Brian Azzarello and Eduaro Risso’s 100 Bullets is back with a new 8-issue mini-series about Brother Lono. To celebrate, Azzarello sat down with Drew to discuss the new mini, the first issue of which is out today. We also ask him about Wonder Woman 21 (also out today) and his contributions to Before Watchmen. Spoilers for all issues discussed below.
100 Bullets: Brother Lono
Retcon Punch: You’ve been very clear in other interviews that Brother Lono is NOT a sequel or continuation of the story of 100 Bullets. What is it about Lono that made you want to return to his character?
Brian Azzarello: Eduardo wanted to return to him. [laughs] That’s what it was. We discussed maybe revisiting some of the characters, and that’s the one he wanted to do. Originally, it was not my intention to go back at all. Whether he was alive at the end of 100 Bullets was intentionally vague, because that’s what served that character in that particular story. But, Eduardo and I talked about it and it’s like “Hey, you know, we can do something else with Lono, but it’s going to have to be completely different from what people expect.
RP: I’ve often been struck by how collaborative your working relationship with Eduardo seems to be. Can you talk a bit more about where the ideas for Brother Lono came from?
BA: The whole story for Brother Lono came from a discussion with Eduardo while we were in Spain together. We just sat down and hashed out the entire story — a “where is he now?” kind of thing. We didn’t want to do a prequel story or something that ran concurrently, we wanted to pick up where that guy is four years down the road.
RP: You’ve mentioned how accessible this will be to new readers, but 100 Bullets has a daunting legacy. Let’s pretend 100 Bullets never existed — what’s the pitch to new readers?
BA: Yeah, let’s pretend 100 Bullets never existed and you’d never be talking to me. [laughs] The pitch to new readers is: it’s the story of a man trying to not be himself.
RP: In that way, what will longtime fans recognize in this miniseries?
BA: Well, the longtime fans, they know Lono. He was a very popular character in the series. He’s got a pretty good fan base.
RP: Issue one finds Lono at the seeming beck and call of the local sheriff, doing favors for the local Catholic mission. Has he softened up in the time since 100 Bullets?
BA: You’ll have to read the book. Did he soften up? No, there’s no softening of that character. He’s different, but he’s not soft. There’s no soft in him.
RP: Would you trust him with a nun?
BA: Actually, yeah, I would. [laughs]
RP: Compared to Las Torres Gemelas, Lono seems to be the good guy.
BA: It’s early. Well, you know, the story is about him. He’s not going to be– let it happen. Yeah, he’s not the worst guy in the book.
RP: So, “Las Torres Gemelas” translates to the Twin Towers. That’s a loaded name. How self-aware is that name in their eyes?
BA: Well, it’s a drug cartel. You don’t think they’d like a loaded name like that? I think it works pretty good.
BA: She really didn’t have much of a supporting cast, per se, in previous incarnations. It was very important for us from the get-go to establish something like that for her — to give her her own particular morals and make her story different from the normal sort of superhero stuff. We wanted to make her unique, and part of — I think — the uniqueness of some of these characters is their supporting cast. You know, that’s what makes them different.
RP: Her cast in particular is remarkably colorful. There’s a mix of classical gods, Kirby’s New Gods, your own characters. Where do those ideas come from, and what’s fun about jamming these disparate elements together?
BA: Where do these ideas come from? I get them from the idea store. I dunno, it’s like, all this stuff makes sense to me, you know? Like, we’re going to be touching on the classical old gods…well, we should probably reference the new gods, too. This whole story that Cliff and I are telling, this is the story that we set out to tell. This is what we proposed to DC. So, these elements were all in place before we even started working on it.
RP: Did you have difficulty pitching such a long-term arc for one of DC’s headlining characters?
BA: Yeah. Oh yeah. This was– like I said, we had this story in mind from the get-go.
RP: The series has followed Diana across the globe (and now to New Genesis), yet she’s never lost her collected control. Are you actively avoiding the “fish-out-of-water” characterization that we sometimes associate with her?
BA: Yeah. Yeah, I am. I think that’s an aspect that’s explored better in some of the other titles. That works really well, I think, In Justice League with what Geoff’s doing. This is, you know, it’s a bold title and she shouldn’t be the fish-out-of-water in her own title. She’s the eye of the hurricane.
RP: Speaking of that hurricane, this series has been tracking three separate factions for a while now, but issue 21 suggests that Cassandra might represent a fourth. Are we wrong in assuming that the individual gods are loyal to their factions?
BA: I wouldn’t say you’re wrong, but you’re not one hundred percent right.
RP: Between all of the betrayals and secrets, it’s hard to trust anyone in this series. You’ve stated that, in 100 Bullets, Agent Graves never lies. Is there a similarly reliable character in Wonder Woman?
BA: I think she is. Yeah, she definitely is. There’s some good-hearted characters in Wonder Woman. I think most of them are. At least most of the immediate cast. Zola, certainly. Hera’s changed in the past year. Making her human has given her a deeper understanding of things.
RP: Cassandra’s story also suggests that Lennox might not be as heroic as we think he is, but the issue quickly contrasts that with this big sacrifice on his part. Will we learn more about what makes him tick?
BA: [laughs] Yes. Yes, you will. You might not like it.
RP: We saw a little taste back in issue 14, but the conclusion of issue 21 promises a bigger look at New Genesis. What attracts you to that world?
BA: I wouldn’t say it has a particular attraction for me, I just think it works really well in the story we’re telling with Wonder Woman. Orion and New Genesis are part of the supporting cast — this is Wonder Woman’s story. We’re going to establish what New Genesis stands for in the New 52. We’re putting the cards the table next issue.
RP: And was that always part of the pitch as well?
BA: Yeah, absolutely.
BA: You know, because they’re worldviews are so strong, it’s not as difficult as you’d think. You just stay true to the characters as you write them. I didn’t prepare any differently to write that stuff than I do anything else.
RP: Much of the discussion about Rorschach’s morality tends to focus on the stark black and white of his visual motif, but you embraced the ambiguity of the actual Rorschach test in your miniseries. Have you always thought of the character in those terms?
BA: As ambiguous? Rorschach is… He’s never wrong — to him. You know? He’s one of those kinds of people, you know? He can rationalize what he does into being something great.
RP: Your use of song lyrics throughout The Comedian miniseries is striking, culminating in issue 4 where you’re cutting together lyrics from three different songs. Can you talk about how you used music in this series, and why you made those choices?
BA: Music is something I thought was really important in the original series, so it was definitely something I wanted to play with. I really didn’t see much room to do it in Rorschach. But Comedian — and the whole era that story was taking place in, the 60s — the music that was being made then was so important and relevant to what was happening in the world at the time. Pop music had meaning. These were songwriters. It’s not like — well, I’m going to sound like an old man — it’s not like the crap you kids are listening to today.
RP: Where does the music come from? Is Eddie hearing this music? Is he thinking about this music?
BA: I think it comes from different places. Once, he’s listening to the radio, I know that. And there’s a jukebox, but it’s part of the backdrop, you know? It’s just what’s going on. There’s music playing in that man’s life.
RP: Specifically, in issue 4, there’s no diegetic source for the music. Is it something that he’s thinking about during the issue? Is it something you’re applying to the issue to comment on the events? Is it something that he’s maybe thinking about after the events?
BA: I think it is playing, though. It is. It’s playing in different places — different scenes with different music playing. I decided to use the music throughout the entire book just by mixing it up. But yeah, it comments on the story, that’s what I was doing with it.