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In 2020, after Mattson Tomlin was reported as being a screenwriter working on what would become The Batman, he was approached via social media and other channels by what he calls a “flurry” of folks from the comic industry.
One of those folks was Lee Bermejo, the artist known for his grim and gritty work on DC books such as Batman: Damned and Before Watchmen: Rorschach.
“I was posting frames from movies I was watching on Instagram and he saw them,” Tomlin recalls. Bermejo started a conversation that eventually led to a meeting, the first of many, on Skype. “’We should do a book together,’ we said to each other.”
Now, almost three years later, that book is ready to be unveiled.
Tomlin, who has since become one of the town’s big genre scribes as well as a burgeoning director, and Bermejo, an American illustrator who lives in Italy, have teamed up for A Vicious Circle, a three-issue prestige miniseries. The first issue will be published in December by Boom! Studios.
The story centers on two men cursed to roam across time and space in a unending cycle of violence and revenge. One of the men, named Shawn Thacker, is a trained assassin from the future who seeks revenge on the only other man with his affliction. Each hit they make forces them both to involuntarily travel between vastly different past and future eras. The story will take them men from 22nd century Tokyo to 1950s New Orleans to the Cretaceous Era and beyond, as they become locked in a battle of wills that spans millions of years.
Bermejo will at times diverge from his usual art style to take inspiration from the times and artists of the period in which the characters find themselves.
“The concept is one thing but we really wanted to harness the medium of comics, so Lee took it upon himself to change his art style every time we go to a new time and place,” Tomlin says. “So on one hand it’s this high-octane action story, there is this other component that is a love letter to the medium. You’re going to see images that you would never have expected to come out of that guy.”
The comic will be published in an oversized format to really highlight the art. And it will feature editions with cover art by Bermejo as well as illustrators such as Alex Garner (Batman), Jae Lee (Grim) and Rafael Grampá (BRZRKR), among others.
The book has been in the works in secret since the early meeting between the two back in 2020.
“It was the most organic situation possible,” says Tomlin. “Going to ‘date,’ creatively, somebody new, there is always this feeling of, ‘Is this going to be a disaster? Do our tastes and value align?’ We both have this deep love for this movie I Saw the Devil and we said, ‘Let’s do something hard-hitting like that.’ And this was born out of that.”
Once that clicked, Tomlin says, he wrote an outline from ideas they both came up with. “I was shocked how quickly everything formed together. It was off to the races, and we were pitching it to publishers within a month or two.” Boom! snapped it up.
Since then, both Tomlin’s and Bermejo’s stock has risen. Tomlin is now writing a film adaptation of Boom!’s hit comic BRZRKR that has Keanu Reeves attached to star (Reeves also co-created the comic) and is working with Reeves on the sequel to The Batman. He also made his comic writing debut in 2021 with Batman: The Imposter, a prestige miniseries for DC that was pitched and produced after he and Bermejo began working on Vicious Circle.
“It is a meditation on violence,” Tomlin says of his first creator-owned work. “The meaning of violence and also the cost of it. It isn’t a story that is violence for violence’s sake. It really gets into the question of, ‘Why are human beings violent?’ And it tells that story over time and space in a head-trippy way.”
Meditate on the art below.
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