And you can't say who that villain is?
Lemire: Nah, I don't want to spoil it. It's a really fun one. It's not one of the big ones; it's one of the more obscure Bat-villains. But I'll say I turn him into something kind of cool.
Now that I've written him once I really want to bring him back and make him a regular Green Arrow villain at some point.
Nrama: It sounds like you've got long-term plans on Green Arrow.
Nrama: You and Andrea are doing so well with this character. Are you planning to be on this book for awhile?
Lemire: Yeah, I mean, even just the stuff I just talked about goes all the way to issue #30, and then I already have the two arcs after that plotted. So, I mean, I'm planning to be around for awhile on this book. I'm loving it. As long as Andrea's on, I'm on it. People seem to be having a lot of fun with it.
Nrama: Then before I let you go, I just want to point out that we've all read Justice League #22, and we all know what the murder is at the end of the issue. As we go into Justice League of America #6, how does the tone shift? A lot of the first issue was set-up, and a huge big battle. Is "Trinity War" still action-filled, or does the tone shift?
Lemire: What Geoff and I tried to do was really balance a lot of those big, bombastic action set-ups with, hopefully, a lot of interesting character work, seeing different characters you don't normally see interact interacting, but also create a compelling mystery about what happened — and what was the cause of what happened — in Justice League #22.
Really, the next two chapters — Justice League of America #6 and Justice League Dark #22 — in a way, we take a step back from the action a bit and really start to break the team up to investigate. It turns into a bit of a murder mystery.
We also follow Wonder Woman's journey to find Pandora. And Justice League Dark comes into it and plays a bigger role. So we'll get into a lot more character stuff over the next two issues.