On the way to becoming two of the most popular writers in the comic book industry, Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire have depended on a friendship that includes bouncing creative ideas off each other.
The two were having coffee together a few years back when Snyder brought up an idea for a comic about what it would be like in a world where a cure for death was a reality and people could live forever. Lemire told Snyder that to execute the idea, they should try something they’d never done before: Work together.
“After Death” was born.
The new title from Image Comics — written by Snyder and illustrated by Lemire — is now available both in print and digitally. Image will publish three 80-page issues monthly over the next three months. The protagonist is Jonah Cooke, a central figure in the discovery of a cure for death. How that discovery came to be is a mystery.
Jonah “is a pretty empty shell of a man,” Lemire says. “He’s forgotten who he was and lost his sense of self. As much as there’s a big sci-fi adventure, it’s balanced with this meditative journey trying to remember his own story and his roots as a human being.”
Snyder and Lemire’s careers have taken almost identical paths. Lemire began writing and illustrating “Sweet Tooth” for Vertigo Comics in 2009 and Snyder debuted another soon to be Vertigo hit in 2010, “American Vampire.”
DC Comics New 52 era (2011-2016), which saw the publisher reboot all of its titles, was never universally popular among fans, but Snyder’s “Batman” (with artist Greg Capullo) and Lemire’s “Green Arrow” (with artist Andrea Sorrentino) were considered some of the reinvention’s best work.
Both Snyder and Lemire have written creator-owned titles at Image Comics that movie studios have swooped in to claim. Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment bought the rights to Snyder’s horror-series “Wytches” (illustrated by Jock) and Sony obtained Lemire’s sci-fi adventure about a robot boy (illustrated by Dustin Nguyen), “Descender.”
Mainstream superheroes still remain an active part of their writing lives. Snyder’s critically acclaimed run with Capullo on “Batman” is over, but he’s writing “All-Star Batman” for DC while over at Marvel, Lemire is writing “Extraordinary X-Men” and re-teaming with Sorrentino on “Old Man Logan.” Lemire is also writing a new series (illustrated by Mike Deodato Jr.) starring one of the biggest villains in the Marvel universe, “Thanos.”
Snyder and Lemire admit that they are experimenting with something new on “After Death.” For the first time, minus an admittedly brief stint with “American Vampire,” Snyder is writing prose into a comic book project. Some pages of “After Death” are full of text, combined with Lemire’s art.
“I was scared. There were definitely points during the process of writing [“After-Death”] that I got a bit intimidated and wasn’t sure I could do it,” Snyder said. “Was I too rusty at writing prose? And was it just too confessional in some ways or too myopic or self-centered. I couldn’t tell. Jeff was always there encouraging me and I’m very proud of it.”
For Lemire, “After Death” marks the first time he’s illustrated a creator-owned work that he didn’t write himself. Not knowing what he’ll draw ahead of time has been an adjustment he has learned to enjoy.
“It’s good to get out of your comfort zone and be forced to draw things that you wouldn’t think of on your own or you wouldn’t naturally lean towards. It’s a good way to grow,” Lemire said of illustrating Snyder’s scripts.
The comic book veterans have a deep appreciation of their rare status in the comic book industry that allows them both the opportunity to plot adventures with some of the most recognizable superheroes around and the creative possibilities that come with writing and illustrating creator-owned comic book tales.
“It gives you the creative freedom that you need just to make [“After Death”] whatever it wants to be,” Lemire said. “We don’t have to worry about making [“After Death”] really commercial or gearing it towards a certain audience. We can just follow our muse and kind of go nuts creatively and take some chances. The combination of those two things I think really led to a lot of interesting stuff and hopefully helped us make something pretty special.”
Snyder says the balance between mainstream superhero storytelling and independently crafted tales such as “After Death” keep him at his best creatively.
“When you’re working in licensed [superhero] stuff, to me it becomes imbalanced for me creatively and if I was only doing independent stuff I might feel the same way,” Snyder said. “At least in this point of my career and I know Jeff is the same, we both really enjoy the balance of having both at once.”