Sweet Tooth (Vertigo)
||This article is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (February 2010)|
Cover of Sweet Tooth 1 (November 2009).
by Jeff Lemire
|Publication date||September 2009 – January 2013|
|Number of issues||40 (As of January 2013)|
|Out of the Woods||ISBN 1-4012-2696-5|
|In Captivity||ISBN 1-4012-2854-2|
|Animal Armies||ISBN 1-4012-3170-5|
|Endangered Species||ISBN 1-4012-3361-9|
|Unnatural Habitats||ISBN 1-4012-3723-1|
|Wild Game||ISBN 1-4012-4029-1|
Sweet Tooth is an American comic book limited series written and drawn by Canadian Jeff Lemire and published by DC comics' Vertigo imprint. Dubbed by some as "Mad Max meets Bambi", it takes place in a mostly rural post-apocalyptic setting where some creatures are human/animal hybrids.
Gus, a young boy with deer features, lives a quiet life deep in the woods with his father. He learns many things, from medical care to religious prophecy. Though he loves his religious father, he yearns to escape as he learns that there is not fire past the trees, but simply more land.
Sometime after Gus' father passes from an illness, strange men come to capture him. They are slain by Jeppard, who promises to take Gus to a sanctuary. Lonely, Gus goes with him. Along the way, they encounter many problems. Hybrid cultists almost kill Jeppard but Gus saves him. 'Sweet Tooth' then earns his nickname by eating all of Jeppard's candy/food stash though he had gained more food while Jeppard recovered. The duo also rescue several women from a prostitution ring.
Ultimately, Jeppard betrays Gus to a horrible scientific facility in return for the bones of his wife. It turns out a mysterious plague has been wiping out humanity, and the leader of the facility, Abbott along with scientist Dr. Singh, believe half-animal half-human children the hybrids have something to do with it. In flashback we learn Jeppard was a former hockey bruiser who protected his wife Louise in the post apocalyptic world. Eventually though, Louise revealed she was pregnant and Jeppard relents when a militia, led by Abbott, offers protection. It was all a trick however, with Abbott and Singh experimenting on pregnant women and hybrid babies to try and find a cure for the plague. Jeppard is kept in a cage but is eventually freed by Abbott's brother Johnny, a guard in the facility. Johnny tells Jeppard his wife is dead, and Jeppard goes on a rampage through the facility. He is recaptured, and Abbott lets him out of the camp, telling him he can have his wife's remains if he brings Abbott a hybrid child. This was why Jeppard betrayed Gus, and he heads home to fulfill a promise to his wife that he would "bring her back home".
Gus, despite the horrors, makes friends with the last of the animal children at the place, the pig girl Wendy, half feral groundhog boy Bobby, and the silent deer boy Buddy. Gus is hypnotized by Dr Singh, who goes deep into his memory to find out the truth about his birth. He discovers that Gus's father was a lunatic, and may even have been responsible for the apocalypse. He insists Abbott take him to the woods. They discover a bible that was written by Gus's father, but no evidence of a mother in her grave, on the way back to the camp, Singh starts to believe the writings. Jeppard, overwhelmed with guilt and a directionless life, decides to re-rescue Gus. He recruits Becky and Lucy, the women he saved, and hundreds of hybrid cultists. With help from Johnny, the children escape, although Gus is forced to kill a lost alligator-child who had gone feral. While on the move, Jeppard and Gus share an identical dream about Alaska.
A battle and the intervention of Johhny allow Jeppard and the women to escape with the children and Dr Singh, who insists on coming. Seemingly, Buddy is lost to the murderous attentions of the hybrid cultists...and at the same time seems to think Jeppard is his father.
Despite the emotional turmoil, the group closes ranks to protect the children still with them. Buddy is taken by Abbott who murders the head cultist to do so. Somehow, the headmaster is now friendly and sympathetic towards the injured, moaning boy.
Gus, Jeppard. Becky, Lucy, Wendy, Bobby, Johnny and SIngh stumble across a mysterious dam..
Sweet Tooth, as a post-apocalyptic parable, is rife with influences such as Tim Truman’s Scout: War Shaman and the Winterworld three issue mini-series. As well as art influence by Richard Corben's A Boy and His Dog written by Harlan Ellison and The Punisher: The End, written by Garth Ennis.
Twelve issues were slated for Sweet Tooth's first year (as part of Lemire's initial contract). Because the nature of monthly comics is dependent on sales, initially not even Jeff Lemire knew how many issues Sweet Tooth would run. Editor Brandon Montclare confirmed, "Sweet Tooth is taken down and rebuilt every issue—sometimes every page. And as far down the road as I can see, who knows where Gus’ journey ends. Not even Jeff knows yet, although it’s in his head somewhere." The main plot points were planned out with loosely 40 issues for DC/Vertigo, and in an interview for USA Today, Jeff Lemire was quoted: "right now, I have it planned out to be 20 to 30 issues, but it could go even further depending on the response it gets." 
On May 7, 2012 Jeff Lemire announced that Sweet Tooth would be finishing with a double size special at #40.
- Gus—A 9-year-old boy with antlers is a new breed of human/animal hybrid that appeared after an apocalyptic pandemic of an unknown virus. Raised alone by his religious father in a nature preserve in Nebraska, he decides to leave his forest home with Jepperd after his father dies of an unknown illness.
- Tommy Jepperd—A hulking, violent drifter who takes in Gus and promises to lead him to "The Preserve" (a fabled safe-haven for hybrid children). The character was based on an aged Frank Castle (Marvel's "The Punisher"). "Corben’s aging gray-haired Frank is an unstoppable force of nature and amazing to behold. This character design ended up being a huge influence on the design of Jepperd, the big bad ass in Sweet Tooth."
- Dr. Singh—A scientist that experiments on hybrid Human/Animals. He takes special interest in Gus because of his apparent age predating the pandemic.
- Wendy- A hybrid pig girl Gus meets in the militia camp. She seems to be around the same age as Gus. She was raised by a single mother, and takes to Lucy and Jeppard as mother and father figures.
- "Out of the woods"
- This introduction arc flows fluidly between art and caption. Gus (a young boy whose father has died and can no longer protect him.) and Jepperd (a huge tough guy who promises to protect Gus.) are introduced. When they meet, Jepperd promises Gus he will bring him to the "The Preserve". This arc presents the adventure of these two males to the "The Preserve". The landscape and the world that they know is slowly but surely revealed to readers.
- "In Captivity"
- Gus finally meets other Hybrids. Gus now parted away from Jepperd, sees the horrors of being a Hybrid and why his father wanted to protect him. Jepperd away from Gus, gets to reflect on his life choices.
- "Animal Armies"
- The hybrids try to escape from the militia compound.
- "Endangered Species"
- Having escaped from the militia, the crew head to Alaska to try and find the cause of the plague.
The series is being collected into trade paperbacks:
- Sweet Tooth Volume 1: Out of the Woods (Collects Sweet Tooth #1-5, May 18, 2010, ISBN 978-1-4012-2696-5)
- Sweet Tooth Volume 2: In Captivity (Collects Sweet Tooth #6-11, December 14, 2010, ISBN 978-1-4012-2854-2)
- Sweet Tooth Volume 3: Animal Armies (Collects Sweet Tooth #12-17, June 8, 2011, ISBN 978-1-4012-3170-5)
- Sweet Tooth Volume 4: Endangered Species (Collects Sweet Tooth #18-25, January 31, 2012, ISBN 978-1-4012-3361-7)
- Sweet Tooth Volume 5: Unnatural Habitats (Collects Sweet Tooth #26-32, October 31, 2012, ISBN 978-1-4012-3723-1)
- Sweet Tooth Volume 6: Wild Game (Collects Sweet Tooth #33-40, June 25, 2013, ISBN 978-1-4012-4029-1)
- Near Mint Podcast. "Episode 017 – “Nobody’s Business”" Near Mint, By Jeff Lemire, September 13, 2009.
- "An Evening With Jeff Lemire part 3". An Evening with Jeff. The Comic Book Syndicate. June 30, 2009.
- Mullin, Pamela (August 31, 2009). "Jeff Lemire’s favorite post-apocalyptic comics". Graphic Content. DC Comics.com.
- Montclare, Brandon (September 2, 2009). "From the Editor’s Desk: Brandon Montclare. "Sweet Tooth"". Graphic Content. DC Comics.com.
- Geddes, John (November 19, 2009). "'Sweet Tooth' like Mad Max with antlers". USA Today.
- Official website
- Brophy-Warren, Jamin (August 27, 2009). "Tales of the Country: Jeff Lemire shrugs off comics' urban obsession". Wall Street Journal.