Friday's Spotlight on Brian Azzarello panel at WonderCon started right away as the moderator, Jim Lee, immediately began proceedings by asking the writer, "Do you wish you named your book '50 bullets?'" Brian laughed at the question, and even stated he wished he called it “200 Bullets” as he’s enjoyed the whole ride of writing the series and is bittersweet about it’s ending.
Jim mentioned he was a fan of the tv show “Lost” and used it in relation to his next question of whether or not Brian knew where he was going with the story when he started or if, like Jim thinks of the creators of “Lost,” he was making it up as he went along. The writer responded that he has had an outline he’s followed from the start, and that all the big moments and ending in the story were mapped out long before he reached them.
Jim went on to describe Brian’s writing style as almost like playwriting as the words and dialogue are very deliberate and sparse, and mentioned how the style of Alan Moore is practically the antithesis to his. In response, Brian admitted that he sees more plays a year than he does movies. He writes all the dialogue first, believing that to be his main job as a comic writer. The panels are for the artists, their job is the visuals, and so he tries to keep the description minimal. He went to art school himself for painting, and finds it hard to tell an artist "how to draw," so he makes sure not to have overly elaborate descriptions. For an artist he hasn’t worked with before, he will of course have more description than normal, but over time it gets less and less. He joked that by the time he reached the final issue of “100 Bullets,” he simply handed Eduardo Risso a script saying "Issue 100, do it."
Jim Lee mentioned Brian’s animated film work, mentioning “Gotham Knights” as one example, but stopped short before continuing as Brian has another animated project in the works that he can not talk about at this time. He did say that he’s happy to do animated work if the call comes in and if the project is interesting.
The discussion continued as Jim pointed out that many of the characters Brian creates are named after baseball players, such as Agent Graves in “100 Bullets.” Possibly half-joking, the writer went on to say he walks around graveyards reading tombstones for inspiration on names, and will also use names he overhears in bars and restaurants.
It was revealed that during Azzarello’s 6 issue Batman run (Batman #620-625), he had planned to have a scene showing a young Bruce Wayne asking to leave a show early on the fateful night in which his parents were killed and Batman was "created." He felt it made the character more realistic as it must take an enormous amount of regret to truly want to put on a costume and do something so extraordinary. Sadly, DC told him no as they felt it wasn’t right for the character, but a few years later by coincidence, the “Batman Begins” movie showed a similar scene in the origin of a young Bruce asking his parents to leave early, leading to their inevitable murder.
His graphic novel “Joker” for DC Comics surprised him and collaborator Lee Bermejo with how successful it has been. They were actually worried they had done too good of job, and might have portrayed the Joker as too villainous a character for anyone to take an interest in as a lead.
Jim Lee shared a story about his and Frank Miller’s “All Star Batman and Robin,” where Brain Azzarello was the one who inspired the infamous yellow room scene with Hal Jordan. He had told a joke in a bar with some comic writers during a Chicago convention about what an idiot Hal Jordan is because he has the most powerful weapon in the universe, yet he always ends up making silly boxing glove constructs, and that all it takes to really take him down is something as lame as the color yellow. Miller and Lee heard him tell this joke, and couldn’t resist using it.
A fan asked Brian about any future mainstream work for DC Comics, and the writer responded that “Joker” is his latest work, but he has stories in mind for characters such as Aquaman and Batman. He doesn’t want to commit to a long term run on any title, but he does have some stories to tell. The writer mentioned he prefers staying outside of continuity, as he wants to work with the iconic versions of the characters and not be bogged down by continuity details. He gave the example that he has an Aquaman story in mind, but he doesn’t want to deal with the water hand or hook hand or whatever the character may have going on. He wants to write comics the general public wants to read, and not just the comic reading public, and things like a water hand aren’t well known.
One fan asked a popular convention question of any advice he can share for someone wanting to write comic books one day. Brian asked the fan if he wants to write comics, with the fan giving the obvious answer of yes, which Brian responded “then, never.” He went on to say you must have to write, not want, and it can’t just be comics. You must write all the time, for practice and pleasure, and added jokingly, get published somewhere else too before trying to write comics.
Another fan and writer asked for any advice on how to deal with a "narrative that gets out of control" sometimes. Brian answered with a simple, “Always know your ending.” He revealed he always starts with his ending first, and it doesn’t matter how you get there, just as long as you know where it ends.
Asked about what his dream project would be, Brian responded by saying they all have been at one time or another. He will get obsessed with any story he works on, and it eventually gets to the point that he simply “just has to tell this story” no matter what.
One fan wondered where he gets all his ideas for “100 Bullets,” and the writer responded that he reads newspapers everyday, about 2 to 3, and especially checks the metro section of each, which he describes as being full of endings. He’ll read about someone’s death from an accident or murder, and he can’t help but question how this could happen, and thus a story idea is born.
Next up, a fan wondered when “100 Bullets” would be collected in a single edition, and the writer simply questioned how it could be done, with Jim Lee and other loud fans responding with “Absolute Edition!” Azzarello thought it was a crazy idea, as that would be one heavy and expensive collection, but if the fans want it, he doesn’t see why it shouldn’t happen. Jim jokingly offered to waive his royalty fee as a promise to keep the price down.
Asked about artistic and creative influences, the writer responded that most likely the biggest influence on his work is that of writer Ernest Hemmingway. Jim Lee agreed immediately as it corresponded with his earlier comment of Brian’s work being sparse.
The writer revealed in response to another question that he does not listen to any music when he writes, as he’s mainly talking to himself the whole time trying to make the dialogue sound ‘real.’
The last bit of news to come out of the panel was the announcement that Brian Azzarello and Jim Lee have a two page origin of Superman that will see print soon in a collection of their Superman run, “For Tomorrow.”