NYCC '09 - The Vertigo Panel - $1 Comics and More

Scalped #25

Several of DC/Vertigo’s most prominent creators gathered Friday afternoon with Vertigo chief Karen Berger to announce a spate of new ongoing series and graphic novels during a talk about the future of the cutting edge mature readers’ imprint.

With Berger on the stage were editors Jonathon Vankin and Shelley Bond, Amy Reader Hadley, G. Willow Wilson, Brian Wood, Dean Haspiel, Josh Dysart, Mike Carey, Peter Milligan, Brian Azzarello, Peter Gross, Alberto Ponticelli, Northlanders artist and Jason Aaron.

The Lucifer creative team Mike Carey and Peter Gross have a new creator-owned monthly series called The Unwritten. Saying that the team has wanted to collaborate since Lucifer ended, Berger explained that they are “sort of alike a two-headed beast on this book.” Carey is listed as the writer, but Gross is contributing story ideas, Karen explained.

Carey described the series as being about a British writer who authored thirteen books about a young boy magician, a characters based on his son. After the last book, the writer disappeared, and the son is now famous as a fictional character. People call him “Tommy” and he signs his dad’s books and goes to conventions. When he is suddenly challenged to explain who he really is, he finds that his own ideas about who he is are completely wrong. “He may actually be a fictional character,” Carey said. “There’s no evidence that he was actually born. He’s maybe a viral character created by his father or the boy wizard come to life,” Gross added.

Carey added that the series is a conspiracy thriller. With shadowy characters manipulating the stories we read to their own ends. The series is “about the world of fiction, the power of fiction,” Gross expounded. “The Neocons started a war in Iraq based on a story.” The son will have to prove he’s real by proving he has this life that he absolutely hates.

The first issue ships in May. It will be 40 pages, 32 story pages, for only $1. Berger explained that they are trying to make sure “Nobody has an excuse not to check out our new monthlies this year,” as they will all debut with $1 first issues.

Hellblazer #252

Peter Milligan, the new writer on Hellblazer, talked about his plans for Constantine (pronounced TINE, not TEEN). “I don’t know how different it is,” he said, noting that Constantine has been around a long time and been through a lot of stories. When approaching a long-running character, his approach is to “look at everything, forget what you don’t want,” and find new angles to the cool elements. “Our Constantine meets a girl who he thinks might be the one, but as is his way, people in his orbit have bad things happen to them. Something pretty bad happens to this girl, and the story follows Constantine’s fevered attempts to turn back the clock or get his loved one back.” Along the way, Constantine wonders, did he really love her, was it just his ego. There is a “dark twisted internal plot going on.”

DayTripper, a 10-issue series, by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba was announced in San Diego last year. It’s set in Brazil and revolves around the eternal struggle between fathers and sons. Berger said that it is about a son who’s always wanted to write, but writes obituaries. His father is Brazil’s most famous writer. She said it has a “magical realist thread through the story.”

Dysart joked that the upcoming art of Unknown Soldier that is has “more suffering and pain in an all-singing, all-dancing issue.” The arc actually will focus on a really interesting aspect of Ugandan culture, where people in the stabilized south don’t know what happens in the north. The arc will be “structured as a teen-slasher flick, because what the hell?” The first trade, Dysart joked, will be “one penny and it’s 150 pages.”

Speaking about DMZ and Northlanders, Brian Wood said that each series will have two one-shots coming up in each series. In DMZ, the issue will star Zee, “who we haven’t seen on her own in a couple years.” Wood called the Northlanders issue “the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to write.” It will cover the breadth of Viking tactical warfare in the context of a 22-page sword fight.

The Nobody

As previously announced, Jeff Lemire, author of the Essex County trilogy from Top Shelf, will bring his next book, The Nobody to Vertigo. Berger reiterated that it is an update of The Invisible Man, but “set in a small Maine fishing village, and the paranoia that ensues in this very small quiet town” when this bandage-covered man arrives. Berger said that Lemire has a “wonderful, gentle way of telling a story.” The Nobody ships in May as a two-color hardcover for $20.

To promote G. Willow Wilson and MK Perker’s Air, Wilson let readers know that issue #7 will be part of Vertigo’s $1 initiative. In issue 6, Blythe winds up in Zane’s body as a young boy. The conclusion of the first arc, it will have big reveals and background on Zane.

Berger explained that the $1 issues initiative is designed to get readers hooked on the monthly titles. It “really helps us a lot if you read the monthlies too,” she admitted.

Bang! Tango, a new miniseries by Joe Kelly & Adrian Sibar, was mentioned. It revolves around a mobster gives up the hitman life in New York and making a new life in California as a tango dancer. The series, according to Berger, explores themes of gender identity and the creators really “make dancing come to life in comics.” Berger said that it also features the “best Chaykin covers in a long time.”

Readers didn’t get much information, but they did get several laughs when Berger asked Brian Azzarello to talk about the finale of 100 Bullets. “He’s really making us wait for the series to end,” she said.

“I’m not going to finish it,” Azzarello laughed.

Berger acknowledged that Azzarello never tells his plans at convention panels. “He never tells us anything either,” she laughed.

“It’s done, thanks,” Azzarello said at last.

Part of Vertigo growing graphic novel line, Gone to Amerikay, by Stagger Lee writer Derek McCullough and artist Colleen Doran, was described as a “sweeping historical drama about the Irish immigrant experience. It will follow three generations, covering 100 years from the turn of the 20th century to the turn of the 21st.

House of Mystery #13 will be a lucky 13 issue, with four stories, each drawn by a popular artist who’s never worked with Vertigo before. Neal Adams, Sergio Aragones and Eric Powell were mentioned as contributors to the special issue.

Michael Kaluta will be drawing Madame Xanadu #11-#15, as Amy Hadley is taking a short break from the series. Hadley said that she’s currently drawing issues #9 and #10, which are set in 1940s New York. “It’s fantastic what Matt’s [Wagner] written. It’s so rewarding and I’m very happy to be able to draw it.” Kaluta’s arc starts in 1945 in New York. Because he started those issues before Hadley began drawing her 1940s issues, she was able to use his designs for Madame Xanadu’s friends and home. “It’s the best thing ever,” she said of working from Kaluta’s designs.

The upcoming first trade paperback will collect a full ten issues for the standard $9.99 first trade price, Berger said.

Jason Aaron said that Scalped #25, out next week, starts a new story. Readers will get two all-new extra pages for your usual 2.99, he joked. Expect “lots of nudity and lots of killing. I realized that the last four issues all feature a graphic murder, so you’ve got that to look forward to.”

The cover to Seaguy: the Slave of Mickey Eye was shown. Berger said that the characters on the cover are three alternate versions of Seaguy, and said the sequel is “better than the original.”

Cuba: One Story, an original graphic novel, got strong reactions from several members of the panel. Described as a memoir with a little fiction mixed in, the story is written by new-to-comics writer Inverna Lockpez and illustrated by Dean Haspiel.

Haspiel said that the project is extremely personal to him and very hard to talk about. For the last twenty-five years, Lockpez has “been my second mother,” he said. “Over those 25 years, she’s told me little stories about her time in Cuba. I’d push for more, but it was hard for her to do.” He mentioned that she “used to be in Castro’s army and was a surgeon,” and recently when he was completing The Alcoholic, she showed an interest in “the memoir stuff I’d been doing.” Although she is a painted and artist, not necessarily a writer, Haspiel “asked her to purge” and then asked Karen Berger for a meeting. Lockpez talked to Berger “for an hour and a half, and Karen had tears in her eyes.” “This is my most personal project,” Haspiel concluded. It will be a two-color graphic novel in 2010.

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, another OGN, by Sarah Glidden, tells of Glidden taking a birthright tour in Israel, which is when Israel recruits young Americans to tour Israel and essentially sell them on moving to Israel. Because Glidden was raised very anti-Israeli, despite being Jewish, she went on the tour to challenge her perspectives. Editor Jonathon Vankin called the book an “emotional, political and intellectual awakening.” He mentioned that he loved the small touches that give readers insight into daily Israeli life. How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less will be a 200-page graphic novel that “probably won’t be a dollar.”

Luna Park, out in November, is an OGN by Kevin Baker & Danijel Zezelj. A modern gangster winds up in Coney Island at turn of century, and in Russia at various points in Russian history. Berger praised the beautiful visuals by Zezelj.

Peter Milligan and Davide Gianfelice have a creator-owned monthly series coming titled Greek Street. Milligan joked that the first issue will be sold for one Pound, “which’ll soon be less than a dollar.” Milligan explained that Greek Street runs through Soho, “which is kind of like London’s red light district, and all the stuff you were interested in as a kid in London.” The series reimagines and retells classic Greek legends on the modern-day setting of today’s Greek Street. Dealing with the power of enduring myths, it “dispels the idea of we humans progressing. Technology progresses, but the real human stuff, jealousy, etc., we haven’t changed that much.” Milligan acknowledged that he’s “kind of obsessed with Greek tragedy and wanted to retell that stuff in a modern context.” An orphan named Eddie is the central character, and in the series opening, he decides to track down his mother. “Within 24 hours, he has made love to her and killed her,” Milligan told the crowd. So Eddie runs to Greek Street, with 1600 years of history and tragedy following him. Although Gianfelice has never been to London, Milligan praised his collaborator, saying that the art “has a truth about it.”

The first issue of Greek Street will be $1 for 32 pages of story, according to Berger.

The cover of the first Preacher hardcover was shown. The hardcovers will be slightly larger than comics, but not Absolute-sized.

However, Absolute Death is an Absolute, with every story about Death by Neil Gaiman. It includes “’Death talks about Life’, the AIDS story from ’93, tons of pin-ups and stories from Winters Edge and both miniseries.”

Absolute V for Vendetta will include 100 extra pages, includes pinups from original series that weren’t collected, back cover art, and sketches by David Lloyd.

As creator Bill Willingham was unable to attend the convention, editor Shelly Bond read a letter from him. Highlights included: “Karen, don’t let Shelly give all of the great Fables crossover secrets away … Don’t let her tell anyone that Jack will be sneaking back into the Fables book, or that Snow and Bigby will be exiled to Jack’s book.”

Peter and Max, the first prose Fables novel, written by Willingham with spot illos by Steve Leialoha, will ship later this year. “For those who don’t like prose too much, you should start now,” Berger teased.

Once the floor was opened to questions, Milligan confirmed that read “don’t need to know anything about London or Greek tragedy” to appreciate Greek Street.

Berger isn’t aware of any progress on the possible Fables television series for ABC. “Not right now.”

Although Shade the Changing Man will not be getting his own series again, Peter Milligan is planning to have “Constantine to bump into Shade in the not-too-distant future.” Shade can “spread a bit of extra madness there.”

Scalped #25 focuses on a brand-new character, seeing everything through his eyes, Aaron said. The second arc of 2009 is “sort of the crux of the entire story. Not all of the main characters will survive the year.”

Asked about his influences, Aaron teased, “Everything but Azzarello, that guy sucks.”

Azzarello explained that he wrote his Joker graphic novel two years ago, before any images or information about The Dark Knight had been out, so he was absolutely not influenced by the movie. However, he suggested, some of Lee Bermejo’s scarred Joker designs were online, so perhaps the movie was influenced by their book.

Berger confirmed to a disappointed fan that Vertigo has no plans right now for Swamp Thing or Tim Hunter. They’re “so hard to bring back, we really have to let them rest for a while.”

Azzarello explained to a fan that “it wasn’t me calling Penguin Abner, it was the Joker. He was screwing with him” when a reader wanted to know why Penguin was referred to be an incorrect name in the Joker graphic novel.

Although Berger said that there are no current plans for more Haunted Tank, a sizable portion of the crowd raised their hands indicating interest in another miniseries.

“We gotta get that last issue before we can” publish hardcovers of 100 Bullets, Berger explained. However, she hopes that they will be released soon.

“Really?” Azzarello asked.

“They do pretty well for us,” she replied.

Berger said, “I’ve been working on getting all of Shade in trade for a long time.” She hopes that Milligan’s resurgence at Vertigo, collecting his earlier work will get a bigger push.

Although he was born in Vermont, Wood confirmed that he’s spent half of his life in New York, including time as a bike messenger, which is why he understands the neighborhoods so effectively in DMZ.

More New York Comic Con 2009 Coverage:

NYCC '09 Video Page

NYCC '09 Mini-Site

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