BRIAN AZZARELLO SAYS…
INTERVIEW WITH BRIAN AZZARELLO – CO-CREATOR OF „100 BULLETS”, BASED ON INDIVIDUAL CONVERSATION AND MEETING WITH FANS
The genesis of „100 Bullets”
Brian Azzarello (BA): I came up on the idea of this story when I was driving, with the friend of mine. I got cut off in traffic and I terribly pissed off. I squashed the steering wheel and screaming „I kill that guy!”. Then my friend said: „If you could kill him and get away with it, would you really do that?”. „100 Bullets” came up with this question. I owe my career to some guy, who cut me off in traffic (laughs).
I didn’t do too much research to this series, because Dizzy’s neighborhood is my old neighborhood, I lived there, I knew this people. Besides I friend with some police officers and I had opportunity to drive with them on night patrols. Believe me, sometimes I saw really weird things.
It’s not true, that I added the conspiracy in later issues. The conspiracy was there from the beginning, just you didn’t know about it. I like these little stories about losing people, but the big story in the background made „100 Bullets” successful series; the Trust’s story connects all the episodes into something bigger. I rather cancel it, than do over and over revenge stories.
Working on „100 Bullets” series
BA: Such a big series requires a lot of precision. From the beginning I had the whole story in my head, I knew exactly what would happen in the last issue. I made a plan, not too close, but thanks to him I knew, that for example around issue no. 50 will be reveled origin of the Trust or that some character dies around no. 75. So I had general assumptions, but also some room to improvisation. If a certain story come out very well, we did some extra issue to develop story or some character.
I miss working on that book. It was a big part of my life, it was 10 years of hard, systematic work. Now I don’t work that much, I’m more lazy (laughs).
Doing so big project was great, I wished that never ended. But the time has come, when we heat the ending point. Will we ever come back to this? Maybe. I emphasize: „maybe”, there are no any plans.
Do I feel that the greatest success is behind me? Yeah, give me a gun, so I can blow my brain out! No, it’s not, I don’t think so. And even if, so what? I don’t give a shit! (laughs)
Relationship with Vertigo
BA: It’s not a secret, that Karen Berger wasn’t 100% behind „100 Bullets”, when we started. She had faith in us, she liked the story very much, but she wasn’t sure if Vertigo is a good place to publish it. Fortunately, we proved, that she was wrong.
I think that „100 Bullets” changed Vertigo, before this series most Vertigo’s titles had strong fantastic elements, like „Preacher” or „Sandman”. „100 Bullets” had none of them, its strength is just real people and real world. Thanks to the success we have had, we rubbing ways for other series, like „Scapled” or „DMZ”.
Right now DC is focused on the renovation of their universe, so Vertigo descended into more background. But I think, that Vertigo will be stronger next year. I know what’s coming out and I know that you will be happy.
The dark side of the human soul
BA: There is a lot of evil in my characters, but it’s only a fiction, imagination. When I saw what Anders Breivik did in Norway I realized, that this is true evil. Every human being has this dark side, but people in different ways deal with this. Who knows, where I would be, if I did not shed my dark side to my stories? God bless DC Comics! (laughs).
„Lex Luthor: Man of Steel”
BA: Why I concentrated on Lex, not Superman? Superman is boring, Lex is interesting. This was one of the easiest books I ever written, it was like writing my diary. Everything that Lex says, I agree with him; his view of Superman is my view of Superman. I just don’t have his money, dammit! (laughs).
Superman for me, as for Lex, is mainly a threat. It’s not just I don’t like him, just like him more when he is not around (laughs).
„Superman: For Tomorrow”
BA: This album was a big challenge, because it’s very difficult for me to write about character, that is perfect. Perfection is not interesting. I had to find a mistake, some flaw of character. I think that mistakes make us interesting. Writing Batman’s story is very easy, because he makes a lot of mistakes; especially putting in a bat-costiume was a big mistake, Bruce Wayne shouldn’t never done that. Finding a mistakes in Superman was difficult, the one I found make him to start questioning himself, doubting himself. Then the story came.
BA: It seems that Eduardo [Risso] and I come back to Batman once in every 2 years, so surely there will be new stories. But it’s very important for us to have something to say before we do it. We don’t want just „do a Batman”; if we have some idea, we contact the editors and present it. It gives us a lot of freedom.
When I do the superhero comics, I do it with the same among of concentration and care that I put in my own creations. When I don’t have nothing to say, I‘m not say. It’s not worth it.
Helping Frank Miller with „All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder”
BA: My help consisted mainly in the fact that, I drank with Frank (laughs). We were talking about Green Lantern, that he can do anything that he can think of, his imagination is the only limit. His ring works on everything except yellow. That’s ridiculous! I said to Frank: „Paint the entire Batman’s cave in yellow, when he comes there, he will not have any power”. So I come up what a dumbass is Green Lantern, that’s all.
„Joker” graphic novel
BA: „Lex luthor: Man of Steel” was a great success. During the San Diego Con I was at lunch with Dan Didio, he was very happy of „Lex Luthor” and asked, if Lee [Bermejo] and I like to do more books like that. At that time Lee and I decided, that we will not work together anymore. There were some problems and we decided, that better to part as friends. But I was having dinner with him that day and told him about the Dan’s idea. Lee said that he is not interested in this project, and he does not know anything about any other character like Luthor. Then we though, that maybe if it will be about Joker, that may be something value. By the end of the dinner, we had the whole story.
We wanted to redefine this character. Recently Joker become an antihero. For many readers he is no longer a villain, people like him. We though, that it is big mistake, you should not like this character, you should be afraid of him. We wanted to emphasize the fact, that simply being in the same room with him could get you killed, because he is that extremely dangerous and unpredictable person.
Unlike in „Lex”, Joker doesn’t tell his story. I found, that getting into Joker’s head would be a big mistake. You shouldn’t know, what he’s thinking.
Connections between „Joker” graphic novel and „The Dark Knight” movie.
BA: Many people pay attention to the similarity between our Joker and Joker performed by Heath Ledger. The look of our Joker was established a long time ago, in „Lex Luthor” actually, there is one picture of him in the local newspaper, with the characteristic location of his scars. This was much before „Batman Begins” film. I’m not saying, that Nolan was inspired by our graphic novel; I know that filmmakers knew what we were working on, but I haven’t any idea, if they saw any panel of „Joker”.
This album supposed to be publish before „The Dark Knight”, but when we finish, it was very close to the film. Therefore the marketing department in DC said no. Lee and I were very disappointed. But, when the comics finally come out after the film and sold so well, we weren’t disappointed anymore. I think the movie actually helped our book sell.
I must say, that I love the Ledger’s performance. It’s a hundred times better than Jack Nicholson’s.
„Jocker & Lex” strip
BA: It was an anniversary issue of „Superman & Batman” series. The editor contacted me and said that I would had two pages and suggested, that Lee Bermejo and I could do something about Luthor and Lex meet each other. I said that this is dummiest idea I ever heard. If that universe was real, Lex Luthor never would have nothing to do with Joker. I replied, that I will not do this. A little later I though, that this characters so totally don’t matches, that it’s a bit like Calvin and Hobbes. I thought: „Let’s do it in the >>Calvin and Hobbes<< style”, it would be something that no one would expect from us. Lee and I did it, but the trouble was that we did it to well. DC’s lawyer said that they can’t published it. Fortunately, before this two pages went to the trash, Jim Lee was contact with Bill Watterson, showed it to him, and Bill said: „No problem”.
BA: I don’t think so. The problem is, that in DC universe is Joker, is Luthor and there is everybody else.
About reinventing characters
BA: I think that every once in a while all comics characters need to go in a fresh direction. We don’t live in an ideal world, so there are myths. The myth needs to be reinvented to remain relevant. Otherwise, it die.
BA: Direct inspiration for that series was miniseries „El Diablo”, a western and the war story, which I did with Danijel Zezelj. I really had a good fun with mixing these two genres together. I told myself, that I want do it again. I choose Civil War reconstruction consciously, because many Americans know very little about this period of American history. We, as Americans have a tendency to ignore ugly parts of our history. I wanted to bring some light on this events. It is worth to add, that I’m a really big fan of westerns, not American but the spaghetti westerns.
Of course, before I start writing I did decent research in order to maintain fidelity to reality. But I had to make some compromises; the more I studied the language, the more it became clear, that if I use them, it will be difficult for readers to understand. So I had to make that language more modern. But in other cases, I think the motivations of characters and settings are pretty realistic.
Unfortunately the series did not sell well, so DC make decision to shorten it. I will not reveal what I planned in canceled issues, because there is a chance, that I regain the rights to this series and finish „Loveless” with another publisher.
BA: I don’t have any dreamed-off artist, with whom I would like to work. Just now I’m working with my dream team: Eduardo, Dave [Johnson] and Patricia [Mulvihill]. I like them very much. Recently I talked with Andy Kubert, that if we had a time and if there will be right project, we could do something together. I would also like to do more projects with Danijel Zezelj, we mesh very well.
American comic book market
BA: Comic book market in the United States is different from anywhere else, the main stream are superhero comics. It seems, that this is what readers want and, looking at what is happening in theaters, unfortunately it will not change. But ok, people liked this comic, they like this kind of fantasy; just I don’t like them, doesn’t mean I’m right (laughs).
The more I’m glad, that there is a room for something like „100 Bullets” in the comics market, that there is place for stories that I want to tell, and there are enough people buying my stories. I don’t need to be extremely popular to be happy. As long as I’ve enough people reading what I’m doing, assurance from DC to publish this, I’m cool. If there were only superhero comics, I probably wouldn’t write comics. I would writing probably something else, scripts for television or something.
„Spaceman”, new Vertigo series
BA: „Spaceman” is happening in the near future, when all the dark predictions about climate changes on Earth become true. The consequence are political, economic and social changes. It’s kind of a bleak, wet world.
The idea for this story came from conversation with my friend, a bioengineering professor at the University of Chicago. It was right about the time, when NASA and the Russians decided to combine their efforts to travel on Mars. A friend told me, that it’s not possible at this moment, because our bodies can’t take the journey for reason of the loss of calcium in bones. So I said, what if we can genetically engineered to make bones bigger and harder? The story came from developing this idea, the main character is an astronaut genetically engineered by NASA to travel on Mars. The problem is that he can’t fly on Mars, because there is no NASA anymore.
„Spaceman” is a new genre for me, but the whole „100 Bullets” crew working on it, so I feel like we re-gathered again our band together. There will be 9 issues in the first year. We treat it as television series, we will share the series to seasons.
edited by Michal Siromski