Understanding Underwater Welder

Grab your wet-suit as we take a deep dive into this month’s Do You Even Comic with The Underwater Welder.

Creator(s)

Created by Jeff Lemire (Artist/Writer) and released by Top Shelf Productions in August, 2012.

The Book

Described as an un-aired episode of the “Twilight Zone”, this graphic novel blends blue collar fatherhood with a splash of sci-fi.

Jack Joseph has a job welding pipes underwater for an oil rig off the coast of Nova Scotia, the small town he grew up in. Things should be great; he has a wife, a baby on the way, and a  good job, but things aren’t great. He is constantly distracted and haunted by the disappearance of his father, on Halloween night 20 years ago and never returned. Now with a son on the way, and Halloween drawing near, things begin to pull Jack deeper down as he gets lost in thought. Reality fades away when Jack passes out while working on an underwater rig. Jack is left to reflect on the loss of his father and the reality of becoming one himself.

Why this Book?

It’s important to note that Jeff Lemire created this book just after having a child of his own. It’s clear the trials and tribulations of fatherhood were on his mind during the creation of The Underwater Welder. The parallels to Jeff’s actual life only add to the work of a creator who is known for being personal. I know all artists and creators put themselves into their work to some extent, but in Lemire’s writing and art you can feel it and connect to it on a level that makes it feel familiar, even upon the first viewing.

The minimalist art of Lemire becomes visual poetry as you turn each page in this tale. The line work accompanied by the black and white creates a perfect atmosphere for a book about keeping the ghosts of the past and worries of the future at bay. This book compliments his work on DC’s Animal Man but also acts as a testing ground for paneling which would be put into practice in Trillium (another original story by Lemire released in 2015).

Typically these types of stories are something I would experience through TV or movies, but to be able to hold this book in my hands and be brought to tears is a unique and personal experience that cannot truly be explained. Lemire has always been a creator I have followed, but this book really stood out to me. I admit that I am the type that falls for parent/child moments. My heart strings still get tugged when a parent wants nothing but the best for their child while continuously fearing the worst. To this day my Mom still calls and asks if I put my jacket on in the cold weather (I am a grown man mom, but yes I did because it’s cold out and I live in a new state).

As we get older it’s easier to realize our parents didn’t know everything, but regardless, they became parents and did their best. So when I read or watch these stories I feel connected, and I am left wondering how I will be as a parent. Will I still be figuring it out or will I be haunted by the fears of my past as a dumb kid, not knowing anything.

Book:

The Underwater Welder

Superhero Sunday: Animal Man

It's a jungle out there! We need the power of all the creatures to stay safe in this month's Superhero Sunday with Animal Man.

The History

DC's Stranges Adventures #180 (Sept, 1965) featured a story called, "I Was the Man with Animal Powers." created by Dave Wood and Carmine Infantino.  The hero that appears in that book would become a semi-regular character and given the name "A-Man" (#190). 

Then in the late 80's DC went through a reset of its universe after the events of "Crisis on Infinite Earths." The reset allowed many smaller, "lesser known" superheroes to be written with new fresh and often UK talent. Revival of this character was by Grant Morrison who gave a fresh and deep look into the hero that is Buddy Baker aka Animal Man.

The story would be well recieved and continue for 2 years and 26 issues. Then the title moved to Vertigo and would later reveret back to DC proper during 52 and the New 52. There was even a 2009 mini-series called,"Last Days of Animal Man." A story that saw an older Animal Man in his final moments in the year 2024.

The Character

Bernhard "Buddy" Baker as teenager encountered a extraterrestrial spaceship which endows him with the ability to communicate and use the abilities of animals (by tapping into the lifeforce known as the "Red"). This connection to the animals makes him become a vegetarian and animal activist. He learns he can tap into more than one creature at a time and he must stay connected to nature. Once he loses touch he feels he can only reach the animals nearest to him.

The story really starts when we see Buddy a bit older. He has a wife, Ellen, and 2 children, Maxine and Cliff (Following most recent New 52 version). Buddy was a stuntman turned superhero turned actor. The New 52 story shows him retired from caped heroics and focused more on being a father and animal activist. His life begins to change once he and his daughter have nightmares about a thing called the "Rot" that will destroy both "Red" and "Green" which is all life.

The journey has Animal Man fighting demon creatures created by the "Rot" and Buddy finds out his powers are apart of the "Red", which has many Avatars and Totems of life. Both Buddy and his daughter are tapped into the "Red" but Cliff his son is not. The totems warn Buddy of a dark future and he must defend earth from this grave threat. Buddy ends up road tripping across America in order to find and defeat the threat while keeping his family safe.

Animal Man has had many journeys and adventures. The best are those with his family where he feels the effects of balance between hero and family. 

Why This Hero?

Buddy/Animal Man was written by some of the most talented writers (in my opinion), so I had to check him out. I was well into loving and reading a lot of other books by Jeff Lemire and was excited to see what he would do with a DC property. I really enjoy the fact that Lemire teamed up with Scott Snyder who was writing Swamp Thing at the time to form a cross over between the "Green" and "Red" in the DCU (something that wouldn't have happened if Jeff and Scott weren't already friends).

That and I love the books with the "feels," Jeff Lemire and Grant Morrison make you feel attached to this character and his family for the whole journey. Its a hero unlike any other.

Recommended Reading:

Do You Even Comic: Sweet Tooth

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Prepare your heartstrings to be pulled in this month's Do You Even Comic with Jeff Lemire's "Sweet Tooth."

The History

In 2009 Vertigo, a branch of DC Comics, published a book by the Canadian writer/artist, Jeff Lemire. The book was given a logline of "Mad Max meets Bambi." This is of course, Sweet Tooth I am referering too. The book ran for for 40 issues from 2009-2013. 

Lemire only set out with plans for 20-30 issues, but the book became so much more. The story was influenced from other creators such as Garth Ennis (The Punisher: The End) and writer Harlan Ellison ( A boy and his dog). 

The Story

Starting in the fictional post-apocalyptic future of a rural Nebraska, Sweet Tooth is a story that follows Gus and other human/animal hybrid creatures.

Gus, a young boy/deer hybrid, has humble beginnings, taking after his ill father who rambles about religion and prophecy. Gus lives within his small farm like home until his father passes and men come to capture him.

The journey Gus embarks on truly begins when the men come, luring Gus out with candy (aka sweet tooth). Jeppard, a older rugged man comes to rescue Gus from these redneck captors. Jeppard offers to take Gus to "The Sanctuary" but it is not all that it seems. Once there, Jeppard is revealed to be operating for selfish means and dumps poor Gus into the hands of a strange and cruel scientist.

Jeppard does find out what is going to happen and his conscience cannot allow poor Gus or any other hybrid beings to be hurt like this.

From here the story is an escape on the road adventure with tragedy and triumph (it's cliche to say but its true). The book is an adventure with twists and turns that tug at your heart the whole time. I wont spoil anymore but you'l.  see what prophecy and science have in common with this grand story.

Why this book?

Why? Hmm, because I am a lover of all things Jeff Lemire. And, a book he was doing about human/animal hybrids? sign me up! I am always excited to see what Jeff Lemire will bring to each new original story he works on.

This is a man who writes emotional journeys with fantastical situations, It is both entertaining and inspiring.

Book: