Jeff Lemire, super writer

Q: Is it hard to keep so many comics spinning?

A: I have a system, developed out of necessity when I was just doing my independent books. I would develop like this complete tunnel vision, and work start to finish on one title. So with DC, as I got more and more books, I became organized. I learned how to work far ahead on one project. Instead of getting, say, one issue of "Animal Man" done then moving on to the next book, I started to work three or four months ahead and get all my ideas for a story out. Which means I am really only ever working on one or two projects simultaneously. If I do fall down on one thing, I have a buffer this way. It also just comes down to loving comics. I would do this even if I wasn't being paid to. So it's not hard to want to do it all the time.

Q: And yet, judging by work like "Essex County," then "Underwater Welder," even "Sweet Tooth" and the melancholy of your DC books — none of it suggests such a deep dive into superheroes.

A: I know, and I never aspired to write superhero books.

Q: Which may be why you're good at it.

A: Perhaps. To me, it's all about balance. For a while, I just wanted to do my own quirky indie books, then DC came along — but just doing superhero comics would never satisfy me personally, either. A big part of that balance is the personal work, which I draw and write. Drawing is my first love. My day doesn't feel complete unless I draw a page. Yet I am in demand as a writer, which is fine, but the tactile satisfaction of being at a drawing board, I don't get it from DC. So I spend a few hours drawing, then a few hours writing. I am writing another book right now, and it is totally unlike a superhero book, but it's too early to speak about.

Q: Is it set in Canada?

A: Yes.

Q: Are you a militant Canadian?

A: I think so. I have a lot of respect for Canadian authors and cartoonists, and I like to think that I am part of that heritage. I grew up in Essex County, in Ontario, and when I was 20, I moved to Toronto, which is when I got into comics. Seth and Chester Brown — that older generation of Canadian cartoonists inspired me then. When I first came to Toronto, I would see them walking around! It's how I realized that real people do this, and maybe if I stuck with it, I would be with them. Which sounds silly, but when you grow up on a farm, making a career out of comics is as realistic as playing in the NHL. You forget: Real people make comics.

Christopher Borrelli is an entertainment reporter for the Chicago Tribune.

CHICAGO

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