The room is almost silent in the downtown Toronto studio of artist and author Jeff Lemire. The only thing breaking that silence is the sound of him sketching and painting on a large pad of paper settled on a desk.
Lemire is one of those rare cases of someone living their dream.
“When I kind of started doing comics, you know, 15, 20 years ago, I never thought I’d actually get to do real super hero comics,” he remarked.
Lemire studied film production in university, but ended up directing his creations toward comic books and graphic novels. He said he felt those were the best mediums for him to tell his stories in his own way.
Soon enough though, those two paths will converge with one of his most popular properties set to leap off that sketch pad and before the bright lights and cameras of Hollywood.
“I love doing this stuff,” said Lemire with a smirk.
“These are my stories that I’ve created, so it’s very exciting.”
The award-winning comic book series Black Hammer and its various spin-offs, created by Lemire and artist Dean Ormston, has been picked up for a TV and movie deal by Legendary Entertainment.
Legendary is the same media company that produced the Dark Knight trilogy, Watchmen, and 300, among other adaptations, so their track record for success is proven. That’s a big part of the reason Lemire and Ormston decided to sign on.
“They definitely know how to do big, super hero stuff, but also do it in a really smart way,” said Lemire.
“This was a great chance to do things in television and in film with different projects crossing over.”
Perhaps the best part of Lemire’s story, personally and professionally, is that it’s a homegrown one. His upbringing in the country near Windsor was fictionalized in one of his earliest successes, the graphic novel series Essex County. It’s a series that is already in development for a television adaptation by the CBC.
WATCH: Toronto comic book artist gets Hollywood deal. Mark Carcasole reports.
Lemire was also tapped to do the illustration work on the graphic novel and music videos that accompanied Gord Downie’s album, Secret Path.
Black Hammer is a different beast altogether. It focuses, like many comic books, on super heroes. There are five of them trapped in a small town called Rockwood. Together, the team learns to adjust to a simpler life. Legendary wants to adapt the entire universe across both platforms. It would be a universe that takes a more character-driven, emotional tone than the action-focused properties we’re used to seeing from Marvel and DC Comics.
“It’s a real heartfelt drama of this really bizarre kinda family who’s forced to be together and they’re forced to face who they are when all their super hero secret identities and super identities are stripped away and they have to face who they actually are as people,” said Lemire.
“And then we have the fun, big super hero bombastic stuff as kind of this mythology in the background.”
Lemire acknowledged converting comic books into real life has its challenges.
“There’s a lot of things that work really great when you draw them that don’t look so great when you photograph them with real people, you know? They can look quite silly,” he said.
“You have to find ways to take what we did in the comic and find a real-world way of adapting it or transposing it to a different thing but still keeping the heart and the idea intact. So that’s something I’m kind of coping with right now.”
With the deal just signed, it’s still far too early to give any timelines on when the first segment of the Black Hammer universe will hit screens.
But Lemire said he knows there’s a lot of hype around it. He assured fans they won’t have to worry about the live-action versions straying too far from their comic book source material.
“I’m going to make sure it keeps the heart of the comic and keeps pretty focused on what we were doing in the book,” Lemire said.
“I think that’s what Legendary wanted and that’s what I want as well.”