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Earlier this Fall, DC Comics
launched a massive overhaul, with all books reverting to #1, and while it’s
been interesting to say the least, it’s also been surprising. Case in point:
ANIMAL MAN, reborn as a psychedelic horror tale to behold. FANGORIA spoke with
author Jeff Lemire (SWEET TOOTH) about the ANIMAL MAN relaunch during DC
Comics’ THE NEW 52, depicting the gory imagery with artist Travel Foreman, and
his upcoming action/horror comic, FRANKENSTEIN: AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E.
FANGORIA: How did you get on
JEFF LEMIRE: I had written a
couple of books for DC Comics at that point. DC kind of approached me, telling
me they were going to be re-launching their entire line, starting everything
over with first issues. The first couple of different projects they thought I
might want to do. I wasn’t excited about either of them very much. I kind of
pitched FRANKENSTEIN: AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E to them, and they liked that one. I
asked if we could do something else and they suggested ANIMAL MAN, finally. I’m
a big fan of the old ANIMAL MAN series from Vertigo, back in the 90s. I really
liked the character, and I thought there was a lot of interesting stuff for me
to do with it. I was really excited about it and pretty much accepted the job
FANG: ANIMAL MAN was created by
Dave Wood in the 1960s. In the late 1980s, he was revamped for a mature
audience. How will this reinvention, during DC Comics’ THE NEW 52, be
LEMIRE: For me, I really liked
what they did in the 90s, especially the Grant Morrison stuff. It was a lot
more about him and the relationship with his family. I thought that was pretty
cool. I pick up where he left off, as far in the New 52. I wanted to bring a
more horror sensibility to the book. I wanted to balance the lighter more
emotional stuff of the family, offset with the horrific things going on around
them. I wanted to challenge them, see if they can stay together or be torn apart.
For a superhero book and in the regular DC Universe, it’s really more of a
horror book and a really dark take on it.
FANG: As you said, ANIMAL MAN can
be seen as a dark superhero tale and a family drama. Tell me about your
interests with the horror genre.
LEMIRE: To be honest, I’ve never
been much of a horror fan, or I’ve never been personally interested in those
films, or anything like that. So it’s strange that I’m doing this horror book!
For me, the horror aspects come out of the character’s nature, how he’s
connected to all living creatures. I obviously needed some kind of conflict,
some kind of villain for him to go up against. That’s when the more horror
aspects, these monsters and things, emerged. The book wasn’t the product of me
being a big horror fan and wanting to do that. It was more just the direction
of the book. I find doing the really dark stuff, within the horror aspects, a
really good balance with the family stuff.
FANG: In issue #1, Animal Man has
this hallucinatory nightmare towards the climax. Tell me about “The Red.”
LEMIRE: The Red is an interesting
thing. Back in the old SWAMP THING comics, created by Alan Moore, he introduced
the Green, this underlying elemental force that connected all vegetation stuff.
In the 90s Vertigo, the ANIMAL MAN series, they sort of connected Animal Man to
that, and gave him his own version called the Red, a life force that connects
to all living tissue and living animals. They introduced that kind of stuff in
the 90s, but never explored it very much. So, I felt that was really rich
territory to pick up on and develop. Over the course of the first arc, it
really establishes The Red as an actual place that Buddy Baker, the Animal Man
character, can tap into and visit. There’s a deeper mystery to who he is and
what he’s meant to do. There’s a darker aspect to the Red, the decay and rot,
that he’s fighting against. The Red is a new underlying elemental force in the
DC Universe, that Swamp Thing and Animal Man are going to be exploring
FANG: The first issue is filled
with intense imagery, from blood drooling eyes to the monsters in Animal Man’s
nightmares. Tell me about your collaboration with artist Travel Foreman.
LEMIRE: It’s really interesting
because I never had that kind of experience, where a sort a simple idea in the
script and he’ll do the art; it’ll be so rich and fantastic, and so weird with
imagery and symbolism. He actually kind of enhances my original idea and
sometimes even changes it. Sometimes I’ll have to go back and readjust my plans
based on the art. It’s a really cool collaboration. That imagery, the blood,
the themes, that was all from his original sketches. Somehow that needed to be
incorporated into the story, so I started writing plot points around them, to
make sure to get those images into the book. For me, that’s what you want. You
want an artist who really pushes you and forces you to adapt, and make the
FANG: What can readers expect
from further issues of ANIMAL MAN?
LEMIRE: I don’t want to give anything
away too much too soon. Like I said, the first arc is going to introduce the
Red and the actual place. You’re going to see it. We’re going to get to see the
creatures who inhabit it, which will be pretty interesting to people. The
Hunter’s Dream are sort of monstrous anti-versions of life or anti-versions of
animals, who are hunting Animal Man and his family.
In the second arc, I’m going to
do something called, “Animal Versus Man.” I don’t want to give too much away.
Every animal on the planet turns against Animal Man and attack him.
Beyond that, I have a big
crossover with Swamp Thing. That should be exciting!
FANG: You are also working on
FRANKENSTEIN: AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E. Frankenstein is protecting the world from
monsters worse than him. Yet he is also vilified by the way he looks. Tell me
about the themes of this narrative.
LEMIRE: To me, the Frankenstein
character is a really fun book to draw. I love taking these classic horror
archetypes from the Universal Monsters: Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, and
modernizing them in ridiculous over-the-top science fiction adventures. That’s
the core of the book but at the same time, I really wanted to explain the
origin of the Frankenstein character as well. I wanted to see how he got from
the monster in Mary Shelly’s book to this version, this modern superhero in
this DC universe. I wanted to show the hidden century between the two. Like you
said, humanity is terrified of him. His only purpose in life really is to
protect humanity. I want to see how that happened and explore as the book goes
FANG: Tell me about how you and
artist Alberto Ponticelli envisioned Frankenstein as an action hero, alongside
with the Creature Commandos.
LEMIRE: A lot of that stuff came
from a version of the Frankenstein character from Grant Morrison’s miniseries
called THE SEVEN SOLDIERS. He created this version of Frankenstein as a super
soldier, almost like a James Bond type of character. He created black-op
missions and stuff. It was just a matter of taking what he had done and then
continuing, expanding on it. One of the classic horror comics I loved as a kid
was WEIRD WAR TALES. In one of the features I liked, the Creature Commandos
were the classic Universal Monsters as soldiers of World War II. It was a
really fun storyline. So I thought it would be great to make those characters
as Frankenstein’s field team and make them a bit more modern. Ponticelli loves
drawing monsters and action. You put my ideas with his art, it’s a lot of
energy and an over-the-top book.
FANG: What are you working on
LEMIRE: Those two books are an
ongoing thing. They take up a lot of my time. For Vertigo, I write and draw
SWEET TOOTH, which is sort of an action/adventure, apocalypse horror story.
It’s about half human/half animal hybrid children on the run, after a plague
has wiped out humanity. They’re trying to figure out the secret of their
origins. That’s ongoing as well and I draw too. Between those two projects,
it’s a pretty much a full schedule for me.
FANG: How can readers find out
more about your work?
LEMIRE: They can probably check
out my twitter feed, @JeffLemire or my blog. I try to
keep people updated on the new stuff coming up.
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