NYCC: Vertigo - Tales from the Edge

Welcome to CBR's live coverage of the Vertigo: Tales from the Edge panel at New York Comic Con. Panelists include Jason Aaron, Dean Haspiel, Brian Azzarrello, Davide GIANFELICE, Alberto Pontecelli, Josh Dysart, Mike Carey, Peter Gross, Brian Wood, Amy Hadley, G. Willow Wilson and Peter Milligan. Karen Berger moderated.

The panel dived straight into announcements, the first being a new creator-owned series by Mike Carey and Peter Gross called "The Unwritten." "Mike and Peter are like a two-headed beast on this book," Berger said.

"Once upon a time a great writer wrote a book about a boy wizard, and based the character on his own son. After the final book, the author was never seen again. The son, now an adult, is living with the legacy of being famous for being a fictional character," Carey explained.

The book is inspired by the true story of the Christopher Robin Milne, who was the basis of Christopher Robin in the Winnie the Pooh stories. Like Tommy in Carey & Gross' book, Milne was unhappy about his association with a fictional character.

The story starts with something traumatic happening to Tommy, whereby he's suddenly challenged to explain to the world who he really is. As it turns out, everything he knows about his own life is wrong. "He may actually be a fictional character," Carey said.

"He's outed at a con," Gross added. "There's no evidence that he was ever born. "[He may be] a viral marketing campaign created by his father. There's a group of wacky people who think he just really is the fictional character."

It's very much about the role and power of fiction," Gross said. "It's like the Neo-cons starting a war in Iraq based on a story. Why were they able to do that? Why do stories have the power to do that?"

The first issue of "The Unwritten" comes out in May and will be priced at only $1.00, and come with a 32-page story.

Next up was "Hellblazer." "Out of all the British writers who've worked for us, Peter Milligan is the only one who's never written Constantine," Berger said.

"Our Constantine has something going for him: he meets a girl he thinks could be the one," Milligan said. "But the thing with Constantine, most people who get into his orbit, bad things happen to him. That guy Chaz he hangs around with, it's a miracle he's still alive."

Something terrible happens to the girl and Constantine tries feverishly to turn back the clock. "It's a dark, twisted story of Constantine trying to bring back this love he's lost, and at the same time wondering if he even loved her in the first place."

"Daytripper" is a new ten-issue series by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Bá. "It's a series that takes place in Brazil and is really about the internal struggle between fathers and sons," Berger explained. "The main story is about a son who wants to be a writer, but he can only get a job writing obituaries. While his father is the most famous writer in Brazil." The book comes out in two months.

Dave Johnson is the new cover artist for "Unknown Soldier." "Josh Dysart is probably one of the most passive people I've ever known, but he's writing this ultra-violent book," Berger said.

"You can expect more suffering and pain in an all-singing, all-dancing issue," Dysart said of future events. "We'll tell the story of an urban, relatively well developed south of Uganda in conflict with a war-torn north. I'm really, really proud of it. Alberto Ponticelli gets better and better with every issue."

Berger said "Unknown Soldier" #7 is a good place for new readers to start, and the trade paperback will be coming out soon.

"DMZ" and "Northlanders" were next in the spotlight. Both series will have one-shots coming up. "DMZ's" one-shot will star Zee, illustrated by Nikki Cook. The "Northlanders" one-shot will be "the hardest everything I've ever tried to write," Wood said. "It's going to cover the breadth of viking tactical warfare in a single-issue, 22-page swordfight." Vasilis Lolos illustrates.

"The Nobody" is a new graphic novel by Jeff "Essex County" Lemire. "It's sort of the Invisible Man updated in a small fishing village, and about the paranoia that ensues," Berger explained. "Jeff has a wonderful, gentle way of telling a story. This will be out in May."

"Air" #7 will also cost only one dollar. "We're trying to get as many people to read our monthlies. We know a lot of people will just wait for the trade, and that's great, but it will help us a lot if people buy the monthlies too," Berger said.

Wilson explained, "In issue #7, we finally find out who this Zane person is. He may be exactly who his enemies say he is. It's such a good place to jump in. If you've been liking the last few issues, the rest is like that too!"

"Bang Tango" is a new book by Joe Kelly and Adrian Sibar about a mobster who becomes a tango dancer. It deals with gender identity issues. "It's a lot of fun and a lot of Vertigo beats you'd expect, but with a real sense of humor to it." Howard Chaykin provides covers.

Berger then turned to Azzarello and "100 Bullets," which will conclude in the forthcoming issue #100. "I'm not going to finish it!" Azzarello joked. "It's going to be #99 and you'll like it!"

Issue #100 will be 33 story pages, and writing was completed in France. "It's done. Thanks!"

"Gone To Amerikay" is an original graphic novel by Derek McCulloch of "Stagger Lee" fame, with art by Colleen Doran. "Vertigo is expanding the original graphic novel side of our imprint. It's a sweeping historical drama bout the Irish immigrant experience. It spans three generations. It's got some beautiful art. They're just starting it now."

Berger said "House of Mystery" #13 is a special issue that features four stories drawn by people who've never drawn for Vertigo: Neal Adams, Sergio Aregones, Eric Powel and Ralph Reesee. Each story explores the meaning of the number 13 in the characters' lives.

Mike Kaluta returns to "Madame Xanadu" to give Amy Hadley a break. He will draw for five issues. Matt Wagner is still writing the series.

"Issues #9-10 take place in 1940s New York," Hadley said. "It's fantastic what Matt's written, it's just so rewarding. I'm very lucky to be able to draw it."

Kaluta will draw issues 11-15. He began work before Hadley got to her '40s arc, so she used his designs in her issues. "I think the arc has just the best payoff ever," Hadley said. The first trade paperback will be ten issues for $9.99.

In "Scalped" news, issue #25 begins a brand new storyline. The issue is also extra-sized. "It has lots of nudity and lots of killing," Jason Aaron said.

"Seaguy: The Slaves of Mickey Eye" is on the way in April. "It's just great, kooky stuff," Berger said. "It's even better [than the first series]."

"Cuba: One Story" is a new original graphic novel. It's a fictional memoir written by a writer new to comics, with art by Dean Haspiel. "Inverna Valesquez has been like a second mother to me for the last 25 years," he said. "She used to be in Castro's army, she was a surgeon, she fought. A lot of stuff revealed themselves to me over the years. I basically pushed her to purge; just tell her story. She's not a writer, she's a painter and an artist. She wrote this document and I was so thrown by what she did in this story."

Haspiel brought Inverna in to Berger and let her speak. After an hour and a half, Berger had tears in her eyes.

"I'm really excited to do this, but it's also daunting," Haspiel said. The book will be in two-color.

"It's amazing, shocking, emotional, and a really haunting story," Berger said.

"How to Understand Israel in Sixty Days or Less" is another original graphic novel. Written and illustrated by Sarah Glidden. "This is Sarah Glidden's own story," said editor Jonathan Vankin. "When she took a Birthright Israel tour a couple of years ago -- that's a program sponsored by the Israeli government to bring young Americans over; to essentially sell them on the idea of Israel. Sarah took the tour because, though she's Jewish, she was raised very left-wing. She's very pro-Palestinian and very reflexively anti-Israel in a lot of ways. She deliberately went on this tour to try and challenge her own viewpoint.

"This is the incredibly eloquent and funny and charming and story of her emotional -- even more than political or intellectual -- awakening. It's a really special book to me. The way I was raised as a Jewish person is you didn't question anything the Israeli government ever did. There was just no reason ever to question it. There was a certain point in history when I started questioning it, but the idea of a person in her 20s really questioning everything that Israel did was willing to challenge her viewpoint and change her understanding -- not necessarily a complete political reversal -- but a new understanding not only of the situation over there but humanity in general."

"Luna Park" is an original graphic novel by best-selling novelist Kevin Baker with art by Danijel Zezelj. It's a gangster story about a Russian immigrant living in sordid, modern Coney Island who winds up back in time at the turn of the century and in various important times in Russia's history. "It's an epic story, grabs you start to finish. It's thrilling book," Berger said. "And Danjiel's artwork is beautiful." It comes out in November.

"Greek Street" is a new creator-owned book by Peter Milligan. Vertigo has been developing the book for six-to-eight months. "It's nothing like anything you've read before," Berger said.

Miligan explained, "Greek Street is a street in London that runs through SoHo, and SoHo is kind of like our red light district. It's all the lowlives and gangsters. This story is a re-imagining and a re-telling of those fantastic and brutal and visceral greek legends, played out on these modern streets of Soho. It's a story about the enduring power of myths. One of the myths the book tries to dispel is the idea that we as human beings progress. Our technology might progress, but when it comes to real human stuff - jealousy, blood -- we're not so different from those guys who lived 1600 years ago. Look at Darfur and all the terrible stuff going on. It's the stuff of Greek tragedy.

"Our hero is a young guy called Eddie who;s a young guy brought up in a children's home. He decides to track down his mother. Within 24 hours of finding her, he's made love to her and killed her. As he's running to Greek Street, he's got more than the police running after him -- he's got 1600 years of history chasing after him. Its a bloodline running through the generations."

The first issue of "Greek Street" will be oversized and cost just one dollar. Davide GIANFELICE will draw the series. "It's fantastic art," Milligan said.

"Preacher" will receive the deluxe hardcover treatment. Volume one collects the first ten issues.

"Absolute Death" is coming, featuring every story about Death that's ever been done except for Jill Thompson's "Lil Vertigo" stories. The book includes the "Death Talks About Life" AIDS story from 1993, tons of pin-ups, stories from "Winter's Edge," scripts and other materials. It will be out at the end of the year.

"Absolute V for Vendetta" comes with 100 extra pages: full-page shots, pin-ups, additional sketches by David Lloyd, back-cover art from the original series and has been re-colored. Also to be released at the end of the year.

"Fables" editor Shelly Bond took the stage to read a letter from creator Bill Willingham, revealing that Jack will be returning to "Fables," that Snow and Bigby will be exiled to "Jack of Fables," and other hints. The letter read thus:

Karen -

Don't let Shelly give all the great Fables crossover secrets away at the panel. You know how nervous she gets speaking in public and how she has to hit the bottle for four or five belts beforehand. Definitely don't let her reveal that Jack will be sneaking back into the "Fables" book, or that Snow and Bigby will be exiled to Jack's book. And we definitely don't want her to blab about the new Jack Frost and his relation to our current Jack, or what happens when Jack ends up babysitting Bigby and Snow's cubs.

Basically, Karen, don't let Shelly say anything.

-Bill Willingham.

Vertigo's first prose book will come in the form of "Peter and Max," a Fables story by Bill Willingham with spot illustrations by "Fable" artist Steve Leialoha.

Berger then turned the floor to fans for questions.

- Do you have to know about London to follow "Greek Street?" No.

- What's the deal with the Fables ABC show? "I'm not sure that's happening right now," Berger said. "Hopefully one of these days."

- Are we going to see any more Shade the Changing Man? "There are plans afoot that John Constantine might be bumping into Shade in 'Hellblazer.' It's a guarded 'yes,'" Milligan said.

- Do you plan to continue telling ensemble stories with "Scalped?" Jason Aaron said a new

character will be introduced in issue #25, with future issues dedicated to exploring other supporting characters. He also said not all the main characters would survive the year.

- What were some of your influences on "Scalped?" "Everything but Brian Azzarello. That guys sucks," Aaron said.

- Are there plans for Swamp Thing or Tim Hunter? "Not right now, but they are characters that are so hard to bring back, you have to let them rest for a while," Berger said.

- Was there a fear of reinforcing Native American stereotypes in "Scalped?" "That's a line you walk. It's a crime book. We deal with sex, violence and drug abuse. But we're also dealing with a lot of problems that face NA reservations these days. We try to walk the line of showing real human emotions and real problems."

- Will there be more Haunted Tank? "Not yet, but we're getting a great response," Berger said.

- Will the rest of the Shade: The Changing Man issues be released in trade paperback? "I've been working on that for a long time," Berger said. "I'm hoping with Pete's resurgence at Vertigo, we can do it. It's sort of a group decision at the company, but a lot of fans of the series ask for the series to be collected. We would very much like tod o that."

- In response to a question about his background as a New Yorker, Brian Wood said he grew up in Vermont but moved to NYC at age 18. He lives in Brooklyn.

- What else is Brian Wood working on? Another run of "Demo" with Becky Cloonan.

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