Tag Archives: Essex County

Jeff Lemire’s Essex County: Lina responds

“I have been reading all of your references, and I like Jeff Lemire even more than I did before. I re-read Essex County again after reading the blogs, and I was able to see it with a slightly different eye.

“At first reading, I found the bleakness hard to take (unsettling) because I felt myself being pulled into a world where the characters defy their own stereotypes by carrying (and quietly exposing) the emotional equivalent of Sisyphus’ boulder. This hits too close to home for me. Really…been there, remember it well. It doesn’t matter who the characters are. They suffer, they sacrifice, they yearn, they make mistakes, they are human.

“After re-reading, I still see that layer, but I also see an elegance I hadn’t seen before. This time, I was more prepared for the paradox–the co-existence of fragility and resilience. I like this in stories even more than I like irony…and I like irony. I am so grateful to you for giving me Essex County–I think it is truly a Canadian masterpiece.

“One day, after I’ve read more of his work, I would like to meet Jeff Lemire.  The Underwater Welder sounds incredible–just by the title.”

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

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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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Five books for Read Comics in Public Day

People like to read lists with a round number like five for some reason. So here are four books you can proudly read on Read Comics in Public Day (this year, next year, whenever!) – and one that might be a bit embarrassing. (I’m taking a cue from Underwire and going to be artsy in my choices with a sprinkle of something mainstream.)

ESSEX COUNTRY TRILOGY (Top Shelf Productions)
w/a – Jeff Lemire

What it’s about: Where does a young boy turn when his whole world suddenly disappears? What could change two brothers from an unstoppable team into a pair of bitterly estranged loners? How does the work of one middle-aged nurse reveal the scars of an entire community, and can anything heal the wounds caused by a century of deception?

Essex County is a tremendous achievement” – Darwyn Cooke

Comics at its best. A heartbreaking series of stories about loneliness and loss. Lemire’s sense of pacing and ability to tell a story cannot be overstated.

IT’S A BIRD (Vertigo)
written by Steven T. Seagle
art by  Teddy Kristiansen

What it’s about: A stunning semi-autobiographical story that tells one of the most realistic Superman tales ever — without featuring Superman. Steve’s given the assignment every writer dreams of: to write Superman. Only Steve can’t relate to a Man of Steel — not when his own fears of death haunt him.

“Terrifically wry. . . deep thinking. . . this is something truly different” – ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, Editor’s Choice

A poignant story. Stumbled upon completely by accident at a used book store. (Is there any better way to discover a book?) Ironically, I read most of this book sitting in a hospital waiting room.

FANTASTIC FOUR: UNSTABLE MOLECULES (Marvel)
w/James Sturm
a/Guy Davis

What it’s about: In 1961, the first issue of FANTASTIC FOUR was drawn and written by the brilliant team of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, and set a new standard for heroic adventure comics. Few people realize that the Fantastic Four – a family of sci-fi adventurers gifted with amazing powers – was actually based on the lives of real people. As often is the case, real life was as astonishing as fiction. UNSTABLE MOLECULES is a biography that revisits the Fantastic Four’s beginnings with a historian’s eye.

Winner of the 2004 Eisner Award for best limited series.

A post-modern tale (comic or otherwise) at its best. If ever a series deserved an award, this is it. Another discovery from the “reduced” bin, and yet such a brilliant book.

Be forewarned: there are no super powers in this story. But, like the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four comics, this is still very much about family. Each of the characters remain true to their name – Sue, the invisible housewife; Johnny, the fiery teenager; Ben, the emotional rock –  except maybe for Reed who is a cold, genius and much sought-after scientist but far from fantastic when it comes the people closest in his life. This book could be dissected in an English class, or on this blog, but it’s more fun if you discover the gems hidden within on your own. (Then post your thoughts. We’d love to hear them.)

CLYDE FANS (D+Q)
by Seth

What it’s about: After one more disastrous attempt at selling their father’s fan manufacturing company, Simon returns defeated and unsure of what he’ll do next. Even after studying manuals on the art of selling, he still can’t seem to clinch that final deal. In the eyes of his brother Abraham, he is a failure. Seth brilliantly explores the complex and fascinating relationship of the two brothers behind Clyde Fans.

Aggregated ratings on Good Read give Clyde Fans a 3.7 stars.  Personally, I think it deserves more.

A sad story of a lonely man. Clyde Fans is a contemporary version of Death of a Salesman. A brilliantly tale told in two time periods. The story examines the burden of maintaing a father’s legacy and the cruel march of progress. You’ll squirm following the exploits of Abraham, possibly the world’s worst salesman.

NEW X-MEN (Marvel)
w/Grant Morrison
a/various

What it’s about: Sixteen million mutants dead… and that was just the beginning! In one bold stroke, writer Grant Morrison propelled the X-Men into the 21st century – masterminding a challenging new direction for Marvel’s mutant heroes that began with the destruction of Genosha and never let up. Regarded as the most innovative thinker of the current comic-book renaissance, Morrison proceeded to turn the mutant-hero genre on its ear.

Too many accolades to list here. But if you want a good review, check out this article from Pop Matters.

When I got back into comics a few years ago, comic publishers were just catching on to the omnibus format, and this is probably the first one I read: the entire Grant Morrison run on X-Men. Well, needless to say it was (and is) mind-blowing. I’ve always enjoyed Morrison’s work. It’s not to everyone’s taste, but he introduces really interesting new characters in his books, and give characters proper motivation (which I desperately crave in stories) for their actions via solid plot or emotional developments. In short, he actually writes good comics.

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Sweet new Sweet Tooth pages

Capitalizing on the buzz for Toronto-based comic creator Jeff Lemire’s original Vertigo graphic novel The Nobody (in stores today), Graphic Content – the Vertigo blog – has released new pages from his upcoming ongoing series. Behold in all their coloured glory.

More pages on the Vertigo blog.

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