Jeff Lemire & Dean Ormston Explore the Dark Depths of the Ever-Expanding Black Hammer Universe

Plus Exclusive Age of Doom Process Art from Ormston, Dave Stewart & Todd Klein

Comics Features Jeff Lemire
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Jeff Lemire & Dean Ormston Explore the Dark Depths of the Ever-Expanding <i>Black Hammer</i> Universe

While the somber saga of Doctor Star & The Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows has kept Black Hammer on shelves these last few months, the cliffhanger ending of Black Hammer #13 last year has had readers dying to learn more. Age of Doom #1 picks up where that issue left off, but if you thought Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston were going to dive right into concrete answers, you clearly haven’t been following this book. Lucy Webber, now the new Black Hammer, quickly finds herself immersed in a side of the Black Hammer world we’ve barely glimpsed: its Vertigo-influenced horror realm. While the main cast on the farm, and the stars of its spinoffs Sherlock Frankenstein and Doctor Star, have drawn inspiration from DC Comics’ Golden and Silver Age heroes and villains, the new additions introduced in Age of Doom seem to owe a great debt to old EC Comics and Karen Berger’s initial class of Vertigo madness. Artist Dean Ormston, a veteran of Vertigo books like Lucifer and Books of Magick, is at his best rendering the darker, more disturbing side of Lemire’s “Lemireverse” introduced in this issue, and Age of Doom looks to easily continue the high-water mark set by previous installments. In advance of the first issue, which hit stands yesterday, Paste exchanged emails with Lemire and Ormston to discuss Black Hammer’s return, the expanding scope of the book’s shared universe and which of the two draws inspiration from Joey Ramone. We’ve also got an exclusive look at process art from Ormston and colorist Dave Stewart.

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Black Hammer: Age of Doom #1 Cover Art by Dean Ormston & Dave Stewart

Paste: Jeff, I took a look at an interview you did with Paste in 2016, just as the series launched, and one thing that immediately struck me was an offhand comment that you had 20 issues of Black Hammer written at the time. Counting spin-offs and the annual, Black Hammer #1 will actually be the 21st Black Hammer issue to hit shelves. How far in are you now? How much has the scope and shape of the universe changed since you launched?
Jeff Lemire: The scope has grown considerably. I had the main series scripted out to about 20 issues, but I fell in love with the world of Black Hammer and the characters, and I also started to develop new ideas and new directions. Luckily, the success of the series has allowed Dean and me to follow those new ideas and expand the series and the entire universe of Black Hammer accordingly. And I keep getting more and more ideas, so I don’t see that changing as we move forward.

Paste: The Doom Age #1 picks up right where the main story left off in Black Hammer #13—why The Doom Age and not Black Hammer #14? Are you shifting to Hellboy’s series-of-miniseries approach?
Lemire: Dean needed some time to catch up and get ahead on artwork again. So instead of just taking six months off and then putting out #14, it seemed like a good idea to start with a new #1 that would also act as a jumping on point for new readers and refocus everything.

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Black Hammer: Age of Doom #1 Cover Ink Art by Dean Ormston

Paste: Without giving too much away, do Abe, Gail, Barbie and the rest of the core cast have a finite story? Has your original plan for them shifted substantially since getting such a warm reception on the first volume?
Lemire: The main Black Hammer series definitely has an endpoint. I don’t think you can build a story around a mystery without knowing the answers. We have always known the ending, and it’s the same ending we have always been working towards, but the journey to get there has grown.

Paste: Beyond continuing the saga of the farm, The Doom Age opens the door to a new, seemingly Vertigo-inspired side of this universe, one that Madame Dragonfly might feel at home in. Vertigo played a huge role in both of your careers, Jeff with The Nobody and Sweet Tooth and Dean with Lucifer and Books of Magick: Life During Wartime—how did you approach adapting that influence into something original and suited to the Black Hammer universe?
Lemire: The first 13 issues of Black Hammer were a love letter to the history of superhero comics. And the series will continue to be that, but this new story will also pull from our love of the history of horror comics too. This new series won’t just be Vertigo things that we are drawing inspiration from, but all horror comics. Dean LOVES horror, so this new element of the series is right up his alley and a lot of fun.

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Black Hammer: Age of Doom #1 Cover Pencil Sketch by Dean Ormston

Paste: Sherlock Frankenstein felt very tied to the main plot of Black Hammer but Doctor Star is, so far, its own intimate story, and the upcoming The Quantum Age seems pretty far removed from the events on the farm. Should we expect to see more self-contained spinoffs as the universe proceeds? Can you drop any hints as to which other characters might receive the spinoff treatment?
Lemire: It’s important to me that the spin-offs are complete stories on their own. They are set in the same universe for sure, but they need to be satisfying stories on their own. We have two other mini-series in the works at the moment, but I can’t tease anything just yet!

Paste: How has your collaboration grown and changed since launching the book? How much overlap is there when developing plots and designs? And what are Dave Stewart and Todd Klein bringing to the look and feel of The Doom Age?
Lemire: Dave and Todd are both an integral part of things. The effect of Dave’s colors can’t be understated. Likewise, Todd’s lettering brings so much life to the characters. Look at Colonel Weird’s dialogue to see how Todd’s stylistic choices enhance his character. It’s amazing. I’m lucky to be working with the whole Black Hammer team. If I had to choose a Black Hammer character to represent each member of the team, Dave would be Barbalien, Dean would be Madame Dragonfly and Todd would be Colonel Weird. I’m Golden Gail, of course.

Dean Ormston I think our collaboration has gone, and will continue to go, far beyond our initial expectations. Getting to do a creator-owned book with Jeff for the proposed 18-20 issue run was a dream come true. The series’ success has now expanded that dream. With Jeff’s prolific mind, we plan on working on other Black Hammer spin-offs and some all-new creations in the future. Jeff has most of the control over plot development, which works great for me, but he gives me free reign over the majority of designs. Some of the characters that have spun off into their own mini-series started life as almost background villains or heroes in maybe one or two panels from the first six issues. The spin-offs allowed Jeff to flesh them out more to further expand the universe. Dave and Todd are the cream of the crop and add so much to the final look of the books. I pencil and ink with a lot more space knowing that Dave will add magic and I can second guess Todd’s lettering, which makes it so much easier to layout a page. I LOVE working with those guys.

Paste: I have to ask—which one of you is the Ramones fan, and what are your favorite tracks from the band?
Lemire: That is Dean. I was always more of a Clash fan myself.

Ormston: I’m the Ramones fan. I first heard a Ramones track in late 1976 when I was 15 years old, and it changed my life. From then on, I wanted to be in a band. I still listen to the first few albums quite regularly, so a favorite track is hard to pin down, but I guess “Swallow My Pride” and “Don’t Come Close.” “Judy Is A Punk” always hits the spot.

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Black Hammer: Age of Doom #1 Interior Ink Art by Dean Ormston, Lettering by Todd Klein

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Black Hammer: Age of Doom #1 Interior Art by Dean Ormston & Dave Stewart, Lettering by Todd Klein

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Black Hammer: Age of Doom #1 Interior Ink Art by Dean Ormston

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Black Hammer: Age of Doom #1 Interior Art by Dean Ormston & Dave Stewart, Lettering by Todd Klein

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Black Hammer: Age of Doom #1 Interior Ink Art by Dean Ormston

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Black Hammer: Age of Doom #1 Interior Art by Dean Ormston & Dave Stewart, Lettering by Todd Klein

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