"Come on in, you're about to watch a train wreck," Brian Azzarello said as he welcomed the large group of fans gathered for his Writing Crime Fiction panel at Fan Expo 2012. The room was small by anyone's standards, but it was packed with loyal followers of the "Wonder Woman" and "100 Bullets" writer.
Though the panel was supposed to focus on Azzarello's passion for and how to write a good crime fiction, he preferred to open up the floor to questions from the fans. "I'm doing way more talking right now than I'm comfortable with," he said, laughing. "I'd rather listen to you guys talk to me."
With the panel opened up immediately to Q&A, Azzarello was questioned about his apparent desire to showcase antagonists in his story rather than protagonists. "I like people that make mistakes," he said. "That's what makes us interesting as human beings. We try to overcome the mistakes, but they just keep piling up. It's definitely interesting to try to make a reader root for someone that they shouldn't."
Azzarello made many references to movies and TV during the panel, but most were evident during his explanation of the importance of knowing where a story is going when it begins. "You have to know your thesis, otherwise you end with something like 'The X-Files,'" he said. "It's a shame because it was a great show and then as it came to a close, it turned out they had no idea where they were going."
By contrast, Azzarello mentioned the hit AMC show "Breaking Bad," calling out the writers' talent on crafting the story slowly, but adding important plot points along the way to the climax. "If that were a film, it wouldn't work," said Azzarello. "Walter White, you wouldn't see all the nuances and feel everything that he's feeling without the full story. God, I'm going to miss that show!"
One particular member of the audience was very frustrated with Azzarello's treatment of dogs in some of his comics, notably "100 Bullets." "What do you have against them?" she asked.
"Nothing more than people," Azzarello replied. "But there was only that one dog though wasn't it? Oh wait, there was that one that got his head chopped off."
Although it took nearly thirty minutes into the panel until "Before Watchmen" was mentioned, a fan decided to test the waters and ask about Azzarello's Rorschach. "Now look what you've done!" Azzarello quipped, perhaps feeling the uneasy groan heard from some in the audience.
"With Rorschach, he was such a completely fleshed out character in the original book," he said. "Let's take that character and put him in a situation that he'd be inspired by, or that Alan Moore was inspired by. Let's put him in 1970s New York. We're not out to re-invent the wheel with him, we're giving you what you want!"
The focus shifted to characters as Azzarello discussed the many interesting and unique people in his stories and the idea of sympathy. An audience member made a comment about Batman being a sympathetic character and his one rule that prevents him from killing anyone while fighting crime. Azzarello replied with one of the most entertaining rants about the Dark Knight.
"That's one of his problems, his inability to kill leads to many other people being killed," Azzarello said. "I don't think he feels for anyone else but himself. He has not left the event that shaped his life, he's done everything he can to stay in that alley. He still lives in his parents' house, he hasn't done anything to move on. Get a condo or something, man! Although he can be brutal, there's really no shades of gray with him. He's the extreme on the side of a vigilante."
As the panel neared a close, a fan asked a question about the recently deceased Joe Kubert and Azzarello let his sensitive side show for just a moment. "When I got the text, I was with the kids and they were all asking me what's wrong," he said. "I just said that a good friend of mine had passed away. Everyone says he's going to be missed. But no, he's going to be remembered, there's a big difference."
As the panel came to a close, Azzarello addressed questions about a possible non-comics adventure in his writing career. "I keep getting bugged to write a novel. Well, not bugged, offered," he said, chuckling. For now, fans at Fan Expo were quite pleased with his crime fiction comics.
"As long as it's fiction, we like to root for evil."