CCI: Vertigo New Ongoing Series/Crime Line

It's all the tough stuff from DC's Vertigo imprint as VP Karen Berger leads the news out of the mature readers line including word of new series and the new Vertigo Crime line, and CBR is there to bring you the news live!

Berger introduced panelists Jason Starr, Peter Gross, Jeff Lemire, Chris Gage, brothers Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon (who when asked why theyhave different last names, Ba joked,"It's all fake names"), Max Allan Collins and Gary Phillips.

Berger asked Gross to delve into what his new series with Mike Carey "The Unwritten" was all about, and after speaking on the hook of the story of a son of a famous children's author haunted by the possibility that his life is a life, the artist explained that the series is truly about what happens when someone twists stories to serve against their real purpose and lead people down a terrible path. Making the comparison to the lead up to the war in Iraq and how those stories turned out not to be true Gross noted the potency of the concept. Berger added that the series also tackled the question of "What is real and what is not?" which has been a staple of Vertigo for years.

Ba went on to talk about "Daytripper," the series he and his brother release near year's end. Joking that the book was about the son of a famous children's author, the artist soon went on to explain that the tale centers on a would be writer who has no talent and writes obituaries before becoming embroiled in a series of events outside his control. "It's about how all the different things in his life shaped his persona and his career...if he has one," the artist said of the book, which is set in their native Brazil.

Gus, the lead character, in Lemire's "Sweet Tooth" earned an appreciation of cuteness from Berger although as the artist explained, the series won't dwell on cuteness. A human/deer hybrid, Gus roams a post-apocalyptic America ruined by the creation of hybrid animals...and a world he's never lived in. The naivete of the character will lead him down some distressing paths over the course of the first arc.

Art was shown from new graphic novel by Brian Azzarello and Victor Santos "Filthy Rich" and "Dark Entries" by Ian Rankin. "Both these books are terrific reads," Berger said.

Starr, the writer behind nine crime novels and the upcoming scribe of Punisher work from Marvel wanted to work in comics his whole life. His graphic novel "The Chill" mixes Irish mythology and modern crime drama focusing on "a curse where a woman can steal multiple people's sexual energy for immortality, but it's also very grounded in reality."

"I approached it as if I wanted to write a thriller - a real page turner. I really think this is a great concept, Vertigo Crime. It's the perfect time for it because it's getting harder and harder to be provocative and take chances in crime fiction," Starr added.

Irish crime and family drama carries over in "Bronx Kill" by Peter Milligan and James Romberger. Centering on a writer who is the black sheep in a family of Irish cops, the lead's wife goes missing and he has to uncover the facts as to what happened to her while also being a suspect in the case. "Everything leads back to this mysterious place called the Bronx Kill at the edge of the Bronx. It's a dumping ground, and our writer's grandfather was killed there - a murder that was never solved," Berger explained.

Extra sensory perception or insanity is the debate at the crux of the hero from Chris Gage and Chris Samnee's black and white graphic novel "Area 10." The story revolves around a man hallucinating his way through danger after partaking in Trepanation, which Gage described as "the art of drilling a hole in your skull to enhance awareness."

"The Executor" is a new graphic novel just announced for the line by thriller, travel and technology writer John Evans. In it, a washed up athlete is named executor of his high school sweetheart's will after her murder. Secrets about his own life creep up as he investigates the murder. "It's really tense and very tightly plotted, so it falls into the thriller category," said editor Will Dennis of the book, which will be drawn by Andre Rubi.

Another book announced at the show is "Fogtown" by Anderson Gabrich. "Probably the most traditional in the sense that it's a Mike Hammer-esque character in San Francisco in the '60s," said Dennis, promising an unforeseen and shocking twist that takes the book outside the normal detective story mold. The book will see print in late summer 2010 or the fall.

Gary Phillips and Brian Hurt team for "Cowboys" which the writer described as the story of two undercover operatives - one from the police force and one from the FBI. "There's a prerequisite number of sexy and violent scenes," joked Phillips, but he said the focus will remain "what draws these two men together in terms of confrontation" after a "Godfather" style slaying at a restaurant features the protagonists bloodied and shot up in the first scene, neither believing the other is undercover. The book takes the story in flashbacks from there.

Collins appeared on the panel to announce "Return to Perdition" which the contracts were just signed for. "It's the last book in the 'Perdition' saga. It all goes back to Paradox press when they were doing their pioneering crime books," the writer said. At the time, the writer and editor Andy Helfer expected to get through three cycles of books with Collins planning to let the saga run for 900 pages like "Lone Wolf and Cub." It took nearly five years to deliver the original book (back when Collins was the only crime writer working in comics), and the line was cancelled but Helfer convinced DC to put it out.

"Initially Dreamworks didn't want anyone to know [the movie for 'Road to Perdition'] was based on a graphic novel, and the media loved it," said Collins, who explained that the slow pace his artist worked on precipitated him to write two prose novels while the film took off and the brand expanded. "Right now, there's one story left, and I said to Will at a con, 'What would you think of instead of my doing a prose novel, bringing it full circle with a graphic novel?'"

Taking place in the early '70s with the grandson of Tom Hanks' character in witness protection and finding out that the government has been hiding the fact that his father lives and the "Watergate-esque" drama that springs from that setup.

Collins announced that his former "Ms. Tree" collaborator Terry Beatty will reteam with him for "Return to Perdition."

When asked by an audience member why the crime line will be marking itself off as a different entity than the standard Vertigo brand, Berger said that she and Dennis had discussed giving a whole new name to the line since putting things in a category helps bring awareness. Though after doing crime graphic novels on and off for years, the label fit the Vertigo brand, "We're moving more and more to the book form in what we're publishing, and Vertigo Crime is an example of the real commitment we're making into the graphic novel space," she said.

A fan asked why the panel thought noir mysteries were on such an upswing over the past few years. Starr pointed to the success of the Hard Case Crime line as well as expansion into other media. "Noir has been embraced commercially in graphic novels and film," he said. "I don't think you're going to see it in Wal-Mart, and that's the publishers fault. They don't know how to sell it." Berger noted that "Sin City" also helped draw out noir fans in the comics world and more people later with the movie.

The question came as to whether there were any content restrictions with the line, to which Berger laughed and said "I don't know how to answer that question." Dennis said that he sometimes looks to contemporary TV like "The Wire" or "The Sopranos" but had no real minimum requirements.

That's it for this panel. Sound of in the comments on the news and check back later this weekend for more on CBR!

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