Interview w/ DC/Vertigo Senior Editor Will Dennis
Will, what factors led to the decision to green-light DMZ? Can you describe your memories of the pitch, the early meetings and conversations?
Years ago, Brian and I had gone back and forth on probably like 8-10 pitches before arriving at DMZ (then called LIFE DURING WARTIME). Nothing was clicking and we were both getting frustrated and discouraged. I’d loved DEMO and felt like we had so many of the same sensibilities that it should have been easier to find a project that could work. We’d basically given up trying when Brian said he had one other idea in the drawer… he pitched it and I knew right away that this was the ONE. It was a slam-dunk. Thank god we kept after it and he was so patient and professional throughout. Good advice for aspiring writers or artists!
What do you think Brian’s strengths as a writer are, and how does that translate to DMZ?
He comes from a place that’s not so entrenched in comic book history/ideas, so his approach always feels fresh. He knows how to handle a wide variety of characters, cultures, genders, etc. And he’s great at being an outsider looking in… not unlike one MATTY ROTH!
I’ve been enjoying the resurgence of the lettercol at Vertigo. Judging from your comments there in DMZ, or even NORTHLANDERS, it seems like you’re genuinely a Brian Wood fan. When we look back some day, what do you think his legacy as a creator will be?
I AM a fan? Brian’s created a lot of really cool worlds and characters and was able to combine a sort of DIY/punk/outsider approach in a way that appeals to a wide audience while still maintaining it’s integrity. In all of his work, he’s helped open the door for a lot of new artists to a wider audience. He’s been especially aggressive in pushing for more women artists on his books, like Becky Cloonan, Rebekah Isaacs, Nikki Cook, Fiona Staples, and many more… which we always need more of in this industry!
DMZ will total 72 issues once it concludes; at that length, it’s joining this pantheon of titles like 100 BULLETS, TRANSMETROPOLITAN, SANDMAN, HELLBLAZER, etc. as Vertigo books with extended runs. What does that longevity say?
That it was a great idea that came at just the right time. And we put together the right team who never lost the enthusiasm for bringing this world to life. All things of substance that last have those ideals in common.
What are your personal favorite moments, issues, or arcs of DMZ? Why?
I still love the first page from the first issue of Matty sitting in the hallway and seeing the graffiti on the wall that says “EVERY DAY IS 9/11.” Having been in NYC and watching that happen in real time (I was standing on the Brooklyn Promenade when the towers went down) and recalling so vividly my feelings of that day… wow… to put out the idea on the very first page that every day would feel like that is very brave and set the bar very high. I look back on that page now and feel like we had no idea what we were starting! Haha! I’m also partial to the Zee solo issues. She’s just such a compelling character who I will really miss.
What can you share with us regarding the contributions and collaboration with regular series artist Riccardo Burchielli?
Without him, it’s just great scripts on paper. He was someone I had my eye on since March of 2003 and when DMZ finally got the green light, he was really the guy I pushed on Brian! We got in touch with Riccardo and he did a couple of sample pages and there was never any doubt after that… he was the man for this job. He’s done an incredible job of bringing this world to life… and he lives in Florence, Italy! He’d never visited NYC before he started on this book. Brian helped him tremendously with amazing photo reference. They are just a wonderful team.
Can you describe the process of bringing in other artists for various issues and arcs? I’d imagine it can be a headache coordinating that logistically, but you must also be proud of the ultimate results.
It’s always a “feel” thing to me in terms of fill-ins. You want to find artists who have the right feel for the book or the particular story. We were very fortunate to get lots of cool people to help us. Brian has impeccable taste in artists and we’re usually very much on the same page in terms of what we like. It’s hardest on Brian since he usually has to skip ahead to write an issue for a fill-in artist, but it’s been pretty seamless as far as I’m concerned.
It helps that we are a well-oiled machine – the colorist Jeromy Cox and the letterer Jared Fletcher and my Associate Editor Mark Doyle – working with them is amazing and they never let me down. Totally professional and totally on-the-ball. Not a month goes by that those guys don’t save our asses and make it look easy. HUGE thanks to all of them.
And don’t forget John Paul Leon… his covers have lent continuity to the whole thing and that really helps make the fill-ins “fit in.” He’s a pro’s pro and I would say one of the most talented artists in all of comics. He’s in my top 5 for sure.
As an editor, is a planned ending for a critically praised, unique series like DMZ somewhat bittersweet? Or, conversely, is there also a certain satisfaction with “putting it to bed,” having shepherded it through every stage of the process, from pitch to final issue shipping?
No doubt it’s bittersweet. I’ve never worked on a series for this long that I helped launch. I was fortunate enough to work on the bulk of issues of both 100 BULLETS and Y: THE LAST MAN, but I can’t take credit for getting them off the ground. This is the first one that I’ve seen all the way through so it’s going to be very strange to say goodbye to it.
Brian just wrote the solicitation copy for the last issue and I emailed back to him “this feels weird.” He pointed out that when we started talking about this book he was living in SF, no wife, no kids, no house, and now to see where he’s at – life is funny. This book has been a steady companion to all of us for many years and it’s going to be hard to see it go.
But it’s time… of that, we have no doubt.
Are there any plans you’re aware of, or can share, regarding potentially publishing the series in an alternate format, such as the “Deluxe Edition” hardcover?
I would love to see that some day. DC has had good luck with that format, so you never know. We’re really grateful for all the support and backing the company has shown us over the years and anything like that would be the icing on the cake. But right now, we’re just trying to wrap it up and satisfy all the fans who have stood by us over the years!
How do you think DMZ will be remembered?
Hopefully as a book that succeeded in showing the human costs of war. But, given the current political climate of America, my honest fear is that it’s going to be remembered as a book that foretold the future. Let’s hope not.