Welcome back to our weekly miniseries covering DC Comics’ broadsheet Wednesday Comics. Please visit our Wednesday Comics Topics Page for past installments, interviews with some of the creators behind the project, and some geeky notes on what’s going on.
This week, we’ve got a treat: Chicago-based scribe Brian Azzarello needs little introduction to comic book fans, but here’s one anyway. The prolific writer of such titles as 100 Bullets, the best-selling Joker graphic novel, and Superman: For Tomorrow, Azzarello got the plum assignment of leading off Wednesday Comics with Batman.
Partnered again with 100 Bullets artist Eduardo Risso, the duo’s take on the Dark Knight has been one of the best-received features of the series. Azzarello also has a new Vertigo Crime novel out now, Filthy Rich. We chatted with him about soccer, Dick Tracy, and Wonder Woman.
Newsarama: What attracted you to the project? Was it the format, which mimics the old Sunday newspaper strips? And were you a fan of them?
Brian Azzarello: That’s exactly what attracted me. When Chi [editor Mark Chiarello[ told me the format, there was no question of my not getting involved in it. But I don’t read the Sunday comics sections much now —there’s not much left to them. I liked them when I was a kid, though, sure.
Nrama: It’s a pretty cool package.
Azzarello: Yeah! It’s funny, I go out a lot, and I’ll take the book with me. I’ll sit and have a coffee or I’ll take it to the bar, and people are always asking me about it. It’s really exciting for people to see — it’s definitely getting people’s attention.
Nrama: You’re the first writer we’ve talked with about this project. The artists we’ve spoken to said that the hardest part of the format was compressing a comic book’s worth of information into a single page. Was that true for you as well?
Azzarello: Actually, the work was in coming up with the approach. We thought about telling 12 different Batman stories, but I didn’t think Batman lends himself to that kind of treatment. In the old days of Sunday comics, Batman would have been a serial story, so I started thinking about Dick Tracy — and once I put those two guys together, we were done. So what were’ doing is putting each page out as a vignette, one chapter in an overarching story. I think it connects all the x’s and y’s, and once I sat down to do it, it wasn’t that hard. As I said, the work was in coming up with the angle.
Nrama: Dick Tracy’s a good choice for someone living in Chicago. [Chester Gould started the strip for the Chicago Tribune.]
Azzarello: Actually, I’m originally from Cleveland — the only character we’ve got is Howard the Duck. Though maybe now Howard can meet Daisy. Fantagraphics is putting out Dick Tracy work right now, but I got into him in the 1970s when DC put out an oversized edition of Gould’s Dick Tracy work, and it just hooked me.
Nrama: You’re best known for your crime comics, which are pretty dark. Did you feel you had to change anything for this project or did you just say, they hired me for me, and heck with it?
Azzarello: That’s exactly what I always say. Eduardo and I were coming off our run on 100 Bullets, and why should we change anything? But, you know, we had done Batman before, and it’s not like we’re unfamiliar with the character. I also don’t think its “me and Eduardo” leading off the book, it’s Batman leading off Wednesday Comics. And DC wanted us to do what we do best. And getting back to the Dick Tracy thing, I think people can see that all over the strip. Dick Tracy was kind of hard-boiled. You look at those old strips, and they’re fairly violent, considering that kids were going to be reading this stuff! I guess those were pre-code Sunday comics.
Nrama: What are your faves in Wednesday Comics?
Azzarello: Honestly, I’ve loved them all, every one of them. If I had to pick a couple, I’d say I’m really enjoying the Wonder Woman strip [by Ben Caldwell]. At first, it’s so dense, but all it took was getting into how he’s telling her story, and now it’s one of my favorites. And I love Joe Kubert on Sgt. Rock. I could read that all day. I know I picked the densest strip and then the most streamlined strip, but I like them all.
Nrama: Your strip has been one of the best received — does that surprise you?
Azzarello: I’m glad people are enjoying it, because I’m enjoying the hell out of it. The whole package is exciting, and there’s so much talent there, and there’s so many different approaches. When I heard the lineup, I definitely started taking my vitamins. This really is the kind of project you bring your “A” game to, and I think everyone has.
Nrama: Would you like to do it again, and see this kind of project return?
Azzarello: Well, that’s all on Chi. This is his baby, and his concept. But I hope so — I think it’s worth doing every summer — why the hell not? Other than the fact that it’ll kill him. Honestly, it’s a lot of work to wrangle all these guys together, every week.
Nrama: Last thing: As very few people know, you’re a soccer fan. What did you think about Arsenal’s loss last weekend to your team — Manchester United?
Azzarello: I bet last week is one [manager] Arsene Wenger wishes to forget. And Eduardo’s ban in Europe…
GEEK NOTES: This week’s Wednesday Comics has some of the best strips of the entire run, with Flash, Wonder Woman, Strange Adventures, Batman and (of course!) Kamandi hitting it out of the park. But check out Karl Kerschl’s Flash for a quick review of the last 50 years of Sunday comics history, with nods to Peanuts, Mark Trail and seminal Flash Silver Age artist Carmine Infantino…Also, take a good look at another Infantino character — Adam Strange — in the hands of Paul Pope this time out. The last panel gives lead Adam Strange a feral edge while paying tribute to Infantino’s clean lines. It’s great stuff…