By Matt D. Wilson
Four years and two months after writer Brian Azzarello and artist Eduardo Risso wrapped up their pivotal Vertgo crime series “100 Bullets,” the creative team is joining forces again to revisit their creation — sort of.
I chatted with Azzarello about why the new miniseries “Brother Lono” is anything but a sequel and how it’s like “mariachi death metal.” I snuck in a question about “Wonder Woman,” too.
MTV Geek: “100 Bullets” was a series that really felt complete: 100 issues, a big, sprawling story. Every character got something of an ending, though some were a little bit of a question mark. Why come back to that world four years later? What led you back?
Brian Azzarello: We are not going back to that world. This is an entirely different world altogether. “100 Bullets” is a novel, on its own. “Brother Lono,” other than the main character, has nothing to do with “100 Bullets.” There will be no briefcase. No revenge. None of that.
We’re taking a character from the originals, from “100 Bullets,” and telling a story about him. People don’t have to be familiar with “100 Bullets” to read this story at all.
Geek: But fans of “100 Bullets” are certainly going to think of this as a sequel or a spinoff.
Azzarello: I don’t know how many times I can tell them. I can jump on the top of a mountain and say, “This is no sequel!” I keep saying that. It’s not a sequel. It’s a spinoff, OK? It’s “Laverne & Shirley.”
Geek: In that regard, based on the preview art I’ve seen, it does seem to have a different tone, like a grindhouse look. How does this differ in the type of story your telling?
Azzarello: It’s a very different type of story, and we are telling it in a different way. We’re not repeating ourselves here at all. The analogy I’ve been using is, people have told me that “100 Bullets reads and looks like jazz. There’s a rhythm to it. Once you get the rhythm you can really sort of follow tune of the art and the language that we use.
I’ve been saying that “Brother Lono” is mariachi death metal.
Geek: Let’s talk about Lono the character and why you want to revisit him. What popped into your head, or in your discussions with Eduardo, made you say, “OK, we’ve got to tell another story with this guy?”
Azzarello: Eduardo put the bug in my ear. We were in Spain, the night Spain won the World Cup, so it was a couple years ago. We were at a show in Spain called Semana Negra, which translates to “black week.” It’s sort of a celebration of noir and crime fiction. We were guests of the show, and there was an exhibition built all around “100 Bullets.”
We were in a cab, and there was all this craziness going on the streets, because people were celebrating. They’d just won the World Cup. Eduardo turns to me and says, “I think it’s time we go back to some of the characters from ’100 Bullets.'” I was like, “Oh, OK.” I mentiond a couple that were intentionally left with stories that could be told.
He said, “I want to do a story about Lono.” I was like, “Whoa, really? Well, you know, if we’re going to do a story about Lono, we’ve got to do a story about Lono that no one would expect.” And that’s what we came up with that night.
Geek: I don’t know how much you can say at this point, but give me a little taste of where Lono goes. He’s there with Dizzy. He takes that shot. She turns around. He’s gone. Where does he go after that?
Azzarello: He goes to Mexico.
Geek: Is that all you can say at this point?
Azzarello: Well, that’s where we’re going to pick up with him. It’s a story about a man’s life heading south.
Geek: We talked briefly about the tone and how this is a different genre of music. Is it lighter, just given the sunnier setting? It is hard to think about a light story with Lono.
Azzarello: Ah boy, it’s not that all. It’s going to be a pretty dark story. Yeah, the sun is out, but it’s shining on some pretty awful things. Lono’s not the worst character in this story.
Geek: That’s a big statement, considering all the stuff Lono has done.
Azzarello: I know. I agree with you, but I think you’ll see this is a pretty brutal story. In “100 Bullets,” a lot of the violence would take place off-camera. In this story, it’s full-frontal. This is much more brutal than “100 Bullets.” We’re taking a much more direct kind of approach, both to my storytelling and Eduardo’s artwork.
Geek: It’s almost as if the story took on the traits of Lono the character himself. He’s nothing if not direct.
Azzarello: Right, yeah. It’s very visceral. It’s gory. It’s definitely not for the squeamish. It does have a bit of that grindhouse element to it. You were right to pick up on that kind of stuff.
Geek: You mentioned that Eduardo had said something about revisiting the “100 Bullets” characters who had stories you could pick up on. I wonder if that is an indicator that this is the first spinoff of more to come. Could we see, say, Loop Hughes, in a future story?
Azzarello: It’s possible. But let’s get through this one first and see how it goes. Maybe every four years, we’ll come back to this, who knows?
Geek: Before we wrap up, I want to ask a quick question about “Wonder Woman.” It seems to be building toward something really huge.
Azzarello: It kinda looks like we have a plan, right?
Geek: It does. I’m wondering if you’re building toward the end of your story of if you have plans to continue on with “Wonder Woman” for the foreseeable future.
Azzarello: It depends on how far you can see into the future. We’re committed for, boy, it’s probably going to be another year.
Geek: So there’s still some pieces to be set before the big climax.
Azzarello: Yes. It’s going to be big. It’s something we’ve been working towards.