WWC: Vertigo - From the Edge

Fri, August 10th, 2007 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Marlan Harris, Guest Contributor

A chill wind descended on northern Illinois and all the cool, in-the-know fans gathered in one place, which could only mean one thing: Vertigo hosted their panel at Wizard World Chicago. In attendance were moderator Bob Wayne (DC Comics Vice President of Sales), Brian Azzarello ("100 Bullets" & "Loveless" writer), Tony Moore ("The Exterminators" artist), Jonathan Vankin (Vertigo editor), Peter Gross ("Testament" artist), and Matt Wagner ("Madame Xanadu" writer).

Much of what the panel presented had been previously announced at the San Diego Comic-Con last month, with the exception of one notable project. Next year there will be a host of new projects focusing on John Constantine, celebrating the "Hellblazer" title's 20th anniversary. One of these projects will be a miniseries entitled "Hellblazer Presents Chaz: The Knowledge" starring John Constantine's sidekick and cabdriver, Chaz. "The Knowledge" refers both to the over 2,500 routes London cabdrivers must memorize before earning their licenses to drive, as well as a curse based on those routes, a curse Chaz must break. The series will be written by Simon Oliver ("The Exterminators") and drawn by Croatian artist Goran Sudzuka ("Y: The Last Man," "Lady Constantine"), who traveled to London to take thousands of pictures for reference.

Another project for the "Hellbalzer" celebration is the previously announced original graphic novel by original "Hellblazer" series writer Jamie Delano and "The Losers" artist Jock. CBR News spoke with Delano about the project last month at Comic-Con International in San Diego.

Many other projects discussed at Comic-Con International San Diego were glossed over in Chicago, in favor of giving a broader overview of Vertigo's ongoing titles, including "Northanders," "DMZ," "Army @ Love," "Scalped," "Hellblazer," "Fables," "Y: The Last Man," and "The Exterminators," which will feature a five-issue Darick Robertson fill-in run that will end at #23. Special emphasis was made on "The Un-Men," a spin-off of "Swamp Thing" and a continuation of the characters from '90s Vertigo miniseries "American Freak."

"Testament," which ends #22, features art by Peter Gross in the final story arc. Also discussed was "100 Bullets," which Azzarello said he is reluctant to end at issue #100 but said he has committed to it. However, Azzarello added that he wasn't ruling out the possibility of a sequel, perhaps entitled "For a Few Bullets More" (which may or may not have been a joke). Azzarello also said of "Loveless," a book with "not even one redeemable character," that an upcoming story arc will take place in the future after all the current characters are dead -- but have left their marks.

Brian Bolland was announced as the new cover artist for "Jack of Fables," and there will be a special Halloween issue of the title illustrated by former "Starman" cover painter Andrew Robinson.

There was also mention of the original graphic novels "Sentences," an autobiography by rapper MF Grimm; "Cairo" by G. Willow Wilson and Turkish artist MK Perker, who has done work for the New York Times; and "Incognegro," written by Mat Johnson.

Bob Wayne said there will be a "Stardust" hardcover that will feature an extended sketchbook. Also, the second volume of the "Absolute Sandman" series will include a re-inked print of "Sandman" #34, as well as two "Sandman" pieces that have never before been collected: a story illustrated by John Bolton and the other a prose piece by Gaiman that appeared on the box of a 1999 Sandman statue.

Matt Wagner spoke about "Madame Xanadu" and his 10 issues, which will trace Madame Xanadu's origin and her love affair with the Phantom Stranger through the ages, ending in '30s Manhattan. After those 10 issues, Wagner's not sure if he will continue with the series but is open to it if he feels like going on.

The latter half of the panel was a Q & A session, with Bob Wayne cutting off the expected first question, saying the universe in which characters in the Vertigo books inhabit is not one of the 52 worlds of the DC Multiverse. Along the same line, there's still no plans for Veritgo characters to appear in the DC Universe, though there are some, like the Phantom Stranger and Madame Xanadu, that can go between both worlds.

When asked if John Constantine will appear in a DCU miniseries, Azzarello replied, "You can cut out a picture of him and paste him into the book."

Azzarello later said that of future collections of "100 Bullets" material, he would rather see a Showcase-style edition than an Absolute one.

One person in the audience asked what the panelists' weirdest experiences with fans were, and all agreed they never had a strange experience with Vertigo fans, but Azzarello said that one Superman fan approached him at a convention and explained that a Superman comic saved his life. As Azzarello recalled, the fan proceeded to take off his shirt, showing a gigantic tattoo of a "Superman" cover on his back and asked the writer to sign it.

Wagner said he had a similar experience with a fan that had Grendel tattoos and, after Wagner signed one, the fan went out that night and had the signature tattooed on his body.

Tony Moore said he is frequently sent photos of tattoos fans have had done from pictures of zombies he's drawn for "The Walking Dead."

After being asked if "Swamp Thing" will be reworked again in the future, Vankin said, "Unfortunately, people are resistant to 'Swamp Thing' if Alan Moore isn't writing it." He also said that Swamp Thing might or might not appear in "The Un-Men," but has a better chance if a boost in sales is needed.

Peter Gross vaguely mentioned a new series that can't be announced, as its writer has been held up on completing the work but that he plans to use a style of art that will be similar to his work on Mark Millar's "Chosen."

The panel indicated that Brian K.Vaughan will likely be doing something new for Vertigo in the future, but nothing is definite right now.

Tony Moore will be on "The Exterminators" for three upcoming issues and then another arc next year for five issues, but after that isn't sure. He also approves of all the fill-in artists that have appeared on the book.

A fan asked if buying trades instead of single issues has an impact on how Vertigo stories are planned. Vankin said that most Vertigo stories have an end in mind from the beginning, since they're planned to be finite, with the exception of "Hellblazer" which has always been an open-ended, ongoing series; and "Fables," which he said Bill Willingham intends to write "forever."

A fan asked if there was one, big, important Vertigo original graphic novel for the year and Wayne said that DC and Vertigo are behind all of their books, not just one in particular. Most of the panelists said they had read at least one of the upcoming GNs and confirmed they were great.

The last question asked was if Azzarello had "a certain style in mind" for the books he writes, listing, for example, a Victorian style. Azzarello said he generally lets "the world" decide and "lets the material dictate what style it will be in." The writer then added, "I will never write a Victorian book."

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