Cartoonist Jeff Lemire Brings a 'Sweet Tooth' to Vertigo

Jeff Lemire's 'Sweet Tooth'
Jeff Lemire's 'Sweet Tooth'
Preliminary cover art to Jeff Lemire's 'Sweet Tooth #1'

Someone at Vertigo has a sweet tooth, but it's not what you think.

Announced Thursday at the ComicsPro meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, DC's Vertigo imprint is launching a new ongoing series with cartoonist Jeff Lemire entitled Sweet Tooth. Vertigo Executive Editor Karen Berger announced the series Thursday morning, and is the second project for Lemire at Vertigo after the OGN Nobody which is scheduled for release later this year.

In recent years, Lemire has become an indie darling of sorts with his Essex Trilogy books from Top Shelf Productions, winning awards such as the Schuster and Doug Wright awards, and was nominated for a Harvey and two Eisners. Lemire's art style, while both craggy and willowy, offsets the cartoonist's adeptness at writing delicate personal narratives that make you feel like you're reading non-fiction. With the Essex Trilogy finished and his Vertigo OGN The Nobody due out this July, the announcement of Sweet Tooth is another feather in Lemire's cap.

Lemire's Sweet Tooth will debut in September with the first issue priced at $1 as part of Vertigo's first issue initiative. With the announcement of this book just moments ago, little is known about the series – good thing we have a direct line to Lemire.

Let's talk to him.

Newsarama: What can you tell us about Sweet Tooth, Jeff?

Jeff Lemire: Sweet Tooth is the story Gus, a young boy born with antlers and deer-like features. He has lived his entire life in total isolation in the woods with his Father, a kind, but zealous man. As our story begins Gus’ is finally forced to leave their forest sanctuary and begins to experience the outside world for the first time, and what he finds outside is beyond his comprehension; an American landscape decimated a decade earlier by a deadly pandemic. Even more remarkable is that Gus is part of a rare new breed of human/animal hybrid children who have emerged in its wake, all apparently immune to the infection.

The boy is soon taken in by Jepperd, a hulking drifter who promises to lead Gus to “The Preserve”, a fabled safe-haven for hybrid children.

Sweet Tooth will be an ongoing monthly series from Vertigo that recasts conventions from both the western and science fiction genres into an action/adventure tale of childhood loss and loneliness, and the unexpected friendships that can emerge in even the darkest of places.

I guess the high concept pitch line would be something like "The Island of Dr. Moreau meets Mad Max" with a sprinkle of Tim Truman's Scout thrown in for good measure.

NRAMA: Nothing wrong with a bit of Truman in the mix. Will this be 100% Jeff Lemire, or do you have some help?

JL: I will be writing, penciling and inking the series, and it will be colored by the incomparable Jose Villarubia.

NRAMA: Wow. On paper that's a very potent partnership.

JL: This is my first full color work, and to have the chance to work with Jose is so exciting, I've been a fan of his work for years, and it's a thrill to be collaborating with such an amazing artist.

NRAMA: This is a big thing for you – your first ongoing series. What's that like to sign up for a monthly title?

JL: I'm used to working on long-form stand alone books, so this is definitely an adjustment. I sort of compare it from going from writing feature films to a serialized television show. The issues obviously need to be much tighter and satisfying in their own right, yet still build the overall mythology and larger story I want to tell. And, the trick is to be able to do this without sacrificing my own storytelling style and voice. I think I've adjusted well, and if anything. I think it's added a bit of punch to my work.

NRAMA: This is fresh on the heels of your work with Vertigo on The Nobody -- so how has the working relationship been with them?

JL: My relationship with Vertigo has been fantastic. Working on The Nobody OGN was sort of an intermediate step from the world of indie comics to DC/Vertigo. It was still a Vertigo book, and I was working within their editorial system, but the book still had an "indie" feel to it. But, with the jump to the monthly book, I think I've taken my work to a whole new level. The Vertigo folks have been a joy to work with.

Doing a monthly book is a challenge I've always wanted to have the chance to undertake and it has been thrilling so far. I feel like this book has a lot of heart and a lot of really personal human emotion in it like my Essex County books and The Nobody, but its also got a lot of action and violence and mystery. Hopefully that combination will be something special and unique on the monthly racks. I really can't wait for people to read it!

Jeff Lemire's Sweet Tooth #1 is scheduled to debut in September 2009 with an introductory price point of $1, with monthly issues to follow.


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