At ComicsPRO a few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to interview Brian Azzarello about BLOOD BROTHER MOTHER, his new series with Eduardo Risso coming in May from DSTLRY. Azzarello and Risso have collaborated on many things, including the classic series 100 Bullets, but they don’t like repeating themselves and this is a different kind of project for the duo.

To accompany the interview we’re also giving you an exclusive debut of Dave Johnson’s F Cover for the book, above Enjoy! 

Azzarello is a man of few words but many meaningful pauses and chuckles. I hope that comes across here.]

THE BEAT:  Brian, what made you want to be a founding member of DSTLRY?

AZZARElLO: [chuckles] Well, they asked me.  I think the business model is different. There must be something to it, because it’s been copied now twice in less than a year, so people are taking notice of what we’re doing. 

THE BEAT: You mean like Ghost Machine and so on? 

AZZARELLO: Yeah, people saying, we’re going to start our own thing. 

THE BEAT:  You’ve done mostly creator-owned things for the last few years – you and Eduardo did Moonshine for Image. What’s your working relationship with Eduardo like? I think a lot of people admire the Sean Phillips/Ed Brubaker team. It’s is pretty remarkable for just working together for so long and doing such good books. I think you and Eduardo are another incredible team that just turns out great books, but you haven’t worked as much together exclusively. 

AZZARELLO:  I don’t think Ed works exclusively with Sean, does he? I mean, it’s easier for me to work with other people than it is for Eduardo. He can only do one project at a time.

THE BEAT:  I think Ed and Sean only do one or one and a half books a year together.  But anyway, how do you work with Eduardo? Do you save projects just for him? 

AZZARELLO:  Well, for this one, we talked about Blood Brothers Mother at the same time as when we were launching Moonshine.  And we decided to do Moonshine first. For some reason, I don’t remember what it was other than we both were like, you know, let’s sit on this for a little bit. Let us grow up. [laughs] 

THE BEAT: Was it an idea you had just for him? I mean, a Western tale of vengeance does seem like fertile fodder for the Risso/Azzarello team. 

AZZARELLO:  Well, we don’t really repeat ourselves. Eduardo always wants to try something new. I got the first pages from Blood Brothers Mother right before we did a show in Budapest last year,  and they were paintings. I was expecting black and white. So it’s like “What are you doing?!”  He said, “ehhhhh, I just needed to do something different.” I said, “Eduardo, this is 200 pages. Are you ready to do 200 pages of watercolor? Of actual paint on paper watercolor?” He said, yes I want to. 

THE BEAT: And you jumped for joy…

AZZARELLO:  Me? Listen, when I’m working with them jumping for joy anyway, but this was like, [wow.] And then I started rethinking. Okay, what’s our approach? If he’s doing watercolor, or any kind of paint, it tends to have a certain sort of an aesthetic. And his previous aesthetic is just so black and white. So, we’re going to be doing a lot of things outside! [general laughter.]

THE BEAT:   And you know, flowing blood looks great in watercolor. So this is a story of vengeance. I thought of The Searchers immediately, of course. A lot of classic Westerns have a quest motif. But the story is about three boys and their stepfather is killed by their real father.  

AZZARELLO: Their birth father kidnaps their mother. And then they go to free their mother

THE BEAT: Does all hell break loose? 

AZZARELLO:  All hell will break loose. It’s really about what is nature versus nurture? It’s definitely about having two fathers. Who raised you and whose blood are you?

THE BEAT:  What made you want to do a Western?

AZZARELLO:  This story? When I thought about it, it just seemed to lend itself to that sort of mythic setting, big vistas, And [Eduardo] wanted to do a Western! 

THE BEAT:   You know, I wrote a piece a long time ago when the first post 100 Bullets project you two did came out from DC. 

AZZARELLO: Spaceman? Yeah, that’s what….I think we did. I’m not really sure. We’ve been doing it for so long. 

THE BEAT:   I wrote saying that 100 Bullets had been one of the most decorated, most critically revered award winning of its run. But [you didn’t get the same interest.] I mean, you could make the Inception of comics. But with your next comic, you don’t get treated like Christopher Nolan, if that makes sense. I did an audit and the book had hardly any publicity. I was shocked because this should be getting the showstopper reception.

AZZARELLO:  I don’t know. I mean, this is a weird industry. Retailers want what you did. Then they want you to do it again. But they want something new, but they want it to be familiar.

THE BEAT:  Do you find that doing something a little bit different every time maybe — 

AZZARELLO: It’s not the smartest thing to do different things? I’ve never been very helpful to myself. [General laughter]

THE BEAT: So back to working with Eduardo. Do you write it all first? Do you talk about things along the way….

AZZARELLO: No, I just send him the script.  We talk about it maybe when it’s done a little bit, along the way, but not much. He will change things, if he thinks it will work better.  In a certain way it’s very collaborative but we’re not in each other’s hair at all. Let you do what you do. I’ll do mine.

THE BEAT: One of the key members of the DSTLRY team is your editor, Will Dennis, who was also the editor on 100 Bullets. What does he bring to this team?

AZZARELLO:  I worked with Will on all the stuff at Image, too. He keeps us in line, he brings a cohesion. I guess he’s the glue. It’s not even a question anymore. It’s like he’s part of it. 

THE BEAT:  Obviously Will is a beloved editor that many people prefer to work with. So many times people wonder what an editor does? Do you see him as a sounding board, a proofreader….

AZZARELLO:  Yeah, there’s the sounding board. And there’s like…he’s the conductor, he’s keeping the train on time. 

THE BEAT: I feel like every good editor is good in a different way. 

AZZARELLO: Yeah. [pause] I tell you what, there’s not many good editors. 

THE BEAT: WELL. [An interesting discussion of editors ensues but that’s going to be an interview of its own.]  Anyway, I know that’s another part of DSTLRY. A lot of people when Chip [Mosher] asked if you wanted to do it, people said “With you and David? Yes.”

AZZARELLO: Yeah. They are good people. I work with Boom now too and the people there are good. Chip and David are really dedicated, though, they have a vision. I don’t think it’s cynical and I think there’s a lot of cynicism in this industry right now. You know, it’s bothersome to me that there’s so many things that are being created, and it’s just so apparent that it’s not even meant to be a comic.

THE BEAT: Well, yeah. There’s a few of those publishers, but I don’t see them here at ComicsPRO interestingly enough. Hm. Anyway, you are also serializing a few chapters of Blood Brothers Mother in Comics Shop News. Did you have anything to do with that? 

AZZARELLO: No, other than saying it was okay. Because I think this was Chip’s idea.

THE BEAT: I think it’s a really cool idea. [So cool we shared some of the pages at The Beat.]  CSN is printed so well, and it’s really additive. I would love to get a newspaper and open it up and see a story by you guys serialized. So what else is coming for you? 

AZZARELLO:  I have a contract with DSTLRY. And since I’m an owner, I want to make sure that DSTLRY does well. So I’m putting a lot of effort in. But I have a few other things. I’m working on the new Tales from the Crypt. I have another project coming up with Boom, probably in the fall. But other than that, I’m concentrating on this stuff, and it was announced today that Stephanie Phillips and I are writing a series together which has been working out pretty well. We’re going to play with the format and Chip and David are very excited by what we’re doing

THE BEAT:  Great! Anything else we should know about Blood Brothers Mother? 

AZZARELLO:  It comes out in May. It’s fully painted. It’s different from what we did before.