CCI: Vertigo: View of the Future

Karen Berger brought an impressive line up of creators to the "Vertigo: View of the Future" panel on Friday afternoon at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Although Grant Morrison never made it to the panel, even though Berger hinted that he might make an appearance, the assembled writers and artists represented almost the entire Vertigo line, and the crowd in Room 6AB was treated to information about upcoming stories and the announcement of a few new Vertigo books.

Berger, executive editor of Vertigo, began by introducing the just-announced line of Vertigo crime books, called, accurately enough, "Vertigo Crime." As Berger explained, "it's a line of graphic novels, in black and white, hardcover." According to Berger, the line will include writers known for their crime fiction outside of the comic book medium along with some traditional Vertigo writers as well. ""We've got a lot of books in development," said Berger.

Senior editor Will Dennis, the shepherd of the Vertigo Crime line, introduced two of the upcoming hardcovers.

The first, by Ian Rankin and Werther Dell'Edera, is called "Dark Entries," and unlike most of the Vertigo Crime books, this one stars a Vertigo regular: John Constantine. Dennis explained a bit about the plot: there's a television show called 'Haunted Mansion' that goes horribly wrong," said Dennis as the Lee Bermejo cover for the book was displayed on the projector screen.

The second Vertigo Crime book Dennis introduced was "Filthy Rich," by Brian Azzarello and Victor Santos. When asked to describe the book, all Azzarello could say was, "that's a hell of a cover." After a few seconds, Azzarello provided a bit of actual description about the book: "It's the story of a big man who makes even bigger mistakes throughout his life," said Azzarello. The premise, as Azzarello explained, goes like this: "He's hired to be a clandestine bodyguard for a wealthy automobile heiress." Thematically, "It's all about the celebrity culture of wealth," said Azzarello, "and why people find that so fascinating and how people get sucked into it."

After announcing those two books. Dennis said that more Vertigo Crime books will be announced this fall.

Karen Berger took back the reigns of the presentation to quickly run through other present and upcoming Vertigo comics, turning to the writers and artists for comment whenever approporiate.

First up: "House of Mystery," about which writer Matt Sturges said, "they go into the basement and they find bad things there." Berger had asked Sturges to say fifteen words or less about the comic, and Sturges complied by only using eleven.

Berger ran through more slides, mentioning a "Young Liars" trade for December, and showing a cover from "The Alcoholic," by Jonathan Ames and Dean Haspiel.

Willow Wilson was asked to speak about her new series, "Air," which debuts next month. Wilson said, "you should buy the book because it's awesome." To describe the book, she said, "if you like Miyazaki, if you like weird cool stuff like that, if you like 'Alias,' you'll like this book."

Then Berger launched into an announcement of a brand new limited series, scheduled for next year. Brothers Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, from Image's "Casanova" will be tackling a ten-issue series called "Daytripper" for Vertigo. The series, written and drawn by the brothers, was described this way by Moon: "It's about a guy who wants to be a writer, and about how the things you do everyday can determine what you're going to do for the rest of your life." As he struggled a bit with his English, Moon said, "I'm Brazilian, I have a very short vocabulary." Then he joked, "so it's going to be a very easy read." The series is set to debut in Spring 2009.

"Madame Xanadu" was shown on the screen next, about which writer Matt Wagner said, "it starts in the days of Camelot and then we take her through the centuries and different locales." He emphasized that her relationship with Phantom Stranger would be explored throughout as she moved through each century. "We eventually get her up to 1930's Manhattan," said Wagner, who then announced that Bob Schreck lured him to turn the book from a mini-series into an ongoing by promising him an artist who hadn't drawn comics in years: Mike Kaluta. Kaluta is drawing the second story arc, giving artist Amy Hadley a short break. Wagner also teased that the second arc, "features an appearance by a Vertigo character that I used to write," and Karen Berger added that it was a character she used to edit as well.

Next up: "Greatest Hits," an upcoming superhero comic, Vertigo-style. Writer Davis Tischman said the series was based on the notion of the superhero as rockstar: "If we really had superheroes," said Tischman, "they would act and behave like rockstars." Tischman went on to say, "this book is about a filmmaker who is making a documentary about the greatest superheroes of all time--the Mates." The main character learns that his father -- a deeply flawed character, is actually the greatest hero of all time. And the protagonist learns an important lesson from that, said Tischman.

Berger showed a slide from "Hellblazer: Pandemonium," and said, "Jamie Delano and Jock. Early next year."

A cover from an upcoming issue of "100 Bullets" appeared, but when prompted by Berger, Azzarello refused to say anything about the ending, which is scheduled to occur in issue #100.

"But don't worry," said Berger. "Brian and Eduardo [Risso] have a number of projects in the works."

When a slide of "Northlanders" appeared, writer Brian Wood said, "if you're not reading it, spend six bucks and buy issues #9 and 10, because it's a great way to get into the book and see if you'll like it or not." Wood went on to explain that the two-issue story was about a young Christian boy who thinks he invented the Vikings out of his mind.

"Seaguy" appeared on the screen, and Berger turned to Cameron Stewart for comment: "One of the things I'm always asked at conventions," said Stewart, "is when is the next Seaguy." Stewart said that he's been asked that question for five years, and now both "Seaguy 2: Slaves of Mickey Eye" and "Seaguy 3: Eternal," will be out soon.

Berger added that, after the two sequels are released in single issue form, "We are going to release them all in one big 9-issue set."

After "Seaguy," came a slide of "The Unknown Soldier," a new monthly coming this fall. Josh Dysart, the writer of the series, said the protagonist, born in Uganda, is raised in America, and returns to Uganda to help his country of birth. To outline the character arc of the story, Dysart said, "the series begins with him winning an award for humanitarianism and ends with him blowing away a child." Berger added, "It's a different take, but it's all from the same place but the heart of the character is still there."

Dysart went on to explain that the protagonist wasn't literally an unknown soldier -- the title was more of a metaphor for the struggle for identity the hero goes through.

Berger then introduced "Haunted Tank" by Frank Merraffino and Henry Flint. Neither Merraffino nor Flint were on the panel, but Berger explained, "It's a new take on the classic war characters." Berger said, "we find JEB Stuart and the Haunted Tank in modern day Iraq." The mini-series will be available in the fall.

"Scalped" appeared on the screen, and Berger called upon writer Jason Aaron, who said, jokingly, "I'm going to take the book and make it really dark and violent, since it's been credited as being light-hearted." He went on to discuss the return of artist R.M. Guera, who comes back with issue #21, just in time for a two-part story focusing on two of the minor characters from "Casino Boogie." Aaron joked, "I promise it won't be as happy-go-lucky as the rest of the book has been."

In "DMZ," Brian Wood said that his "Supermarket" collaborator Kristian Donaldson would join the book for a short stint and "Matty will go to Staten Island." Wood also spoke a bit about his new "Demo" series for Vertigo. "I just handed in the first script," said Wood, "and Becky said it made her physically sick."

"Fables" creator Bill Willingham then described a bit about the huge turning point in his ongoing series: "75 is the issue that we've been leading up to," said Willingham. "It's the war between Fabletown and the Homelands." Willingham described the story as epic, and said artist Mark Buckingham delivered. Buckingham chimed in and said that the 51 page story was done completely with double-page spreads.

Willingham said a significant character will die, in a gruesome way, and he was shocked by the way Buckingham portrayed it. "He's just a bad, bad man," said Willingham, regarding Buckingham's apparent bloodthirstiness.

Willingham also commented that after issue #75, the book basically starts fresh. And he said he'd have more to announce at the "Fables" panel on Saturday.

Berger ran through a couple of Neil Gaiman-related projects, none of which with any new Gaiman content. "Sandman Dream Hunters," a four-issue miniseries, adapted and drawn by P. Craig Russell, will appear soon. And "The Compleat Death" hardcover collection will be out early next year. According to Berger, it collects all the "Death" miniseries, and includes "all the Death stories that appeared in various anthologies over the years."

Also, "Swamp Thing" and "Preacher" will be collected in a series of hardcover editions.

The Q&A session with fans brought a few additional pieces of information to light. "Simon Oliver will be starting 'Hellblazer' with issue #250," said Berger. "Leonardo Manco will still remain as the ongoing artist."

Since Morrison never made it to the panel, one fan asked Berger what she could tell the audience about "Warcop," Morrison's upcoming series. According to Berger, "It's a slightly futuristic tale about a soldier stuck in a war he never made, to use the old cliche." Sean Murphy will be drawing the six-issue mini-series.

Before the panel ended with Berger's customary survey of the crowd, asking how many readers bought single issues vs. trades (the audience was split about 50/50), Jason Aaron spoke a bit more about his collaboration with R.M. Guera, when a fan asked about the difficultly working with a non-English speaker: "Guera's English is pretty good, but he's just a bit crazy," said Aaron. But he went on to say, "it's been easy to work with him." When asked if he'd like to revisit the subject matter of his first Vertigo work, "The Other Side," Aaron said, "if I do a war story, it won't be a continuation of 'The Other Side,' but I'd like to go back to the Vietnam war."

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