NYCC: Vertigo Defies Convention with Simone, Snyder, Busiek & More

Vertigo, DC Comics' darker, edgier imprint, is still taking chances, finding new voices and concepts that are forging the comics of tomorrow. At New York Comic Con, the current writers, artists and editors informed an eager Big Apple crowd about their plans for some very dark tomorrows. Moderator John Cunningham and Executive Editor Shelly Bond were joined by Rafael Albuquerque, Scott Snyder, Meghan Hetrick, Caitlin Kittredge, Marley Zarcone, Gail Simone, associate editor Greg Lockhart and fan-favorite comics veteran Kurt Busiek.

The panel kicked off with "American Vampire: Second Cycle." Issue #5 "is a special issue that actually has prose," Snyder said, thanking the fans for being patient when the book went on hiatus. The new issue will feature all the species introduced in the series "coming together to face an even greater threat. A threat we are slowly revealing issue to issue... I've always been fascinated with American folklore regarding the devil and how there are certain things that seem to be in every story -- every story -- about the devil that are different from certain interpretations of the devil from different cultures. So for this part of the series, this arc, we are focusing on this secret first monster that inspired every other monster in the history of mankind and how it was secretly hidden here in America during the Gold Rush, how it's growing under the ground and creating a burrow that is essentially responsible for the pit of Hell. This is the thing we've been building towards since we began the series.

"In our mythology, there is a group that's hunted monsters forever," Snyder said, sharing art from Issue #5. "Monsters are a kind of mutation that happened at the beginning of modern man. There is a species called homo abominus and it spreads through all these species... there's a group that's been combating them forever called the Vessels of the Morningstar. There's a guy that's been a sort of a bookkeeper for them, he believes that there has been something hidden from the rest of the organization and he's on the trail. He's trying to discover what the history of the devil is in America.

"The issue will be told partially in prose," Snyder continued. "I abandoned prose when I started comics, and I never through I'd go back because I love comics, because it's collaborative and it's so much fun." Snyder told the crowd what the prose portion of the story will be about. He said his bookkeeper character "finds a journal called 'The Miner's Journal. This guy is lured to a mine in the middle of Nevada...he starts to believe that the people that hire him aren't trying to extract anything -- they are trying to put something in the ground."

Snyder told the crowd that the prose piece will give fans information on his devil, the first monster." He called it a great deal of fun and teased that it will lead to the next big arc that will deal with the Space Race, which Rafael Albuquerque called the most fun he's had on the book. "How far will 'American Vampire' go? will there be vampires in space?" "Never!" Snyder declared, clarifying. "What I meant, they won't go into the sci-fi kind of future space. They are going to go into space when it comes to 1960s Cold War. This thing, this beast that comes out of the ground, this original infection, that is responsible for the original mythology of the devil -- it's tried to come out of the ground in different points in history, and Russia knows that this thing is underground in America. That's why they have their finger on the button. They'd rather have mutually assured destruction than let this thing out." Apparently President Kennedy was friends with the monster hunters and everything turns bad after the assassination for those fighting the darkness of America. After being hushed for revealing too much, Snyder promised "This arc will tie all the stuff together."

Snyder then talked about the hardcover release of his undersea horror series with Sean Murphy, "The Wake." "Sean is the type of artist that makes me really challenge myself," Snyder said. "He adds stuff to the story that forces you to world build. At first it turned me off, and then I realized it was a really interesting set of muscles to flex, kind of like improving... I created a series where I could explore mysteries, and Sean was like, great, let's do it but we always have to one up each other. It's always about pushing each other, and why pushing past the boundaries of your own life, even if what you find is terrible." This experimental pushing of genre and boundaries led to some of the more unexpected concepts of the book like the sonic dolphin and "killing the characters half way through." "The Wake" hardcover is scheduled for release in November.

After warm applause for Snyder and Albuquerque, Shelly Bond explained why Gail Simone was on "her very first Vertigo panel." "Gail and I have been wanting to work together for absolute eons, and I can't think of a better project to bring to Vertigo."

RELATED: Vertigo, Simone Team for "Clean Room"

Simone introduced "Clean Room," showing off a Jenny Frison cover and telling the crowd, "This is a psychological fantasy thriller horror book. The thing that scares me the most is when people have their fingers in your brain, and they start messing with you -- this book is a lot about that.

"Astrid Mueller is the head of a global self help organization that is almost a religion," Simone said, further explaining the book's set-up. "Very deep beneath her swanky Chicago offices is the Clean Room, and once you step in that Clean Room, she immediately knows all your secrets and owns you forever... What scares me is people knowing what your buying, what you're doing on your computer, where your location is, and Astrid has this kind of power." The art, by Jonathan Davis-Hunt, "has the realism of a self help organization and all this business stuff, combined with horror and batshit crazy stuff."

The book's PoV character is a woman named Chloe, who has "a boyfriend who is pretty much an ass. He becomes obsessed with one of Astrid's self help books and kills himself with one of the books open on the kitchen table and Chloe comes home and finds that." Chloe is a journalist who "wants to take Astrid down." Bond said the book "moves at a feverish place that is visceral horror that is in your face on the page," confessing that she has been editing Simone's script "with my hands covering my face. Fans who have experienced Simone's Joker, James Gordon Jr. or the Ventriloquist know that she is a writer that knows her way around the horror genre."

Bond moved to a semi-new Vertigo series, "The Bodies" "by writer Si Spencer and artists Dean Ormston, Phil Winslade, Meghan Hetrick and Tula Lotay, each of whom illustrates a chapter in each issue. The book tells a story about a time-traveling serial killer, broken up into four chapters with each covering a different time period. Meghan Hetrick illustrates the chapters set in 2014 featuring the character Shahara Hasan, who Bond described as "the most badass female character in comics." Hetrick said the character "is a lot of fun to work with, who doesn't give too much of a crap. She stays true to her own convictions." Bond tells the crowd that Hasan is "as deeply dedicated to the case as she is to her religion." Snyder happily added his love for "The Bodies" and the unique way in which the time spanning mystery is structured. Bond also called out colorist to Lee Loughridge, saying he makes sure "each chapter has its own tonality, but maintains consistency."

"Coffin Hill" "writer/creator Caitlin Kittredge said, "I was sitting here a year ago talking about issue one, and here we are one year later. It's been a really crazy run! I come from the world of books, I used to write novels and now I write comics, and I'm crazily excited to be here." Bond said, "This book has taken the concepts of black magic and witches and taken them to the next level, bringing horror back to Vertigo." Kittredge explained the second story arc is "circling back to what happens when [main character] Eve comes back to Coffin Hill. There was basically a serial killer story wrapped in black magic -- it lead to some super spooky scenes." Kittredge informed the crowd the Issue #15 will be a great jumping on point. Bonds described Issue #14 as a twist on a Manson-esque series of murders, which Kittredge described as if "'Texas Chainsaw' and 'Last House on the Left' had a spooky baby." Issue #14 will be drawn by Ryan Kelly.

The panel moved on to the classic "Astro City," with Busiek discussing this week's release, Issue #16, saying, "that was a very personal one to me, because back in 1982 when I sold my first script, I showed DC Comics four sample scripts that led to me getting work. One of the sample scripts was one featuring Superboy and Lex Luthor that couldn't actually be used...but I always liked the story and a few years ago I realized that it could be an 'Astro City' story. It's a new release, but in a way, it's one of the first scripts I ever wrote." Busiek told fans that the original Superboy script is available on his website, busiek.com.

Upcoming stories feature the Honor Guard, and a four-part story Busiek said is about his "favorite" "Astro City" character, Quarrel. "Quarrel and her boyfriend Crackerjack are both acrobatic crime fighters and are both pushing fifty because 'Astro City' happens in real time, and we've been doing this for twenty years now. Now their bodies are slowing down and we're exploring what happens to their relationship, their careers, their outlook on life when what they've been doing for twenty years will no longer be possible. It's also a tale of twisted romance."

Finally, Cunningham introduced another new Vertigo series. "Effigy," by Tim Seeley and Marley Zarcone launches in January. The book is about "a young woman named Chondra Jackson, who was a kids' TV star in a show called 'Star Cop' when she was eight years old." Jackson's mom was a typical stage mother, and when Chondra's career stalled, "her mom wanted her to be a legitimate star, so her mother suggested that maybe Chondra should release a sex tape -- which fails. So, Chondra and her mother go back to their home town. Chondra doesn't know what to do with her life and decided, she loves being a TV cop, so she becomes a real cop, and that's when things get weird." Chondra will face a mystery involving a corpse with a "Star Cop" tattoo.

Artist Marley Zarcone said Chondra is an interesting character to draw. "She used to be the constant focus and now she wants to be normal." Bond is particularly proud of "Effigy's" diverse cast, which includes a character named Edie who Zarcone describes as a "transgender [woman] who is evolving as well as Chondra's evolving. She has to figure out a way to pay for the rest of her hormone treatments, and is a huge 'Star Cop' fan." Bond said "Effigy's" theme is transformation, a theme "that covers the entire scope of the book. It captures the zeitgeist of celebrity worship." The book will feature covers by Scott Forbes.

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