Vertigo Comics made a splash at the 2012 WonderCon in Anaheim as editor Will Dennis, “American Vampire” writer Scott Snyder and “American Vampire: Lord Of Nightmares” artist Dustin Nguyen took to the convention center’s stage to speak about Vertigo’s current slate of books and what fans should look forward to next.
Highlighting the kickoff of the “We Can Be Heroes” DC Entertainment initiative to fight hunger in Africa before the panel, moderator and DC Vice President of Marketing John Cunningham began things by speaking about “Fairest,” displaying the cover of “Fairest” issue #2 and the first two pages of the comic.
“This is the fantastic artwork of Mr. Phil Jimenez who, if you saw issue one, is turning in the best work of his career,” said Cunningham.
As May marks the tenth anniversary of the first publication of “Fables” Vertigo also will be reissuing “Fables” volume one in trade paperback with a brand new wrap-around cover, designed by artist Mark Buckingham.
”It will kick off a whole new round of activity both in book and out book for ‘Fables’ over the next year,” said Cunningham.
Describing the first of Vertigo’s new series “The New Deadwardians” as “’Downton Abbey’ meets ‘The Walking Dead,’” Dennis told the audience that the comic, written by Dan Abnett, was set in post-Victorian England where the lower class has succumbed to the zombie plague while the upper class have transformed themselves into vampires to avoid the affliction. The central character is also a vampire, a homicide detective living in a world of the undead and the walking dead.
“In issue one a dead body turns up that’s been killed in a way that no one can figure out, none of the normal vampire killing ways have killed this person, so it’s up to him to investigate this murder -- so he’s basically got the loneliest detective beat in all of Deadwardian England,” said Dennis.
Praising Abnett’s imagination, Dennis added that there are humans left in the world but they tend to be the very lowest of the English classes, and the first issue will be out March 28.
Moving onto the next two new series, “Saucer Country” by Paul Cornell and artist Ryan Kelly and “Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child” by Selwyn Hinds with art by Denys Cowan, Cunningham showed cover images from both series, telling listeners that “Saucer Country” issue two will be out April 11 and “Voodoo Child” issue one will be out March 21.
The audience broke into wild applause as Cunningham brought up an image for “American Vampire” on the convention room’s big screen and Snyder thanked fans for reading the book.
“A lot of us that work in the DCU that do stuff at Vertigo, I love working on ‘Batman’ and ‘Swamp Thing’ and all that stuff, but Vertigo is where we come home to explore ideas that matter to us in a deep way as well,” said Snyder.
Diving into issue twenty-eight of “American Vampire,” Snyder said the issue kicks off “The Blacklist,” a story arc Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque have been looking forward to since the end of the first arc.
“Something terrible happened between Henry and Pearl that leads into ‘The Blacklist,’ which we’ve been planning for a long time. It’s a story where something horrible happens to Henry...and Pearl has to go out and decide if she’s going to avenge him, teamed up with Skinner Sweet,” said Snyder.
The action also takes Pearl back to Hollywood where she has to confront the specter of her old dreams of stardom while she faces off against the Carpathian vampires who call Los Angeles home.
“It’s literally my favorite thing we’ve done and it brings all of the things we’ve been working to with Henry, Pearl, and Skinner to bear,” said Snyder.
Cunningham then unveiled the cover for the newest “American Vampire” spinoff miniseries “American Vampire: Lord Of Nightmares.”
“What we’re trying to do with the miniseries is explores stories told from the human organization in our book, the Vassals Of The Morning Star,” said Snyder. “Lord Of Nightmares” is set in Western Europe and brings back the human vampire-killing Vassals Linden Hobbes and Felicia Book as an attack on a base underneath the London Tower Bridge sets them against the Carpathian vampires.
“This is the place where you’ll really learn why there’s a dominant species of vampire in the world, why that Dracula species is the one that you think of when you think vampire,” said Snyder.
The writer then praised Nguyen who did the art for the book, turning the microphone over to him.
“The feedback I’ve always gotten is that wasn’t really not a superhero guy; as much as I wanted to draw it was tough for me, so this series is really exciting, it’s the first time I’ll also be inking my own work and it’ll look significantly different than what you’ve seen before,” said Nguyen.
“There’s a few people who would disagree with you not being a superhero guy!” said Cunningham, pointing to the artist’s Batman work as Nguyen laughed.
“It will be cool for you to do something different, it’s not a matter of better of worse,” added Dennis, speaking to Nguyen.
Moving onto the next slide, Cunningham showed the cover of the Free Comic Book Day preview story of “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” Vertigo’s first Free Comic Book day tie-in, which will be available on FCBD this May.
“The estate has given [novelist Denise Mina, who is adapting the book] license to change dialogue and trim stuff, as if you were writing a movie script, so I think it’ll be interesting for people who think they know the material to see it,” said Dennis.
The editor also praised Mina’s crime novels and her work on “Dragon Tattoo,” especially when it came to adapting the rape scene.
“She’s handled it in a very delicate but visceral way. It’s not going to be easy for the artist but I think she is the perfect person for the gig,” said Dennis.
The first volume comes out in November; each of the novels in the trilogy will be split into two adaptations so there will be a total of six books, each one roughly 140 pages.
“It’ll be all three books over the course of the next three and a half years,” said Dennis.
Next up was “Get Jiro,” an original graphic novel co-written by Joel Rose and cook and TV personality Anthony Bourdain.
“How do I describe it? It’s Dashiell Hammett’s ‘Red Harvest’ meets ‘Kitchen Confidential’ set in the world of ‘Blade Runner,” said Cunningham as the audience laughed.
Set in an unspecified future Los Angeles, the main character is the titular Jiro, a sushi chef operating a stall on the poor edge of the city. In this future all entertainment other than cooking has fallen by the wayside and Los Angeles is divided between the fancy epicureans and those dedicated to organic cooking, the two gangs literally fighting over the city. Both groups also see Jiro as a threat to the status quo.
“He’s very involved in it,” said Dennis, speaking of Bourdain’s work on the story. “He’s very witty and cutting and the book definitely reflects that.”
The audience then moaned as Dennis showed the image for the final issue of “Scalped,” visibly upset by the ending of the comic series by writer Jason Aaron and artist Jock.
“We’ve put readers through the wringer, and those who have stayed with it we appreciate it,” said Dennis, adding that, “it will not end in the way you will necessarily expect it to end.”
“Of all the books I’ve worked on, this might be the hardest one to let go,” said Dennis.
Ending the preview section with an image for “Sweet Tooth,” Snyder praised the work writer Jeff Lemire has been doing on the title.
“I actually called Lemire before the panel and asked what he wanted me to say, and he just made fun of me,” said Snyder as the crowd laughed.
Snyder then revealed that the upcoming issues would tell the story of the current arc’s main villain and the secret origins behind the epidemic that decimated the “Sweet Tooth” world and the hybrid children.
Switching to audience questions, Cunningham called upon a “Swamp Thing” and “American Vampire” fan that wanted to know what existing Vertigo property Snyder would like to resurrect.
“I’m doing my dream job, I took on ‘Swamp Thing’ when I really had no right to,” said Snyder, adding that in the next “Swamp Thing” issues, “It gets five thousand times crazier, in the upcoming issues I promise, there’s like a baby with a wolf’s head on a giraffe’s body attacking Swamp Thing from behind with a spear that comes out of his head!”
“Len Wein this morning made a point of telling Scott that he likes what he’s doing on Swamp Thing,” added Dennis.
Cunningham then revealed he would give out prizes for good questions and awarded the fan a copy of the “Flex Mentallo” hardcover for his participation.
The next fan wanted to know what eras Snyder was going to be covering next in “American Vampire.”
“In #26 and #27 we’re going to tell a short but important story about the African-American soldier in ‘Ghost War,’ Calvin Poole, who got turned into the third American vampire,” said Snyder. The writer then said that readers were going to see a new species of vampire and spend a lot of time in the ‘50s the ‘60s, though Snyder promised, “No flower-power Skinner!”
The fan was then awarded a copy of “American Vampire” volume one trade paperback, which Snyder signed.
A female fan wanted to know how the Vertigo editors feel about the explosion in fairytale stories in pop culture, especially since “Fables” was at the forefront of the movement and is hitting its tenth anniversary this year.
“Vertigo always likes to be ahead of the curve...It’d be really cool to have a ‘Fables’ TV show, but that’s not our decision to make,” said Cunningham.
Cunningham then announced that after many delays “Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland” original graphic novel will finally be published this November.
A “100 Bullets” fan wanted to know if there was any status updates on the potential television adaptation of “100 Bullets,” to which Dennis and Cunningham told him there was no news.
Another audience member wanted to know if Snyder had ever spoken to Alan Moore about his work on “Swamp Thing.”
“I’ve talked to a guy named Angry Alan Moore on Twitter!” laughed Snyder before seriously telling the audience, “I would love to but I have not.” The fan also received a “Flex Mentallo” hardcover for his question from Cunningham.
The next audience member on the floor wanted to know if fans would see Madam Xanadu and Swamp Thing returning to Vertigo anytime soon.
“I don’t think there’s a groundswell for seeing them in two places,” said Dennis. “For the time being they have taken on new life, so no, there’s no plans at the moment.”
Another audience member wanted to know how it was initially determined what DC characters should be brought over to Vertigo back when the imprint was starting out.
“It’s a much more fluid relationship we have with the characters and the others at DC,” said Dennis, adding that there is no “stone tablet” listing what characters Vertigo can or cannot use.
“You don’t get the door slammed in your face when you walk in and ask, can I use X, Y, and Z characters?” added Dennis.
The next fan asked Snyder how Stephen King got involved with writing a story for “American Vampire.” A fellow writer Snyder knew from the short story literary world, King was impressed by Snyder’s prose work and volunteered to write an issue of the then-unpublished “American Vampire.”
“I said, ‘If I tell them that they’ll want you to write issue one!’” said Snyder as the audience laughed. Snyder also confessed that King displayed a mischievous sense of humor while working with him on the comic.
“He would mess with us when we were writing it, he’d write this great script and on the last page he’d write at the end, ‘And then Skinner turns into a bat and flies away!’ I’d go, oh god I have to tell Stephen King he did something wrong with it, I’d say ‘Steve, our vampires don’t turn into bats,’ and he’d say, 'Oh, I’m just effing with you!'” said Snyder, doing his best King impersonation.
A woman in the audience ended the panel by asking if “Deadwardians” would bring in any historical figures from the time period.
“There was some talk about that, but it’s definitely not the focal point of it,” said Dennis, adding, “At the moment it’s an eight-issue story which I really like the idea it’s self-contained like a ‘Daytripper,’ but certainly the world he’s conceived is broad enough that there could be room for more down the road.”