Happy Wednesday, everyone. Today I’m going to start a new feature that I’m pretty excited about. I am going to go through my career, and my body of work, in chronological order and open up my sketchbooks, notebooks, original art folders etc. to reveal as much process material from each book as possible. For lack of a better title, I am calling this new regular feature “From The Vault”.
The idea for From The Vault is not just to share process, behind-the-scenes and developmental material for each book I’ve done, but to also to talk about where I was in my career, my development as a cartoonist and writer, and in my life too. Starting with my earliest work I’ll be working my way through all my books until we catch up to the present.
For the first few installments I am mostly going to focus on the books that I both wrote and drew myself. The reason for this is two-fold; first, I just have much more artwork and process stuff from the books I drew myself lying around the studio. And secondly, even though many people think of me as a writer now, I actually didn’t start writing for other artists and collaborating on books until over a decade into my career. As you’ll see, writing and drawing my stuff was how I started. I wanted to be a cartoonist and becoming a “comic book writer” as well was sort of something that happened unexpectedly. I realize that some of you may be more interested in some of the books I just wrote like Gideon Falls or Black Hammer as well as the many books I wrote for DC and Marvel over the years. I will get to that material for sure, but for the sake of keeping this feature organized in my mind I am going to structure it around the books I wrote and drew, because that is what my life and my career has been built around. Even now my weeks are built and scheduled around whatever book I’m currently drawing.
As I have begun going through all this old stuff and planning this section of the newsletter, I have come to realize that I can’t talk about my work without also talking about where I was in my life when I did each book. I don’t generally like to share a lot of details about my personal life, but the truth is, if I want this to be an honest and comprehensive account of my career, I then need to discuss all the things that shaped each project, and often my personal life was a big part of that. So, in many ways, this feature will not be just a look into sketchbooks and original art but will also act as a sort of memoir too.
I always feel a bit weird talking about my life because, frankly, who cares? But the truth is, for artists I admire, and whose work I follow, I love reading more about their lives and work and getting beyond the usual promotional shit and social media BS. I want to know how and why they create the things they do. So maybe there is some value in me doing the same here.
I’ve come to see that certain projects may require more than one posting. Books like Essex County and Sweet Tooth, which are in many ways the twin foundational pillars of my entire career, probably need at least two parts. So, the following is the basic plan/schedule for From The Vault:
The Early Years: 1999-2003: All my early unpublished comics and formative work
Lost Dogs/Ashtray: 2003-2005: My first two self-published books
In Between Days 1: 2004-2005: Lost comics: Hawker Hurricane, Soft Instruments.
Essex County Part 1: 2005-2006
Essex County Part 2: 2006-2007
In Between Days 2: Lost Comics: Minnow, Trench Skater etc.
The Nobody: 2008
Black Hammer’s First Incarnation; 2008
Sweet Tooth Part 1: 2009-2011
My First DC Comics Work/ The New 52: 2011-2012
Sweet Tooth Part 2: 2011-2013
The Underwater Welder: 2008-2010
Subsequent DC work and moving to Marvel and Valiant: 2014-2015
Descender & Black Hammer: 2014-2016
Roughneck & Secret Path: 2015-2017
Gideon Falls: 2016
Unrealized DC and Marvel Projects 2010-2015
Royal City 2016-2018
My Childhood Comics: 1976-1986
Deep Cuts: Misc. Short stories 2005-2020
The Sketchbooks: 2005-2021
Sweet Tooth: The Return/Mazebook 2018-2020
Future Projects: 2022 and Beyond
This newsletter and From The Vault are still all a work in process too, so the above will likely shift and change as I get into things, but for now this is the plan.
I’m surprisingly excited about doing this. I don’t often like to look back. The truth is I have spent the last fifteen or twenty years jumping right into my next book. All I wanted to do was keep going, keep creating, keep getting better. But I feel like now, at forty-five years old, with twenty years of making comics behind me, I am at a point where I see real value and taking a breath and looking back at the things that shaped my work and then taking all that and looking forward to what I want to do next.
This #0 installment will be the only time I will make this feature accessible to all. So for all my readers on the fence about joining the Farm with a paid subscription, consider this post as an epic tease of things to come.
With that in mind, I’ll be back next week to start the “FROM THE VAULT” feature when we will jump back to the glory days of the late 90’s where we find a young, fragile farmboy named Jeff Lemire wandering the streets of Toronto, smoking way too many cigarettes and dreaming of one day being the next Paul Pope or Daniel Clowes…
See you next week! - Jeff
I'm also curious to see where Sentient fits. I thoroughly enjoyed that book, and it's a world I'd love to see you and Gabriel Walta return to someday.
I'm curious where A.D. After Death fits?