Award-winning and bestselling illustrator and author Lee Bermejo gives us a sneak peak and his upcoming series, "Suiciders."
How long has this series been in the works?
Uh, oh my god, wow, well I had the, not exactly the same idea but it had a lot of the elements and some of the same characters. I talked about this more than ten years ago when I was still working at Wildstorm. So, it’s been a long time, a very long time, and you know it’s come together in different iterations but, yeah, it’s been a while.
Can you talk about the Suiciders themselves and the sport you’ve created?
I feel like the story itself is really a story about this city. The series itself, I’d like it to be more like Sin City in the sense that you have this place, and this place has a certain set of rules, and you can tell a variety of stories within these rules. But this place, New Angeles, is built in Los Angeles 30 years after a huge earthquake, and I wanted to create this kind of sport that was also their biggest source of entertainment that would allow me to draw some kind of fun things and at the same time maybe make a little commentary on things actually going on right now, that people actually like to watch. A lot of people seem to like to watch beheading videos and really disturbing stuff, so watching two guys kill each other like the Romans used to do doesn’t seem too farfetched. Well, hopefully not hitting people over the head with that kind of message. You’re also doing it purely for entertainment factor, but since I’m first and foremost an artist I also want to draw stuff that appeals to me. So you have the chance to draw these armored guys going at it.
What types of battles can readers look forward to seeing?
That’s the thing, it really isn’t totally focused on battles. It’s going to be very much a story about these two men, their lives. You’ve got this one character The Saint, who is the best of the best, and his life starts to unravel. You find out he’s got some dirty secrets locked in the closet that start to come out. You have this other immigrant character who essentially wants to be The Saint. Wants to be the best of the best. So he comes to this new world hoping to make his dreams come true. So it follows the lives of both of these men as both of them figure out what it’s all about.
If you could compare The Saint to any sports icon, who would you choose?
That’s a really good question. I’d like to say someone like David Beckham, I think that David Beckham seems to be a pretty stand-up guy. Essentially the trappings are the same: On the outside David Beckham looks like a perfect human specimen. He’s amazingly good at what he does, he’s fantastic looking, you have all these elements that make him magnetic and you put them into a soup and you get this athletic, international superstar. He goes almost even beyond that. So yeah, Beckham is probably a good comparison.
SUICIDERS is set in the post-apocalyptic city of New Angeles, and the story itself was reminiscent of The Running Man. Were there any stories that inspired you while working on this?
Oh yeah, most definitely. I love 80s sci-fi movies like Road Warrior, Escape from New York, but even a movie like Children of Men I think—that’s an amazing movie, one of my favorites—that certainly was big. Specifically in terms of making the world not too different from what we know, a movie like Mad Max where everybody becomes these biker punks with shaved heads and Mohawks, the world I wanted to depict was a lot more relatable to our own. Which I think Children of Men does really well.
Your art style is very detailed, which helps create a realistic setting. From a writing standpoint, what goes into creating this complex society?
That just required a lot of thought ahead of time. I knew basically the trappings of what I wanted to do, which was create this city that survived an earthquake and had this chance to reinvent itself. Because of various events that eventually I’ll get to in future storylines, it secedes from the United States. You always hear stories about California having the fifth-biggest economy in the world, and growing up in southern California, you even hear talk about “We should be separated and be two states! There should be southern California and northern California!” So there’s a certain reality to this stuff already being talked about for years now.
So after deciding that I wanted those elements in the story, the rest of it was coming up with ways of making it...you know, I don’t want to say believable. Because believable is kind of a rigged word for me, especially with comics. I think that at a certain point if you try too hard to make everything completely believable, you can sometimes, not all the time, but you can sometimes sabotage an element of fantasy. And also in my case, I love on the nose satire. Like the first Robocop is fairly satirical, but it’s really played straight. So there are elements where you go “Oh that’s fantastically satirical.” And that’s something I feel like you can do if you can suspend your disbelief there for a little bit. You make it sting that much more.
Will readers learn more about the event that propelled Los Angeles into its current, post-apocalyptic state or will the series focus more on the outcome?
Without giving too much away, what I have outlined now is 18 issues. I hope to be able to go beyond that, I think that there’s story potential there. But I definitely have 18 issues, three 6-issue series plotted for this. And they go back in time, so the first one is 30 years after the quake, second one is 15 years after, and the third one deals with the earthquake itself.
And there are characters that will be recurring, you’ll see characters in the second arc who are younger. There’s a generational element of the story there.
What’s the process like balancing both writing and illustrating for an ongoing series?
I don’t know if it’s just excitement, because I’m really excited to be writing so that’s probably a big part of it, but it feels almost like an exorcism where I exhale and—I’m not going to say it just comes out, it takes it effort—but it feels more instinctual and immediate. The artwork is laborious, it takes time, and I sweat over it. So I am able to separate them in that sense, where the writing is--it helps to have everything very carefully plotted *laughs*. I’ve really plotted this thing, and working with an editor like Will Dennis has been very fundamental. Before getting this thing off the ground, he has to know that you have things pretty well in hand. So that really has helped as well. So I have a really detailed outline, I feel like the structure is there, and I’m just playing with words.