WW Chicago: Vertigo: Edgy and Evocative

At WizardWorld Chicago on Friday June 27 DC Comics was originally scheduled to present their Vertigo panel Vertigo: Edgy and Evocative with Vertigo's senior editor Will Dennis and writer Brian Azzarello.

Instead, during his introduction, Dennis told the WWC crowd that the panel's focus would a one-on-one with Azzarello where they would discuss his current, past and future work with Vertigo and DC Comics. Dennis told the gathered crowd that he had been working with Azzarello since 2000, and the panel started with a short slide show highlighting Azzarello's varied works with DC.

The first slide showed off the cover for the upcoming original graphic novel "Joker" written by Azzarello and with pencils from Lee Berjemo. Dennis said the graphic novel was titled "Joker" not "The Joker," just simply "Joker."

Dennis said the book will be coming out in October and will be 128 pages. He said the interior art and colors were fantastic and promised fans a unique take on the title character.

He then showed a slide of Azzarello and Berjemo's first collaboration, the six issue "Luthor" mini-series.

The cover to "100 Bullets" #94, drawn by Dave Johnson, was shown next. Dennis says they have six issues to go and praised Johnson's work on the series. He said the cover to #94 held a big clue to one character's situation.

A slide from the first "100 Bullets" trade paperback was then followed by a "Hellblazer" cover. Dennis called Azzarello's work on "Hellblazer" some of the best work he has ever done.

The next few slides rounded out most of Azzarello's past work for Vertigo including "El Diablo," "Loveless," "Johnny Double" (Eduardo Risso and Azzarello's first collaboration) and "Doctor 13."

Focus shifted to Azzarello's DC work with a slide from the Sgt. Rock graphic novel with Joe Kubert.

"Maybe you've heard of him," Dennis joked. "And if you haven't there is the door."

Slides of Azzarello's Superman and Batman work were shown. Dennis said that he feels looking back on Azzarello's "Broken City" Batman storyline that it holds up really well. He said that fans should revisit it after "Joker" comes out because it really stands out as a good bookend to that story.

Dennis then opened up the panel for questions from the audience.

First question was for Dennis and how it was from him to co-edit "Broken City" with DC editor Bob Schreck.

Dennis joked that Schreck was a ball busting pain in the ass, but that it went great. They presented him the general ideas before Azzarello started writing and everybody liked it.

Azzarello said that the storyline generated from a conversation with Risso at a bar in San Diego. Risso was the one who said he really wanted to do Batman and then they approached Schreck about it.

By then Dennis said that at that point they had done at least 50 issues of "100 Bullets," so it was an easy collaboration since the team just moved over to Batman for six issues.

Azzarello said that was very important to all of them, it was the whole "100 Bullets" team or no one at all.

"Broken City" was originally pitched as a graphic novel, but DC needed something to follow "Hush." Azzarello said he thinks it was Jim Lee's idea to have it follow Hush.

"We took some heat with the noir take on the character," Dennis admits.

Azzarello points out there storyline was really the anti-Hush, so it was hard to follow their run.

An audience member asked how much input did Berjemo have into their new graphic novel?

After the Luthor mini-series Azzarello says they were sick of working with each other and that it was a terrible idea to do a follow up. They came up with the idea at San Diego, but didn't want to do it.

"It was an 'I love you, but can't stand you,' kind of thing," Dennis said.

"But then Lee got fired off of Hellboy and needed work, so we did it," Azzarello said.

He said now they are already talking about what they are going to do next. Dennis said Lee is fantastic, and said his work on "Joker" is the best thing he has ever done.

Dennis then talked a little bit about Lee as an artist.

"For him it's torture. Every page takes a lot to get out of him, and the project is like climbing going up to the top of the mountain, and then starting at the bottom -- "I lost all my fingers and toes, but lets do it again."

Asked if he had a follow-up in mind for "Broken City" Azzarello said maybe, but they have other plans for Batman right now.

A fan asked Azzarello why he had so many sex scenes in "Loveless?"

"To sell the book...obviously it didn't really work," he quipped.

Dennis says that Azzarello equates sex with action, so instead of a big action scene that doesn't fit a story like "Loveless" you can have a sex scene be the action.

Next was a question about their take on Joker in the new graphic novel and how would they portray him differently?

"You are going to get an insight into the character that hasn't been done before, there is no Batman," Azzarello said. "I didn't want to muck up the story with that asswipe...it's more about his gang and why anybody wants to be in it."

Dennis said to expect appearances from Killer Croc, Two-Face, Harley, Penguin.

He said the important thing for them was to treat the villains as truly crazy crime people, not colorful people operating on some sort of gigantic stage.

"If you were a criminal in Gotham City you wouldn't want Batman on you, you would want to operate under the radar," Dennis said. "You wouldn't want to try and trap him."

He reiterated that it would be focused on Joker's gang and what's it like to be one of his henchmen.

Unlike the Luthor story, where things were told from Luthor's perspective, this isn't from Jokers point of view.

"I think portraying something from his point-of-view is a disservice," Azzarello said. "If you try and get in his head he loses his power."

Azzarello was then asked if he had any regrets about ending "100 Bullets" at issue #100?

It's going to end how he originally envisioned it, and he said there is going to be some hesitation, because he has been with the characters for some long, but it was time.

#93 just came out and Dennis said they are putting #94 to bed right now. He said fans should expect the last issue in February.

They talked then about Azzarello's storytelling with "100 Bullets" and how it's very fluid. Dennis said a storyline that's four issues ends up sometimes being five or six. He said that Azzarello really approaches it like a novelist and how he lets the characters guide him.

Dennis thanked fans for sticking with it this long.

A fan asked if there was anybody else in the DC universe that Azzarello wanted to tackle with a realistic take?

Azzarello quickly and definitely stated Aquaman.

"I am NOT kidding."

He couldn't say what his idea is because he eventually wants to write it. 
Fans then shouted out different characters names for Azzarello.

Animal Man? Nah...been done right.

Jimmy Olsen? Oh yeah, Dennis joked that the fan should meet with Azzarello at a bar and ask him for Jimmy Olsen stories. Dennis joked that he had a 1,000.

A discussion about Azzarello's "Doctor 13" was next after a fan asked about what gave him the idea to work with those set of characters. Azzarello says it was around the time of "52" and nobody really wanted them. He was pissed off that they were ignored and thought there were some great stories there.

Dennis called "Doctor 13" a fun comic book story.

"It was at a time where the DC Universe was making consequences matter," Azzarello said. "Will and I were just like why don't we just write a comic book? You start out in the Himaylas and then end up in the Jungle, with no explanation. You buy into the comic book logic."

Dennis agrees that fans weren't as nit-picky with that as they can be sometimes.

Someone asked about the origin of "100 Bullets," to which Dennis responded that the original idea was a lot more episodic, just Graves giving out attache. It developed into something more when they started talking about what happens after they use it.

It prompted a discussion about the nature of the series and whether or not it would it have lasted if launched in today's marketplace. Since the big reveal of a larger mythos came in #9, Dennis said that now he isn't sure they would have been able to last that long.

He then related it to "Scalped." The original reveal of Dash as an FBI agent was originally planned for issue five, but then Dennis put pressure on Jason to move it up. He felt they needed a hook to last, but Dennis felt it didn't hurt the story.

Dennis said as both an editor and writer you have to be aware of the marketplace, but it's a fine line because you don't want to sacrifice the storytelling.

A fan asked Dennis about "Fables" and if there was an end planned?

Dennis said Bill Willingham has no plans to end it, and that he has tons of material left to mine. He's done a lot with the Western canon fairy tales, but there are tons of other cultures with great characters and stories.

Azzarello was asked about the last two issues of "Loveless" and if he felt they provided enough closure.

He said that he really liked both issues and said he had other stories to tell. He hopes down the line he would be able to write them.

Azzarello was asked a two-part question about how he writes his scripts and layouts and if he felt confined by writing DC Comics characters like Batman.

He said he prefers to keep his scripts and descriptions short and leave it to the artist. He said "Guy in room," is too long for him.

"I've always been terse with scripts and art direction," Azzarello said. "I just don't want to tell someone what to draw, they should be able to get their visual cues from what the characters say."

As for writing DC's big guns, he said when he is actually writing it isn't confining, it's afterwards when people see what you wrote that you are forced into confining.

Dennis was then asked about Swamp Thing's current status. He said there were no plans for the character at the moment, and they were giving the property room to breathe.

The last question was for both men, asking if they knew anything about the "100 Bullets" game or had seen "The Dark Knight." Neither have seen "The Dark Knight" and Azzarello said he didn't know the current status of the game.

Now discuss this story in CBR's Vertigo forum.

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