At New York Comic Con, io9 caught up with writer Jeff Lemire, current writer of DC Comics' New 52 titles Animal Man and Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
Animal Man is one of our favorite books as of late, so we were terrifically enthused to hear about Lemire's plans for the biologically kooky superhero (and how Frankenstein sounds like a certain Kindergarten Cop).
So, what's your master plan for Animal Man?
If you read the whole Vertigo Animal Man series of 89 issues or whatever, each writer has a completely different take on his origin. If you try to put them all together, they contradict one another. I had to pick and choose to make up a new origin that makes sense to new readers.
It's about taking stuff like the family aspect of Grant Morrison's run and concepts like The Red and boiling them down into one new package that's really accessible to readers who didn't know anything about him. That was my challenge as the writer.
In the first issue, you cast yourself as a magazine reporter interviewing Animal Man. Grant Morrison famously wrote himself into Animal Man. Will Jeff Lemire the DC character be appearing in future issues?
No, that was just my cheeky nod to the whole idea. The next few issues are really cool, with Buddy and [his daughter] Maxine going into The Red for the first time. They bring the reader with them to meet these characters called The Totems, who are all the former avatars of The Red. They're new characters I created, they're like The Red's version of The Parliament of Trees. When they meet The Totems, they begin to understand what Maxine is, what The Red is, all these things readers have been wondering about.
Animal Man and Swamp Thing will be crossing over, as will O.M.A.C. and Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. What's the story behind those issues?
Dan Didio on O.M.A.C. was doing a monster book as well, so we said "Why not?" When I was growing up, I loved [O.M.A.C. illustrator] Keith Giffen's work, so the chance to work with him was a real thrill. We didn't want to a traditional crossover, but it's the same story told in each book with different points of view, like Rashomon.
With Swamp Thing, it's a much bigger story. Animal Man and Swamp Thing have so many commonalities in tone and mood. [Swamp Thing writer] Scott Snyder and me were playing around with this well before the books came out. Scott and I are close friends and we talk all the time, so it grew out of our conversations. Even though the books aren't directly connected yet, readers will begin to see commonalities pop up in each. Toward the end of the first year on the books, the stories will converge and that will spin off into a really big story.
In Frankenstein, I really love how S.H.A.D.E. leader Father Time is now a little girl who bosses around the cranky monster. What's his/her endgame?
I can't give away too much, but Father Time is a master at playing Frank and keeping him around. Frankenstein's immortal and can do whatever he wants, but for whatever reason, he sticks with Father Time and S.H.A.D.E. Why does Frankenstein do this? That's the thing I'll slowly reveal.
I like how florid and bombastic Frank is. Do you have a Frankenstein voice you imagine when writing him?
He's a romantic and a poet, but he's also completely humorless. Everything around him is so absurd and over-the-top, so Frank makes the perfect straight man. The voice sounds somewhere between Arnold Schwarzenegger and well, Frankenstein.
Any updates on The Essex County movie?
Not yet. Stuff's slowly happening, but I can't really announce it. I'm never one to care too much if my work becomes adapted, I make comic books.
And what's next with your post-apocalyptic Vertigo series Sweet Tooth?
I'm doing an arc right now with cartoonist Matt Kindt. It's the big reveal what the plague is. I didn't want Sweet Tooth to be one of those books where you're waiting for the reveal until the final issue. I wanted to get it out of the way and move the plot forward. After that, I come back on [art chores] and start moving the book to its conclusion.