Jason Sacks for Comics Bulletin: I’m here with Jeremy Lambert, who’s writing a new series for STELA Comics. Why don’t you tell me about it?
Jeremy Lambert: Sure. It’s called The Stolen Smile. It is a horror comic that takes place in nineteenth century Ireland. The Stolen Smile is about two sisters that own the family candle shop. One of them disappears and after a few days returns. There is a very hideous smile stuck on her face and things are very wrong and she doesn’t speak. There are a lot of things to discover there in terms of mystery.
CB: Anything you can tell us to hint about the mystery? Is it mystical, creepy?
Lambert: I want to! I will say Irish mythology had a lot to play into this. There’s a lot there. A lot of family history. I’m obsessed with Victorian ghost stories. The way that dread is built in a lot of those stories is fascinating. I tried to factor that in as much as possible.
CB: That’s a very different way of doing dread than we do in American books. We’re very used to an immediate payoff. It sounds like you like to build it up and create the mystery in the reader’s mind.
Lambert: Exactly. That’s what’s fun about this format, too, especially with STELA and the vertical scroll. It’s really cool with it because as the comic starts in chapter one, everything is wide open and very regimented panels and things like that. You’re scrolling and getting that. But as it goes on, chapters two, three, four, and five, it gets more mad and more subjective. The format is much more open and played with.
Arielle Jovellanos, the artist, has done an incredible job and has blown me away with everything she’s done. It’s really, really beautiful, the stuff she has come up with.
CB: When you plotted the book, did you a plot in a way that had these visuals as a part of it? Did you plan to have it be in the same presentation style?
Lambert: Yeah, exactly. That’s the fun part of it. There was that openness and I was able to talk to the editor, Jim Gibbons, about it. He definitely encouraged me to play with that a lot. I thought it would be fun to go from when everything is very expected in terms of the scroll and things like that, but then you start getting into the crazy staircases and things like that where a lot of the framing is using that vertical scroll to just be one long shot if you were in film.
CB: Oh, right. You get a reveal at the end?
Lambert: The reveals are very different in this one. That’s the thing. You’re not turning pages. You’re scrolling down. Different things are happening. You can use a lot of different things that you weren’t able to do before, which is really exciting. And Arielle has been doing an amazing job and has brought so much to the table and has run with it in a way that I could never even imagine.
She’s creating a lot of that dread. She’s putting together herself by making a lot of things up in her mind that she is enforcing that horror element to it, which is fantastic.
CB: I can tell this is a really fulfilling collaboration.
Lambert: It is! It’s so great. She’s incredible. She actually worked with my girlfriend on a book and that’s how I knew her. But then Jim put us together.
CB: You have to say who your girlfriend is.
Lambert: My girlfriend is Kate Leth, the breadwinner.
It was very fun to see Arielle’s work on that project. Then Jim paired us up out of nowhere. It was really, really cool to work with her and the colorist, Kelly Fitzpatrick. She’s wonderful, wonderful. We are starting to get colors in from her. It’s all starting to take shape. It’s really, really fun.
It’s really exciting. It’s my first bigger comics project because I’ve been screenwriting for years. The nature of screenwriting, you can never really talk about anything until it comes out. I’m floating around, telling everyone, “Yeah, I’m a screenwriter and there are no titles to tell you right now.”
CB: All the Hollywood people I know, they’ve got, “I have this idea that I can’t tell you about, so I had to comics because it actually gets done!”
Lambert: Well, yeah, it gets done and everything is wonderful. Screenwriting is insane because I’ll do rewrites for this project and things like that. It’s really exciting and I want to tell everyone. I want to tell my parents. But there is nothing you can do because it still might be in development hell for who knows how long.
CB: As a Hollywood writer, too, it can be completely rewritten.
Lambert: Oh, I know! That’s the other thing. It could just go into the dust. I would never have written a word.
CB: I have friends who are like, “I worked really hard on this project. None of my words are on the page.”
CB: “But I made money.”
Lambert: Which is there. There’s the benefit. It’s fun. But, no, it’s incredibly fulfilling to actually get a comic out there and to actually see art because so much of what I do is normally sending off a hundred and fifty page scripts and never seeing anything again.
CB: How much prior comics work have you done?
Lambert: I did a short story in the Image Liberty Annual CBLDF that they put out. That was very much thanks to Jordie Bellaire and Declan Shalvey.
CB: I’m wearing my CBLDF lanyard.
Lambert: Oh, there you go. There it is. That’s perfect. They brought me in. And Lauren Sankovitch, the editor, was amazing and really helped me along in my infancy. Other than that, really there hasn’t been much. I’m doing an Attack on Titan story for the anthology with Kate. But as of yet, that’s pretty much all I can discuss.
CB: Different set of muscles though, right? That’s got to be fun.
Lambert: Different set of muscles. Different set of muscles. It’s definitely fun. Co-writing is also new to me with Kate. But comic scripts and screenplays and switching back and forth is a bit crazy, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s very fulfilling to work in different mediums.
CB: Getting to exercise these different muscles makes you feel better about the other things you work on also.
Lambert: It does! Well, you open up different things. I’ve learned so much from screenwriting that has transferred over to comics in a very strange way that I wouldn’t have expected and vice versa. Like now I’m working on a script for a production company and I’m using so much that I learned from writing this comic with STELA. It’s cool how they go hand in hand sometimes.
CB: When you get creative, you want to do as many different things as you can, right?
Lambert: Yeah, exactly. And it’s really cool to work those different muscles. In different ways, it’s creatively fulfilling.
Obviously working with a small team of an artist, Arielle, and a colorist, Kelly, and Jim and everybody that is one the project (Nate who is also doing letters- Nate Piekos). It’s so much fun because even though the team is small and concentrated and dedicated, everyone is in it together. Working in films, sometimes I get lost in the shuffle, where I’m emailing forty different people a day. There are so many different producers and execs and directors. It’s crazy.
CB: So how did you get hooked up with STELA?
Lambert: It was Jim actually- Jim Gibbons.
CB: Had you known him beforehand?
Lambert: I knew him before. I was working on something with him at Dark Horse that hasn’t quite gone anywhere yet. Jim, when he went over to STELA, asked me to pitch something. I had an idea. I was very excited about it specifically for the vertical scroll of STELA because of having this horror story that is about two sisters. One of them is agoraphobic. She pretty much remains in the house for the duration of the story. Working with a decrepit old Irish house with a vertical scroll, going level to level, and things like that, is very fun.
CB: Oh, it sounds really interesting.
Lambert: Yeah, it’s very fun to work with that. And again, Arielle has gone full ahead with it and made some of the coolest looking panels in how they’re designed with staircases and things like.
It’s really cool. I love getting the new pages. It’s exciting, too, in a way because now I’m opening up these comic pages not in my email, but on my iPad or my iPhone in order to see it as you would read it. And it’s really, really cool to see it come together like that as opposed to clicking different files and zooming in.
CB: That’s perfect for an iPad, too, because that is what you do anyway.
Lambert: It’s actually perfect for an iPad.
CB: We’re so used to flipping through a web page like that.
Lambert: Exactly. And they’re gorgeous on the iPad, too, because they’re full size blown up. The iPad is definitely how I’m reading them. It’s very fun.