NYCC: Vertigo - Welcome to the Edge

On Friday afternoon, Vertigo Executive Editor Karen Berger moderated the Vertigo panel at New York Comic-Con 2008. The star-studded panel included Grant Morrison, Amy Hadley, G. Wilson Willow, Josh Dysart, Jason Aaron, Brian Wood, Brian Azzarello, David Tischman, Russ Braun, and Mark Buckingham, and the creators were joined on stage by editors Shelly Bond, Will Dennis and Jonathan Vankin. CBR News was on the scene to bring you all the details.

Berger kicked off the panel with a slide presentation of current and upcoming Vertigo titles. The first comic on the docket was the new "House of Mystery" by Matthew Sturgess and Bill Willingham. Berger said this would be "an entirely different take" on "House of Mystery," and that it will not be an anthology as it was in its earlier incarnation. The story centers around waitress who finds herself in a purgatory-like house, where all of the trapped inhabitants are forced to tell a story. A different character's story will be featured every month, with the story segments to be produced by Bill Willingham and a bevy of different artists. Illustrator Sam Webber is on covers, and "House of Mystery" hits stands this May.

Next up was Matt Wagner's take on "Madame Xanadu." Berger said this new series will "give her an origin she never really had before," and will finally reveal how Madame Xanadu got her name. "Madame Xanadu" artist Amy Hadley said that even though the story spans different time periods over quite a few centuries, it is, at heart, "a story about growing up." "Madame Xanadu" is Hadley's first work for DC.

"Air" is a new series by the creative team behind the "Cairo" OGN, G. Wilson Willow and M.K. Perker. Willow said she got the idea for air while on a layover in Amsterdam. A stewardess had detained Willow, because she'd seen a number of visas she thought were suspect. "We talked for a while and she decided that I wasn't a terrorist," Willow said. And Willow started thinking, "What if she was a lot cooler and I was a lot cooler and this was a comic book?" Willow described "Air" as a "surreal look at how flight has remained magical to us," especially in the post 9/11 world. It tells the story of an acrophobic stewardess and a plot by a hijacker who may or may not be a terrorist. "House of Mystery," "Madame Xanadu," and "Air" will all be introduce din 8-page backup stories in other Vertigo titles in the coming months.

Next up, Brian Wood gave fans a few hints about the second and third storylines for "Northlanders." The second storyline is a two-part story based on the very first recorded Viking raid on the monastery of Lindisfarne in England, an "infamous event" in Viking lore.

"Greatest Hits" by David Tischman and Glenn Fabry is a new superhero book, but with a "vertigo twist." "Greatest Hits" posits that in the real world, superheroes would be more like rock stars. It tells the story of a director who's making a documentary about the greatest superhero team of all time, a Beatles-like team called The Mates. The covers are all inspired by different rock albums.

Next up was "Hellblazer Presents Chas: The Knowledge." Berger explained that in England, becoming a cab driver is a lot more involved than it is in the States: it involves extensive schooling, mentoring under a professional cab driver, and studying "The Knowledge," a book detailing every arcane alley, street and secret passageway in the city of London. "Hellblazer Presents Chas: The Knowledge" tells the story of an underground supernatural force that dictates the magic underneath London. With Constantine in the South of France with his new girlfriend, his cabbie Chas has no choice but to battle these demons alone. Berger said that the writer himself was once a London cabbie.

"Hellblazer" creator Jamie Delano is returning to the title with "Hellblazer: Pandemonium," featuring art by Jock. Constantine is dispatched to Iraq by Scotland Yard to deal with an ancient force that's bubbling up in Iraq. "Constantine falls in love with a woman who may or may not be a spy," Berger said. "Constantine is in Bagdad dealing with the political situation today and echoes of the past."

Vertigo is also releasing a book of James Jean's covers for "Fables." The coffee table book features a number of extras, including a Q&A with with Jean by "Fables" author Mark Willingham.

Vertigo employees were sworn to secrecy about "Fables" #75 on penalty of death, but Mark Buckingham spilled a few details. It will be a double-sized, 56 page issue. "It's the big war we've been leading up to for a long time," Buckingham said. "Nobody's safe. The world of 'Fables' will be different after this."

"Someone will die," one panelist let loose. "Probably me," Buckingham said, "Trying to draw 56 pages."

Josh Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli are bringing fans a new take on "The Unknown Soldier" in a story set against the backdrop of the battle between the Lord's Resistance Army and the Ugandan government. "1.9 million people were displaced in 20 years," Dysart said. "And we're going to exploit it heavily by making a cool war book out of it," the writer said ironically.

"Josh went to Uganda last year on his own nickel," Berger offered.

"That was the only way I could get the information I needed," Dysart said.

Brian Azzarello's "100 Bullets" is ramping up to it's 100th and final issue. "Brian won't tell me that much," Berger said. "He won't tell his editor Will Dennis that much either." The cover on the slide pictured a man being murdered at the foot of tree. Azzarello would say only this: "That cover is a metaphor of my past and my present, murder in my future."

"Army@Love" continues with "The Art of War," which Berger described as "more outrageous and political than the first season."

Grant Morrison's "Sea Guy" is returning for two more 3-issue series. In the second series, Sea Guy is relocated to Spain and given a new identity as a Bull Dresser: the practice of killing cows has been outlawed, so now matadors dress bulls in sexy clothes. The last mini series is called "Sea Guy: Eternal," and will be Sea Guy's final adventure.

Morrison also talked about a project in development called "Warcop," a series about the post 9/11 fetishization of soldiers. "Games like 'Art of War' are teaching people how to bomb Iraq," Morrison said. "I feel sorry for these guys getting sent to die." The story is set five years in the future, and is about a soldier who returns from a war and still wants to fight a war. It escalates to a battle of kids vs. adults for control of the planet.

The fourth and final "Absolute Sandman" edition is due out this November with "a lot of extra stuff."

P. Craig Russell is writing an adaptation of "Sandman: Dream Hunters," an illustrated textbook originally written by Gaiman and illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano. The first issue is also due out in November.

At this point Berger opened the panel up to questions from the audience.

One fan asked Morrison if he would consider writing for film or television. The scribe responded that he had several film and television projects in development.

A fan asked what series besides "100 Bullets" would be coming to an end in the coming year. Berger revealed that Azzarello's "Loveless" would be ending after the next issue. "We don't have a large enough audience for the book," Berger lamented.

"I failed you guys with 'Loveless,'" Azzarello said. "It had a birth defect, and it just didn't survive. If we can come back to it, we will."

One fan asked if the audience for war stories was dropping in comics as it has been in other mediums. "'Secret War' is selling really well," Azzarello quipped.

Berger cited successful Vertigo war books like Jason Aaron's "The Other Side," but admitted that "it's not a genre people in comics tend to flock to."

Dysart said his "Unknown Solider" does not celebrate war like a lot of other media outlets have been doing of late, and admitted to being curious about fan reaction to a series about war that doesn't glorify violence.

Another fan asked if Vertigo's audience was growing, or just holding strong. "It depends on how you look at it," Berger said. "Our backlist has become our front list. Our collections sell better than our monthlies. But we're committed to doing monthlies so we can have these collections." Berger said it was a great time for comics, and that more people are reading comics that haven't read comics before.

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