Some legendary DC Comics characters will figure prominently in the lives of one of comicdom's coolest couples over the next year.
Writer Brian Azzarello and writer/artist Jill Thompson, who are married, both are working on hot projects for DC's Vertigo imprint.
Azzarello, who already writes the award-winning "100 Bullets" for Vertigo, is taking on Sgt. Rock and Easy Company in a 128-page hardcover called "Sgt. Rock: Between Hell and a Hard Place." Illustrating the war-ravaged tale is the artist who made the Sarge famous, Joe Kubert.
"It's pretty much a straight World War II story, with a little bit of a twist," Azzarello said Friday during an all-Vertigo panel on the opening day of this year's Wizard World: Chicago convention. "We wanted to get more into the characters of these guys, and how they perform as a unit."
The graphic novel also will examine the pre-war lives of the soldiers in Easy Company, Azzarello said.
About one-third of "Between Hell and a Hard Place" is complete, Azzarello said. He also said it's been "humbling" to work with the legendary Kubert. Fans of Azzarello's work should know that it was war comics - not superhero books - that captured his attention as a young fanboy.
"Between Hell and a Hard Place" should hit stores in 2003.
Thompson will be returning to Vertigo with a hardcover graphic novel of her own - one that revisits the characters from Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" series. Tentatively titled "Eternal Horizons," the 192-page story will be written and illustrated by Thompson, who last visited Gaiman's world with last year's "Little Endless Storybook."
The manga-style, black-and-white story actually is based on an idea of Gaiman's and picks up after the events of "The Sandman: Season of Mists," in which souls were released from Hell after Lucifer abdicated his throne.
"They had to go someplace, and they all go to Death's house," Thompson said.
"Eternal Horizons" is set for a 2003 release and will be part of Vertigo's 10th anniversary celebration.
"Hopefully this will satisfy 'Sandman' fans and introduce manga fans to something they've never (considered) before," Thompson said.
The two projects won't be the couple's only upcoming projects for Vertigo. Azzarello is continuing working on the conspiracy-laden "100 Bullets," which recently was collected into a fourth paperback, "A Foregone Tomorrow." The next six issues - all featuring Eduardo Risso's inimitable artwork - will consist of a half-dozen one-shots featuring Dizzy Cordova, Cole Burns, Agent Graves and other series regulars. Azzarello wasn't very willing to give fans a preview of the stories themselves during Friday's discussion - but his reason was a good one.
"I don't want to give away anything that's going to happen," he said. "Part of the allure of this book is that you don't know what's going to happen."