Between his various projects, the Canadian cartoonist Jeff Lemire occasionally solicits commissions. He’ll do you a Batman or he’ll do you a Spider-Man, but what he won’t do is you. “My style is too cartoon-y,” says the Toronto-based artist. "I don’t do likenesses or portraits. The last thing I want to do is to offend anyone.” The polite native of Ontario’s Essex County spoke to The Globe and Mail recently about vacations, things that come to an end and others that live on.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
I’m a workaholic. When I’m in the city, I’m either in my studio all day or I’m at home, where I often work at night. So, in the summer, my wife and son and I have a place in Muskoka, Ont., where we try to get away from it all for at least a month. It’s my time to read a lot, and fill my well again with new inspiration.
I don’t do it very often, but I do accept commissions, which are one-off drawings from me. My art dealer and I thought we’d offer a few before Christmas. It’s whatever the person wants, whether it’s Batman or whatever. My art dealer will announce online that I’m doing three commissions, and they’ll usually fill up within the first minute. He’ll just take the first three that come in.
They’ll tell me what character they want. I’ll do a couple little doodles of different possibilities, and they’ll pick one. I generally draw pretty quickly, but, still, I’ll spend a full day on a commission.
It’s a chance for fans to get something personal from me. For me, fans will often request strange characters that I would never draw on my own. It’s a good exercise for me to be forced to draw something I wouldn’t sit down and naturally do on my own. It pushes me.
Last month, Black Hammer: Age of Doom #12 came out, and it’s the final issue of the series. It’s not really the end though. It will spin off into new things.
But there are other projects where I’ve done them for years, and they do come to an end. Characters can become like real people. They become part of your life. You spend more time thinking about them than you do your own family, almost.
When the story starts to approach an end point, it can be bittersweet. There’s a part of you that is anxious to be free of it. But then when you actually get there, you realize you’re leaving those characters behind. It can be quite sad. I find myself missing characters, years later.
I wasn’t able to attend the Secret Path Live benefit concert last month. I was travelling for a comic book convention. The Secret Path project [about residential schools and reconciliation, involving a music album by the late Gord Downie, a graphic novel and an animated film] is strange to think about now, because it was so tied up with my friendship with Gord and getting to know him while we were working on it. And then, of course, when he passed away, it was a very emotional experience. But the project has taken on a life of its own beyond Gord and me. It’s become something bigger, clearly, and that’s all Gord ever wanted. It’s what we set out to do, and it’s very gratifying to see it happen.
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