Comic-Con 2013 Exclusive: Jeff Lemire on ‘Trinity War,’ ‘Green Arrow,’ ‘Animal Man’
Comic-Con is a great time for interviews, and I managed to meet Jeff Lemire, writer of Green Arrow, Animal Man and Justice League Dark, which currently ties into the big "Trinity War" event winding through the three Justice League books. He also discussed his new and interesting Vertigo project called Trillium, as well as hinting at a possible future writing Stargirl of the Justice League of America once this big story runs its course. He also let us know the questions he always gets about Green Arrow – just in case you meet him in the future, you'll know what not to ask.
CRAVE ONLINE: You're doing an immense amount of work right now. Does it feel like a huge workload to you?
JEFF LEMIRE: Yes. There are actually two or three things that haven't been announced as well, so yeah, it's been pretty crazy.
CRAVE ONLINE: Are you about ready to tap out?
LEMIRE: No, no, I'm great. I enjoy having multiple projects at different stages, you know? If I run out of ideas for, say, Animal Man, I can just put it aside for a month or two and work on Green Arrow or whatever else and come back to Animal Man when I have new ideas and I'm energized again. I like staggering things like that – getting far ahead one one project so I can do that.
CRAVE ONLINE: Yeah, so you're not forced into things by deadlines.
LEMIRE: Yeah, deadlines aren't a problem for me. I purposefully get very far ahead so I can do that. It's the only way to do it.
CRAVE ONLINE: Do they become a problem when you're in a big event like "Trinity War?"
LEMIRE: Well, it's different because you're working with other people and you can't just go burning ahead. So I had to carve out some special time for "Trinity War" to work with Geoff's schedule, but it's such a big project and such a unique thing that you can't say no to it. I wanted to be a part of it.
CRAVE ONLINE: I know. We're two issues in and it's like a madhouse. How do you juggle three separate teams in the Justice League, the JLA and the Justice League Dark? It's hard enough to juggle the characters in one team book.
LEMIRE: It was really, really hard. I've never done one of these events before, but Geoff's done tons, so I relied on him. He just has a way of stepping back and seeing it almost like a chess board, and then focusing like a laser on different characters and trying to give them all a moment. But it's really fun. I love the DC universe so much that, for me, it was the first time I got to write a lot of these characters. Getting to write a Wonder Woman scene was so cool for me. It's hard not to get excited about it. And Superman – I'd never written Superman. It was really fun.
CRAVE ONLINE: Does it still feel like you're getting to write the Superman of your youth with the New 52 version?
LEMIRE: Yes, of course. I feel invested in the New 52. I feel a part of it, so the characters are just the next evolution of the characters I grew up reading.
CRAVE ONLINE: So who's your favorite character to write amidst the Trinity War business?
LEMIRE: Actually, I really enjoyed writing Green Arrow in a team setting, because I've only been writing his monthly solo book. It's a whole different dynamic when you add him to a team thing, a group thing, so that was really interesting and I think I learned a lot about the character doing that. A couple other surprises – for some reason, I had a real connection to Stargirl. I don't know why, just something about her is really endearing. I really liked her, so I have some plans to do some stuff with her maybe in a different book next year.
CRAVE ONLINE: Oh, really? Like her own series?
LEMIRE: No, we'll see. I can't say anything else.
CRAVE ONLINE: You've taken over Green Arrow recently to great success and accolades, and you've started building this huge mythology around what it means to be "The Arrow." Is there a risk involved when crafting this "chosen one" sort of destiny around a guy like Oliver Queen of perhaps taking something away from him just being a guy like Oliver Queen, if that makes sense?
LEMIRE: We don't know what he's going to do. We don't know if he's going to accept that destiny. Just because it's there doesn't mean he's going there – especially Oliver Queen, because he's never been one to listen to anybody other than himself. Chances are if someone's preordained him to become something, he's going to go the other way. So that's where the story's going to get interesting. I've set up this mythology and set up this destiny – thus the conflict. Yeah, I'm very aware of that. That's part of the story.
CRAVE ONLINE: Cool. That's one thing it feels like we see too much of, the 'chosen one' thing.
LEMIRE: Yeah, this is the perfect character to do that to because he's not going to do it. Or if he does do it, it's going to be in a way totally counter to what you thought it was going to be.
CRAVE ONLINE: Any chance he'll get the old goatee back?
LEMIRE: Everyone asks me that. So much.
CRAVE ONLINE: Yeah, I was afraid of that.
LEMIRE: If it was up to me, I'd probably just give it to him so I wouldn't have to answer the damn question. To me, it's cosmetic. That's not what makes the man. I don't really care. I love the way Andrea draws him. I couldn't care less. He looks so awesome.
CRAVE ONLINE: How's the working rapport with Andrea Sorrentino?
LEMIRE: Yeah, we get along really well. There's a natural chemistry that's really working on the book. It's really a full collaboration. I'll have an idea for something visually, but he'll take that and expand it and make it something even bigger or weirder or stranger than I imagined, and then I'll see that and put that into my next script. It's a one-upsmanship that really seems to be working. I think collaborative comics are at their best when the two people like Andrea and I – the book becomes something better than either one of us could have done on our own, you know? It's been a joy to work with him for sure. Every time he sends pages, it's hard not to get reinspired and reinvigorated about the book, because it looks so amazing and so full of new ideas that I didn't even anticipate. That's awesome. It's great to be surprised in a good way like that.
CRAVE ONLINE: Just so I know, what other questions are you sick of hearing? I assume Black Canary questions are on that list.
LEMIRE: Yeah, those two. Those are the ones that I answer all the time. I understand – fans have an affinity for the old stuff, but for me, it's no fun to just redo what's already been done.
CRAVE ONLINE: Moving onto your new Vertigo book Trillium, what's the concept behind that? You explained that you're doing a sort of flip-book take on the first issue, with two stories, one starting at both ends of the book and meeting in the middle.
LEMIRE: Yeah. It's a time-traveling love story, so there are two characters, each set in a different time period. One is a scientist – in the far future, a woman is working on this distant planet trying to make contact with this alien race who may hold the key to humanity's survival. The other character is this veteran of World War I who has been scarred by the war and is searching for something, and he becomes an explorer in the Amazon, and through mysterious circumstances, in our flip-book first issue, these two narratives collide and these two characters meet. There's an undeniable connection and a love affair begins, but the closer they get, the more the universe around them starts to fall apart. It's sort of a classic kind of theme, but I'm putting it in the backdrop of these two eras of exploration – the classic era of 19th century exploration and then this extrapolation in the far future is really fun for me. The worldbuilding and the sci-fi aspects, designing space suits and spaceships and ray guns, is a lot of fun for me.
CRAVE ONLINE: How can it not be? That sounds really cool. Now is each issue going to be a flip book?
LEMIRE: No, the first issue's the flipbook, but I'm trying to do something special with each issue in terms of format, to make it interesting. The second issue, we talk about language. When these two characters meet, she's so far into the future that her English is indecipherable to him and vice versa. So I really play with communication and language, and they have to resort to visual things that you can only do in comics to communicate. So that's a lot of fun. The third issue, I'm playing around with one narrative going on in the main section of the page, but in the margins, there's a second narrative going. Just doing fun things like that could be seen as gimmicky, but if you do them as part of the story, it becomes something that hopefully enhances everything.
CRAVE ONLINE: There's a fine line there, sure, but it's comics. You should feel free to invent stuff and just do things.
LEMIRE: Yeah, it keeps me excited, and if I'm excited, hopefully the reader is excited.
CRAVE ONLINE: Cool. I certainly am. Moving back to "Trinity War" for a moment, we've seen the video of Geoff Johns explaining all the Justice Leagues and the players in the story, and he tells us flat out that the good guys lose, the bad guys win and then comes Forever Evil. Does that feel like it takes some of the wind out of the sails?
LEMIRE: No, because there's a whole bunch of other stuff that's not been revealed. That's one aspect of many.
CRAVE ONLINE: Cool. One question I wanted to ask is that the idea of bad guys collectively beating the good guys and taking over for a while sound a bit like what Marvel did a while back with Dark Reign. How does this differ from that?
LEMIRE: I'll be totally honest with you. I've never read the Dark Reign thing, so I don't know.
CRAVE ONLINE: Basically, Norman Osborn takes over and the bad guys rule for like a year.
LEMIRE: All right, this is not like that, from the sounds of it, anyway. It's really hard for me to answer the questions without spoiling. I can't answer them. But it won't be like that. It's something kind of different.
CRAVE ONLINE: I want to touch on Animal Man as well. The big "Rotworld" epic took up about the first year and a half of the whole book in both your book and Swamp Thing. Did that help you get a lot of ideas stored up in the meantime to explore once you got it finished?
LEMIRE: Yeah, big time. I think it did go too long, and that was something – I loved the story itself, but if I could go back, I feel like we could have made it a bit shorter. You know, you live and learn. So now I'm trying to do shorter arcs to explore different aspects of the book and stay away from The Rot. The arc I'm doing now is really exploring his celebrity and playing around with that. We've got some interesting stuff coming up after the villain Month. Rafael Albuquerque is going to become the new artist on the book, which is pretty awesome. We have a cosmic adventure with Buddy that's going to be balls out. Something totally different.
CRAVE ONLINE: Might he be getting mixed up with Green Lanterns or any of the stuff from Threshold?
LEMIRE: No, it's its own thing. Its own thing that kind of ties into his natural mythology.
CRAVE ONLINE: Is there anything else you have coming besides these four books that you can talk about at all?
LEMIRE: No, not yet. Soon, really soon. Within the next month or so.