AUTHOR: Bill Ramey
DATE: May 23, 2007
(RIGHT: Jett and Lee Bermejo, Comic Con 2007)
JETT: What have you been up to since we last talked? (click to read BOF's first interview with Lee)
LB: I've been hard at work for some time on this Joker graphic novel with Brian Azzarello. It's pretty big and meaty so it's taking forever but it's a dream job and I'm loving every minute of it. I've also been doing monthly covers for HELLBLAZER (another dream job for me) and some other cover jobs here and there.
JETT: Tell me about that Joker project -- sounds badass!
LB: The Joker project is basically an out of continuity story about The Joker and his relationship with the rest of the criminal underworld of Gotham. It's somewhat like the Lex Luthor story we did, but this one is different in the fact that the narrator isn't The Joker.
Brian and I are hoping we can do a fresh take on the character. I gotta say, I've NEVER read a Joker like this before. Brian is really on to something in the way he's characterized the villain. I feel like there has been a bit of a lull lately in the way he's been written. I think what Grant Morrisson did was so influential that it seems like that's The Joker we've been getting for the past few year. You know, the one that calls Batman “darling” and is always very... umm.... how can I say it... “sexually mysterious. “
In our book he's got a really different but really interesting personality. He's a lot of things at the same time Psycho, human, vicious, sensitive, hilarious, pitiable, sick -- all while still having a really clear sense of purpose. Plus, there will be almost all the major Batman villains in the book as well. It's just a blast to be drawing all the bad guys and getting to put my own spin on them visually.
JETT: So, what do think of Chris Nolan’s version of The Joker -- based on that first pic of Heath Ledger in costume?
LB: I love it!!!!! From what little we've seen, I'm pretty excited. I mean, he took one of the most handsome young actors in Hollywood and just F-ed him up! THAT'S The Joker to me. A contradiction. Can't wait to see how Ledger portrays him in terms of the performance!
JETT: I totally dig it myself! I'm so very glad that they've decided to do something different. So, do you think Nolan and company were influenced by the drawing you did for BOF?
"The Joker" by Lee Bermejo for BATMAN ON FILM
LB: I think that it's impossible to know these things unless you're Nolan and Co. I DO think that there are some similarities but all in all, someone once told me (and I find this to be VERY true) that ideas tend to “float” around at the same time. It depends on a lot of things... pop culture of the moment, social conditions, trends in fashion..... All in all, I think that they probably would have done the same thing even if I hadn't been drawing him this way. And trust me, for those people that hate the Heath Joker, I'm not passing the buck at all here. I'm proud of my interpretation of the character and IF it had any effect I can be nothing but flattered. I was fully aware that some people wouldn't like it at all when I did it. That's the beauty of these characters, though. They're so ripe for interpretation. That's one of the reasons they're still around and still so popular. Anybody who claims to “know” these characters just has an "idea" of what they want that character to be. This is their right, but it's not necessarily what they will always get.
JETT: So, what is “Lee Bermejo’s Joker?”
LB: To me -- and I stress PERSONALLY -- The Joker is the definition of irony. The funny guy who isn't really funny. The un-happy clown. Like I said before, a living contradiction. I go back to the original appearance and a line in particular of description sticks with me. It's something to the effect of “a smile without joy.“ Then I think about the visual inspiration, THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (a tragic character I might add who's face was “deformed” in a way) and it leads to some pretty interesting conclusions which can be interpreted in a few different ways.
Visually speaking, I don't think a cut-smile has anything to do with defining the character or not. The characteristcs I think are the MOST important to portray visually are these:
He has white skin…
I think you got these elements and then you can go from there. He's become not only my favorite comics villain but my favorite character in general.
"The Joker" by Lee Bermejo
JETT: Well said. So, anything else you’d like to say to all the fans out there?
LB: I think anybody who wants to “punch me in the face” or “kick me in the balls” should seek psychological help.
JETT: (Laughs) Welcome to the club Lee! Thanks again my friend!