Take a peek into the mind of the artist and writer of Tales From The Farm, Jeff Lemire.
How much of the story is based on your real life?
The main plot elements, (The orphaned boy, the Uncle, the Mother's death from Cancer), are fictional. Having said that, the locations are all real Essex County places, and while I never experienced the things Lester does, he is very much me. I grew up on a farm much like the one in the book. And, his love of comics and hockey, dressing up as a superhero, the sense of isolation on the farm, were all very much me.
What kinds of comics did you read as a kid?
I was a big DC comics fan as a kid. I loved George Perez and Marv Wolfman's Teen Titans and Crisis on Infinite Earths, Paul Levitz and Kieth Giffen's Legion of Superheroes was also seminal. Basically I was a giant superhero fan as a kid.
Then as I got older I moved into Vertigo comics and then discovered more of the indie voices out there and the Europeans and South Americans like Munoz and Breccia who really informed my drawing style. So in a sense Tales is a love letter to the books I read as a kid, but funneled through my adult influences and aesthetic.
What drew you to create your own comics?
I've been drawing comics since I was old enough to hold a pencil. In fact a section of Tales is an actual comic I drew when I was nine-years-old that my Mother kept. I added it to the book as Lester's comic.
Drawing comics was never really a conscious choice...it just what I've always done.
Do you have any desire to do any superhero stuff?
I would love to. When done well (All Star Superman, New Frontier) superhero comics can be incredibly exciting and rewarding. I still read the good stuff and would love the opportunity to channel a mainstream character through my own style and voice.
What can we expect to see in the other two volumes? I noticed the second volume is entitled Ghost Stories and the third is The Country Nurse? Are you going for a different kind of genre/theme for each one?
All three books connect and intertwine in unexpected ways (I hope). They are all set in the same fictionalized version of my home town and all deal with loss, guilt and isolation in small town life and families.
The second book, Ghost Stories is set to be released in September. It tells the story of Jimmy's grandfather and his brother playing Hockey in 1950's Toronto, and then follows there lives throughout the decades up to the present.
The third is the story of a traveling Home Nurse in Essex County. As we follow her on her daily rounds through the town we learn more and more about the history and rural mythology of the area and how all the elements from Vol 1-3 tie together into a larger story.
Tell me about your art style, who influenced you as an artist? As a storyteller?
As mentioned the expressiveness of artists like Jose Munoz, Alberto Breccia and Hugo Pratt are all key to me. But, I also take a lot from some American greats, especially Alex Toth, Joe Kubert and Carmine Infantino.
As a story teller I draw from a slightly more diverse well...John Steinbeck, Alan Moore, David Lynch, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Ian McEwan to name a few.
How have the people of the real Essex Co. responded to your comics?
The response from my family and the real Essex County has been very positive. I'm doing an art exhibit there this summer, so I should have a chance to meet and talk to a lot of people, and get a more direct response then. Right now it's mostly my Mother telling me all the nice things people are saying...she may not be the most objective messenger though.
What are you working on next?
I'm nearing the end on Vol.2 (Ghost Stories) it's a much bigger book, 200+ pages, then it will be right onto #3. That should keep me busy until the end of 2007. After that, who knows...there are a few things popping up in the sketchbooks, you never know which ones will stick.