The Eisner Award-winning pairing of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso is one of those creative teams that editors dream about. And that means they get to pick and choose their projects, usually opting for comics that are a little off the beaten path.
But next month, they're jumping into DC's mainstream summer event "Flashpoint," something even Azzarello admits is unusual for the two of them. Their three-issue mini-series is titled Flashpoint: Batman, Knight of Vengeance and kicks off next month.
Based in the "Flashpoint" world where someone has messed with the past of DC's superheroes, the Knight of Vengeance comic focuses on what Batman would be if certain things in the character's past had changed.
And although details about Flashpoint's Batman are sketchy, the first Knight of Vengeance cover features someone in a bat-costume. And the solicitation offers the clue: "He spends his days running Wayne Casinos."
Geoff Johns, who is orchestrating the event and writing the main Flashpoint mini-series, first revealed to Newsarama that his story centers on a team-up between Batman and the Flash.
But Azzarello's story tells readers more about this Batman and his life in Gotham City. And although the character is apparently called Batman, he sounds very little like the Batman fans know. As the writer reveals below:
- He's older than the Batman we know.
- He's more "bad-ass" and angry.
- His casino funds his crimefighting.
- His villains include many of the same names, but they're very different in this universe.
- Gotham is very different too.
As Newsarama kicks a series of articles on Flashpoint, we spoke with Azzarello to find out more about why he's participating in the event and what he's hoping to accomplish with Knight of Vengeance.
Newsarama: Brian, how did you hear about Flashpoint?
Brian Azzarello: I don't normally do these things, you know? These big major crossover events. But Eddie [Berganza] called me first, then Geoff [Johns] called me. Geoff sent me his scripts, and then some of the art and stuff. And then I signed on.
They weren't even looking for me to do Batman at the time. I forget what character Eddie wanted me to do. And I just said, "Who's doing Batman?" They didn't have anyone, and I said, "Well, let me do Batman!"
I explained what I wanted to do with him, and they bought onto it.
Nrama: And you brought along Eduardo. Was that you saying that you knew who you wanted to work with?
Azzarello: Yeah! Hell yeah. Spaceman, which is the other project we're doing, is going to start probably a month or two after Flashpoint's done. I thought this might be a way to bring some attention to our new project.
Nrama: Did Eduardo design a lot of the characters we'll see in Flashpoint: Batman - Knight of Vengeance?
Azzarello: Andy Kubert designed Batman. Eduardo and I came up with the supporting characters. Everybody other than the design of Batman.
Nrama: So what attracted you to doing a story in the Flashpoint universe, and Batman in particular?
Azzarello: The fun of this story is that you get to expand on the idea that, if something didn't work out the way it did, who would Batman be? Who would all these characters be if these things had worked differently? That's what's exciting to me about the project.
Nrama: This Batman is obviously in a very different world, but is he still the same basic character?
Brian Azzarello: Oh, no, he's different. I think this Batman is a little bit more of a bad-ass than we've seen before. And that includes when I've written Batman, even though I've written some bad-ass Batman stories.This Batman is older, and he's much more angry. He's not the brilliant detective. He's still a brilliant tactician. I think he's even called that in Flashpoint. But he's much more of a pragmatic individual. His motivations come from a different place, and how he acts on them. It's not what you'd expect from Batman. Nrama: Does this Batman have the hang-up with using guns?
Azzarello: Well, he doesn't use guns. But he's not hung up on it. He's not hung up on life. He's got other psychoses.
Nrama: And he's not just a casino owner in Gotham, but a crimefighter too?
Azzarello: He's even a bigger crimefighter of Gotham City. But being a crimefighter has worn on this guy more. Taking on crimes has left him sort of morally bankrupt.
He runs a casino because he's funding his war. So there are gangsters and everybody hanging out in his casino, but he's using the money that they're losing against them. He uses the casino to fund his war.
And this is a very different Gotham than the Gotham City we're used to seeing. For example, the police force in Gotham has been privatized by him. He approaches fighting crime in a much more pragmatic way.
Nrama: Does this take place in the Flashpoint present? Because we've been told that Batman teams up with the Flash.
Azzarello: Yeah, this takes place in the "now" of Flashpoint, as part of the broader Flashpoint continuity. It's not an origin story or anything like that, although you'll see some of the past.
It's what Batman is doing in between the pages of Flashpoint. Just because they're teaming up in Flashpoint doesn't mean they spend all their time together.
And the thing to remember about this is that Batman doesn't want to find out what's happened to the world. Flash wants him to, but he doesn't want to. He doesn't care.
All he cares about is Gotham City. His world.
Nrama: Do you deal with the Flash at all in your mini-series?
Azzarello: He's alluded to, but we're keeping him out for the most part. Flash is getting plenty of face time in Flashpoint. Everything orbits around him, so I wanted to focus more on Batman and Gotham.
Nrama: Will we see other characters from Gotham show up? Characters we know from Batman's universe?
Azzarello: Oh yeah. Like I said, that's the fun of working on this, is seeing how this world has changed the people in Gotham City. What's Gordon like, for example. You know? 'Cause he's in it!
It's looking at these characters through a prism.
Nrama: I would assume that, if Batman is different, then the Joker's different?
Azzarello: Joker's very different. [laughs] Yeah. You will see him.
Nrama: Are you dealing with the rest of the Bat-family?
Azzarello: A little. Not a lot. But you'll see the villains. Come on, you guys know I like the villains.
Nrama: Are you getting to do some world-building, like what you did with First Wave for DC?
Azzarello: It's more like city-building. Geoff built the world. I'm just giving Gotham a different deal. But he even did the skeleton of Gotham. I just decided, OK, this is the kind of people we're going to populate it with. This is what Jim Gordon is going to be in this world. This is what Selina Kyle is going to be in this world. And this is what the Joker is going to be. You'll see what Gotham and everyone in it would have been if Batman was different.
Nrama: Is this at all comparable at all to anything you've seen before? Fans have been trying to pull past stories up as examples of this type of story.
Azzarello: No. No, no, no, no, no. This is unlike anything, I think. It's unlike anything I've ever seen.