Lemire is the critically acclaimed author/artist of the Essex County graphic novel trilogy, a devastatingly beautiful series of tales that led readers through the intertwined lives of characters in rural Canada. Essex was a story that highlighted the human experience from the magic in a child's imagination to the sorrowful regrets of old men.
So, how did the writer-illustrator go from quiet domestic drama to a story about the survival of human-animal hybrid children during the end of the world? Look no further than Dr. Moreau, Kamandi and Mad Max.
"The idea came when I was working on my recent Vertigo series called The Nobody— a reinterpretation of H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man," Lemire explains. "That involvement with Wells got me thinking about, and subsequently reading again, The Island of Dr. Moreau. I love the idea of these half-human/half-animals running around."
So much so, in fact, that Lemire had actually pitched the idea of doing a reinterpretation of Jack Kirby's Kamandi, the classic series recently redone by Dave Gibbons and Ryan Sook for DC Comics' Wednesday Comics. Like Kamandi, Sweet Tooth also follows the adventures of a lost boy, Gus, through a world devastated by a single, calamitous event. One key difference between the two series, however — Gus is an 11-year-old boy with deer antlers growing from his head.
The story of Sweet Tooth opens with Gus being protected and sealed off from the world by his father in a desolate woodland cabin. If he ventures out in the world, the boy is told, he'll be hunted and killed by men. Due to circumstances beyond his control, he finds himself no longer able to remain hidden away in the woods. A grizzled old brawler named Jepperd promises to keep Gus safe and take him to a place where he will be accepted and protected for the rest of his life. So begins the adventure.
"I'm a huge fan of post-apocalyptic stories —Mad Max and so on. Sweet Tooth is my version of a post-apocalyptic tale. It's a surreal fairy tale for adults. The series tries to solve the mystery of why the few children who are being born after this worldwide pandemic are all human/animal hybrids."
Expect some major plot twists along the way, specifically involving Jepperd's real intentions and the way Gus begins to develop as more of an adult character. "We'll see some big-time developments involving Jepperd. Readers will see how his motives are questionable, to say the least. He's going to play a huge part in the outcome of the story."
The main character of Gus also changes in significant ways. "He goes from being an innocent to being thrust into a violent world and needing to learn to survive."
The first five-issue story arc for Sweet Tooth will come to an end in January, with the second arc launching in February 2010. Lemire has the story plotted well into the future, though. "Right now, I have it planned out to be 20 to 30 issues, but it could go even further depending on the response it gets."
Given today's headlines concerning swine flu and other potential pandemics, Lemire's Sweet Tooth is certainly well-suited to capture the attention of a much larger audience. If the emotionally charged writing and subtle-yet-powerful art displayed in this first story arc are any indicator of what's to come, Lemire might just find himself creating Sweet Tooth books for a long, long time.
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