NYCC: “Greatest Hits” Gets a Ticket to Ride at Vertigo

Later this summer, Vertigo is launching its first superhero team comic book since Grant Morrison’s seminal “The Invisibles” ended in 2000. The six-issue miniseries titled “Greatest Hits” is written by David Tischman (“American Century,” “Bite Club”) with art by Glenn Fabry (“Hellblazer,” “Preacher”).

The headliners in “Greatest Hits” are the Mates, a British-bred league of justice, who Tischman calls the greatest superhero team of all time. “The Mates started in a small town in England. They are not The Beatles. But they hold a place in the zeitgeist that the Beatles had for us. There is no one else like The Beatles - and that’s who the Mates are,” Tischman told CBR News from the floor at New York Comic Con.

And while Tischman readily admits each Mate is a pastiche of an iconic caped hero, comparisons to the Fab Four can also be made. “The persona of the Mates is an iconic one for both superhero teams and rock bands,” explained Tischman. “You are always going to have the really cute one. You are going to have the quiet one. You are going to have the spiritual one and you are going to have the goofy one. That’s the case from every group from Justice League to 'N Sync.”

Offered Tischman, “Crusader has super strength. He’s the cute one and is always portrayed as the good cop. Solicitor, who is a Batman-like crime fighter, is the quiet one. He ends up falling in love with and marrying a woman that is often at odds with the rest of the team. Vizier, who is a practicing Celtic priest with magical powers, becomes very spiritual, for reasons that are revealed in issue #1 and #2. And Zipper, who runs at sonic speeds, is happy-go-lucky. But he’s also self-destructive.

“Most of the Mates are nice guys. The one that you think is the nicest is a little bit of a dick. And the one who seems the most screwed up, is actually the sweetest.”

But “Greatest Hits” is not about a team of superheroes, it’s about what it’s like when you become famous and rich and adored. “We don’t have superheroes. But in our universe, we have rock stars,” said Tischman. “And these superheroes behave the way rock stars behave, because that’s what the superheroes would do if they really walked amongst us. Girls would be sneaking into their rooms. They’d be doing drugs. It’s the whole thing.”

Framing the six-issue miniseries is a plot thread that has a Hollywood director making a “Behind the Music”-style documentary about the history of the high-powered team. “And that’s how we learn about the Mates,” said Tischman. “There are some real world situations that the Mates get into. There are also a couple of battles and a couple of original villains. We also see the Mates do some socially-responsible, civic-minded things.

“That’s actually the way the team becomes famous in Europe, when they save miners that have been trapped in a coal mine disaster in France. Later, the Mates arrive in New York at JFK airport and while they are heading to the hotel, they stop a civic riot.”

Tischman revealed all the Mates have signed off on the making of the documentary that is told in the pages of “Greatest Hits.” “All the Mates that are still **alive** are okay with it,” teased Tischman. “One is dead and you find out which one in #6.”

Tischman also shared, later in the series, the Mates break up and one of its members reveals his secret identity to the world.

“The Mates are full-time heroes. Being a hero is there job. It’s how they earn a living,” said Tischman. “The Mates don’t hang out at the Fortress of Solitude; they hang out at the Four Seasons, in costume, and run up a very large tab.”

Tischman is thrilled to be working with Fabry, a British artist, on the project. “Glenn is doing painted covers and interior art and it all looks phenomenal. The covers, specifically, are awesome,” said Tischman. “The look is very realistic. And with Glenn being from England, he really understands the mood and feel of the Mates and their world.”

And that world is not shared with Vertigo’s other characters, like John Constantine; despite the fact Fabry has drawn both “Hellblazer” and “The Sandman: Endless Nights,” in the past.“The book is set in its own, self-contained universe,” confirmed Tischman. “That said, it’s a universe where superheroes exist. There are other active superheroes. A lot of them are interviewed in the documentary and comment on the team.

“You also see how superheroes evolved over the years,” he continued. “In the 1970s, a lot of superheroes took drugs to augment their powers. In the 1980s, with the technology boom coming, a lot of the heroes started wearing armor so they wouldn’t get killed. You see grunge heroes in the '90s, who are like, 'I don’t need a secret identity, I don’t need a costume, I don’t need powers. I just fight crime. It’s what I do.’

“As you get to the '00s, you start to see some bubble gum superheroes, superheroes, who work for corporations and are given their powers and who work on payrolls and have no idea of the legacy of heroes behind them. It’s just a high-paying job.”

Tischman, who thanked both Vertigo’s Eisner Award-winning editor-in-chief Karen Berger and his book’s editor Shelly Bond for getting “Greatest Hits” from concept to creation, said when the project first, he drew inspiration from the sounds of silence. “I was listening to Paul Simon’s 'Graceland’ and I stopped and realized that this album is 20 years old,” explained Tischman. “And then I thought about 'Sounds of Silence,’ and thought, there is no way that Paul Simon still enjoys playing 'Sounds of Silence.’ He’s just not a 19-year-old kid anymore. He’s in his sixties. And I thought what that must be like. Because for some people, 'Sounds of Silence’ is a seminal song. And those same people would pay $200 to hear Paul Simon sing that song because that’s how important it is to them. But as an artist he has grown and matured and he’s a completely different person. So what does that do to a superhero?

“There’s also a story when The Beatles were recording their last album, Paul got them back in the studio, and he got rid of all the outside stuff that was really taking away their focus, but it was too late. That’s the Mates.”

Greatest Hits #1 ships later this summer from Vertigo.

Now discuss this story in CBR’s Vertigo forum.

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