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Jeff Lemire Reveals the Secret Origins of the Hybrid Children in ‘Sweet Tooth’ [Exclusive]

The world of Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth is rife with deadly secrets, but at the heart of them all is the mystery of the human/animal hybrid children who stand to inherit the Earth. The extent of each hybrid’s mutations varies dramatically, but all survive where humans have fallen prey to a near-apocalyptic illness and the antlered, chocolate-loving protagonist Gus could be the key to it all.

Lemire shared exclusive original sketches of three of his favorite hybrid children with ComicsAlliance, and the story behind each one, including how he got by with a little help from his wife, a former editor and his deadline-inspired self to fill Sweet Tooth Vol. 2: In Captivity chock full of adorable freaks and the fact that his next storyline may spell certain doom for at least one of the children.The Secret Identity of Bobby The Groundhog Boy and other Mysteries of Sweet Tooth Revealed…

by Jeff Lemire

I always knew that eventually I’d have to create other human/animal hybrid children to accompany Gus the antlered boy on his journey across the post-apocalyptic landscape of Sweet Tooth. But to be honest, I only referred to them in the most vague terms in my early outlines and pitches. I didn’t really have a clear sense yet of who they would be, or even how big a role they would end up playing in the book.

For some reason the thought of designing new hybrid kids seemed more overwhelming than it did exciting. Maybe it was the fact that by the time I need to actually create them I was already in full swing writing, penciling and inking the monthly Vertigo series, and was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the schedule. Taking the time out to design new characters was a luxury I didn’t really have at that point. So to be perfectly honest, they were pretty much created on the fly, with a little help from my wife and (unbeknownst to him) my then editor, the great Bob Shreck.

A couple of those early hybrids that appear in “In Captivity” didn’t really have what it took to survive in Sweet Tooth’s world. The weird little Pug-dog Girl from issue 6 was poorly designed and too hard to draw consistently and never made another appearance. And then there’s poor, poor Horse-boy, (to learn his ultimate fate see issue 9) but thankfully, despite their rushed beginnings, three of these characters have become my, and many of my readers’, favorites in the series. So here’s a quick look at their origins and some of the first sketches I did (You’ll also notice a few outtakes like Lesley The Cat Girl and an Ermine-Boy).
1. WENDY The Pig-girl: Wendy is my favorite character to draw in Sweet Tooth. I just love her. Really. She has a heart of gold that may even be sweeter than Gus. So now I have a confession to make… I didn’t design her, my wife did. Lesley-Anne Green is an amazing sculpture and doll-maker. She is also the co-creator of the “real” Gus (our 2-year old son). I was feeling the crunch and my hybrid sketches were going nowhere, so I asked her to design one for me. Like her amazing dolls, Lesley-Anne’s Wendy design is cute and hideous all at the same time (the sketch is featured here). Maybe that’s why I like drawing here so much, she reminds me of my wife (the cute part, not the hideous part).
2. BOBBY The Groundhog Boy: …is Bob Shreck. Let me explain. Bob was the first editor on Sweet Tooth and a big part of the book and my success at DC and Vertigo. Bob is also an all around great guy, mentor and friend. Another fact about Bob is that he shares a birthday with my son Gus, February 2nd…Groundhog Day! I was disappointed when I heard he was leaving [to head Legendary Pictures' Legendary Comics] so I decided to create a character based on Bob that would live on in the pages of Sweet Tooth. Thus Bobby the lovable groundhog-boy was born.
3. BUDDY The ? Boy: What the hell is Buddy? Honestly, I have no idea. Originally he was supposed to be a sheep-boy, but then when I looked at how I drew him in Issue 6 I realized he didn’t look anything like a sheep, but that issue had already been printed so I had to stick with the design. I like how he looks; I just don’t really know what the hell he looks like. In my mind he is kind of a Donkey-boy. Anyway, that’s not why I love silent Buddy. The thing that really makes him so great is… Oh wait, I can’t tell you that yet, can I?

So that’s it for now, but I will leave you with one final tease/spoiler. Enjoy these three characters while you can (the pages of Sweet Tooth Vol. 2: In Captivity would be a good place to start), because they will not all survive past the end of the current arc. That’s right, one of these lovable kids is about to meet his or her maker…all that and more in Issue 17.

– Jeff Lemire

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