Jeff Lemire Explores The Possibilities Of ‘AD: After Death’ [Interview]
Next week sees the release of AD: After Death #1, the latest collaboration between Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire, which not only tells a poignant and emotional story, but mixes prose, illustrations and sequential art to redefine what a comic can be. Ahead of its release, ComicsAlliance spoke to Lemire about how the collaboration took shape, and the slow burn sci-fi mystery of its premise.
ComicsAlliance: How far back does the idea of working with Scott Snyder on AD: After Death go? Does it pre-date your collaborations on Swamp Thing and Animal Man, or was it your work there that planted the seeds for this project?
Jeff Lemire: I don’t think the Swamp Thing/Animal Man story really had much to do with the genesis of After Death. My friendship with Scott goes a lot deeper than just that one story we did. We were friends before that. I think the desire to work together has always been there. Having said that, After Death came about much later. I think it was probably two or three years ago when Scott mentioned the initial idea for After Death to me. At that time it was just going to be a short story. A 20-30 page one shot. But the more we got into the idea, the more it started to expand and grow in scope.
CA: How does your collaboration process work? Is there an initial hashing out of plot and story beats and divvying up of pages, or a back-and-forth system of edits and revisions?
JL: It’s pretty organic. Scott is definitely “the writer” and I am “the artist,” but we do spend a lot of time hashing out the plot and story together. I would say my role in that respect is more of that of an editor to Scott than co-writer. He bounces his ideas off of me, and we talk it through. Then I go off and draw the comics sections of the book “Marvel style”, meaning I don’t have a full script for these pages, just a plot. That allows me the freedom to bring my own storytelling to it.
And while I’m busy drawing these comics sections, Scott focuses in on the prose sections, which are very labor intensive for him. Then we bring it all together and he does a lettering pass on the comics stuff while I do the illustrations to accompany the prose sections.
CA: AD: After Death switches between traditional comics storytelling, illustration and prose narration. How did the decision for this non-traditional approach come about?
JL: I think we both wanted to play to be able to do what we do best, but do it together. Scott comes from a prose background. Before he did comics he wrote novels and short stories. So I know he was longing to scratch that itch again. And we also wanted to push the boundaries of what people generally perceive to be comics. We wanted to experiment and play with format.
CA: Is there a conscious decision to decide which aspects of the book utilize which medium, or is it more of an organic process?
JL: It is really a product of the story itself. The comics sections are set in what is the present day for our main character, which is hundreds of years into our future, a world where death has been genetically cured. And the prose sections are used to delve into his memories and his past.
CA: The shape and placement of the lettering is fundamental throughout, especially in pages with less illustration and more open space. How much thought do you give lettering during the scripting phase?
JL: I don’t think there is any thought into lettering in the scripting stage. Scott needs to be free to write whatever he needs to write without any restrictions like that. Where thinking about lettering comes in is with me when doing the illustrations and layouts. I take what Scott has written and then plan out how much space we will need and work with that in mind. Then the amazing Steve Wands has to letter it and make it all work. He’s become an integral part of the look and design of the book.
CA: How much research do you commit to a project like this? Both for the medical science found in the flashback and for the sci-fi aspects of the main story?
JL: Scott was the one who dived deep into the medical/scientific research on this. For my part it was a matter of taking what he did and then building a world visually that fit his ideas. I did a few versions of the world, the clothing etc., that were very different from what ended up in the final book; it took finding the right aesthetic. And most of that was intuitive, rather than based on any research.
CA: There’s still a lot of mystery surrounding the premise by the end of the first issue, and instead it’s a lot more personal than the elevator pitch might make it seem. How much of the larger world are we going to see in the remaining two issues?
JL: The book continues to balance the more emotional and literary aspects of the prose with the more bombastic sci-fi aspects of the book’s high concept. We will slowly peel back the layers and reveal the bigger mystery and world. But you’ll have to wait for it and discover it just like the characters do.
Check out more preview pages from AD: After Death Book One, on sale Wednesday 23 November: