While ANIMAL MAN came to a close recently, after a 29 issue run, it's not the last fans will see of Buddy Baker. Writer Jeff Lemire is taking the character and bringing him over to his new series JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITED. Lemire chatted with us in a phone interview about his run on this book and the future of the character.
COMIC VINE: How does it feel for ANIMAL MAN to come to a close?
JEFF LEMIRE: Well, it's funny because for me, the book came to a close like half a year ago, when I finished writing those issues, so it's been a while since I've really been actively working on the book. With the last issue coming out yesterday, you kinda look back on the whole run and everything and I'm just really proud of the run. We did 29, I guess 32 if you count the annuals and the 0 issue that I think really stand up, and I'm really proud of them.
CV: Looking back on the whole series, what was your favorite moment during this run?
JL: Oh geez, I don't know. I love the cliffhanger, at the end of the first issue, with Maxine resurrecting the dead pets. I feel like that was great. Actually, the two annuals that we did, the first one where it was sort of set in the past with Timothy Greene did the art. He kinda met an old Swamp Thing from the past. That was a lot fun and Travel Foreman and I did an annual this year sort of a goodbye to Cliff that I think maybe is the strongest issue of the whole series. Those are the ones that come to mind for sure, and just seeing the first arc come in from Rafael Albuquerque and his take on the characters is pretty thrilling. You know, there's a lot of good stuff. Working with Scott Snyder on Rotworld was a lot of fun. There's a lot of highlights for me and it was really a good time.
CV: For this last issue, you split art duties with Travel Foreman, who was the original artist on the series, and your take was very cool in this fairy tale retelling of the series. How did you come to the idea to do that for this final issue?
JL: My art style isn't your traditional super-hero art style, so I knew if I wanted to draw part of it, it needed to work within the context of the story or else it would just stand out and wouldn't fit with the previous issues. That was a good narrative device to have my art style work with the bigger story and the bigger series and I though that was a really sweet and perfect ending, telling Maxine a bedtime story. It seemed to sum everything up. Originally, I was going to watercolor paint the images myself, but my schedule with TRILLIUM and everything, I just couldn't do it, so I got my SWEET TOOTH collaborator Jose Villarrubia to color it, and in a weird way, it felt a lot like some of the things we've done in SWEET TOOTH, so it was kinda cool.
CV: Was it always your plan to turn Socks into a Totem?
JL: Yeah, I think so. He deserves a promotion. He and Shepherd after everything they've done. Yeah, I don't know if that was always the plan for Socks. I can't remember what my original plan was, but it felt like the natural next step for those characters. It makes them a bigger part of the fabric of the DC Universe.
CV: This is less of a super-hero book and much more of a family-centric book. Was that always your plan with this series?
JL: Oh yeah, absolutely. Animal Man, if you really take a look at the character, aside from the family stuff, really, all he is is some guy who can jump as high as a kangaroo. It's not all that compelling. Really what makes him unique is the family. That's the thing that gives that character a distinct story and point of view. That was always the thing that interested me about writing the book, and if I couldn't explored the family stuff, I wouldn't have had any interest in the character at all. That was always my main focus for sure.
CV: Was there anything within his history that you wanted to touch on but didn't get a chance to?
JL: No, I think I got to do everything I wanted to, to be honest. I didn't expect it to last 29 issues, when we first started it. There were 52 books launched at once and the chances of all of them surviving wasn't very good. ANIMAL MAN wasn't exactly a marquee name. I never expected to get to do half the stuff I got to do, to be honest. My original plans were a lot smaller. I was fortunate enough to be able to expand them. It was more of a matter of me getting to do more than I ever expected or wanted to do than less.
CV: You spent a couple years with this character, so how do you feel about Buddy now compared to when you first started out on this book?
JL: I feel very close to him, in a weird way. I feel like he's my surrogate. I'm glad I get to continue writing him. I feel like I told the story of him and his family already and to continue the book, I would have had to taken it in a totally different direction because you can only terrorize a family and bring them back together so many times before it gets repetitive. So I would have had to taken a different approach with the character. I felt going the straight super-hero stuff, with him, really wouldn't work. You need something else. The only option for him, if I wanted to continue writing was to put him in a team setting and have him play off other characters in the DC universe. That's why I moved him over to Justice League. He's changed a lot. He's suffered a lot and lost a lot, but he's a stronger person and a more responsible person, and I think we'll see him kinda bring some of that into Justice League with some of the younger heroes that are on the team with him. He's a father and a husband, so he has a lot to teach and a lot the younger heroes can learn from. He can be a big brother or father figure to some of them, which is kind of cool.
CV: Can we expect other ideas or concepts from ANIMAL MAN bleed over into JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITED?
JL: Yeah, a little bit. We did some stuff in an earlier issue with the distant planet, the seed planet and the Bridgewalker and stuff and by nature of JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITY being a cosmic orientated book, it will be a chance to go back to that story and explore it again, so that's probably something that will carry over.
Many thanks to Jeff Lemire for taking the time to answer our questions and make sure to check out his run on ANIMAL MAN, as well as JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITED, featuring Buddy Baker, which hits stands in April.