CCI, Day 2 - The Vertigo Panel

Friday afternoon at Comic-Con International in San Diego, fans got to hear all sorts of news about upcoming projects coming from DC Comics' mature readers line, Vertigo. The panel had no less than 20 panelists, including VP/Executive Director Karen Berger, Jill Thompson ("Dead Boy Detectives," "Scary Godmother"), Peter Gross ("Lucifer," "Books of Magic"), Brian K. Vaughn ("Y: The Last Man," "Ex Machina"), Bill Willingham ("Fables," "Robin"), and Brian Wood ("Demo," Channel Zero").

First out of the box of seemingly infinite new projects is the previously announced "The Quitter," a new graphic novel illustrated by panelist Dean Hapsiel and written by the notorious Harvey Pekar of "American Splendor" fame/infamy.

"This is really the origin of Harvey Pekar," Hapsiel declared. "He's never really written how it all began and why he's such a curmudgeon." Hapsiel went on to explain that in his youth, Pekar was a bully and a fighter with a great right hook. Pekar found that sometimes when he was asked to do something and couldn't be the best at it, he tended to just not do it all. Hence, "The Quitter."

"In the '40s, '50s and even the '60s when this book takes place... well today it would be diagnosed as a lot of disorders, which is kind of obvious in his character now." The graphic novel, which is being promoted with an exclusive two-page story in a forthcoming issue of "Playboy," will also contain photographs of Pekar as a kid and teenager.

"He was cute!" Karen Berger remarked.

Next out of the box was "Dead Boy Detectives," another tale of mystery and intrigue by Jill Thompson featuring the dead boarding school kids from "Sandman."

"It's a teenage comedy," said Group Editor Shelly Bond. "Which is what Neil asked me to do with the dead boys from 'Season Of Mists.'"

Jill Thompson describes her book as "Nancy Drew" meets "Scooby-Doo" meets "Sandman."

"And there's ghosts," she added. "And stuff happens in it."

Two new "Fables" projects are forthcoming from Vertigo. "1001 Nights Of Snowfall" is the book fans have been waiting for since issue 1 of the Eisner-winning ongoing. The anthology-style 144 page hardcover promises to answer some of the series' most pressing questions, including, "Why will Snow White not allow anyone to mention the seven dwarves?" Written by Willingham, he'll be joined by a number of painters, including Charles Vess, John Bolton, Mark Wheatly, Mark Buckingham, and of course "Fables" cover artist extraordinaire James Jean.

Also coming from Willingham is the first "Fables" spin-off series, "Jack Of Fables." Readers will remember the last time we saw Jack he was walking down the road with a bag full of money and his thumb out.

"This series starts exactly one second after that," Willingham said. Writer Matt Sturges will be co-scripting the series with Willingham. "[Matt] is the best writer you've never heard of." The series will be drawn by Tony Akins with covers by James Jean.

Other announced projects include:

"The red states have risen up and started a war internally and pushed it to the Hudson River," explained Wood, who will also be providing covers for the series. "This guy finds himself behind enemy lines and tries to find out what's really going on." For more on "DMZ," read Newsarama's interview with Wood.

A new Vertigo-ized "Deadman" series is on the way, created by Bruce Jones.

"Deadman was always a character we wanted to get our hands on at Vertigo," Berger said. "And we finally wrestled him away from Dan Didio."

"American Virgin," a new ongoing series written by Steven T. Seagle with covers by Frank Quitely promises to raise eyebrows. It's the story of teenager Adam Chamberlain, a devout Christian and virgin who goes around signing up America's youth on a chastity campaign. Seagle says that Gold speaks to Chamblerlain and tells him not to have sex, but when something very, very terrible happens to Adam, he is forced to reexamine his beliefs.

"When this pitch came in from Steve, it was controversial even for Vertigo," Berger confessed. "But Steve sold us on it because it was done in a very human way and a very realistic way."

"It's about my two favorite pastimes," Seagle laughed. "Sex and terrorism."

For more on "American Virgin" with Steven Seagle, click here.

Karen Berger was particularly pleased to announce that after Mike Carey finishes his "Hellblazer" run at the end of this year, the new writer will be Scottish novelist Denise Mina, the first woman to ever write the series. Mina's "Field Of Blood" was just published in America and Berger says that when asked if she'd be interested in writing the tales of everybody's favorite asshole magician, Mino proclaimed, "I would eat my own guts to write 'Hellblazer.'"

Perhaps the most interesting of new projects is Kent Williams' "The Fountain," based on the screenplay by Darren "Pi" Aronofsky, who arrived late in the panel to promote the film and comic. A graphic novel several years in the making, "The Fountain" is something very new in both comics and film. The film production fell apart in 2002, but Aronofsky had a deal in place with the producers that assured him the rights to make a comic version of the story.

"I never trusted Hollywood in the first place, so I kept the rights so a graphc novel could be made in case the film never was." Williams' book is unlike any previous film adaptation in comics. When Williams began work, the film was dead and its stars (Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz) weren't even on the radar. The comic is completely Williams' interpretation of the pure screenplay, and, as such, serves as a kind of director's cut in graphic novel form. "They're like siblings, totally separate except for the same parent." For more on "The Fountain," check out CBR's interview with Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel from April.

The panel concluded with an exclusive screening of the first trailer of "The Fountain."

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