For over 20 years, the mature readers imprint Vertigo at DC Comics has put its focus on cutting edge science fiction, horror and genre comics. But with the departure last year of longtime leader Karen Berger from Editorial, readers and industry watchers have been following Vertigo closely to see what the future of the imprint will hold.
This week, after announcing a slate of new series like "Coffin Hill" and "The Suiciders" to fanfare, the principals of the imprint gathered Thursday at Comic-Con International in San Diego to keep pressing the message that Vertigo has many new comics to come. In fact, perhaps in a nod to dire predictions of their demise, the group named their panel "Vertigo: Defy."
Newly installed Vertigo Executive Editor Shelly Bond took to the stage with a talent lineup that included "Fables" artist Mark Buckingham, writers Scott Snyder ("American Vampire," "The Wake"), Jeff Lemire ("Trillium"), Group Editor Will Dennis, Editor Mark Doyle, writers Mark Andreyko and Shawn E. Williams, writer Simon Oliver, SVP of Marketing and Sales John Rood and others to look at projects new and old as Vertigo moves forward.
"So many of you know that Vertigo is all about the group dynamic," Bond said as she praised her fellow editors and the collaborators who she recalled "have worked with me for years."
Cunningham said that "Defy" will be the watchword for this era of Vertigo and will synch up thematically with all of the imprints upcoming projects starting with "Sandman: Overture" by Neil Gaiman and JH Williams III. It's the 25th anniversary of the original "Sandman" run, and Bond said that new info on the prequel book will be revealed at Saturday's Sandman panel featuring Gaiman himself and many of his past collaborators including Dave McKean.
Snyder then spoke to the incoming "American Vampire" anthology project where he's inviting other writers to take on his characters. The writer said that the quality of the other stories made him feel his needed to be a lot better, and then he showed off new art by Becky Cloonan, revealing that the writer/artists story is about Skinner Sweet going to the set of a movie not unlike legendary silent film "Greed" where the actors on the set keep dying. Gabriel Bá and Fabio Moon team up for a story set during the jazz age as well. Snyder said he and regular series artist Rafael Albuquerque are working on the next arc which takes place in the '60s and draws inspiration from the rise of the Hell's Angels and films like "Straw Dogs."
Snyder then accidentally revealed that Jason Aaron will be writing a story for the anthology as well, which got joking looks of reprimand from his Editors.
The conversation then shifted to Snyder and Sean Murphy's "The Wake" which the writer said he pitched to his artist over three years ago at a bar. "I knew there was only one person to do it with, and it was him. We waited to be able to do it together," he said, adding that Vertigo's Doyle pitched him on bringing the series to Vertigo as part of their "Defy" idea. "Vertigo is where I got my start, and it's my home," Snyder said. The writer then showed off pages from the upcoming issue #3 and shared some of the political and horror moments that start to develop as the series moves forward.
Lemire's new series "Trillium" – which he will write and draw – will launch with a flipbook #1 where the two stories will meet in the middle with readers picking which character the follow into the world. "I'm trying to play around in every issue with something like that in the format of the storytelling," the artist said calling the book the a love story of a scientist in the deep future and an explorer in the recent past who meet and fall for each other across time.
When "Fables" became the topic of the moment, Bond joked that contrary to rumors, Bill Willingham was not fired by her or Buckingham but instead he decided to take a year off from cons and promotion. Instead, by way of explanation, Bond read a note from Willingham where he feigned a feud with Lemire before announcing in seriousness, "I regret not seeing you this week, but my gratitude remains fast." Buckingham then talked about what comes up in "Fables" #134 which will focus on Bigby Wolf and Little Boy Blue with some surprises in store for the unlikely duo.
The next "Fables" arc is called "Camelot" which will focus on Rose Red becoming a paladin of Hope. "That is going to inspire her to try and build a new Camelot and a new Round Table," the artist said of the story. Buckingham's wife Irma appeared in the audience who serves as a model for Rose Red. The panel then showed up some concept art for the upcoming Telltale Games video game version of the series.
The "Dead Boy Detectives" of the Sandman's world will graduate to their own ongoing series, which Buckingham and Bond pitched to creator Neil Gaiman. "Basically we wanted to get to grips with these characters and give them a new narrative," said the artist. The story will grapple with the fact that the characters have been dead for years and years while perpetually staying 13. Meanwhile, a tech-saavy girl detective will be thrown into the mix.
The panel then showed off Adam Hughes' cover for October's "Fables Encyclopedia" which will include bios on all the cast as well as their histories in the real world as written by scholar Jess Nevins while Willingham and Buckingham provide running commentaries on each character throughout the volume. "With some of the really obscure characters, you may not know someone like Sunflower Kid, but there's a lot of explanation as to why they came into the series."
Williams spoke to conclusion of his current "Fairest" arc. "I think somebody dies in every single issue of this arc," the writer teased. Prince Charming's disease that is making his hands fall off will take a turn for the worse with issue #17. After the arc, Willingham will write one issue of the book before Andreyko does an arc called "Of Men And Mice." The story will be the first one in the series to tie directly into the modern events of the "Fables" series. Shawn McManus will draw the story. The writer compared Cinderella to his most well known character: Kate Spencer Manhunter. "They're both kick-ass women who don't have to answer for who they are," Andreyko said.
Upcoming is also the "Fairest In All The Land" – an anthology hardcover written by Willingham with art by the likes of Adam Hughes, Karl Kerschl and René Delisle.
Simon Oliver's incoming "Collider" series was next up, and Cunningham gave away a Kindle Fire from panel sponsor Amazon for naming one of the laws of thermodynamics. The writer then explained, "This is a book about physics. It's a book about broken physics taking place in our world...we follow a group of people from the F.B.P. – the Federal Bureau of Physics – as they go about their day." The series will make broken science mundane for the man on the street, but before long, the odd changes in how the world works spirals out of control.
Snyder spoke up for the book casting himself in the role of P.T. Barnum for comics. "It's brilliant in the way that no one knows why the laws of physics is beginning to deteriorate all around the world...I loved it. They gave me the first three issues, and I was worried. I though, 'What if I read it and I don't like it.' But it's amazing." Dennis added that series artist Robbi Rodriguez is going to be the next Sean Murphy in terms of being a talent about to break out on another level.
Speaking of, the panel showed off October's "Coffin Hill," which reimagines pop culture phenomenon like the Kennedy curse but stretches the idea back into the Salem Witch Trials where a group of teenage girls unleash a long lost force that haunts them and their town to gory effect. The book is by novelist Caitlin Kittredge and "Fairest" artist Inaki Miranda. "It's provacative. It's dark. It's twisted. And I think Caitlin is going to be one of the new voices in comics," Bond said.
Dennis took over the discussions to introduce his new books including "Hinterkind" which is a horror/fairy tale mash-up by writer Ian Edgington. At first, Dennis was uninterested in the book because he typically shies away from such fantasy, but "The more I read it, I started to this 'Whoa. This is all right!" The pitch for the series imagines a version of earth years in the future where old fairy tale monsters and myths have taken back the earth from man, but then humans make an attempt to carve out their own space in a world where warring factions of magical creatures tear each other apart. The editor explained it in terms of "Game of Thrones" – a fantasy series that appeals to non-fantasy fans.
Also coming is "The Discipline" – a new Peter Milligan series which will push the sexual boundaries of storytelling at Vertigo. "Peter is probably the smartest writer I've ever worked with at pushing you write up to the edge without going over," Dennis said. "I think if you give it a chance, you're going to feel yourself moved in the way that I've been moved." That sounded pretty sexual...perhaps unintentionally so.
Lee Bermejo will move fully into writing and drawing with "The Suiciders." Set in Los Angeles after a giant earthquake where the city is left alone by most of the government. In an attempt to revive their fortunes, the last vestiges of the Hollywood industry creates a horrific reality TV show called "The Suiciders." "It says a lot to me about our current fascination with celebrity," Dennis said.
The panel then shifted to a preview of upcoming issues of "Brother Lono" as Dennis explained that despite being a follow-up to "100 Bullets," the creative team of Brian Azzarello, Eduardo Risso and Trish Mulvihill tried to bring a different tone to the look of the book and its story.
Things wrapped with Cunningham asking the audience how many people came wondering what Vertigo was possibly going to do to take itself into the future. As a few admitted they came with such trepidation, Bond promised that the best is yet to come from the imprint.