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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

DC in the 80's Interviews Jeff Lemire about Inferior 5, Peacemaker, and his love of DC in the 80s.

We at DC in the 80s absolutely love Jeff Lemire and his amazing work he's been putting out since 2007. Starting with the award-winning Essex County, the phenomenal Vertigo series Sweet Tooth (which you should go read RIGHT NOW), his work on Green Arrow, Animal Man, Trillium, The Terrifics, and all the way to his amazing ode to comic books, Black Hammer. 

When we read he was going to be working with Keith Giffen on an Inferior 5 comic, with a Peacemaker back up, we NEEDED to interview him. Then we learned he would be working on a Question series with Denys Cowan, and we died a little bit. Mark Belkin reached out to Jeff, and he agreed to give us some free time for a DC in the 80's interview! Check out Inferior 5 #1, coming out Wednesday September 18, 2019.

Mark Belkin: What was the first comic book, any publisher, that made you realize you had a love for comics?

Jeff Lemire: The first comics I remember getting were the DC Digests from the local grocery store where I grew up in rural Ontario. They were reprints of Silver Age DC stuff, I remember lots of Curt Swan Superman, Adventure Comics and I also remember the digest that reprinted the Paul Levitz/Joe Staton 70’s JSA stuff, which really knocked me over because it had SO many heroes in it and the Earth-2 heroes, which seemed so weird and mysterious because they were alternate versions of heroes I knew. They hinted at this bigger universe and history behind all these stories I’d been reading and that hooked me.

I would have been pretty young, probably five or six years old, I guess. And I was drawing pictures from those books for as long as I can remember.

MB: What was your first DC Comic that you bought or were given?

JL: Same answer as above. My Grandmother used to buy me one of those digest when I went grocery shopping with her and my Mom. So this must have been before I was in school.

MB: Crisis on Infinite Earths got me into comics. When did you read it? What are some of your memories of reading Crisis? Did anything stand out?

JL: That was the BIG ONE for me. Crisis and Who’s Who. That was what put me completely over the top as a DC fanatic. Just the sheer scope of the DC Universe, all those different worlds and all those different characters. I poured over Crisis and Who’s Who. I was literally obsessed with them. I read Crisis so many times. I even remember reading it backwards once, just to change it up. 

And Who’s Who was huge too. Not only getting to know all the characters but all the different artists too, and getting to know their styles and who I liked and who I didn’t. They were the big bang for me.

So many characters.

MB: How did you feel after the first time you read Watchmen?

JL: I probably didn’t read Watchmen until I was a bit older. I was 10 when Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns came out, so I was a bit young for them. But I was aware of them. And I was aware that they were “important” books that were more grown up. I probably read them when I was 12 or 13 and they blew my mind. 

But I probably didn’t really appreciate them until I was in my teens and really started to see the full potential of comics and comic book storytelling. 

MB: What Alan Moore issues or storylines from the Swamp Thing did you like the most? Did any of them mean anything to you? Did you read the title when Rick Veitch took over?

JL: I didn’t get into those until I was a teenager. The first wave of Vertigo stuff hit in 1993 when I was sixteen or so. I had already been reading Hellblazer before it officially became Vertigo, and then I got into all of those books. They came at the perfect time in my life when I was getting a bit sick of the more mainstream super hero stuff, especially the 90’s Image stuff. And when Vertigo launched it made me go back and seek out the Moore Swampys, which I knew were sort of the precursor to this stuff I was loving.

I think I got an early trade paperback of American Gothic storyline and the issues with Doctor Fate, Deadman and Phantom Stranger where incredible. I fell in love with that run and I still consider it my favorite comic of all time today. It has everything that I love about comics.

I actually missed the Veitch stuff, but was reading the Nancy Collins run, the initial Vertigo run. I loved those Vess covers. And I remember reading the first few Morrison/Millar/Hester issues too.

MB: Was Grant Morrison's Animal Man a favorite? If you did read it, was Coyote Gospel something that affected you? Is Animal Man as a father something that defines his narrative?

JL: I read the Delano stuff first, which I think you can see in my own Animal Man stuff. The Delano/Pugh issues were still coming out when I got into Animal Man and I didn’t have the Morrison stuff. I LOVED the Delano/Pugh stuff and it was a real joy. To re-read when I became the writer of Animal Man in 2011. And then I lobbied to get Steve Pugh on the book as my artist too. Dream come true.


MB: Have you ever been offered Doom Patrol? Your commission of the original four was my computer background for a year, and I would love to see you do a mini series. If Dan Didio said "Give me a pitch", what would you tell him? Just for fun.Would you want to explore the original four, or use other elements?

JL: Doom Patrol would have been my dream gig at DC, but it was never available. But to be 100% honest, I think the tone of any Doom Patrol story I would have done is very close to what I ended up creating with Black Hammer. Black Hammer was my chance to do an epic about outcast super heroes. So it all worked out.

MB: It's 1985, and Len Wein asks you to do some Who's Who pages. What character pages do you tell him you would like to do?

JL: Ha! I wish! Boy, that is a tough one because there are SO many characters I would love to draw. Let’s see, off the top of my head: Deadman, Anti-Monitor, Swampy, Unknown Soldier, Mister Miracle, Blue Beetle. 

Not listed, but would buy.

MB: What are some of your favorite writers and artists that worked for DC in the 1980s?

JL: It all started and ended with Wolfman and Perez for me. Crisis and Teen Titans were my everything. But I also LOVED Levitz and Giffen’s Legion. And ironically and wonderfully, my very first DC writer’s summit I was positioned at the table between Giffen and Levitz! I could not believe it. I was so nervous.

I also got to met Marv and George once and Marv told me that my work at DC was some of the only stuff he still read. That was incredible.

MB: I have a museum dedicated to commissions of Solomon Grundy, and love showing the ones drawn by David Lloyd or Michael T. Gilbert. You have some great commissions from the likes of Carmine Infantino and Tim Truman. What is your favorite character to get commissions of, and if you could a drawing from any four artists, living or dead, who would they be?

JL: I am lucky enough to have my dream list: Hawkman by Joe Kubert, Flash by Carmine Infantino, Earth-2 Superman by Perez and Ordway (I own a page from Crisis #11) and Swampy by Bissette.

MB: Did you have any good memories of Joe Staton on Green Lantern? I have always felt you and Joe Staton would create an interesting book together. 

JL: The Staton GL was one of my favorite runs. I adored it. The very first commission I ever asked for from an artist was a Hal Jordan from Joe Staton at MOCCA in 2008. I would have loved to have worked with Joe. I would die to see his version of Black Hammer characters…speaking of this, I think I will reach out and ask him! 

A Beetle/Booster book with Staton would be pretty fun to write.

MB: Did you have any Super Powers figures? Did you watch Super Friends or Super Powers?

JL: I did. I still have my original ones. My son plays with them now and I watched both shows religiously. My play with the super powers figures was really intense. I had ongoing serialized stories that I would create using my figures that spanned months. Thinking back now, this play was clearly my early versions of creating my own stories, I just didn’t really think about it until now.

MB: What were some of your other favorite titles or storylines from DC in the 1980? Is there any that you re-read today? Any that have gotten you through a hard time?

JL: There are SO many. The one’s I re-read again every few years are:

-Giffen’s 5-Year Later Legion
-Wolfman/Perez Titans especially Terror of Trigon and Judas Contract
-Truman’s Hawkworld
-Giffen/Demattais JLI
-Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing.
-The Great Darkness Saga

But so many others too. Practically anything published by DC between about ’84-91 is right in my wheelhouse.

MB: I'm excited for your Peacemaker backups. Your Question illustrations are some of my favorite anything that I've ever seen on the internet, and I am BEYOND excited for your upcoming series. What did you think of the O'Neill/Cowan run on Question? Will it be an influence on your series?

JL: I love that run so damn much. When I got to write Green Arrow, I knew I wanted to take the book into a darker more serious direction and it was the O’Neill/Cowan Questions that I read and used as my template. I even got Denys to do a couple stores with me. His covers on the run are some of my all time favorites. So now, the chance to return to The Question with him and Bill is unbelievable. What a dream come true!

MB: Since Peacemaker will be set in 1988, will we see your versions of Cadmus, Suicide Squad and Checkmate? 

JL: Yes. Literally ALL of those characters are in the first three chapters. Also Rocket Red, Captain Atom and KGBeast!

MB: Will the Comedian be influential in your Peacemaker story?

JL: Not really. I did do one fun homage to The Comedian in a panel, but that was it. I’m more focused on DC continuity of ’88 rather than The Watchmen versions. 

MB: Will the Paul Kuppenberg "haunted by everyone in the mask" character be the crux of what you would like to do?

JL: A bit, I sort of use the set up of this character from ’88 and then take it in a pretty weird and wild direction all my own. Keith was also involved in this. He actually did a Peacemaker story for Action Comics Weekly back in 88 that was never published and I took some of his ideas as my starting point too. He sent me a page of original art from that story as a gift when we started working on the book.

MB: Obviously you write people hurting so amazingly well, will you be exploring his mental illness, his father's suicide, and the his father's crimes?

JL: Yes, yes and yes!

MB: Finally, if you could choose to write/draw any series in the 1980s, time traveling and working for Dick Giordano in 1986, what would it be?

JL: Oh wow. That is tough too. I would probably want to do my own version of a character that wasn’t really being done regularly back then. Like a nice long Deadman series or maybe Doctor Fate.  But if I could write ANY DC characters, Hourman and Doctor Midnight would be pretty cool too.

MB: Thanks again Jeff. Once again, your work means a lot to me, and I look forward to introducing Sweet Tooth to my daughter someday. It gets my vote as the most heartfelt long form story I have ever read. Thanks for writing it.

JL: Thank you. This is the most fun I have ever had with an interview. Why can’t they all be about DC in the 80’s?

Remember to check out Jeff Lemire's new comic, Inferior 5 #1, out right now!

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