ECCC: Vertigo's New Blood Goes Inside "Mad Max," "Fables" #150 and More

For those who follow comic book news, DC's Vertigo imprint has been infused with new talent over the last few months - both in their books as well as behind the scenes. At the 2015 Emerald City Comic Con, it was clear that Vertigo wanted to make this fact known, as they brought most of their "new blood" with them to their Friday panel. Ironically, the event happened to be moderated by the imprint's most senior writer, Bill Willingham.

The scribe quickly explained that he was moderating this panel for two reasons. The first was due to the fact that his series "Fables" is coming to an end this summer with issue #150, so this will be one of his final Vertigo panels (for now). As to the second reason, Willingham said, "Of all the ways Shelly Bond has thought of to punish me, she decided this was the most diabolical."

Shelly Bond, who was seated next to Willingham in front of the crowd, is the Executive Editor of Vertigo Comics. Joining her on stage were several of the imprint's newest writers and artists, including Gail Simone, Tim Seeley, Amy Chu, Jeremy Haun, Marley Zarcone and Kurt Busiek. In addition to these individuals, Bond also introduced the new blood in her editing staff at the panel, and pointed out Jamie S. Rich, Ellie Pyle, Rowena Yow and Molly Mahan who were present.

Bond expressed her enthusiasm for all the new people working in her office and said, "This new editing team has twenty-six years of experience at DC Entertainment. Twenty-two of those are mine, but the rest..."

Willingham quickly jumped in and added, "'New Blood' refers to the diet of the Vertigo staff. Shelly has spent a lot of time moving staff in and out, and now she has an entire staff of vampire editors. So we can now announce that the entire Vertigo staff is relocating to Forks, Washington." After the giggles and groans from this "Twilight" reference died down, each guest on the stage took a turn talking about their various projects.

Amy Chu began by talking about her contribution to the recently-released "Strange Sports Stories" anthology. She wrote a story called "Dodgeball Kill," with art by Tana Ford. It takes place in the future on a space station where prisoners must fight a lethal version of dodgeball. Chu said, "This is for all you guys - including myself - who were traumatized by dodgeball at school from a very early age."

Next, artist Jeremy Haun discussed "Wolf Moon," which is on its fifth issue. Written by Cullen Bunn, Haun explained that the two of them "wanted to tell a story about not-nice werewolves." The artist also shared that he had always wanted to draw a Vertigo book ever since he began his career, but since he started with superheroes, he just kept getting more work in that arena. He indicated he was very pleased to be among the new blood at the imprint.

Kurt Busiek followed this by talking about his "Astro City" series. As he began, however, Willingham jumped in to share a bit of trivia about the series. He said that many people tell him that "Fables" is the longest running series at Vertigo, but the truth is that "Astro City" has been around much longer. Busiek humbly clarified this fact and said that while they are coming up on their 20th Anniversary, they are only on their 84th issue. He added, "So on longevity, we beat you. But on coming out on time? Well..."

The writer then informed the crowd that "Astro City" #22 will be coming out soon with art by Jesus Merino. The story focuses on Astro City's cosmic guardian, Starfighter, and what the character has been up to since he retired. Busiek also said they are building up to issue #26, which is the official 20th Anniversary of the comic. In this issue, he said readers will find out "what Samaritan is dreaming about these days." Before this occurs though, the writer promised a talking gorilla story would occur.

The series "Effigy" was the next to be discussed. Writer Tim Seeley discussed the book while showing pages by artist Marley Zarcone. Seeley explained, "The comic is about a former child star who was in a Power Rangers-type TV show, but is now living in a post-celebrity world and trying to be a cop. And she gets involved in a cult-style murder that really requires her to be a cop, instead of a celebrity. It also takes her through this weird, seedy underbelly of comic convention celebrities..." The crowd laughed, considering where they were.

Writer Gail Simone came after this and talked about her comic "Clean Room." She informed the audience, "This is the first Vertigo book that I've ever done. Some of my most favorite books have been published by Vertigo, so it's such an honor to be part of the New Blood."

Simone then went into an explanation of the book and said, "'Clean Room' is about a woman named Astrid who has a global self-help organization. She has a fancy office in Chicago and she has published self-help books. One of our main characters, Chloe, has a boyfriend who read the book and got really obsessed with Astrid's self-help. Chloe came home from work one day and found him with his brains blown out and the book laying on the kitchen counter.

"Chloe is a journalist and sees how this organization/church is actually run more like a high stakes PR firm. On the verge of suicide, she finds the strength and determination to stay alive to find out the truth.

"Chloe goes in and meets Astrid and learns that deep below this fancy office in Chicago is a hermetically sealed room called the clean room where, once you're taken there by Astrid, she knows all your secrets and owns you forever."

The writer also let the crowd know she was quite excited about artist Jonathan Davis-Hunt, who is working with her on this book. She said that he is a video game designer who has done amazing work on the book and the design of the Clean Room.

The moderator took a turn next and confirmed what the audience already had known: "Fables" will end with issue #150 in July.

"It will? You owe me 14 pages," Bond jokingly said to him.

"DC has this weird policy where they won't publish books until they're finished. That is so anti-comics business," Willingham responded. The writer then showed a couple of pages from the book, much to the audience's delight. Regarding these, he said, "Mark Buckingham is doing the best work of his career - and that is saying a lot!"

Willingham said that the story spans from the point that "Fables" #149 left off and continues on to "about 150 million years in the future." He said the build up to the last battle between Rose Red and Snow White has been going on for quite some time, but added, "Mark and I promise that there is one thing 'Fables' #150 won't do - unlike the 'Jack' series, we won't kill everybody. So, hey, if someone survives, we've kept our promise."

The scribe also mentioned the other "Fables"-related book at Vertigo, "Fables: The Wolf Among Us," written by Matthew Sturges and David Justus. Willingham said the two of them are "knocking it out of the park," and asked the pair if they could give him a quote to pass along to everyone at the panel. Sturges sent him the following: "The concept of 'Fables: The Wolf Among Us,' is a simple one - it's a print comic based on a digital comic, which is based on a video game, which is based on an entirely different comic, which is based on classic fairy tales, and as everyone knows, all fairy tales themselves are based on Neil Gaiman's 'Sandman.'"

And on the topic of adaptations, Editor Ellie Pyle came to the stage to tell the audience about her first project at Vertigo: "Mad Max: Fury Road - Inspired Artists." As the title indicates, this is a book inspired by the upcoming "Mad Max: Fury Road" film that contains double-page spreads from 65 different artists. Pyle showed the crowd a few of the images from the project and selected one lucky audience member to preview the entire book. Afterwards, the fortunate individual said the art was awesome and that she looks forward to seeing the movie even more. In addition to this book, it was also mentioned that a four-issue miniseries focusing on different Mad Max characters is forthcoming and will serve as a prelude to the movie.

Finally, one of the books that made Vertigo what it is today was discussed - Sandman. Bond reported to those present, "'Sandman: Overture' #5 is coming in May, and it is extraordinary. I appreciate your patience, everyone. It's been such a joy to work on it. I think J.H. Williams has been off the charts with his artistry and it really is something else."

Once all the books had been discussed and several audience questions were answered, Bond wrapped up the panel by showing her appreciation for the "older" blood in the room and addressed the event's moderator. "Bill, I wanted to mention that, years ago, when we were working on 'Fables,' you said your goal was to actually usurp 'Sandman' and hit 'Fables' #76. So I wanted to just say thank you, because you've doubled it, and I'm so thrilled. Here's to you, Bill! Now I'll have to have a word with Neil..."

Stay tuned for more from Emerald City Comic Con all weekend on CBR.

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