Sweet Tooth debuted in 2009, a surreal and poignant story that was equal parts fairy tale and post-apocalyptic horror. Written and illustrated by Jeff Lemire, it launched the creator into comics industry superstardom before reaching its conclusion after forty issues.
That was the end of Sweet Tooth—emphasis on “was.” While he was on the set of Sweet Tooth’s upcoming Robert Downey Jr.-executive produced Netflix adaptation, inspiration struck Lemire, and the result is Sweet Tooth: The Return—a new six-issue series that picks up the story years later, returning to familiar territory while pushing the saga in unexpected directions.
With issue #1 on sale in November, Lemire discussed “going home” to Sweet Tooth, collaborating once again with colorist José Villarrubia, making The Return accessible to new readers and the evergreen importance of hopeful stories.
The last issue of Sweet Tooth was released in January 2013. What’s it been like to be back creating in this world? How has your perspective on the series evolved in the interim years?
In terms of length, Sweet Tooth was the longest project that I ever did. I lived with those characters every day for over four years. And when you spend that much time working on something those characters really become a part of you. In the years since I finished the original series, my fondness for the world of Sweet Tooth has only grown.
But at the same time, I was very satisfied with the ending I gave the story, so I didn’t really think I would ever go back. I didn’t think there was a way to do more without upending the finale of the original. But then, last year, I was on the set of Netflix’s adaptation of Sweet Tooth and was obviously thinking a lot about the world and story. I got the seeds of an idea and a way back in. From there, it all happened really quickly. More ideas started flowing and my excitement grew.
Being back in the world and with the characters just feels like going home. Especially now, with the pandemic and everything else going on in the world, this felt right. It felt like the world needs more stories of hope right now.
Sweet Tooth: The Return is described as a “re-imagining of the Sweet Tooth mythology.” Without delving into details too early, what can readers expect from this new series?
It should be familiar yet totally new. I worked really hard to create a story that wasn’t just a re-hash of the original. It carries many of the themes and also the tone of the original series, but projects it forward and tells a brand-new story. I don’t want to spoil any details yet.
The first issue reads as both a continuation and a new start—how did you approach making it new reader friendly, while also speaking to the loyal fans of the series?
My goal was to make this new story completely accessible to any new readers, but also loaded with connections to the original as well. This sort of layering was really fun and satisfying and hopefully is evident in that first issue. There are all sorts of subtle mirroring of things from the original in that first issue, but at the same time, it goes in a very different direction as it unfolds.
Visually, what was it like for you and José Villarrubia to be back on Sweet Tooth? Was it easy for you both to pick up where you left off? And what can readers expect that they haven’t seen from Sweet Tooth before?
I think I have grown a lot as an artist since the original run and have mostly colored myself in the projects I’ve done since Sweet Tooth ended, so it was really cool to go back now, years later and see what Jose did with the new world I created. Much like the story, it has a lot of visual links to the original, but there’s definitely some new things as well and the coloring reflects that.
Mostly, it’s just fun to work with my good friend again. I missed collaborating with Jose, he’s a wonderful man and a great colorist and I think we both look back very fondly on our time doing Sweet Tooth, so it’s a gift to be able to do it again.
Sweet Tooth: The Return #1 by Jeff Lemire and José Villarrubia is on sale on November 3.