VERTIGO CMYK Roundtable: ORLANDO and More Talk Anthology

Vertigo Quarterly: Yellow interior art by Emilio Utrera
Credit: Vertigo

Vertigo Quarterly and its “CMYK” volumes have earned critical acclaim as a throwback to the classic tradition of anthology comics – with twisted tales from top creators. With the new volume, Vertigo CMYK: Yellow in stores this week, we talked to the writers from this and other volumes to get the scoop on what goes into creating an anthology like this – and what readers will find inside.

Vertigo Quarterly: Yellow
Vertigo Quarterly: Yellow
Credit: Vertigo

Newsarama: Guys, tell us about your respective stories in the anthologies.

MattMiner: My piece is titled “Amber,” and it's a lot quieter than any of the stories I've done in the past.  It's a more introspective piece with a supernatural angle: Elderly punk rockers nearing the end of their lives – folks who are trying to move on and are attempting to make amends for some past mistakes.

SteveOrlando: Without spoiling anything, my story handles “Yellow” directly on by exploring Indian 1800s painting, the dying earth genre, and the art history folklore behind the original of yellow dye. But we do it with copious swearing, nudity, posturing and tripod aliens – all in eight pages!

Rachel Deering: It's a short horror story about a lady drifter who squats in what she believes to be an abandoned house. She does drugs, sings songs, trips out, and sees monsters. It all goes downhill from there. Go read it.

JodyHouser: I wrote a story for Magenta called "Adrift", with art/colors/lettering by Nathan Fox. It's about an eleven-year-old girl dealing with death for the first time, and the journey goes on to get to a place where she can actually say goodbye.

Nrama: What do you feel is the value of an anthology and the short story format in today's comics industry?  Obviously, you have the limits of space and being self-contained, but what are some things you can accomplish with a short story in anthology like this that you couldn't necessarily do with a longer work?

Miner: Anthologies are great for discovering new artists and writers you might not have been aware of previously.  As a creator, I like combing through anthologies to find new up-and-coming artists who might possibly be a good fit to collaborate on any of the number of crazy ideas in my head.

Vertigo Quarterly: Yellow interior art by Emilio Utrera
Vertigo Quarterly: Yellow interior art by Emilio Utrera
Credit: Vertigo

As a reader, I love anthologies for the self-contained aspect - you don't need to know 20 years of history to understand the story.  It's all right there, and the storytelling power has to be spot-on to accomplish what it sets out to do in such a limited space.

Orlando: Short stories are flash fiction. This is essentially the anti-serial. It’s hyper pop, more even than a story stretched across 20, 22 or 24 pages, some amount of pages divisible by two. It’s lightning storytelling, where you’re forced to trim the meat to such an extent that only the raw fiction marrow can remain. And that’s special, a focused distillation of an idea.

Deering: I guess the biggest perk is being able to make new fans. People don't have to invest a ton of time into you as a creator when they check out one of your short stories. They can know fairly quickly whether they are going to like you or not. Readers also get more bang for their buck because each story has to get straight to the point. Straight to the action. Instant gratification.

Houser: I think short stories, with all their inherent limitations, are the perfect playground for you to really push the limits of your storytelling ability and experiment with format. I love themed anthologies like CMYK because although the stories are tied together, the theme is broad enough to inspire a wide range of ideas.

At their best, anthologies stand as a showcase of how rich and diverse the comics medium and the creators working in it can be.

Nrama: Please, express your awe and wonder at the fine people illustrating your twisted tales!

Vertigo Quarterly: Magenta
Vertigo Quarterly: Magenta
Credit: Vertigo

Miner: My artist is Taylan Kurtulus, a Turkish artist with a very dreamlike and poetic style.  Sara Miller (my editor) suggested him for the piece because “Amber” is a quiet, pretty story and the piece needed an artist that could capture those tranquil, beautiful moments that we may take for granted in our day to day lives but become more and more important the less time we have left on Earth.

His art is stunning and perfect and when I look at it I want to live in it.  He's someone to be watching.

Orlando: Well, I have to say that Emilio (Utero), the artist on my story, is truly wonderful. When I saw his samples, I knew I had to create something unique and kick ass for his style, which is like a combination of Gene Colan and Jordi Bernet. And I love those guys.

Emilio took my feeble script and turned it into something timeless, something immaculate. I cannot wait for you all to see it, as Yellow: is one of my favorite things I have ever worked on.

Deering: Oooooo Matteo aaaaaaaah Scalera. (rough phonetic translation; y’all know we’re talking about the guy from Black Science) I dig the guy a lot, actually. Not just his art, but him as a human being. He's wicked nice and funny, and he has good taste in music. Also, that top knot!

Vertigo Quarterly: Magenta interior art by Nathan Fox, Story by Jody Houser
Vertigo Quarterly: Magenta interior art by Nathan Fox, Story by Jody Houser
Credit: Vertigo

Houser: Working with Nathan (Fox) was amazing. He made time in his crazy schedule to do this little story and just killed it. Not only is he brilliant, he brought his experience as a father to two girls to the table which added so much depth. He ended up being beyond the perfect collaborator on this comic. I'm so glad Sara thought of him.

Nrama: Each of you, name a favorite short story...one in prose, and one in comics form.

Miner: My memory for such things is total garbage, but I'll give it a go:

“A Hunger Artist,” by Franz Kafka

Superman# 712, by Kurt Busiek and Rick Leonardi

Seriously, if you haven't read that issue of Superman, it will make you cry like a baby or you just don't have a heart.

Vertigo Quarterly: Magenta interior art by Nathan Fox, Story by Jody Houser
Vertigo Quarterly: Magenta interior art by Nathan Fox, Story by Jody Houser
Credit: Vertigo

Orlando: For prose, I have to admit I still love Neil Gaiman’s “Murder Mysteries,” which I read in high school and have always had a special place for in my heart. It’s, to me, just the right amount of pulp and  Christian mythology. And for comics, I do love Rogan Gosh, though that is a one-shot, so it may not count as short enough.

Deering: “The Other Side” by Count Eric Stenbock, and “Jenifer” by Bruce Jones and Bernie Wrightson.

Houser: I read Robert Bloch's "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper" as a fairly young kid, maybe eight or nine, and it completely blew my mind. I already knew I wanted to be a writer back then, and it gave me a new perspective on narrators.

In terms of short comic stories, I've really been digging the work of Emily Carroll and her story "Out of Skin" really stuck with me after I read it last year.

Nrama:  What particular emotions and memories do you associate with autumn, and the color yellow, not counting the Sinestro Corps and that Yellow King from Robert Chambers/True Detective?

Vertigo Quarterly: Magenta interior art by Nathan Fox, Story by Jody Houser
Vertigo Quarterly: Magenta interior art by Nathan Fox, Story by Jody Houser
Credit: Vertigo

Orlando: And besides a Charleston Chew? For me, Yellow reminds me of other nerdy things-- The Whizzer from Marvel Comics, Reverse-Flash, and the perfect bottle of Chablis. In the fall, it’s also the processed Yellow of gut-assaulting candy (candy corn does not biodegrade).

I also don’t think first about Sinestro, but instead my old DC trading cards from the early 1990s with a card dedicated to Goldface, a silver age Green Lantern villain that encases things in gold, like at the beginning of Goldfinger.

Miner: I associate yellow with rebirth, dawn, new beginnings, and happy endings.  “Amber” has an ending that might be tough to swallow for some but I see it as enormously positive.

Deering: My birthday is in October, so that always made me feel pretty great. Halloween time meant that school movies and coloring sheets didn't suck as bad. Pumpkins are pretty rad, especially when they make ugly faces. Feeling like everyone else was on my level for a month was nice. Pie is a thing I enjoy.

Yellow is mostly annoying to me. I hate the sun, and the sun is yellow. The sun doesn't come out a lot during the autumn months. Score one more for fall.

Houser: I'm going with Magenta for this question since that was the issue I worked on.My strongest association with magenta is Barbie doll boxes from the late eighties and nineties. Even though that's where my instincts pushed me and I had editorial support, I tried to head in a different direction because... I guess I thought it was too obvious?

But trying to force a story in a direction no one particularly wants usually doesn't go well. And the story I did end up writing is one of my favorite things I've ever done. I guess the moral is that your initial associations, though they may seem silly, have some real truth behind them.

Vertigo Quarterly: Magenta interior art & story by Carla Berrocal
Vertigo Quarterly: Magenta interior art & story by Carla Berrocal
Credit: Vertigo

Nrama: What's next for you?

Miner: The Critical Hit miniseries is in stores now, continuing the storyline from Liberator, but taking our reader-favorite women in a dark new direction with a brilliant new art team of penciler/inker Jonathan Brandon Sawyer and colorist Doug Garbark.

Also Toe Tag Riot #1 hits stores November 26th - it's about a punk rock band who's cursed to become zombies whenever they play their music, so they use those zombie "superpowers" to brutally/hilariously eviscerate crappy people like racists and homophobes, culminating in issue # 4 with a showdown with the Westboro Baptist Church.

Westboro called me and series artist Sean Von Gorman "insincere pervs," and said the book will "split Hell wide open," so you know it's gonna be pretty much the most awesome thing ever.

Vertigo Quarterly: Magenta interior art & story by Carla Berrocal
Vertigo Quarterly: Magenta interior art & story by Carla Berrocal
Credit: Vertigo

Orlando: 2015 is coming up! While I can’t talk about anything right now I have been reading all sorts of fun things in preparation from next year. Like what? Like Slavic samurais, like wonderfully grotesque cartoons, like cities dug out of the desert rock, David Mamet and David Lynch, and Philip Jose Farmer. And Peter Fonda. These will all be driving me next year.

Deering: I'm probably going to go to sleep after this. When I wake up, I'll be working on a bunch of lettering and editing projects. When those are finished, I'm writing a horror novella, to be released in 2015, and a children's book. You know, for kids!

Houser: I'm currently writing Orphan Black for IDW, which has been a blast so far. I have a few creator-owned one-shots in the works and my webcomic Cupcake POW! updates weekly. There are some other things in the works for further down the line... keep an eye out for my name!

Vertigo CMYK: Yellow is in stores this week.

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