On this interview episode Derek and Andy are excited to have Jeff Lemire as their guest. His new graphic novel, Roughneck, has just been released by Simon & Schuster’s Gallery 13 imprint, and he has a new ongoing series through Image Comics, Royal City. The guys talk with Jeff about those works, particularly their place within Lemire’s growing body of writing, but they also ask him about his other current ongoing series, such as Descender (with Dustin Nguyen on art), Black Hammer (along with Dean Ormston), and the miniseries A.D.: After Death (written by Scott Snyder). A lot of ground is covered in this interview, including revelations on the early origins of Roughneck, the long-range plans for Royal City, the themes and characters that seem to be woven throughout Jeff’s oeuvre, the curious links between Descender and Adam Strange, and Jeff’s thoughts on “slice of life” stories and their reception within the comics-reading community.
And here’s a fun fact! Jeff Lemire was actually the focus of the Two Guys’ very first creator spotlight way back in Episode 6 of The Comics Alternative, and at the time Andy and Derek thought there was almost too much to talk about in terms of Jeff’s output. But now almost five years later, and with so many more titles under Jeff’s belt, those assumptions seem amusing in hindsight.
It’s important to note that Andy and Derek recorded their interview with Jeff the day before this year’s Eisner Award nominations were announced, where he has landed in the Best New Series and Best Writer categories (both for Black Hammer). This is why no one brings up the Eisners at any time in the conversation. But a big CONGRATULATIONS to Jeff for this well-deserved attention!
The Two Guys with PhDs are back with another review episode, and on this one they explore three fascinating titles. They begin by discussing the much-anticipated recent release from Scott McCloud, The Sculptor (First Second). In fact, Derek and Andy begin their conversation with the very fact that this was a much-anticipated, and heavily reviewed, new book, and how all of that attention may be affecting the book’s reception. They speculate on the ways in which the artist’s prestige and reputation feeds into the expectations. Although McCloud has created memorable narratives — e.g., the Zot!series and The New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln — this is an author most famously known for Understanding Comics and the expository/instructional books that followed, Reinventing Comics and Making Comics. The guys question if the author can ever get beyond his reputation as primarily a theoretician of the medium, and if he can ever gain renewed recognition as a creator of innovative narrative forms. And both Derek and Andy feel mixed over the prognosis. Yet despite all of the extra-textual commentary, the Two Guys spend most of their conversation in a close reading of the text. Much of their talk centers on the book’s protagonist, David Smith, and the author’s possible attitude toward his creation. Does McCloud want us to see Smith as a heroic (possibly romantic?) figure, or are we expected to read the sculptor more critically and as a flawed artist? This is a question that remains unanswered, and perhaps it speaks to McCloud’s talents that the Two Guys cannot put a finger on an exact character assessment. They also discuss The Sculptor as not only as a creative treatise on art and its place in our culture, but also, and perhaps more specifically, as a commentary on the comics industry today. Theirs is not a gushing, unequivocal endorsement of the new graphic novel — there are already plenty of those out there — but Andy and Derek do see this as a serious new work and give it the full Comics Alternative treatment…spending a little over an hour discussing the text! Next, the guys look at two new number one issues from some of their favorite creators. Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine’s Divinity #1 (Valiant) is a beautifully rendered science fiction narrative that apparently rests just on the periphery of the Valiant University. This is the first of a four-part series, and Hairsine’s cinematic style is the perfect platform for Kindt’s complex storytelling. Both Derek and Andy love Matt Kindt as a writer/artist, but this time around they get their fix through his scripting only. They experience the same with Descender #1 (Image), written by Jeff Lemire and with art by Dustin Nguyen. Most times they discuss Lemire’s work — and the Two Guys have done this often — they do so by looking at him as a sole creator, but his new series with Nguyen demonstrates without a doubt Lemire’s developed writing chops. The first issue accomplishes what it sets out to do, establishing a premise and tone that will both frame and propel the first story arc. This is definitely not a title that encourages trade waiting. Indeed, with both Descender and Divinity, you’ll want to get every issue as soon as they come out.