Last Call, Second Shot | Brian Azzarello, pt. 2

ba.jpgIn the free-wheeling second half of our conversation with the famed 100 Bullets writer, Brian Azzarello talks about his newest projects, his superhero work, what it takes to get inside the head of a villain, and why Bruce Wayne is the ultimate Ladies’ Man.



In the first part of our expansive two-part interview with Brian Azzarello (which you can read here), the conversation centered around the fan favorite writer’s long-running Vertigo series 100 Bullets and his latest ongoing Loveless. The second half, however, is a much more free-wheeling affair, touching on Azzarello’s work on the upcoming Batman: Gotham Knight animated DVD, the long-delayed 100 Bullets video game, and a myriad of superhero books, plus what it takes to get inside the head of villains like Lex Luthor and the Joker, and some commentary on Batman that must be seen to be believed.


So I guess we can start off the second part of the interview with your latest project which is Batman: Gotham Knight

Huh? What?


The animated–

Oh. Oh! Shit, I’m sorry. [laughs] I mean, the Batman people were talking to me about doing something, but I didn’t know that anything got done.


Well I just read a few weeks ago that you wrote a chapter of Batman: Gotham Knight, the animated DVD supplement to Christopher Nolan’s newest Batman movie, The Dark Knight.

Shit, when did I finish that…almost two years ago [laughs]


Well, I think this interview is getting off to a great start. [laughs] Batman: Gotham Knight was executive produced by Bruce Timm, the legendary producer behind the original Batman: The Animated Series (along with Paul Dini). So my question to you is what was it like to work with him, and what was the process like for you since it’s a step in a different direction and your first foray into animation?

Yeah. Honestly, I have no idea what it’s like to work with Bruce Timm. I really don’t, I haven’t worked with him.


So you just wrote your script and turned it in?

Yeah, I wrote the script, turned it in and they said, "It’s great." I was waiting for the rewrites, but I didn’t get any of those.


Well that’s good. Do you usually get rewrites?

No, I usually don’t, but I was expecting to get them. Honestly, I don’t get rewrites — at all — but I was expecting them here.


So was Gotham Knight your first stab at a different media outside of comics?

Well, it wasn’t the first stab, but it’s probably the one that is sort of getting the most attention – I mean it’s Batman! [laughs] 


So what is that like for you, to get tapped on the shoulder by the guy who was in charge of what might be the best animated show ever made?

It was…hmmm let me think back two years ago.


[laughs] Yeah, really. So what was it like two years ago when that conversation took place?

I was talking to Greg Novak who is this VP, sort of Hollywood type – I think he’ll love that description of him – and Jonah Nolan who is the screenwriter for [The Dark Knight] and they were telling me what they wanted. I was about to go on vacation, and they said that they really needed something quick. So I ended up spending most of my vacation writing it.


Sounds like a great vacation.

Yeah, in a really nice hotel in Barcelona. It was wonderful.


But two years later…

It was the first time I ever used the laundry service at a hotel, I can tell you that.


So have you seen the finished product yet?

I’ve seen nothing finished. I’ve seen bits and pieces, but nothing done.


I was really hoping you could tease our viewers.

Oh it’s gonna be great!


Well from all the talent they have working on it, I can’t wait!

No, it’ll be great.


Any word on the 100 Bullets game? It was supposed to come out three years ago, and then Acclaim went bankrupt two months before it came out.

Yeah. Well, you’ll get to play the new one.


Is it completely different, or is it the same [game]?

Completely different.


How much involvement did you have with the game?

I wrote the story for it. For the first one, I wrote the story and the script of the game, but for the new one I only wrote the story.


How does working in the video game media compare to working on comics?

Umm… it was okay, it wasn’t great. It’s not as satisfying as writing the comic, which is why I kind of decided to write the story and not the script for the new game. I don’t play video games so there are better people to pull it off than me. But the game has got a lot of back story as far as 100 Bullets goes. It takes place before anything in the book takes place.


So is it Graves in the ‘60s, making his bones as a Minute Man?

No, no. It’s back in the ‘90s, when Cole was a Minute Man and he has to go settle some scores.


So is it a prequel to the series in a way?

I wouldn’t say it’s a prequel, but it definitely shows what the Minute Men were doing before Atlantic City. A house is fucking with another house and Cole has to figure out what’s going on. You’ll get a lot of Cole’s back story. Why he was chosen to be a Minuteman.


I can’t wait. Covering some of the things you have done besides 100 Bullets and Loveless, you have written Batman, Superman, Hulk, Spider-Man…well, Spider-Man was barely in the Tangled Web story but—

—I really, really, really liked that story.


That one was great because it was Crusher’s story.

Yeah, it was a way to sort of show a guy who is an important part of the Spider-Man mythos but he was only there for two panels or something like that. What motivated him? What got him into that position to be in those two panels and what happened to his life afterwards? And I really wanted to tell a story of where Spider-Man just completely fucked this guy’s good intentions.


Have you read any of David Lapham and Tony Harris’ new miniseries, Spider-Man: With Great Power? because it sort of touches on the same thing, although more focused on Peter Parker.

No, I haven’t. I don’t think I could write any more about Crusher. I thought that story was it: 22 pages and that’s it; that’s all you need to know about this. Anything more and it’s done. And the book was sort of a tragedy.


Definitely. It also showed how Spider-Man came bouncing in, did his thing and left. The good guys, the superheroes, sort of pop in, make a mess, and leave the rest of the world to clean up their mess.


A different take on that theme was your Superman run, where all this bad stuff happened and Clark Kent/Superman wasn’t there to deal with this disaster because he was off fighting some other menace.

I really wanted to get in that alien’s head and find out what makes him human.


So ultimately do you agree with the analysis that the human costume of Clark Kent that he puts on is his real impression and interpretation of humanity?

Ultimately? No, I think Superman is like an adopted child. I think a lot of adopted children have a lot of questions into adulthood, there is always that, "What if?" inside of them. It’s nature vs. nurture, pretty much. Superman was raised in Kansas, so he has that sort of what people on both coasts tend to think of as Midwestern, salt of the earth ideals. Being in the Midwest, I know it’s a fucking myth. [laughs]


Spoken like a true Midwesterner!

You’ve written Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Luke Cage, Sgt. Rock, and The Hulk. Are there any other superheroes out there that you feel you have to write or want a chance to play around with? It seems for the past few years, with the exception of Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, you have mainly focused on your creator-owned series.

I prefer to work on my own stuff. The Batman run was fun but it was only for 6 issues and we did it with the entire 100 Bullets crew. It was sort of like, "Let’s take the show on the road."


Yeah, anytime I have a chance to see Eduardo Risso’s take on the Dark Knight, I’ll be there with bells on.

Speaking of Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, you worked with another frequent collaborator of yours–Lee Bermejo–on that book, which was a very human take on the meglomanical genius of Luthor.

It worked out. The road I took was that no man is a villain in his own story.


None more so that Luthor. You showed a lighter side of Luthor but one that I thought was very real. Here is this guy who doesn’t think what he is doing is wrong because it’s in humanity’s best interest.

What he believes to be the best. I think one of the things that was successful about that book was that he came across as a sympathetic character.


He wasn’t one dimensional; he wasn’t just some bad, bald guy sitting in his corner office plotting against Superman and envious of him.

There was some of that in there – obviously he’s a little jealous of Superman-but he recognizes the threat.

To bring very current events into it, I think [Eliot] Spitzer is going down because he fucked with Wall Street.


Yeah, you can’t really go after those guys unless you’re 100% clean and obviously he wasn’t .

If you’re not clean they’ll find out. He was fucking with very, very, very wealthy people. The money will hire people to find out. What do you think that guy did this morning? You know he had to have walked up to his wife and just handed her a suitcase. "Here’s half my money." [laughs]


How can that guy, being in the position that he’s in, being a moral crusader, how can he be that self-absorbed and delusional to think that he wouldn’t get caught?

That’s the hubris.


Lex Luthor wouldn’t let that happen to him!

That’s why Lex created the robot. It was worth every penny.


How many millions did he spend building her? And then he blew her up when he was done with her.

I hope that in the end of that book, his regret for having to do that came out. I mean, he didn’t want to kill.


Yeah it did. He loved her. He loved his robot!

Yeah he did. Well, he loved perfection. He created perfection.

Lee and I are finishing the Joker book now.


Is it a miniseries or is this a one-shot?

No, it’s a similar take…like Lex Luthor, but focusing on the Joker. It’s going to come out in hardback. Though it doesn’t get into Joker’s head like Luthor did. I don’t think you could write a book in Joker’s head because it would take the power away from that character. One of the things that makes the character so compelling is his unpredictability. As soon as you can tell his story, it becomes predictable.


Did you find it difficult to write him because he is so far out there?

I’ve talked to Lee about this. Writing Lex Luthor was like writing my diary. I agree with everything that I wrote. Lex was just fun. Superman was sort of that powerful, authoritative figure. Writing the Joker was sort of me talking when I walk down the street. I don’t bother putting that in the diary. No, the Joker’s been pretty easy, which is kind of funny. Writing this thing, which is 125 pages, I kind of feel that I understand him.


Does that bother you a little that you understand him?

No, no it doesn’t at all. It’s like, "Okay. I get where he’s coming from." I understand his crazy motivation


Which is?

I can’t tell you because that’s what the book is about. [laughs]


As soon as you completely understand someone’s motivation then they become dull. Every time I write Batman, I treat him a different way because that character is large enough that he can be interpreted in various ways. In Batman/Deathblow, I kind of treated him like the James Bond of Gotham City. He’s pretty much a super spy working wholly in the city limits.


In Broken City, he’s a detective, beaten down, cynical, obsessive person. And I really addressed the fact that he hasn’t moved on from his parent’s death. He’s a guy who can’t move on. Everything about his life is about the fact that his parent’s died. He took over his father’s business, he goes out every night and fights crime and he’s not moving on. I think Bruce Wayne believes that he will win his war on crime. Eventually crime will stop because of him.


When I did him in Lex Luthor, there was that sit down where Bruce and Lex had a business lunch. They know each other; they have to because they run in the same circles. Maybe Bruce doesn’t think that Lex is that much of a criminal because there is a cutthroat mentality to the business world. Lex was disappointed in Bruce because Bruce was this billionaire playboy. That has kind of been lost on the character because Bruce has fucked everything. It was drilled into my head from the TV show: "Bruce Wayne, millionaire playboy."


Another thing that they don’t want to touch upon on the DCU is that the Bruce should just be fucking everything left and right. In my opinion, that’s part of the mask – he’s got to do that so that he’s a believable character. He’s got to be – and I’m going to kill myself for saying this-he’s got to be Tom Brady. When he masturbates it’s better than when I have sex.


Wow! I’ve got nothing else after that.. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. | Carlos Ruiz

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