Friday morning at New York Comic Con, the spotlight was on DC Comics’ newly revamped Vertigo line, in a panel moderated by DC Vertigo executive editor Mark Doyle. Joining him on stage were several creators from the high concept line, including Ben Blacker, Zoe Quinn, Dan Watters, Tina Horn, Rob Sheridan and Kat Howard.
“Vertigo has been in the press a lot lately,” Doyle said to kick things off. “What I want to start with today is the Sandman Universe. I would not be standing here without the Sandman. When we had an opportunity to return, it made me ask, why comics? We’re all here to make comics, we’re all here to talk about comics. What I want to talk about specifically is Lucifer.”
Doyle then turned things over to writer Dan Watters and teased the cover art for Lucifer #1.
“What can you do with Lucifer in comics that you can’t do anywhere else?” Doyle asked.
“He’s just a visual guy, and you don’t have to write much for [Sebastian Fiumara].”
When asked how one goes about writing Lucifer, Watters said, “He’s either portrayed as gorgeous, the absolute pinnacle of what we all want to look like, but he’s still really cynical. So, let’s put him through the wringer, let’s have his body break down like it never has before. I really wanted to push the horror element of this book. It’s really Lovecraftian.”
Doyle then turned things over to Books of Magic writer Kat Howard, asking what it’s like to write magic.
“The fun for me is to bring it visually to the page. When I thought about magic before, I was thinking about words, but now, it’s now thinking about images.”
Speaking about Tim Hunter’s love interest, Ellie, Howard said, “She’s sweet, she’s cute, she’s a smart girl. Tim’s an awkward kid. You know, that’s fun to write, too. His love language is [giving] presents and trying to fix things and not having it go very well.”
Next up was Hex Wives writer Ben Blacker.
“Why drama? Why not comedy?” Doyle asked Blacker regarding the genre of Hex Wives.
“I don’t know if you know the world we’re living in, but there’s nothing to really laugh about anymore,” Blacker joked. “It’s a story well told, but my collaborators have made it into something great. And that’s why it’s not comedy — there’s too much to say, and too much that can get lost in a bunch of jokes.”
“All the characters are loosely based on pop culture witches,” Blacker continued. “One’s based on Samantha from Bewitched. She married an ad man and her mother would always come over and demean him, and she was right. Another character is based on Wendy from Casper. She’s funny in that she’s a total bummer. That kind of anger is fun to write in the current climate.”
Doyle then segued to Zoe Quinn, writer of Goddess Mode, asking her why she chose to come into comics.
“It’s so nice to not have to wait five years to show people what I’m doing,” Quinn said. “It provides so many interesting opportunities for storytelling. The cool thing about comics is the time difference is a bit more stretchy. Communicating a lot of information in a dense visual way is great, and this is a bit more focused. I’ve always wanted to do comics, I’ve always loved it.”
“Having worked in tech for four years, I can’t say a lot about what I was doing during that time, so I’m trying to scream it through fiction with these characters,” Quinn said about the characters of Goddess Mode.
Turning over to Rob Sheridan, writer of High Level, Doyle asked about the worldbuilding he’s doing in his new title.
“We do a lot of visual worldbuilding in abstract ways,” Sheridan said. “This was a fun opportunity to take all that and turn it into something story-based and character-driven. Now we get to build an entire universe.”
“This world’s not that far away from our world,” Doyle commented.
“The whole story of the first arc, it’s kind of a post-apocalyptic road trip,” Sheridan said. “It was conceived when I was driving with my wife, it’s great to have an outlet where you can take all these things your frustrated about and not just scream into a void, but turn them into something people can read and hopefully enjoy.”
“We’re creating a sci-fi world in former middle-America where it’s too hot and stormy for people to live,” he added. “At the beginning, it’s about people who’ve lost the past, and you see the world they build without knowing their history. And that all ties back to where we are right now.”
Tina Horn, the writer of Safe Sex, was also asked by Doyle why she chose to write comics.
“I love comics,” Horn said enthusiastically. “I grew up on Sandman, Swamp Thing, Hellblazer, Preacher, but I never felt compelled to pursue fiction, it was always non-fiction. Then an editor asked if I’d like to try fiction.”
Doyle then asked what it was like to design the look of the characters in the book.
“Nobody in Safe Sex is based on any particular person,” Horn said, “but collectively, there’s a rag-tag group of queers and sex rebels known as the Dirty Mind. They’re based on a community, not individuals. As a journalist, I’m interested in reporting on the cultures I’m a part of. It was exciting to put it in a comic form. My approach to fiction [was initially very critical], but then I had some guidance. It’s been fun.”
“Anyone who’s been a part of any marginalized group definitely knows someone who thinks they’re the hero and you’re the villain,” Horn added. “I definitely wanted to represent folks like that and make them the big bads, and I also took advice from Alan Moore’s books and wrote horror based on what scares me.”
“Everyone who’s here today is writing the story they’re dying to tell,” Doyle said before thanking the panelists.
“We’re all in comics because they’re metaphors,” Blacker added. “If Superman stories were just about Superman flying around and punching people, and nothing else, that’d be boring. Comics let us tell these stories, and that’s why we chose comics.”
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