Eisner Award-winning writer Brian Azzarello spoke with Kiel Phegley at the end of the 2012 Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo about his Murder Tour of Chicago and its unfortunate demise thanks to the city’s tendency to turn infamous gangland murder scenes into parking lots.
Shifting to comics, Azzarello digs into the back story of how he came to be the writer for his and artist Lee Bermejo’s “Before Watchmen: Rorschach” series, which the writer says will deliver what the fans want, finding the voice of the popular vigilante versus stepping into the mindset of the Comedian and more.
Check out the interview and full transcript below!
CBR TV: I’m here with Mr. Brian Azzarello. Brian, we were talking as we were walking over here about this show and having a big show in Chicago — you’re a local like I am, what’s it like for you to have a show like this where a lot of people are coming to your town in terms of not only bringing friends in but taking people out?
Brian Azzarello: Oh, I think it’s fantastic. We’ve got a lot to offer here and it’s really, it’s fun to show the city around. It’s nice that this show’s downtown, you know?
Well, I’ve heard tell before — I think it’s your Chicago Murder Tour? Is that something you do where you take people to some of the old mob boss historical things? Is that true or have I been told the tale?
No, I have done that. Yeah, I have done that a number of times. Usually, it’s people from Europe that want to go on that tour.
What is your favorite spot to take somebody on the Chicago Murder Tour?
Well, one of the problems about the tour is all I’m really doing is taking them to parking lots at this point because where the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre occurred, it’s a parking lot. O’Banion’s Florist Shop? It’s a parking lot. This city — it’s funny, we scrub crime away — notorious crime, anyway.
Yeah, not government crime. [Laughs] Well, one of the things a lot of people have been talking about, DC’s been promoting at the show is the “Before Watchmen” books —
[Laughs] This is probably the question you’ve been asked before and I hate to always repeat, but it’s always an interesting answer from the guys who have been working on these books — what was your first response when DiDio said, “Hey, ‘Before Watchmen’ material?” What was it that made you say, “Yes, I’m going to get involved in this.”
The first response was, “You’ve got to be kidding me,” and he said, “No, I’m not kidding,” because he offered me Rorschach right away. Of course I was hesitant, you know, because I didn’t know if I had a story to tell but I thought about it and I came up with a direction.
Then I talked to Lee [Bermejo] and I said, “Lee, we’ve been offered Rorschach. What do you think?” and he said, “What are you, kidding? Yes, the answer’s yes.” We talked about it, we came up with a pretty solid direction about what we wanted to do with it — it was different than what Dan originally threw out to me, but I think people are going to get what they want, that’s for sure.
I talked to Lee Bermejo earlier in the weekend about the book, and he said you guys don’t talk back-and-forth a lot while you’re working on something. You’ll do the script, he’ll draw the pages. At this point, is it that you guys just know each other’s tastes, styles enough that you don’t need to bounce back and forth during the collaboration, you know what he likes to draw, he knows what to pull out of your writing?
We do a lot of the grunt work before we actually get started. He and I will talk through story, different kind of settings, the kind of place. He’ll start working on pulling references together. When I start scripting and he starts drawing, we’re already off and running. We talk fairly often but we don’t really talk about our work. He’ll give me a call, and I’ll call him and we just shoot the shit.
I hope your phone bill’s not too much when you’re calling Italy all the time! One last thing I did want to ask about “Rorschach” as a book, because it was interesting, I was reading something online recently about that character and about Alan Moore kind of helping create his voice and looking at those old Herbie comics — he’s got a very distinct speech pattern that he uses, and you’re really known for your dialogue and getting in and finding different ways of how people talk and reflecting it on the page. Was it easy for you to step into that character’s voice, just in terms of giving him the right dialogue, that he really sounded like you remembered from the original book?
It was — it took a little doing to get into the rhythm of Rorschach. Not so much The Comedian. The Comedian was — he was pretty easy for me. [Laughs]
Well, you know, obviously, there’s a line to balance between that this is a very adult, mature world that you guys are dealing with and especially with a character like The Comedian, there are a lot of atrocities and horrible stuff and not just turning it into torture porn or something like that, that you’re not just throwing a lot of that stuff out there — to blow shit up, to see bodies, whatever it is — how do you balance the human level of who the characters are when you’re dealing with a lot of horrible shit, really?
Horrible shit is what makes us human, man. Especially these two characters that I happen to be working on right now. It’s nothing I’ve ever shied away from in comics, you know? “100 Bullets” was pretty steeped in that, “Joker” that Lee and I did — that was a pretty dark take on the Dark Knight universe. It’s not a — it’s no big deal. It’s easy. It’s really easy for me. [Laughs]
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