Jeff Lemire
"This medium has the power to tell any kind of story."

Jeff Lemire in his studio
Foto: Jeff Lemire's studio © Jeff Lemire

Jeff Lemire, award-winning Canadian illustrator and author of graphic novels, visited the International Comic Salon Erlangen in June 2018. He is known for his illustrations for DC and Marvel Comics as well as his own stories, especially the trilogy Essex County (2009).

By Goethe-Institut Toronto Redaktion

The Goethe-Institut Toronto has teamed up with the International Comic Salon Erlangen to produce this video interview with award-winning Canadian cartoonist, Jeff Lemire. This year, the International Comic Salon Erlangen will have Jeff Lemire as a special guest along with an exhibition featuring his work. The International Comic Salon Erlangen is one of the most important events for comic arts and graphic novels in the German-speaking world.

Jeff Lemire is a Canadian graphic novelist, born in 1976 in Essex County, Ontario. After attending film school for a few years he decided to switch his focus on to graphic novels. He started both drawing and writing his own stories, which are characterized by his rough style and ability to display emotions even when using just a few words. He made his debut with Lost Dogs, in 2005 and has done many illustrations for both Marvel and DC Comics, including titles such as Superboy or Animal Man.

In 2009, he published his award-winning trilogy Essex County, which was inspired by his childhood in Essex County where he grew up. Although this story seems autobiographical, Lemire says, that, initially, he had no desire to tell specifically Canadian stories. Only when he returned to the place where he grew up, did the “location [become] part of my stories”. Still, his intention was not to tell a story that reflects Canada perfectly but to tell his own story. He sees it more as “creating fictionalized versions of myself”.

Another one of Lemire’s projects that has been a big success is the graphic novel, Secret Path (2016), co-produced with musician Gord Downie. It tells the tragic story of a First Nations boy who died in 1966 when he left a Canadian residential school and tried to return to his home 400 miles away. For Lemire, the comic is not only a form of entertainment but also has the ability to confront important issues and topics similar to film or literature. “This medium has the power to tell any kind of story”, he says. Lemire’s work and illustrations have spanned all kinds of themes and genres from superheroes to science-fiction to thrillers to history.

Comics are an interesting art form and provide a glimpse into a country and culture. The German comic scene is growing and becoming more popular. The Goethe-Institut Toronto has worked closely with several German graphic novelists and artists as well as the Toronto Comic Arts Festival to bring representatives from the German comic scene to Canadian audiences.

As part of the international exchange between the Goethe Institut, TCAF and Comic Salon Erlangen, Jeff Lemire will be present at this year’s festival in Erlangen. The interview was conducted by Berlin Tagesspiegel journalist, Lars von Törne.