Coming up at the end of March is the second miniseries set in the world of Lee Bermejo's Suiciders. Set in a post-earthquake Los Angeles, the first series centered on a survival-based reality series. The second, meanwhile, will take a deeper look at the world of Suiciders and explore the youth of the series, some of whom have been born into a world very different from our own.
In Suiciders: Kings of HelL.A., Bermejo takes a break from art duties and brings on his longtime friend Alessandro Vitti to tackle a story that brings together gang violence, star-crossed romance and of course the textured, gritty world of Suiciders.
Bermejo and Vitti joined ComicBook.com to talk about the upcoming series, and share a never-before-seen variant cover for Suiciders: Kings of HelL.A. #1.
The series is currently available to order through Diamond Comics Distributors, with a Final Order Cutoff of March 7.
Suiciders is an interesting title because it was promoted last year as "Vertigo for the DC fan." When you're talking to potential new readers at conventions and the like, how do you describe the series?
Lee Bermejo: I think the best way to describe the series is a post apocalyptic L.A: noir. It plays on some of the classic tropes of both genres.
Stylistically, is there anything you're doing differently here than you would in a traditional DC book?
Alessandro Vitti: For me it was a total revolution. I felt a great responsibility on my shoulders, and still feel it, honestly! I totally changed my approach and increased my need to study and learn new things. I have a realistic look, but I'm using this work with Lee to try new solutions. It's taken me more time than usual, but it's a really important step for me to take.
Lee, What made you decide to take on Alessandro on art?
Bermejo: Alessandro had the perfect combination of grit and reality to his work along with a really solid understanding of storytelling and character work. You'll see in the series that there are a variety of different characters he's responsible for bringing to life and has done so with flying colors. There's drama to what he does and attention to detail that I thought would work well with the world I'd already created in the first series. Since this is essentially the 'second season' and has a very True Detective approach whereas the characters are new, I needed someone who could do a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of making it look and feel similar but just different enough if that makes sense.
How did Lee approach you about coming on board?
Vitti: Lee had told me about Suiciders some time ago. He had seen one of my personal projects that I had published in Italy, where we both live, and he liked the style that I used. He asked me if I would be interested in working with him. I accepted immediately. I knew Lee's art even before I got to know him personally. I've always appreciated his work, so there was no way I'd miss this opportunity to collaborate on a project with him. It's been a really happy partnership.
Alessandro, You've got a lot of range, but since you started working at DC, they've had you primarily on straightforward superhero comics. Is it a nice change of pace to work on a project like Suiciders?
Vitti: Indeed, this was a big change for me. I wanted to take the challenge to do something different, and immediately seized this opportunity to forge a new artistic path.
Obviously, this is a world you created. How closely are you working with him in coming up with designs for some of the new characters and concepts you're introducing in this volume?
Bermejo: I wanted to give Alessandro as much freedom as possible. Since I'm an artist, I know that I deliver my best work when I feel invested in the world I'm co creating, and it was important to me that my artist have that same opportunity. Plus, I totally trust Alessandro's visual sensibilities. I knew as soon as I saw his work that he would be the perfect artist for this series.
How much do you communicate with him about the look and feel of locales and concepts, since it's his world and not one that's well-established?
Vitti: We talked a lot before we started the book. I read the script, and we shard images with each other that the story made us think of. We talked about movies, comic books, and authors that we like. The two of us have a lot in common. Later, I devoted a lot of time to looking up reference and reviewing certain films to absorb the right visual approach.
Your art is so distinctive and so beloved by fans — when you work with another artist, do you almost feel like that's a big vote of confidence in the script or the team from DC, saying they trust your collaborators to deliver the way you would on art?
Bermejo: It really comes down to creating the best structure to allow the book to come out. Since I'm so slow, it didn't make sense to make people wait another two years for the second series. It was designed to be drawn by someone different from the get go, and the story allows for that in an interesting way. I'd also like to think that Vitti's artwork speaks for itself is going to attract some new readers as well. His work is really astounding.
One of the most interesting things of post-apocalyptic books like The Walking Dead is looking at younger people, who grew up with their lives completely or heavily defined by the calamity at the heart of the story. Kings of HelL.A. addresses that concept head-on. What is the most interesting element of writing these characters born into this world?
Bermejo: I think that the whole nature vs nurture argument is always interesting when it comes to following characters who have been so heavily 'molded' by an event outside of their control. These are teenagers who haven't grown up on stable ground, literally and figuratively. They have a much different outlook on how long life can last, and expect things to fall apart at any moment. It creates a heightened sense of drama and stakes. That's always a blast to write.
Is there a difference in the way you design characters who have grown up in New Angeles as opposed to those who might have known life before the quake?
Vitti: I'm referencing quite a few real things to study the characters, but I'm having to imagine them in a totally new situation. I see the Kingz and the other characters as survivors of a war. The earthquake has totally changed their lives. They have a high instinct for survival. For me, they are not afraid of dying, but they also aren't cut off from their feelings. They are tough, violent, full of anger. Life has not been kind to them. They are ware of this, and it pisses them off! They love their home and believe in respect. They are linked together—all for one, and one for all!
It's wonderful to read the scripts and see the tests of courage Lee sets for his character in each scene. I'm really excited. I can't describe all the emotions I feel when I draw each page. Hopefully when you see the comic, you'll see all the things I imagined in my head.
In some ways, Suiciders could happen anywhere — what's special about Los Angeles as a setting that made it the go-to? Was it just the San Andreas fault, or is there something visual or thematic about the city that you wanted to explore?
Bermejo: I love the volatile nature of Los Angeles. It's a city of extreme contradictions, beautiful but horrendous at the same time. It can feel both extremely stimulating and extremely vacuous. Those contradictions make it an interesting place to write about. Having grown up in southern California, it's also a place I feel I know a little better.
How much reference do you use for Los Angeles? Are there pieces of the city that you really wanted to make sure you got into backgrounds?
I studied Los Angeles and its neighborhoods, but we have also created new sights. After the earthquake, nothing is the same as before. Los Angeles itself is different. In some places, I referenced where I live. I was born in a southern Italian town called Taranto, where degradation and violence is always present. Lee wanted me to use some of that, to mix in my personal experiences.
It took years for you to take Suiciders from concept to execution the first time around. Was it easier coming up with a second story once you had the foundation of the world already in place?
Bermejo: This second series was very much a part of the initial concept, so the idea has been in place since close to the beginning. It's all part of a larger tapestry that will hopefully come into view a bit clearer with THE KINGS OF HELL.A.. You're going to learn more about the city and some interesting connections to what we saw in the first mini series.
You were very open about how influential those kind of noir-adventure films and things like Mad Max were in building the world of Suiciders. Is Kings of HelL.A. an expansion of that world, or are you drawing on different influences?
Bermejo: Still very much the same influences, but I'd say that since this series addresses teenage gangs that it tackles a different side of the same coin. The work of James Ellroy is still a HUGE inspiration as well as films like The Warriors and Rumble Fish.
Are there any big influences visually that you can talk about that shaped your take on this world?
Vitti: Lee was extremely available and shared what he saw, but he also allowed me total freedom. I shared my ideas with him and our editor, and they gave me every opportunity to realize the images I see in my mind. It's been a wonderful experience, and quite a challenge and test for me.0comments
The reality show was such an integral part of the first series: will it continue to play a big role here, or was that mostly just to help set the tone, and now you're exploring other parts of New Angeles?
Bermejo: They are much less present in this series, but it deals directly with one of the original Suiciders, and looks at a completely different angle of the sport: What happens to the 'has beens' who've survived as well as the sports writers who started to make the game famous.