Welcome to another installment of Creator’s Commentary, where we talk with comic creators about their work, digging into their books, sometimes page-by-page to learn more about their process—think of it as director’s commentary, but you know, for books.
This month’s issue number 19 of Jeff Lemire’s post-apocalyptic odyssey Sweet Tooth comes as something of a change of pace, as story switches its focus from leads Gus and Jepperd to fellow survivors, Lucy, Becky, and Wendy. In an even bigger change Lemire shares scripting and art duties on this issue with indie collaborators Nate Powell (Swallow Me Whole), Matt Kindt (Superspy), and Emil Lenox (Emitown), as the plot switches to flashback mode and the three characters reveal how their lives were impacted by the plague.
Mr. Lemire was kind enough to join us in digging into some of the secrets of this issue—so if you picked it up this week, follow along!
****WARNING: PLOT POINTS AND INFORMATION OF AN ARTISTIC NATURE WILL BE SPOILED BELOW!****
MTV Geek: [Pg. 1] How did you decide to place the emphasis on the ladies of the cast this month?
Jeff Lemire I felt like all three characters needed to be fleshed out a bit more before we move forward. Because so much of the plot revolves around Jepperd and Gus, I hadn’t had a chance to do that yet, and they really need to be developed a bit more before [the next arc] “Endangered” Species moves forward. As the book progresses into its second half these three characters will play an increasingly important role.
Geek: [Pg. 3] The first panel in this page by Nate Powell—the outstretched hands of the homeless man—is a really arresting image. In fact, isolated limbs are kind of a motif throughout his piece. To what degree was that a conscious element of his script?
JL You’d have to ask Nate. Truth is I let them each do whatever they want, figuring I would bit up on what they laid down and run with it later. We talked very briefly about his idea and about focusing on Lucy’s “trust issues.” I love those hand images he did though… very visceral and effective.
Geek: [Pg. 4-7] With your collaborators this month, how was the script handled, exactly? Did you give them any notes or beats to hit with each character?
JL Again, not really. All I told them was that we would go in chronological order from oldest to youngest. We would see Lucy before the plague hit, Becky right after it hit, and then Wendy in more recent history. After that they were on their own and I did the framing sequence and connecting pages after I saw their completed stories.
Geek: How did you choose the lineup you worked with for this issue and what do you think they brought to it?
JL To be honest they are all really good friends of mine, and all people whose work I respect immensely. Matt is probably my best friend in comics and also a cartoonist I feel a great kinship for. Nate is one of the best storytellers and illustrators out there who brings an incredible amount of humanity to his work that I knew Lucy’s character needed. And Emi is just an incredible cartoonist. I knew her fresh, young style would suit Becky perfectly.
Geek: [Pp. 9-10] Emil Lenox’s pages have arguably the brightest color palette in the issue (thanks to Jose Villarubia). To what degree does the coloring reflect Becky’s state of mind?
JL Well she is the “youngest” character in the book in many ways… she’s older than Gus, yet she still feels younger in spirit. And that is exactly why Emi’s open brush style suited it so well. Jose is like a great cinematographer: he immediately senses the mood and heart of a scene and colors appropriately.
Geek: [Pg. 13] Besides getting the “origin stories” of these three characters, was there a particular theme you were hoping to explore with this issue?
JL Trust. Which will be the main theme running through “Endangered Species.”
Geek: [Pg. 18] Should readers hold out hope of ever seeing Wendy’s mom again? There seems to be a whole interesting story in how she kept her daughter hidden for so long.
JL Possibly. I do like that little mystery of how they survived. Maybe Matt can come back and do a whole issue some time?
Geek: To the same point, can we expect any other trips down memory lane with other members of the cast in the near future?
JL Yes… a big one in Issue 28. That whole issue will be drawn by Nate!
Geek: Could you tease some details of the next arc, “Endangered Species?”
JL Walter Fish, a great new character, introduces a new mystery involving a group called PROJECT EVERGREEN. And as it unfolds it will threaten to tear the entire gang apart. And a major player will die soon (And it’s not Johnny Storm).