Dear Lina, Have You Read Jeff Lemire’s Essex County Trilogy?

Hello and Happy Easter, Passover, etc!

It’s been too long since we’ve seen one another.

I’ve been meaning to send along some information about, Essex Country Trilogy, the comic book I chose for you at Christmas! I hope you’ve been able to spend some time with the book. It’s definitely worth reading over a few times and really soaking in the pages. If I’ve learned anything about Lemire’s work is that it’s deceptively simple. There is a quiet deliberateness to each panel – try to absorb each line on the page for the full effect.

So who is Jeff Lemire? Well you probably know by now that he is a Toronto-based comic artist. He lives in my neighbourhood, actually. He shops at the comic book store where I pick up my books, in fact.  You can read a short bio from him on Wikipedia.

He published a few independent books – one of which won the now-defunct Xeric prize, which used to award self-publishing grants to comic book creators – before he scored a graphic novel deal with Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics (Superman, Batman) who publish comics geared at adult readers. The book, The Nobody (Vertigo), is a unique take on the Invisible Man character and was met with praise from both readers and critics alike. He followed that up with a popular ongoing monthly series, the post-apocalyptic tale Sweet Tooth (Vertigo), which is only a few months away from celebrating its third anniversary in publication. It boasts fairly impressive monthly and graphic novel sales for a creator-owned series. In addition to Sweet Tooth, he currently writes two mainstream titles for DC Comics, one of which, Animal Man, turned out to be a surprise hit series with everyone, including Lemire.

Why Essex County? In that collection, Lemire brings us heartbreaking stories of contemporary rural Ontario in a style reminiscent of Alice Munro. I was deeply moved by the tales of each of the narrators who share their story with the reader. We are voyeurs into dark family secrets, unfulfilled dreams, the difficult birth of new relationships. Onto those, Lemire layers Canadian cultural touch points like hockey, lumberjacks and Catholic orphanages. These are themes and iconic images that create powerful stories, a feat rarely achieved in comics.

Later this year, Lemire will release a follow-up with the same publisher, Top Shelf Productions. Underwater Welder is due out in August 2012. Lemire says it’s the closest piece of work he’s created to date exploring similar themes and styles as Essex County. I expect it will be a very strong piece of work considering how much his craft has sharpened between Top Shelf books based on the schedule he’s been keeping with DC/Vertigo the past few years.

He’s definitely one to watch over the next few years.

Some links I hope you enjoy

* A review of Essex Country from Geist literary magazine:  Jeff Lemire: The Essential Canadian Comic Book Creator

* Essex Country was included in CBC’s Canada Reads 10th anniversary edition, the first and only graphic novel to enter the competition

* Not surprisingly, it was unceremoniously dumped by panellist in the first round. When you read the following critique of the Canada Reads panellists’ decision, take special note of Darwyn Cooke’s word. He’s a prominent, popular and well-respected artist.

* I also follow Jeff’s blog.

We’re nearly finished watching Battlestar Galactica. Hope to see you soon so we can dissect the series.

Cheers,
Derek

Read also: Lina Responds

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