By Jeff Lemire
Issue 10 of SWEET TOOTH is my favorite so far. Well, maybe issue 18 is now, but you haven’t seen that one yet, so I’ll stick with 10 for the time being. In that issue, featured in SWEET TOOTH Vol.2: IN CAPTIVITY (Out Dec.8), we take a break from the ongoing storyline as the mysterious, possibly evil Dr Singh hypnotizes Gus, the antlered protagonist of the series, and enters his mind…literally.
This was a really fun issue to draw. I got to break the rules of a linear narrative a bit and really experiment with my layouts and try to capture a surreal kind of dream logic in the storytelling, as Singh and Gus delved back into the boy’s memories trying to unlock the secrets of the plague that wiped out most the human race.
It was also a chance for me to play around with ink washes again. I had done a lot of this in my early self-published work, but hadn’t tried it since. Washes create a looser more fluid look that I thought really suited the surreal feel of this issue. Then I saw what artist extraordinaire Jose Villarubia’s colors looked like over the washes and I totally fell in love. Now I can’t stop using them. Incidentally I also think this is the issue where Jose and I really gelled as an art team. Where we really found our common voice together.
Issue 10 also marked the start of a concerted effort on my part to try and push the boundaries of what a monthly comic can be a little bit each month. Sometimes this desire to experiment takes the form of a high concept format like the completely silent/split-screen issue 12, or the horizontal “storybook” format of issue 18 (all done in washes). Other times it means playing with the layouts or style on a smaller scale within a specific scene or page. Either way these are almost like games that I play with myself to keep me energized over the course of the sometimes-grueling marathon that is writing and drawing a monthly comic.
At any rate, Issue 10 felt like a breakthrough issue for me. I felt like I really started to find new energy for SWEET TOOTH again after the initial rush of starting the book had worn off. I think that energy shows on the page. I hope you agree. I have more tricks up my sleeve as Gus and the gang trek along the post-apocalyptic wasteland, so stay tuned!