Reconstructing the Western: Azzarello talks "Loveless"

Thu, August 18th, 2005 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Dave Richards, Staff Writer

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Cover To "Loveless #1"

People often wonder why bad things happen to good people; but, perhaps a better question is how do bad things affect good people? This question is part of the premise behind "Loveless," a new ongoing western series from DC Comics/Vertigo by Brian Azzarello and Marcello Frusin beginning in October. CBR News spoke to Azzarello via phone about the series, which follows the exploits of a pair of married outlaws across the Old West.

"Loveless" is set in the Reconstruction era following the Civil War and stars Wes and Ruth Cutter a married couple from Blackwater, Missouri. Wes became embroiled in the conflict between the states and has journied to fight as a Confederate guerilla.

"He believed in states rights," Azzarello told CBR News. "The particular area that this takes place in, Missouri, that whole area kind of reluctantly joined the war. They considered the early stages of the war to be Virginia's war. Then once it started to spill over into their territory, it's like, 'Wait a minute. We can't let this happen here.'"

Azzarello wouldn't reveal how the war affected Wes and Ruth. Their experiences during the Civil War are part of what "Loveless" is about, but did reveal that "Loveless" begins with Wes' return to Blackwater. "It's a few years after the War has ended. He was believed to be dead," added Azzarello. "So when he was released from a Union prison he didn't go home."

When he returns home, Wes finds that Blackwater has felt the effects of the U.S. government's reconstruction policies for the former confederate states. "There was a lot of resentment," Azzarello said. "Land was being taken away by a government that was essentially corrupt."

The rampant corruptions Wes and Ruth must face push them towards life as outlaws, different from the typical Western story in which the corrupt find redemption after a fashion. "It's a story of how circumstances can turn good people bad," Azzarello stated. "I think given extreme circumstance it doesn't take much to make people do things that they normally wouldn't have done. Once you do it once, the second time is easier. You do it twice . . ."

"Loveless" will primarily feature a rotating cast of supporting characters since the Cutters will be on the run traversing the country; however, there will be at least one regular person playing a role in their lives. "They're going to be pursued by a bounty hunter," Azzarello said. "His name is Atticus. He is a former runaway slave, former Union solider, former Freeman, now turned bounty hunter."

The Cutters' exploits will take them all across the West, by the time the series is over the couple will have reached the Pacific Northwest. ""We're starting in Missouri," Azzarello stated. "We're not going on the other side of the Mississippi."

"Loveless" is one of the darkest things Azzarello feels he has written, which may surprise those who've read his work in "100 Bullets" or his somber "Superman" story. "I'm kind of referring to is as '100 Bullets' nasty little brother," he said. "It's a much darker tone than '100 Bullets.' The story itself is a bit more straightforward than '100 Bullets.' But the structure of the story is not. There's going to be a lot of flashbacks. You'll see people in different times of their lives behaving differently."

Cover to "Loveless #2"

Azzarello had been wanting do another western series for years, after publication of his first western mini-series "El Diablo," at Vertigo comics. "Once I did that I really wanted to do something similar again," he stated. "It was funny because I kind of consider that a noir spaghetti western because it really doesn't follow a lot of the conventions of a western but it certainly does follow noir conventions. It was fun to blend those genres and come up with something that I thought, 'This is a little unique. I would really like to explore this kind of storytelling again.'"

The other inspiration behind 'Loveless" was Azzarello's desire to work again with his "Hellblazer" collaborator Marcello Frusin. "Both he and I share a real passion for spaghetti westerns." Azzarello said. "When we were talking about something to do together I just started kicking around the idea of doing a western from the outlaw's perspective rather than a sheriff. Which I guess is much more in the spaghetti western tradition. It's some of Marcello's best work [on "Loveless"]. His style is so masculine."

Lucky fans will find that Frusin won't be the only artist to work on "Loveless," as in addition to the popular penciller, the book will have the occasional fill-in artist. Azzarello couldn't say whom but he did say, "You'd be surprised at how many big names want to draw cowboys, really big names."

Azzarello has the ending planned for "Loveless," as he sees the series lasting a little over 4 years and under 50 issues, sales permitting. "I wouldn't start it if I didn't have an ending," he explained. "In everything other than episodic television you better have an ending before you even sit down."

If "Loveless" doesn't do well, rest assured it won't be because of Azzarello and Frusin's lack of effort and passion. "We're going to do everything we can to make this thing grab you by the throat or we're going to die trying," Azzarello stated. "We're taking a big chance with 'Loveless'. They say Westerns don't sell. That's why we're doing it, to prove people wrong."

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