The Next Chapter·Proust Questionnaire

Cartoonist Jeff Lemire shares the artists who inspire him and his perfect idea of happiness

The graphic novelist and cartoonist behind Secret Path and Essex County answers the Proust Questionnaire.
In his latest graphic novel, Roughneck, Jeff Lemire tells the story of a small-town hockey player whose glory days are behind him. (The Canadian Press/Cole Burston/Pocket Books)

Jeff Lemire is a cartoonist and graphic novelist. He creates his own original work in addition to content for Marvel and DC. His family saga Essex County was defended by Sara Quin on Canada Reads 2010 and he collaborated with Gord Downie on Secret Path, a graphic novel and album that shared their version of the story of Chanie Wenjack. His latest graphic novel, Roughneck, is about a small-town hockey player whose glory days are behind him.

Below, Lemire answers The Next Chapter's version of the Proust Questionnaire. This segment originally aired on March 5, 2018.

Name your favourite writers.

"Iain Banks has become my favourite author in the last year or so. I like how he balanced his literary work as 'Iain Banks' and hard sci-fi as 'Iain M. Banks.' I see some parallels with how I do my own graphic novels."

Who is your favourite painter?

"There were a number of artists in the late 1980s and early 1990s who started painting comics and were hugely inspirational to me. They showed that you could do a much more expressive style of comics and when I was starting out, I looked at their work a lot, primarily Dave McKean, Kent Williams, John Muth and George Pratt."

What is your favourite occupation?

"Cartoonist, of course. Creating comics combines everything that's great about literature and visual arts into a medium that's completely unique unto itself. It can do things with language that film and prose can't do — I find it limitless. Now 15 years into my career, I feel like I'm just scratching the surface on how to use that language properly."

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

"A fresh cup of coffee, blank sheet of paper and a pencil in my hand — that's pretty much all I need."

Who are your favourite heroes in real life?

"David Lynch and Tom Waits are definitely my heroes. They've shown me the way. I think they're both incredible storytellers and artists. Neither of them have ever rested on what they've done before. They've always challenged themselves and they each keep creating vital and provocative work, well into their 70s now. If they can do that, that's the kind of life I want to live as an artist as well."

Jeff Lemire's comments have been edited and condensed.