When the “big one” finally hit the West Coast, Los Angeles was left in ruins. And when the U.S. government decided to cut the city loose, things went from bad to worse. To survive, L.A. did what it does best: It turned survival into entertainment.
Now, thirty years later, the city of New Angeles is thriving once more thanks to the blood sport known as SUICIDERS – a TV series that combines the spectacle of hand-to-hand combat with elaborate, high-tech obstacles that test each competitor’s ability to survive. But these competitors have an edge: They’ve been freakishly enhanced by drugs and technology. The results are both marvelous and monstrous, as the man called The Saint begins to rise above his fellow Suiciders.
Suiciders is a dark, post-apocalyptic epic that tells the story of a strange, brutal world, written and illustrated by Lee Bermejo, with colors by Matt Hollingsworth, the first issue is out from Vertigo this week.
We got a chance to talk to Lee about the series, the evolution of the story, and how the immigrant experience comes into it.
Graphic Policy: I think the best place to always start with is, what is Suiciders to you? How would you describe it?
Lee Bermejo: For me, it’s kind of a cross between a post-apocalyptic/post-disaster story with a L.A. noire. I think it’s on the outside something big and muscular looking, but really what I’m trying to do with it is a very human story inside of that. I play around and have fun at the same time.
LB: Wow. This is something I’ve been kicking around in one form or another for the better part of ten years… maybe more even. I remember telling the basic idea of a version of this back when I was doing Wildstorm, which at this point was 11 or 12 years ago. So maybe even longer than that. But, it’s something that’s been evolving and changing over the years, only because I didn’t really… I had a basic idea of what I wanted to do, but in 10 years you evolve as a storyteller. Hopefully you get better. So technically, I didn’t really have the chops to pull off what I wanted to do with the story until recently.
But, it’s set in Los Angeles, mainly because I grew up in Southern California, not in Los Angeles but I grew up close. So you’re kind of raised in the specter of this earthquake that’s supposed to demolish the area, and I grew up close to the San Andreas fault. So it’s something that’s a part of Southern California mythology. I wanted to some type of story that centered around the earthquake.
What slowly evolved out of it was “what would happen to the city years after a disaster?” And that became more interesting than the event itself. I wanted to see where I could take the city after such a disastrous event. At the same time I moved out of the United States, so I’m an immigrant, and the immigrant story, having lived it is something that really interests me as well. I wanted to find a way to work that in. So those were the basic germs of where I eventually took the story.
GP: Can you tell us a bit more about the immigrant aspect of the story? From the solicits that’s not something that’s apparent as part of the story.
LB: It’s something that starts in issue two. There’s two main characters of the story. A Suicider in this world is a modern gladiator. There’s these games that are the biggest form of entertainment in New Angeles, which is a medieval citadel. On the other side of that is a more heavily demolished area, which is another part called Lost Angeles. These games are huge in both professional and amateur form on both sides of the wall. One of the main characters is one of the best of the best. He’s at the top of the game. His life starts to fall apart, because he has secrets that are starting to come up and bite him in the ass. At the same time, there’s an immigrant character that comes to the city in hopes to make his dreams come true. He wants to be a Suicider. These are the two main characters and these two stories are being told and at some point they intersect.
GP: Something that really sticks out is that it’s set in L.A., a huge hub of entertainment. There’s the rise of reality of television. Then there’s the rise of more brutal sports like mixed martial arts. Any of that weigh in on your thoughts while putting this together?
LB: I can’t really say that was a big thing. It’s something that’s kind of now in the picture. It’s just kind of there. I don’t really think it’s a commentary on reality tv or anything like that. Unfortunately, as time has proven, it’s something that’s stuck around. It’s a fixed part of modern entertainment. I’m not trying to make some comment on reality tv, or violence in tv. What I wanted to do was take a city back in time. I wanted to do something more medievel. There’s a wall to keep outsiders out. The games are very gladiatorial and bloody, it’s something, it’s strange, it wasn’t influence by modern entertainment than by older forms of entertainment. There’s also an element of the noir story that I like which is a character who is veiled in secrecy and those secrets come out whether they want them to. That becomes a much bigger part of the story than commentary on violence or the world’s obsession with reality programming.
GP: You’re doing the art and writing. Was this always the plan? Did you think about working with somebody else?
LB: I really always wanted to do it by myself. Before I became a professional, I was doing indie comics on my own way back in high school. Writing and drawing is something I’ve always wanted to do. But, as an artist, I got into comics in the late 90s which was the worst time for a guy to get into comics if you wanted to write and draw. At that point the view of artist/writers was pretty terrible. I knew I was going to get hired based on my drawing skills, not my writing skills. And since I started at Wildstorm, which at the time was part of Image Comics, people forget when I started Image was looked at as a slum. It wasn’t a place where artists become writers. The stigma was still there. They just expected big double page pin-ups, not a story. There was a part of me that knew I had a lot to learn and I was technically not able to tell the story I wanted to literally until now. I always wanted to do it myself, and continue to write and draw as I go forward. That’s not to say I won’t work with writers as well.
GP: How has the story evolved over the years?
LB: The story started out as being something much more mythological and I was able to pair it down to something a lot more familiar. I started to introduce elements, I dramatized elements of me in there, and that’s when things started to gel.
GP: What else can folks expect from you this year that you can talk about?
LB: I’m doing We Are Robin with Rob Haynes and Khary Randolph for DC Comics. The series starts in June, set in the Bat-universe!