SDCC 09: Vertigo Comics: A Tale of Two Panels

Ian Rankin on Dark Entries

Karen Berger on the Vertigo Crime Line
Karen Berger on the Vertigo Crime Line
Late Thursday afternoon, at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Vertigo released information about their new line of crime fiction novels.  The panel was moderated by Vertigo Executive Editor, Karen Berger, and it featured a number of creators working on projects for DC’s premiere imprint for mature readers; including Editor Will Dennis; writers, Christos Gage, Jason Starr, Jeff Lemire, and Gary Phillips; as well as Peter Gross, artist of the recent success, The Unwritten, with Mike Carey and Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba.  Max Allen Collins also joined the panel to give an important announcement at the end of the panel.

Berger initiated the panel by talking about several new projects for 2009 and 2010 from Vertigo.  There was a display of pictures from future issues of The Unwritten and Peter Gross spoiled a bit about the fourth issue, saying, “Issue #4 is a total bloodbath.”

Berger then directed some talking points to Moon and Ba about their upcoming work on Daytripper, a new series set to debut later in the year.  The story revolves around the son of Brazil’s most prolific writer—and how the protagonist lives a very different life to that of his father.  Ba elaborated, “This is a story about a guy who hasn’t succeeded yet,” adding, “my brother and I wanted to do a story about how you can meet someone and that person can completely change your life.”  Berger continued to show several pages from the project’s first issue.

She turned the panel over to Will Dennis so that he could discuss Greek Street on the behalf of series writer Peter Milligan, who could not attend Comic-Con this year.  He joked, “Greek Street has been described as ‘visceral, disturbingly funny, smart and sexy’…those are actually terms I use to describe myself.”  He talked about how Milligan is using classic Greek mythology and tales in a modern subtext for Greek Street.

The panel then turned to Jeff Lemire who discussed his new project, Sweet Tooth.  Set in a near future/ post-apocalyptical setting, the lead character—Gus—is a half-man/ half-deer hybrid creature who has been raised in the woods by his father.  Lemire spoke, “In the first issue, readers will learn about a decade long pandemic that mysteriously wipes out a number of humans and creates this genetic man/ animal hybrids.”  He described the book as an epic action-adventure/horror that follows Gus on a sprawling trip across the United States.

Berger then discussed Vertigo’s new crime imprint and introduced the panel to the first prints of both Filthy Rich and Dark Entries.  She discussed Jason Starr’s upcoming project The Chill, as well.  Starr described The Chill as a modern thriller and police procedural involving an Irish curse and a woman who steals sexual energy to gain immortality.  He discussed a necessity for provocative risk taking in his work as a writer and also mentioned work on a Punisher project for Marvel.

Christos Gage was then asked about his project Area 10 and a couple of jokes were made because Gage liked Dennis’ descriptive premise of the book better than his own ability to talk about it.  Essentially, the story revolves around a detective who suffers a strange head wound that he believes gives him ESP-like abilities—and Gage added with a laugh, “or he might be crazy.”  Gage spoke about his desire to not only mess with the mind of his protagonist but also his readers as well.

Again, Dennis plugged more of the crime line—mentioning The Executor, Fog Town, and The Bronx Kill—after which he then introduced Gary Phillips to the audience and discussed CowboysCowboys was described to be an odd couple type of police procedural where two very different policemen have to sort of take on traits of one another.  Phillips spoke about various aspects of the project, saying, “…certain forces just seem to keep drawing these two men together.”

Max Allen Collins then announced he would be publishing a new book through Vertigo—Return to Perdition—the final book in the Perdition saga.  Allen talked about his initial struggle publishing the Perdition books and his struggles with the process of writing a series of such epic magnitude.  He told the audience about how difficult the publishing process was and how ultimately the media loved Road to Perdition and that his struggles and endeavors yielded something that was “good for the field.”  He described Return to Perdition as a third generation tale taking place in the 70’s.

A short series of questions were fielded by the panel involving how Grant Morrison and other previous Vertigo alums have changed mainstream comics—to which Berger joked, “It’s from their Vertigo training.”  She fielded questions about the new crime line and how the new books were a “great example of the level of commitment to make original graphic novels.”  The panel was asked about translating their projects to other mediums like films and most of them maintained that there is a certain amount of focus on the primary medium that allows for more success when it’s translated later.  Max Allen Collins concluded, “You can’t write comics and plan them out like movies—that’s the tail wagging the dog in a really bad way.”

As the panel winded down a slight discussion arose praising the latest generation of writers and their efforts in genre writing such a crime fiction.  There was also a discussion involving content restrictions that ended the panel with a funny discussion of exposure to male genitalia and how Vertigo had recently broke their own rule with Y: The Last Man much to the entertainment of the audience as the panel ended.

Carrying over from their epic amount of news and announced releases from the Vertigo panel on Thursday evening at SDCC, Vertigo hosted a second panel with a bevy of their current creators; including: Jason Aaron, Joshua Dysart, G. Willow Wilson, Mike Allred, Mark Buckingham, Bill Willingham, Brian Wood, Fabio Moon, Amy Hadley, Peter Gross, Matt Wagner, Chris Roberson, Matt Sturges, and Jeff Lemire.  Also present were two Vertigo editors Shelly Bond and Karen Berger—who also moderated the panel.

Early into the panel—because of the immense number of creators—several projects from the previous night’s panel: Sweet Tooth, Greek Street, The Unwritten, Daytripper were mentioned briefly with presentations directed at their creators.  Karen Berger also made an announcement regarding a new project from Grant Morrison—Joe the Barbarian; quoting Morrison’s description of the project as “Lord of the Rings meets Home Alone” and revealing that the lead character struggles with diabetes and when it isn’t properly treated—he hallucinates and becomes immersed in a fantasy world.

Next up, Berger spoke to Matt Sturges about the release of an upcoming House of Mystery annual.  She also briefly spoke to Madame Xanadu writer, Matt Wagner, about the current story arc.  Berger briefly plugged Hellblazer before turning to Bill Willingham to discuss the future of Fables—much to the delight of the crowd.  Willingham planned “something special” with a tease to announcements being made at the Fables panel on Saturday.  Willingham paid compliments to both Peter Gross and G. Willow Wilson for their work on the respective titles and revealed what the ‘G’ in Wilson’s name really stood for.  Berger presented the next announcement—the release of a Fables prose novel centering on Peter & Max with illustrations by Steve Leialoha then quickly segued into a brief discussion of Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love with Chris Roberson who describes the project as “Her Majesty’s Secret Service meets Sex in the City,” adding, “It’s got spies, shoes, sex and talking animals.”

Berger turned her attentions to G. Willow Wilson and the developments on her title, Air. Wilson elaborated on the current realistic sense of irony within the story and recent real-world events taking place in Tehran, Iran.  She mused, “The story in Air mixed with [the events in Tehran] feels a little bit like life imitating art,” as she described her storyline which established a theme of instability having been written months before the actual real uprising in Tehran recently.

The direction of the panel changed as Jason Aaron began speaking about ‘The Gnawing’—the current story running through his modern drama, Scalped.  He spoke, “A lot of bad shit is happening—expect a real departure from the past shit that’s been happening—followed by some really really bad shit happening and altering the status quo of the book—and after, even more bad shit will happen,” which elicited a hearty laugh from the room.

Brian Wood discussed his upcoming work on Northlanders and DMZ; describing issue #45 of DMZ as, “the beginning of the sowing of the seeds that will lead to the end of the book.”  Newsarama Note: Wood clarified this statement further on Twitter, saying "DMZ is not ending, at least not for a couple more years. As planned." Changing gears, he also mentioned the next arc of Northlanders—set in 1020 Russia on the Volga River—where a small area is affected by “a plague—not THE plague”; he described the arc as horror/ survival fiction.

Josh Dysart spoke briefly about recent developments in the pages of Unknown Soldier and Moses’ efforts to kill Margaret Wells.  He also joked, “Issue 11 deals with foreign aid to countries in Africa—so it’s a real laugh ride.”  Dysart described particulars for an upcoming storyline in issues 13 and 14—noting that the artist for the project was actually the first artist from the Congo to work on a Western comic book of this magnitude.  Berger showed slides of Dysart’s upcoming 160 page hardcover graphic novel, Greendale, which centers on Neil Young’s Greendale album.  Berger commended Dysart by saying, “This is the project that will put the capital ‘W’ in Josh’s accomplishments as a writer.”

Berger then turned to Chris Roberson and Mike Allred and announced the release of their new project I, Zombie.  Allred described the project as, “…breaking from traditional zombie stories.  It’s fresh—as fresh as dead brains can be.  I’ve got the tingles.”  Roberson described the lead character as a “zombie girl detective” and described her story as an undead girl who must eat human brains once a month to retain her own memories—but for a short amount of time after brain consumption she must share her head with the mind of the brain she consumed—in turn helping them come to rest by carrying out their last remaining memories of their lives before they died.  Roberson joked, “There’s also a love triangle between our lead, a mummy, and a Were-terrier.  It’s killer.”

Several questions were fielded by the panel before Berger ended the panel with the announcement of two more projects: Revolver, by writer/ artist Matt Kindt—this 200 page graphic novel is about a protagonist who leads a parallel life.  And she also mentioned Red Rain: Story of Katrina—a new graphic novel from Matt Johnson, writer of Incognegro; she described the project as a heist story about two people caught in the throes of Hurricane Katrina.

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