A room full of eager comic fans and a table full of some of the comic industry’s most cutting edge creators populated Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo’s Vertigo: New Blood panel. The presentation focused on the DC Comics’ imprint’s promising and exciting slate of projects lined up for the next year. Featuring Vertigo Senior Editor Will Dennis, Scott Snyder, writer of “American Vampire,” Bill Willingham, writer of “Fables,” Sean Murphy of the upcoming “Punk Rock Jesus,” Brian Azzarello, writer of “Spaceman,” and Ryan Kelly artist of “Saucer Country,” took the stage for an hour of discussion and announcements, not the least of which was the first mention of the upcoming “Collider” by Simon Oliver and Robbi Rodriguez.
Murphy took the mic first, discussing his “Punk Rock Jesus” miniseries, a project he’s been working on for almost seven years. The story follows Jesus in a reality show-type setting in which the Son of God breaks away and starts a punk rock band causing a media war. “I can’t believe it’s finally coming out,” the writer/artist told the audience.
The panel then shifted to Bill Willingham who spoke of his new “Fables” spinoff, “Fairest,” with the writer explaining how it differs from its parent series. “Fairest” will focus on smaller stories featuring one or two characters instead of sprawling epics and huge casts. Beyond the opening storyline, he plans to invite other writers into the “Fables” world and allow them to add to the already big universe. The second arc, a Repunzel story, will be written by novelist Lauren Beaukes with art by Inaki Miranda. The third arc will be written by Sean E. Williams and will feature a new set of Fables from Indian folklore.
Willingham briefly spoke of the most recent “Fables” arc “Cubs in Toyland,” saying that in issue #118 the story is going “full creepitude” and that it might not be the best idea for a child to become the heir of Toyland. As he worked through the story, Willingham found he had to tweak the story a bit as it veered a little too close to plot points featured in the film “Toy Story 3.”
In discussing “Saucer Country,” written by Paul Cornell series artist Ryan Kelly described the acclaimed new series as featuring “aliens, politicians, naked people — all that good stuff.” Telling the audience how excited he is for the book, Kelly said it’s a challenge for him to draw. Issue #3 of the series features a big, striking bunny head on the cover which Will Dennis joked will be talked about for years.
Scott Snyder said the next arc of “American Vampire,” titled “The Black List,” takes places right after the events of the previous arc. It features the teaming-up of series regulars Skinner Sweet and Pearl in a story Snyder describes as going “full circle.” Calling it the series’ best arc to date, Snyder said and it harkens back to the title’s very first storyline. Snyder recounted an amusing conversation he had with the “American Vampire” illustrator Rafael Albuquerque in which Alburquerque told Snyder that “If we both die after this arc, it would be okay.”
Snyder then talked about the new “American Vampire” spinoff titled “American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares” illustrated by Dustin Nguyen. It picks up right where the last spinoff “Survival of The Fittest” left off. It’ll delve into the history of vampires and we will learn more about the world. First issue out in June.
Azzarello briefly spoke about “Spaceman,” joking that he didn’t like the cover for issue seven because it needed “20% more bunny” in reference to the latest cover of “Saucer Country.” On a more serious note, Azzarello told the audience that each cover, illustrated by Dave Johnson, is based off a single sentence Azzarello provides. Seeming flattered when it was mentioned that “Spaceman” needed to be read a few times to grasp all the unique dialect and story, the writer said he felt that people are getting a lot of bang for their buck because of this.
Discussing the graphic novel adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” Dennis emphasized that there will be a free preview issue available on Free Comic Book Day. The adaptation was described as a “different take on familiar material.” Each book is going to be divided into two volumes, written by Denise Mina Illustrated by Leonardo Manco and Andrea Mutti.
Moving on, the panel discussed an upcoming food-centric “Get Jiro,”an original graphic novel co-created by the globe trotting TV chef Anthony Bourdain, written by Joel Rose and illustrated by Langdon Foss. The comic features a world devoid of everything but food culture, inhabited by dueling factions of gourmet foodies and connoisseurs of organic products. Readers are promised knife fights in alleyways and a main character who swears allegiance only to sushi and is caught in between the two warring groups.
One of the most successful and critically acclaimed Vertigo books of recent years, “Scalped,” written by Jason Aaron and illustrated by R.M. Guera, ends its run at issue sixty. Dennis noted that the final issue’s cover is an homage to the very first cover of “Scalped” and that the series is going to end with something readers might not expect.
Rounding out presentation was the announcement of one of Vertigo’s next titles. “Collider,” written by Simon Oliver and illustrated by Robbi Rodriguez, is an ongoing series described by Dennis as “The A-Team with quantum physics.” The title, which launches in this Fall, follows a team of “storm chasers” traveling around the country in pursuit of quantum events.
From there, the panel opened the floor to questions, with Dennis and company explaining that there are currently no plans to collect “Books of Magic” or Lucifer in special hardcover editions, nor are there plans to animate any Vertigo properties. On the other hand, “Absolute 100 Bullets” is in the planning stages.
Asked if he had any regrets for killing off any of the “Jack of Fables” characters, Willingham stated he intentionally killed all the characters off in a blaze of glory “Shakespeare style.” “Considering the nature of the series, it seemed like the right thing to do.”
A fan asked the entire panel how they feel about characters being taken out of Vertigo books and introduced into New 52 books. Snyder responded, explaining that even during Alan Moore’s seminal “Swamp Thing” run, DCU characters popped up here and there. Though it’s obviously part of the line-wide relaunch, Snyder doesn’t approach his work on “Swamp Thing” as a reboot as he tries to both honor and build upon all the previous storylines.
Asked why the cover of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” features the main character naked, something the questioner said didn’t seem right seeing as the character was a survivor of sexual assault, Dennis responded that the character is “very sexual” and the cover is very much representative of her personality.
When the subject of the 500 newly-discovered fairy tales recently found in Germany came up, Willingham said he plans to read them all and see where to go from there, joking, “There will be 52 new “Fables” spinoffs this year!”
Finally, when asked if he has plans for characters Pearl and Felicia to duke it out in future issues of “American Vampire,” Snyder simply responded that something is coming and the two characters were likely to cross paths soon.