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People & Culture

Jeff Lemire

Canadian graphic novelist features First Nations culture with his latest work

  • Mar 31, 2014
  • 354 words
  • 2 minutes
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Drawing epic battles between superheroes and villains for a living is something most Canadian kids can only dream about. But if they really want to make a career out of it, they could do worse than look to Jeff Lemire for inspiration. The graphic novelist from Woodslee, Ont., has written and drawn for DC Comics titles such as Animal Man, and created critically acclaimed graphic novels, including the Essex County trilogy. His next written work, Justice League United, which is set in Canada, hits shelves in late April.

On setting Justice League United in the Northern Ontario communities of Moosonee and Moose Factory

As a Canadian, I pride myself on telling stories that reflect where I’m from, and I try to do that whenever I can. One of the themes I keep coming back to is isolation and loneliness. There’s no road access to those communities for most of the year. That extreme is attractive from a storytelling point of view. You’re juxtaposing this stark, isolated northern Ontario landscape with big, cosmic adventures.

On researching the location

I spent a lot of time in various schools sharing my story and drawing with the kids. I’m planning to go up again to spend more time on the land learning about traditional trapping and hunting. I’m trying to immerse myself in their culture so I can be respectful when I’m telling their stories.

The new Justice League superhero

She’s a First Nations character, and her powers and origins are based on various Cree legends and myths from around the James Bay area. I’m hopefully shedding some light on a part of Canada’s culture that doesn’t get enough respect or attention abroad.

On her abilities

I don’t want to get too specific and spoil things, but I’m blending the Witiko, a mythological man-eating creature that pops up in a lot of Cree myths, with the seven grandfather teachings of Cree culture: wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility and truth — qualities which seem like the perfect basis for a superhero.

Jeff Lemire’s DC Comics

Excerpts from Animal Man and Green Arrow

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Excerpts from Green Arrow

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