Several prominent Vertigo creators found themselves in front of a packed room at New York Comic Con 2013's "Vertigo: Defy" panel, including executive editor Shelly Bond, Caitlin Kittredge ("Coffin Hill"), Inaki Miranda ("Coffin Hill"), Scott Snyder ("The Wake"), Sean Murphy ("Punk Rock Jesus," "The Wake"), Rafael Albuquerque ("American Vampire"), Robbi Rodriguez ("FBP"), Ian Edginton ("Hinterkind"), and Lee Bermejo ("Suiciders"). With DC Entertainment's John Cunningham as their host, the creators delved into the details of their upcoming projects with Vertigo.
Cunningham kicked the panel off with a few words from their sponsors, plugging the DC Entertainment digital comics app, the "We Can Be Heroes" charity campaign and the DC All Access video series before turning the mic over to Bond. Bond jumped immediately into Neil Gaiman's long-anticipated addition to the "Sandman" universe, aptly titled "The Sandman: Overture." The comic features the art of J.H. Williams III ("Batwoman") and is scheduled for release on Oct 30.
"You will not be disappointed," Bond said. "If I had to describe the book in two words: it's majestic." She also teased that there will be "something in the back of this issue that is unprecedented."
The audience didn't have to take just her word on it. Cunningham called an audience member to the stage to preview the book for 17 seconds, in honor of the 17-year wait between this series and the release of the last "Sandman" installment. The audience member, who had the opportunity to share anything she wished about what she saw to the audience, said breathlessly, "It's fucking gorgeous."
"Those two words were okay with me," Bond said.
"Neil is completely at home and on his game," Bond continued, adding that "J. H. Williams has gone above and beyond." She also shared that Dave McKean, the original cover artist on the "Sandman" series, would be back to draw original variant covers as they displayed a page of artwork on the presentation screen. "Overture's" second issue will be released Dec. 31.
Artist Robbi Rodriguez spoke next about his work with writer Simon Oliver on "FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics." The fourth issue, which is currently on sale, was selected by "Entertainment Weekly" for its "Must List," otherwise known as "The Top 10 Things We Love This Week." Cunningham called this honor a "testament to the work inside this book."
Rodriguez explained how he acts out every role for reference as he pencils each issue of "FBP."
"It's a lot of work," he said, shading his eyes against the spotlight to get a better look at the presentation screen, which displayed a few of his pages. "The book drove me up a goddamn wall." As he struggled to see the crowd, a NYCC crew member jogged to the table and handed him a pair of sunglasses, much to the delight of the audience.
He gave some insight into upcoming issues, including the introduction of a new female teammate who is "my goddamn favorite character now." The series will take on a "Breaking Bad vibe" as it explores quantum universe and multi-universe theories. Additionally, he suggested that the readers take a closer look at the covers of the series as they "will tell an alternate version of the story," which will be either "the worst goddamn idea ever or the best goddamn idea ever."
As the panel moved on to the "Hinterkind" preview, Cunningham called the book his favorite and said that "every single person who reads 'Saga' should be reading 'Hinterkind.'" Written by Edginton with Francesco Trifogli on art, "Hinterkind" is currently available in stores.
Edginton introduced the story as a post-apocalyptic fantasy, featuring creatures like elves, dwarves and centaurs as humankind's "evolutionary cousins." After a plague called the Blight swept across the planet, killing thousands, humanity has moved to "the bottom of the food chain," going against militant groups like the highly politicized elves, brutal centaur clans and lion/tiger crossbreeds called "ligons." The series will star a young girl named Prosper Monday and her best friend Angus, as they travel in search of her missing grandfather.
"The story starts small," Edginton said, explaining how the reader will see this world through Prosper's eyes. "It starts weird and gets weirder... you don't get all of the story in one go."
For horror fans, Vertigo recently launched "Coffin Hill" by Kittredge and Miranda.
The comic, starring a young woman named Eve Coffin, includes a spell gone horribly wrong and throwbacks to the Salem Witch trials. Eve must confront her past as the darkness she once summoned reappears in the town she left behind, especially once she realizes that she is the only one who can save it.
Miranda shared that his favorite part in making the comic was "the blood, because it's easy," as opposed to the rest of the comic.
"Horror is hard to do in comics because you don't have music or moving," Miranda said. He outlined the difficulty of drawing horror comics by explaining that he had to select specific panels in order to build suspense. However, he finds that drawing horror isn't all bad. "It's so enjoyable to put it on and translate it in pictures."
Scott Snyder took the mic next with Sean Murphy to discuss their miniseries "The Wake." Snyder, who had pitched the idea for the book three years before Vertigo released it, thanked his readers for picking up the book.
"We've been looking forward to doing this a very long time," Snyder said. The fourth issue, which heralds a change of direction for the series, is currently on sale.
"Brace yourselves for it to be very, very different. Five is the big game-changing issue," he said. "The first part comes to a huge cataclysmic end."
Beginning with the sixth issue, the story "changes gears entirely" and "jumps in time to post-apocalyptic America."
With this switch in tone, a new character will take center stage. "She's really badass," he lauded, "I really adore her." The second half will be "a big adventure about a girl and her sonic dolphin."
In regards to the drastic change in pace, Snyder explained that "we wanted to do a book that was almost two books." However, "all of the mysteries we started to tease in the first half... all of that will come together."
Snyder said horror movies like "Alien" and "The Abyss" influenced the creation of "The Wake" in the first place. "I was a big '80s horror buff," he said. "I love movies where people were trapped in a place that was unforgiving."
Snyder went on discuss this story development process more in depth in response to a fan question.
"Something will catch my attention and I'll think about why it caught my attention," he said, citing his inspiration for "The Wake" as his primary example. After seeing a news clip about an ancient shark, he said "it was the creepiest thing I've ever seen." Contemplating that, he questioned, "What is it that frightens me about this?" and "How do I explore the things that matter to me?" The story would eventually arise out of this. He added that he tried to make his stories personal.
"The series isn't meant to be depressing," Snyder said. "It's about discovering a language that's coming up from the bottom of the ocean." He added that although it's really different from his other work, he shared that he is "really, really proud of it."
Additionally, Snyder lauded Sean Murphy's work on the issues. "He's a great storyteller," Snyder said. Murphy, who has free reign to design each issue as he pleases, agreed.
"I love it," Murphy said. His favorite part of working on the book is "surprising the writer of the script," which "has been going very well so far." The biggest challenge he encountered on the series "was thinking about different ways to handle water."
However, he counts himself lucky that he doesn't have to draw quite so many figures, like the artists who work on comics such as "Justice League." Snyder remembered one instance where he told Murphy to draw a horde of mermaids, to which Murphy simply responded, "Do you know how hard it is to draw a thousand mermaids?"
The conversation segued naturally into a discussion of Snyder's other Vertigo book, "American Vampire." The "Second Cycle," which will be coming soon, will pick up in 1967 and have a "big, blockbuster-y" feel, Snyder said.
"'American Vampire' is our baby," Snyder said. He called its return "the greatest joy." He thanked the audience for being so vocal about the series at conventions, saying that it "means a lot to us."
"I really, really miss this series tremendously," he said. With "the pressure of Superman and the pressure of Batman," Snyder "gave up the series and I just got really, really depressed." He soon realized that "it was being away from creator owned" that triggered it. With the series' imminent return, he "couldn't be more excited to be coming back."
In this new cycle, Skinner seems to be working some kind of "hit man" gig in Mexico, while Pearl has returned to her family home in Kansas. This arc will be about bringing old vampires back and steering the story toward the culmination of the entire series. Snyder said he will introduce a terrifying new species of vampire. He described the upcoming arc as "a bit of 'Strawdogs,' 'Magnificent 7,' and 'The Wizard of Oz.'"
On the topic of "American Vampire," Snyder shared some personal stories about its development. For instance, he disclosed that "every year we have an American Vampire bloody brunch with Bloody Marys." He also told a story where Murphy accidentally ended up staying with Synder's parents when he visited New York. "They loved him," Snyder laughed, remembering that his parents had said about Murphy, "He's so nice!" Murphy gifted them a gruesome panel from his work on "American Vampire" before he left.
Snyder turned the microphone over to Lee Bermejo, who spoke about his upcoming title, "Suiciders," to be released sometime in 2014. With so many of the books following the post-apocalyptic theme, Bermejo described the book as "not post-Apocalyptic but post-disaster."
"This is a whole new ball game," Bermejo said. The story takes place in Los Angeles after a giant earthquake decimates the city. Following the disaster, Los Angeles secedes from the union and splits into two sections: New Angeles and Lost Angeles. He described New Angeles as a "walled citadel," whereas Lost Angeles is a "criminally run ghetto." The story will detail the lives of two main characters: one, an immigrant in Lost Angeles; the other, a celebrity from New Angeles. He then launched into the description of a "Hunger Games"-esque show, where two people fight to the death in a coliseum and the coliseum "goes with them."
Bermejo described his writing process as "trying to find a way to do a story that's also personal to me." However, the title "is a little bit bigger." Like Snyder, he advised aspiring writers to "make it personal" in creating stories.
With each of the creators having spoken in turn, Bond outlined some of the other projects coming out of Vertigo, starting with "Fables" #134.
"This issue is actually an interlude," Bond said. "We've been going through a pretty major story arc" about Camelot. The issue includes the appearance of "two characters who are fan favorites who are dead allegedly." She commended Mark Buckingham's work on the issue as the "absolute height of his craft." She recommended the story as a jumping on point for new readers. Bond also reminded the audience that the "The Wolf Among Us" game, which is based in the "Fables" universe, is now available to play on the PlayStation 3.
"Fairest in all the Land," an all-new original graphic novel, will go on sale on Nov. 20. The graphic novel will feature the talents of 22 artists for its 30 chapters. The list includes Chris Sprouse, Phil Noto, Gene Ha and Adam Hughes, as well as newer talents like Meghan Hetrick. Bond described the book as "fair play murder mystery, narrated by the magic mirror" and starring Cinderella.
"The Unwritten" by Mike Carey and Peter Gross, has already released an original graphic novel, which is now available in stores. The book is currently on the "New York Times" best seller's list. It has "been in the work for a few years," she shared. The story is "a prequel to the Unwritten," providing "great entry point" for new readers.
Continuing the discussion on "The Unwritten," Bond talked about the current series' conclusion in October.
"We wanted to do it in style," she said. "It'll be quite the apocalypse."
The story, however, isn't quite over yet – the title will launch with a new first issue in January. "We decided to take a few months, really gear it up," Bond said, adding that the series left "such a vast literary landscape" to be explored.
Additionally, Vertigo will release a one volume adaption of Stieg Larsson's "The Girl who Played with Fire" in May 2014.
As Bond and the creators wrapped their spiels for upcoming projects, Cunningham opened the floor up for audience questions. For the lucky few who reached the microphone in time, he had surprise gifts, including an advance copy of the "Fables" encyclopedia, "Punk Rock Jesus," the "Django Unchained" graphic novel adaption, a Kindle Fire and a Google Nexus 7 tablet.
The first question tackled "The Sandman: Overture." With the return of the "Sandman" universe, the fan wondered if Vertigo might approach a story that takes place after the events of the main series. Since Gaiman wasn't there to take the question, Bond said that she'd pass the message along. "I'll call Gaiman and let him know you want more."
Another fan asked Snyder who, out of his wealth of characters, was his favorite to write. Snyder looked a little flustered for a moment before answering. "I can't really pick a favorite," he said. "Each one of them is special in a different way."
Murphy took a question about his original series, "Punk Rock Jesus." When asked why Chris chose Gwen, he answered, "She fit his profile." He went on to explain that "I figured it had to be somebody... it couldn't be anybody famous." He described the selection process as a drawing from a "Willy Wonka" or "American Idol" type pool. On the subject of the graphic novel, he revealed, "I have an idea for a sequel at some point."
One questioner inquired into the process that went into deciding whether a book should be an ongoing or a miniseries. "I think that really depends on the writer," Bond said. "Some concepts are world building... other times, people have a finite story."
"Yes, you're the boss," Murphy concluded to a chorus of laughter from the audience.
Another question, directed at Bond, prompted a discussion on how authors influence each other with their works. "Collaboration is so key," she said. She added that "sometimes it's the editor that gets to bring two people together," which is "the most gratifying part of the job." She cited Snyder and Murphy as "a great example of people who collaborate so well."
"[Snyder] has a really great relationship with all his artists," Murphy said. "Hopefully, writers should consider building a relationship with your artist."
On a closing note, Bond took the mic to thank DC Entertainment. She called for the editorial staff in the audience to stand up so they could be acknowledged and labeled them the "best editorial crew in comics" right now. "I've been in the business for 23 years," she concluded, and "the best is yet to come."