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July 9, 2009

Book Notes - Jeff Lemire ("The Nobody")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

The Nobody is Jeff Lemire's new graphic novel, a book that brings H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man hauntingly into the 1990's.

io9 wrote of the book:

"There's a lot to recommend in The Nobody; Lemire manages to perfectly conjure a feeling of bleak disconnection that perfectly matches his lead character's sensibility, transcending the intentionally-pulp nature of the plot (reinforced by the chapter breaks, which use pulp magazine and comic cover cliches to illustrate the story about to unfold). The ambiguous nature of the ending adds to this, allowing for both a straight-forward and an allegorical reading depending on the reader's taste, and bringing a greater weight to something that otherwise would be in danger of disappearing through its own introverted nature (Again, something that fits with the lead)."

In his own words, here is Jeff Lemire's Book Notes music playlist for his graphic novel, The Nobody:

I've always preferred sad songs. They don't make me sad, they just make me "feel more," if that makes sense (and, chances are if you like sad songs too, it does). So, my books tend to be like sad songs, and The Nobody, my new graphic novel from DC/Vertigo is no exception.

The book is a quasi-adaptation of H.G. Wells' novel The Invisible Man. But it really just uses the initial set-up of that book, then goes on it's own path. Griffen, a bandaged stranger, shows up in the tiny fishing village of Large Mouth and soon bonds with Vickie, a sixteen year-old loner. Eventually the paranoia of the town builds and they turn on Griffen, threatening to uncover the truth about his past. The book is set in 1994, a "pre-Google" world where Griffen's back-story wouldn't be as easily debunked as it would today, especially in a small town like Large Mouth. So I tried to pick some songs that reflected the music I listened to when I was sixteen and living in a small town in the early 90's. And, there are a few tracks that just fit thematically, or that come to mind when I think back on working on The Nobody last year.

1. SYCAMORE TREES: Angelo Badalamenti and Jimmy Scott

I'm a huge David Lynch fan, and Twin Peaks was a big influence on The Nobody, so I can't make a playlist without a little nod to Peaks. This song has always been one of my favorites and conjures such a haunting and creepy, yet strangely beautiful mood. It is a perfect song to have playing during the first few pages of The Nobody as Griffen, the bandaged stranger arrives in town.

2. PLAINSONG: The Cure

Seriously, what says longing, loneliness and outsider better than vintage Robert Smith? The long intro of this song, and the building crescendo always gets me. I picture Vickie listening to this in her bedroom late at night as she doodles in her notebook.

3. MY ROOM: Eric's Trip

And speaking of teenagers in bedrooms…this is such a great song. I almost forgot how much I loved Eric's Trip's Love Tara album when it came out in the early 90's. Ironically I ended up working with Tara White (The real Tara of Love Tara) at a restaurant in Toronto for years, and right up until I started working on The Nobody.

4. ENJOY THE SILENCE: Depeche Mode

The rock posters in Vickie's room used to be The Cure, and Depeche Mode, but for legal reasons I couldn't use those, so I changed them to a couple of my friends bands, C'mon and catl. But, if they had stayed, Depeche Mode's Violator poster would have been front and center in a lot of panels taped up to the back of her door. This album is still a classic, and nothing says 1991 to me like this song. I remember unloading bails of hay into my uncle's barn in the steaming summer heat and this song echoing through the rafters. It still gives me chills even though I've heard it a million times since.

5. DOUBLE SHADOWS: Junior Boys

No band has come close to capturing the real magic of that vintage Mode sound like Canadian duo Junior Boys. Some bands capture the surface elements, but these guys really get it. I listened to this album, and this song on repeat while drawing The Nobody.

6. ANY SENSE OF TIME: The Inbreds

Another 90's Canadian Indie band. I worked in a car factory in Windsor, Ontario every summer in High School and hated it. I clearly remember sweeping up steel shavings and listening to this song on my big yellow Walkman. I also had an Inbreds sticker stuck to the side of my portfolio case for years. I must have picked it up at a show, but I don't actually remember seeing them live. I can see Vickie listening to this while sweeping up at her Dad's diner after school.

7. PRIDE OF EGYPT: Andre Ethier

I shared a studio with Andre in Toronto's Kensington Market about 5 or 6 years ago. At the time I was still working on what would become my first mini-comic "Ashtray," and he was still the front man for The Deadly Snakes. He oil painted at nights, and I drew comics during the day in a stuffy, hot little room over a coffee shop that pounded Jazz all day. I love Andre's solo stuff, and this song is powerful and amazing.


As a storyteller I try to draw from a lot of different places, not just comics, and Tom Waits is one of America's greatest living storytellers. I saw him perform this song in Toronto in '98 or '99 and it is still the best show I've ever seen. This song was another big influence on The Nobody. The creepy rural setting, the nosy neighbors obsessed with the strange goings on next door. It's all there.

9. BLACK METALLIC: Catherine Wheel

I listened to this song on repeat, over and over and over again when it came out. Then, I guess somewhere along the way I forgot about it, then when I was drawing The Nobody I remembered it and downloaded it, Then I listened to it over and over and over again.


This was a short-lived Canadian band that was put out on the Sonic Unyon label back in the 90's. I saw them play live with Tristan Psionic back in the day. I honestly lost the rest of their music at some point, but have always kept this song in my iTunes. It's a little sad and little weird, kind of like Griffen.


Nothing peels back the dark side of small town life like this Zevon song. It's raw, in your face and rude. It is also really powerful and haunting.

12. YOU ARE THE VINE: Royal City

This band used to hang out at La Hacienda, the bar/restaurant where I cooked for the last seven years and right up to when I quit my day job to draw comics full time. The dishwasher at the bar, Lonnie James, is a bit of a Canadian rock journeyman, and he ended up joining the band as their drummer. They broke up soon after, but I'll always love their first album, Alone At The Microphone. This song has a strange hold over me, like the best music, words can't really capture why I love it so much, but it is a great album closer.

Jeff Lemire and The Nobody links:

the author's blog
the author's Wikipedia entry
video trailer for the book
excerpt from the book at New York magazine
excerpt from the book at Newsarama

Comic Book Resources review
Graphic Novel Reporter review
io9 review
The Pulphaus Publitorium review

Comic Book Resources interview with the author
The Fabler interview with the author
Newsarama profile of the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
52 Books, 52 Weeks