“They’re going to want to know if we’re ever going to work together,” growls Brian Azzarello to Jill Thompson. “Tell them the answer is no.” It’s a legitimate query. The Chicagoans have been married for 10 years and are both well-known in the comics field for complementary skills: Azzarello for his sharp writing, and Thompson primarily for her bright illustration. Azzarello recently added the post-Civil War Western Loveless to his impressive repertoire, which includes acclaimed runs on Batman and Superman, not to mention his celebrated noir crime drama, 100 Bullets. Thompson will soon start on a new graphic-novel series after working on characters for Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. She’s also written and illustrated her own popular Scary Godmother series since 1997. The two recently took a much-needed break to talk to The A.V. Club.
The A.V. Club: Brian, you constantly put out new books. What are you working on now?
Brian Azzarello: 100 Bullets, Loveless, and a Joker miniseries—Batman from the Joker’s perspective. I just did that Lex Luthor book [Lex Luthor: Man Of Steel], so this is going to be the bookend to it. Same artist, Lee Bermejo.
Jill Thompson: He doesn’t ever stop working.
BA: It’s a job! You gotta work, all the time.
JT: I’m starting up a new series for HarperCollins that I’m writing and illustrating called Magic Trixie. She’s a little witch. She can’t do magic really well; she’s not the most experienced monster in the group. It’s about her little rivalries. It’s kind of like if the Little Rascals were monsters.
AVC: That’s what you’re best at: crossing and re-crossing the line between silly and scary. What do you find inspiring?
JT: Oh, everything… Nancy Drew stories. One of the weird themes in my work is that there’s either a beautiful illustration of something to eat, or a recipe. One of the things I remember growing up is that there would be a detailed description of what Nancy Drew ate before she went out to go find the amazingly easy breadcrumb trail to the person who did whatever they did.
AVC: So food is your signature. People refer to 100 Bullets as Brian’s “signature series.” Will that change given the success of Loveless?
BA: [Laughs.] I have two signatures: 100 Bullets is going to be done in a couple of years, and, like I said, it’s a job, so I had to come up with something else.
AVC: They’re both sharply written stories, though Loveless is slower and more historically based.
BA: There’s a different approach. The [Loveless] cast isn’t as extensive as 100 Bullets. I’m giving it a little bit more time, allowing them to flesh out their motivations. 100 Bullets is such a post-modern noir; there are certain rules you gotta follow. Those characters are a bit more transparent.
AVC: Jill, when do you end up reading these stories?
JT: I used to read them as they would get turned in, but now I read them as they come out of the fax machine, or when he gets stuff sent from [illustrator] Eduardo Risso—which is a pretty good way to see a comic. [Laughs.] But I’m looking forward to sitting down and rereading 100 Bullets.
AVC: There have been rumors of a film for years…
BA: We’ll see. I mean, 100 Bullets might be going where I want it to go, but I can’t talk about that. Hollywood, they love everything, but they move like molasses. They’ll option anything—the worst idea in the world will get optioned just because they want to keep the other person from getting that idea. And then you look at what they decide to make…
AVC: Like the recent Superman movie—a character you’ve worked on. Much of the criticism of the film stems from the notion that Superman is so good, he’s boring.
BA: I was wondering if that was going to happen with this film. This is an X-Men generation. Those characters are a little bit edgier. They’re conflicted, which is something people can relate to.
JT: They’re my super-geek superhero thing. One of my reliefs was that, when I was reading this comic growing up, there were always announcements that they were going to make a movie out of the X-Men. Thank God they didn’t make a movie out of it in 1987! They’d be all taped up in rubber ears and big, papier-mâché muscles.