The Vertigo panel became a a functional Brian Azzarello panel since he was the only creator to be present from Vertigo’s current lineup. Editor Will Dennis and Azzarello ran through slides of Azzarello’s past and current work, and took questions mostly on 100 Bullets, Loveless, and Azzarello’s upcoming new Joker graphic novel.
Joker: The Dark Knight will be out in October 2008, with art by Lee Bermejo, and will focus on the inner workings of the Joker’s gang and the criminal underground in Gotham City. It is a 128-page hardcover graphic novel.
“There’s no Batman. I didn’t want to muck up the story with that [guy],” Azzarello said. Instead, the series will try to understand why anyone would want to be in the Joker’s gang. It will feature many of the familiar villains from the Batman world, but will run on the premise that these characters would be doing anything possible to avoid Batman’s attention while they worked on their nefarious plans.
It will be written from the point of view of a character in the Joker’s gang. “I think portraying the Joker’s point of view would do a disservice to that character. As soon as you get inside his head he would lose so much power,” Azzarello said.
“He’s not funny but he thinks he’s funny,” Azzarello continued. “He’s that guy, and you know that guy,” Dennis agreed, “Except this guy thinks it’s funny to smash a bottle in your face.”
Azzarello said that he and Lee Bermejo came up with the idea in a bar in San Diego. “We had finished Lex Luthor and were just sick of working with each other, and then we started talking about this. And we weren’t going to do this and then Lee got fired off of Hellboy and he needed work.”
They also showed a slide of the cover of 100 Bullets #95, which Dennis said hinted at one character’s “demise is maybe too strong a word.”
Azzarello was asked if he had room to tell what he wanted to tell with 100 Bullets? “It’s going to end the way I originally envisioned it ending. These are my friends, I’ve lived with these characters for ten years,” he replied.
One fan was disappointed to hear that the motif of scars throughout the story was not intentional. “Everybody’s got scars. It’s not so unique,” Azzarello said, though he did follow up by talking about Megan’s scar. “She uses her sexuality as a weapon and that scar on her breast definitely affected how she viewed herself. That was something Augustus was able to take advantage of.”
Dennis noted that with 100 Bullets had been a more fluid experience than originally expected. The original plot had been very episodic, but the story quickly developed.
“There’s a plan, there’s an overall plan, but we’ve definitely taken a lot of side routes,” he said.
The fans seemed to agree. “With 100 Bullets, it’s trust. I trusted where that writer was taking it,” a woman in the audience said.
Several people were disappointed in the loss of Loveless. One fan asked about the use of sex in the storytelling. “What were you trying to do with that?”
“Sell comics. It didn’t work.” Azzarello quipped.
“Brian has this philosophy that sex equals action. In Loveless, a lot of it was very character driven, so he put in a sex scene and that equaled action,” Dennis continued.
“Plus, it was a relationship story and sex is very much a part of that,” Azzarello noted.
Dennis pointed out that there are always questions after a series ends as to what could have been done differently. “It’s a really fine line between wanting to sell and find an audience and wanting to be true to the story,” he said.
One fan felt the particular lack of closure with the sudden ending and wanted to know where Azzarello intended it to go.
“I’d like there to be some closure to it, eventually. I’m satisfied where it ended…I liked every one of those issues. The last issue I wrote I’m comfortable being the last issue in the series,” he answered.
“I’m not a huge believer in the lame duck session—you don’t break up with somebody over six months. Just pull the band-aid off and let’s move on,” Dennis agreed.
They discussed Batman: Broken City briefly, calling it a “nice palate cleanser for a lot of people—it was the anti-Hush.”
The story behind Broken City was that in San Diego, Azzarello and artist Eduardo Risso went up to then Batman Group Editor Bob Schreck at the bar and said, “We want to do Batman.”
A fan wanted to know if they were thinking of following up Broken City with another run. “They have some other plans for Batman right now,” Azzarello said, “Risso would do it in a heartbeat.”
Dennis noted that comic book people are very interested in the forward movement of the plot in comics, and he asked the crowd whether they preferred serialized comics or collected trades. “Is it the story, is it the experience? Addiction?” he wanted to know.
Azzarello agreed with the crowd that the monthly installments were important, and noted that it helped with storytelling to have a manageable chunk to write each time. He also noted that he is usually very terse with scripts when it comes to art direction and that he tends to let the artist decide what to draw.
“If you’re a writer, I think the best thing you can do is recognize what your skills are and what the skills of the other people on the team are,” Dennis said.
“The visual cues they should be able to get from what the characters are saying,” Azzarello agreed.
One fan wanted to know what other characters Azzarello would like to try his hand at. “Aquaman. I am not kidding,” he answered.