Three if By Space had a chance to sit down with Jeff Lemire, author of Essex County, Sweet Tooth and more, during San Diego Comic Con and discuss Black Hammer, hockey, and some musical interests. Don’t forget to check out Black Hammer coming at you via Dark Horse in March 2015!
(Jeff Lemire and Brianna)
Three if By Space- Can you tell me a little bit about what Black Hammer is about?
Jeff Lemire- Yeah sure, Black Hammer is about a group of super heroes from different eras of comic book history so we have like golden age, silver age, and the modern age and they’ve all been wiped out of continuity so they’ve removed from the comic book universe they’ve existed in. They wake up one day on this farm in a small town with no idea how they got there and no idea how to get back and we pick up ten years later where now they’re totally entrenched in this small town live and they live as normal people but they’re trying to solve this mystery of how they got there and if they could ever get back to where they came from.
TIBS- Where did you get the idea to do this comic?
JL- I actually started a long time ago. My first big project was Essex County, which is a fictionalized version of my childhood growing up in a small town. When I finished that I think it was still fresh in my mind and I also wanted to superheroes at the time but I hadn’t done any superhero stuff so it was just kind of combining the work I had been doing in Essex County with stuff I loved growing up into one big story.
TIBS- What made you choose Dark Horse as opposed to another publisher?
JL- There’s always different business things, but my friend Matt Kindt (Mind MGMT) has been working with DH, Matt and I are very close and I know he was just very happy with them and I really was impressed with how they handled his book so I thought it would be fun to come and try things out here.
TIBS- When you write do you have a soundtrack that you listen to or do you prefer no music?
JL- It’s either something with no lyrics, because that can get distracting, or something I’ve listened to so much that almost fades into the background.
TIBS- What’s an example of something that fades?
JL- Stuff I’ve listened to for years like The Cave, Tom Waits, some of my old favorite’s stuff I love but it also fades into the background because it’s not fresh.
TIBS- Who was the last band you spent your entertainment dollar on?
JL- Oh let me think, what did I buy right before I came here? It was something on iTunes! Future Islands is a band that I really like, Small Black is another band I really like. There’s tons of music that I listen to and of course I draw a blank now!
TIBS- Who was the last band you saw live?
JL- Oh that’s a good one! I haven’t seen live music in years I used to go to a lot when I was younger but I had a kid 5 years ago and that really cuts down on your social life so I stopped seeing shows and stuff. I think the last live performance I saw was The Cave maybe three years ago or something.
TIBS-Last movie you saw?
JL- Oh man, Godzilla I think is the last movie I saw in the theatre, it was alright. The last really cool movie I saw was a Jake Gyllenhaal movie called Enemy, it’s an indie movie he did with a French/Canadian director. It’s really disturbing and creepy, I highly recommend it!
TIBS- If you could switch places with your editor on any book that you’ve written, who would you choose to write it and who would you choose to draw it?
JL- That’s a really good question, I’ve never been asked that. Let me think for a second… I would like to see Matt Kindt do Animal Man with Mike Mignola as the artist.
TIBS- That would be awesome! So, how was it working with an artist as opposed to doing it all yourself?
JL- It’s awesome. It gets to the point where I have so many ideas that I want to do, I can only draw so many of them myself because it’s a slow process. This is a great way to collaborate with someone you respect, like Dean on Black Hammer and also, it allows me to do more creator-owned projects as opposed to one at a time.
TIBS- Going off of that, when you come up with a story do you come up with the image first or do you come up with the story?
JL- Usually the image, it’s usually from a sketch book, some character will pop up or something. I know Black Hammer was something I had developed a long time ago; those were characters that I was sketching in my sketch book but I didn’t show any of those designs to Dean, I let him design them fresh.
TIBS- Did he get close to what you had in mind?
JL- No they’re totally different but I love them, so it’s kind of cool. I’m sure in the collection we’ll take my designs from like 6 years ago and what he ended up doing for a side-by-side contrast!
TIBS- What do you do to get away from your desk?
JL- Ah, I wish I did more. I work a lot because I love it so it’s hard not to work all the time. One of the things I do to “escape comics” is read fiction, reading stuff that isn’t comics. That’s how I relax. I’m not a big sports fan, but being Canadian I’m a big hockey fan so hockey is just so far away from comics so it’s a nice way to turn your brain off.
TIBS- Do you try to go to live games?
JL- Yeah, when I can!
TIBS- Going off of your being Canadian, this is kind of an off-handed question, but having the free health insurance, do you think about that when you’re writing? I know that a lot of artists don’t have that and do have to worry about getting sick.
JL- It’s interesting you know, I was under exclusive contract with DC for a long time and one of the big benefits for artists and writers is having health insurance but I never needed it. It’s actually has allowed me to end the exclusivity and try working for smaller companies like DH and Image, its one big worry I don’t have. It does help the creative process a lot!
TIBS- Lastly is there something in your sketch book that you would want to bring and where would you want that to go?
JL- I’m doing them, Black Hammer is one and I’m doing another with Image that Descender with Dustin Nguyen which is one that I’ve been playing around with for a while. There are definitely others that I’ll probably end up drawing myself, definitely a lot of stuff!
TIBS- Awesome! Well thank you so much for your time!
JL- My pleasure!