WATCHMEN is a controversial project, to say the least. Upon being approached to
work on it, what was your first reaction?
Azzarello: My first reaction was "You've got to be
kidding," which was then countered with "We're serious." And I
understood I was hearing this because they wanted me involved.
J.G. Jones: Dan [DiDio, co-publisher of
DC Entertainment] pulled me aside at the Baltimore Comic Con and told me he was
planning something audacious, and wanted to know if I would be interested.
He said a lot of people may hate the idea, but I was intrigued by the
opportunity to work with these iconic characters. Dan gave me my choice of
characters (except for DR. MANHATTAN, which had already been claimed by Adam
Hughes). Naturally, I chose Comedian, based on the outline of what Brian planned
to do with the story. I think I got the best character of the lot.
Following up on a iconic piece of art like WATCHMEN
can be very daunting. Lee, J.G., were either of you intimidated at all by the
prospect of working on these classic characters?
Bermejo: Honestly, every project is equally daunting for their own
reasons. I can't control the public's expectations or desires. I just
have to do what I do and hope that it resonates with somebody.
J.G.: I wouldn't say any of us were intimidated. We
all love the original WATCHMEN and, obviously, wanted to treat the material
with the respect it deserves. So I would say that I was excited and
energized to work on the COMEDIAN book.
What do you think is the most compelling part
about the Rorschach and Comedian characters?
Brian: I think the most compelling thing about Rorschach
is his unwavering will—even when he's wrong about something. He's fascinating;
a character that is made of so many shades of grey that sees the world in black
and white. There's no room for Rorschach in Rorschach's worldview.
Lee: Rorschach is pure
vigilante fetish. In certain circumstances, he is everything we wish we could
be but also what repels us about that lifestyle. A fascinating dichotomy.
J.G.: [Comedian] is such a complex
character. He can seem like a really jaded, hard-assed, indifferent
character, yet, in the WATCHMEN graphic novel, he is the impetus for the whole
story. If he had not reacted to Ozymandias' plot in such a human way, he
would not have been killed, and Rorschach would never have investigated his
death, unraveling the whole ball of yarn. He is more complex character
than the simple cartoon good or evil, and we wanted to explore how he became so
jaded and willing to do the horrible things he does, while still maintaining a
hidden core of humanity. A Vietnam tale seemed the right way to look at
his hardening and the building of his facade.
BEFORE WATCHMEN: RORSCHACH features yet another
Brian Azzarello/Lee Bermerjo team-up. You two have worked together around a
half dozen times—what keeps you guys collaborating?
Lee: Finding a good collaborator is like finding
a girlfriend. When it starts working good, you don't want to stop until
it's over. Brian is a great partner because he leaves you your space and
freedom but gives you everything fundamental and necessary for that freedom to
be used well.
Brian: We don't know any better. That, and nobody else
wants to work with us.
BEFORE WATCHMEN: RORSCHACH, maybe more than any
of the other BEFORE WATCHMEN prequels, dives into the depths of human depravity
… and that's saying a lot. Lee, did you have any pause knowing how dark Brian
Azzarello's script would get?
I looked at this book in a very fetishistic way. It was
exactly that darkness I wanted to explore, so I was ready for anything.
you’ve done a lot of work with dark, lurid characters in books like
BATMAN/DEATHBLOW, JOKER, LUTHOR and now BEFORE WATCHMEN. Don’t you ever want to
get your hands on Teen Titans or My Little Pony or something like
think I do the 'darker' characters because that is what I gravitate toward
naturally. I didn't choose it, it chose me. I would like to do a
book with muppets, though ... violent and depraved muppets.
100 BULLETS, WONDER WOMAN and a few of your other DC Comics/Vertigo works,
Brian, you’ve been building to your ending. Was it a different
writing experience for you knowing your main character had an ending you did
Not at all—both these stories have their own endings for the characters.
They're just not their final endings.
I’ve met you. You’re a nice dude. How do you continually go to such
dark places with some of the most despicable characters in comics?
Brian: Well, I
guess I'm drawn to darker stories. I believe it's in our faults where our humanity
becomes most apparent—both for good and bad. Or maybe you just don't know me
onto BEFORE WATCHMEN: COMEDIAN, moreso than all of the other BEFORE WATCHMEN
series, this story was steeped in American history. J.G., was it more or less
difficult to have to portray real-life figures like the Kennedys?
the Kennedys was not all that difficult.I would say, along those lines, though,
that I did spend a great deal of time researching Vietnam and the whole era of
the 60's. The Watts riots, the cars, suits, uniforms, weapons, military
equipment and camps, villages in Vietnam—everything had to be researched to the
Nth degree so that I could be accurate with the illustrations.
you’ve worked on many different types of projects, from the epic
multi-verse-spanning FINAL CRISIS, as well as gritty crime stories like Wanted
and BEFORE WATCHMEN: COMEDIAN. As an artist, do you feel like there’s a
connective aspect between these two genres that people might not see?
there is one connection that I don't think is obvious to anyone other than
myself. I have had the good fortune to work with writers whose work I
really love. I have worked with Greg Rucka, Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, and
now Brian Azzarello. I'm a fan of all of these writers, so the genre if
the book is less important than knowing a writer is going to give me something
compelling that will keep me engaged in the project.