Writer Jeff Lemire was already getting the attention of critics for his work on DC's new series Superboy and his Vertigo comic Sweet Tooth.
But now, the Superboy comic has been nominated for a 2011 Eisner Award for Best New Series -- an honor given to Sweet Tooth last year. And Lemire was already an Eisner nominee in the past for his work on Essex County.
Apparently, there's something special about this guy's comics, as DC readers are finding out. Since Superboy launched in September, Lemire has managed to incorporate some high-action plotting with his knack for writing small town communities and relationships. By introducing a new supporting cast for Conner and a few new mysteries, Lemire has established the teen hero's role in the Superman universe as he makes his home in Smallville.
After last month's "Doomsday" event crossed through the pages of Superboy, this week's issue #7 introduces some of the concepts Lemire teased in the series' first issue, including a band of "New Titans."
And in June, Superboy #8 begins what the writer is calling a "big, spanning epic" that will be his longest storyline yet.
One thing to note is that Lemire would not talk about what happens with Superboy beyond August. In fact, no creators at DC are yet revealing anything that occurs beyond August, which is the month when Flashpoint ends.
Lemire is writing Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown, one of the three-issue mini-series that will tie-in to Flashpoint beginning in June. But beyond the end of August, all Lemire will confirm is that he's writing something for DC.
To find out more about what's coming in Superboy, we talked to the Eisner nominee before this week's issue comes out.
Newsarama: Jeff, congratulations on the Eisner nod for Superboy. How does it feel to get this honor for a brand new superhero book?
Jeff Lemire: It was quite a surprise. I've been nominated in the past for my creator-owned stuff, but this is the first time I've worked on a property that isn't my own, so it's pretty flattering and validating to get recognized for that as well.
Nrama: I know you're not supposed to say anything about what's coming after August -- not even whether you'll still be on Superboy -- but can you confirm that you have other projects coming up at DC?
Lemire: Yeah, I do have other projects at DC.
Nrama: Let's talk about what you've established in Superboy. Just recently, you had an issue where Kid Flash raced Superboy, and I think a lot of people really enjoyed the way it turned out. Did you know all along that Krypto would play that role in the race?
Lemire: Yeah, I mean, if you look back at all the Superman and Flash races, they just kind of take turns on who wins each time, just to keep it kind of even. So I thought, how could I tell this story in a new way? There's no way Superboy is faster than Kid Flash, in my mind, but at the same time, I didn't want to have him lose in his own comic. And then I realized Krypto could probably beat them all. Everyone seems to love Krypto, so you can't go wrong if he wins.
Nrama: Krypto's character echoes one of the themes of this series. You seem to be pulling the kind of corny elements from the past into the present day by modernizing them, making them fun in the present day DCU.
Lemire: That was my whole mission statement with the series, the Superboy series itself. You can look at things from the past of superhero comics and put a whole new spin on it, to create something new. Comics have such a long history, and if you look back at things from the '60s, some of those stories come across as so campy now. But if you take that big, science fiction, campy feel and put a modern spin on it, like with Krypto or with what Grant Morrison did with All-Star Superman, it can just be a lot of fun.When I think of Superboy, I think of those old '60s comics about Superman in Smallville. Those stories are just big and fun. And I thought that if you recapture that, but with a modern sensibility, it can be a lot of fun. And people seem to be responding. I guess it's working.
Nrama: Another thing that has stuck out about your run is that you're using thought bubbles. Was that something that just happened as you were writing?
Lemire: Honestly, I have to give credit for that one to my editor, Matt Idelson. What I was doing was trying to use narrative captions from the different characters. We realized that maybe the only character who should have narrative captions for internal monologue is Superboy. And then anytime we wanted to do that with anyone else, we'd go back to using thought balloons.
Again, it just fit that sort of Silver Age-y feel of the book, so I went with it. And that's one of things I get the most compliments about, is using thought bubbles. But I'll give the credit for that one over to my editor.
Nrama: But isn't it difficult to use those without it coming across as odd?
Lemire: It is. You really have to use it properly or else it can come across as very cheesy, if you're not careful. And I use it sparingly as well. But it's one of those things that is unique to comics, so why not use it, if it can be effective?
Nrama: One of the strengths of the Superboy series is the relationships he's developing, not only with the characters that were already established as his friends, like Tim and Bart, but the other characters you're exploring in Smallville. You've told me before that you wanted to make this a quirky small-town thing...
Lemire: Yeah, that was one goal.
Nrama: But I'm wondering how much thought you put into building these relationships in the small town. Was that always part of it? Or did that kind of evolve as you wrote it?
Lemire: It was a combination of the two. The thing that attracted me to the book at first was the supporting cast. I honestly liked them better than Superboy, at first. I feel like, when I first started writing, I didn't have a very good handle on Conner and what motivated him. But I immediately had a feel for Lori and Simon. I understood them, for whatever reason. So they became important for me as a writer.
I ended up, at first, defining Conner through his interaction with them. And my version of Conner sort of grew out of that. So I think the importance of the relationships was something that I relied upon from the beginning, but it also evolved as my understanding of Conner evolved.
But I think with any superhero book, or really any genre book where you have all these fantastic elements, but unless you can ground it in something real, it falls flat.
So me, this was a book about small towns and about community and trying to find a family. And his family is his friends. So yeah, his friendships and relationships are really what the book is about.
Nrama: Let's talk about what's coming up in this week's Superboy #7. Are we going to see the dark side of Superboy return, which we first saw during Geoff Johns' run on Teen Titans? And what role does Lex play?
Lemire: The next issue is tough to talk about. To really discuss it, I'd almost have to spoil the whole thing. But yes, the story goes along with those old storylines, with his dark side coming, and this is one of the only issues I've done where Lex shows up as well. So it was very cool.I think Conner would just as soon have nothing to do with Lex. But Lex himself has this idea of a relationship with Conner that's more complicated. He has a weird feeling of ownership over him and likes to play head games with him. But I think deep down, Lex does that because he doesn't know how to show any kind of real emotions.
Nrama: We'll also see the New Titans you teased in your first issue. These are totally new characters you created just for this series?
Lemire: Yeah, it's my take on some oddball superheroes. It's a mixture of costumes and characters that I enjoyed growing up, and I created teen versions of them. There's a teen version of Negative Man, a teenage version of the old Tim Truman Hawkman character, and a teenage Elongated Man, but she's female.
Nrama: Will the New Titans stick around?
Lemire: They're just going to be in that issue, unfortunately. But it's one of those things where I didn't think I'd be allowed to do it, and it went through. I love seeing new characters like this, so I just wanted to kind of put my own ideas into a few teen characters. That's the fun of working in a big superhero universe: You can create new characters that are allusions to other characters that you love, and throw them in there. It's one of the big fun things about DC Comics, I think.
Nrama: After that, beginning with Superboy #8, it looks like you'll be really tying up the Hollow Men story, right?
Lemire: Yeah, that really kicks in with Issue #8. It's the longest storyline that I've done so far. It's going to be a four-parter called "The Rise of the Hollow Men." It's the culmination of all those little plot threads and seeds I've been planting over the first seven issues. They all come to a head in this big, epic story that I've been planning since I got on the book. It's been a lot of fun getting to write what I've been planning and teasing for the last year. It goes through to Issue #11. It even touches on the time of the Viking Prince. So it's a big spanning epic.
Nrama: Will we see more evolution of Conner's relationship with Lori?
Lemire: The relationship between all three of those characters -- Simon, Lori and Conner -- are a big part of what will be happening during the Hollow Men storyline. It's going to be this big, over-the-top epic, but at the heart of it is those three characters. I think there will be some surprises for people when they see where they end up.
Nrama: As you've established the tone and themes of Superboy, what has Pier Gallo brought to the title?
Lemire: I think Pier is great. I think he gets better every month, which is really great to watch. He just has this really sense of detail and clarity in his artwork that works really well with a teen hero book, especially some of the stuff coming with the Hollow Men storyline. He's drawing things in an earlier era, and to see him grow and explore these different things and bring a different aesthetic to these different eras is really great. I think he's got a big career ahead of him.