SAN DIEGO, DAY TWO: Morrison Exclusive to DC, Gaiman to Participate on New 'Books of Magic'

DC Comics had two major announcements at their DC/Vertigo panel Friday at Comic-Con International in San Diego, although one was likely to be of at least as much interest to Marvel Comics readers: Grant Morrison, writer of Marvel's "New X-Men," has just been signed to a two year exclusive contract with DC Comics.

"He will be writing a whole bunch of stuff for Vertigo and the DCU," editor Karen Berger said. "The first book he's doing is with artist Philip Bond, 'Vimanarama,' out next spring."

"It's an Islamic sci-fi love story," Morrison explained, "It honors one of the great world religions in a way it's never been honored before."

The title is from a legendary Indian flying machine. Besides "Vimanarama," Morrison will team up with Frank Quietly for a creator-owned Vertigo book next spring, followed by a "big project" with Quietly set in the DC Universe.

The other big Vertigo news also had a British accent: Neil Gaiman will help relaunch "Books of Magic," a title he originally created as a miniseries numerous iterations ago. In that series, the heavy hitters of the DC/Vertigo magical universe showed a young boy, Tim Hunter, that he was destined to be the greatest of them all, and to warn him to ready himself of a coming threat. That coming threat has failed to be an issue in previous series, but will be taking center stage in the new Books of Magic, to launch in early 2004.

"It was sort of sad that the character I'd created ... sort of petered out because he had nothing to do," Gaiman said. He "had several long conversations with [series writer Sy Spencer] about it ... and we liked telling the story in Vertigo's future."

The war that Tim was prophesied to have a central role in will be the focus of the series, featuring an older and "cooler" Tim Hunter.

We can do a lot of actual damage to characters. Characters that are live right now, we can kill," Gaiman said. "It doesn't render anything non-canonical that happened, it just gives it all a point."

Gaiman co-write the first issue and will be actively consulting on the series.

"The first script is unbelievable," editor Shelly Bond said. "It's Tim like you had never imagined that Tim could become"

Recurring "Books of Magic" character Zatanna is also likely to show up in more than one form next year in Vertigo, Bond said.

"But you might not recognize her," said Berger.

Vertigo will also return to its roots (pardon the pun) next spring when Swamp Thing returns in "Bad Seed," a miniseries written by Andy Diggle.

"'Swamp Thing' was actually the first American series I'd read on a regular basis," Diggle said. "Last year, when Karen asked me if I wanted to do a 'Swamp Thing' miniseries, you're not going to say no, but I was absolutely terrified.

"The thing about Swamp Thing to me is that, at his core, he's a very simple character. ... What I've taken on myself and tried to do is tie up a lot of the loose ends and continuity to make it accessible to new readers."

[Biteclub]David Hahn, creator of indie comic "Private Beach" is teaming up with Howard Chaykin and David Tischman, the writers of "American Century" for "Bite Club," a new monthly set on a very different beach than the ones Hahn's current fans might be used to.

"'Bite Club' is basically about a Mafia family of vampires living in South Beach, Florida," Tischman said. "Howard and I have a different take on vampires. Vampirism is a virus that jumped from bats."

The series centers on a member of the family who has become a priest, "and upon his father dying, he's given control of this mafia family, and what is he going to do with it?"

Frank Quietly will contribute covers to the series.

Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon are, at long last, going to begin "City Lights" in 2004.

"It's a spur of the moment project 12 years in the making," Dillon said. "It's just a story about people, cities, friends and ... it's a story about real life, really. ... I've been looking forward to doing this for years. ... Hopefully it'll be the best thing we've ever done. I'll certainly try to make it so."

Berger expects "City Lights" to run 18 to 20 issues in total.

"Y: The Last Man" artist Pia Guerra inspired the next storyline in that title.

"Pia came up with the idea that since Yorrick is a master escape artist, his perfect antagonist would be someone into bondage," series writer Brian K. Vaughn said. Specifically, his new antagonist is a master of a specialized Japanese form of rope tying. "We know we're the last Vertigo book to tackle bondage ..."

[Vertica]Vertigo will be introducing its own unique format, half the width of regular comics, in "Vertical," with art by Mike Allred about a couple that shows their love by leaping off high places.

Also look for a new "Midnight Mass" miniseries in 2004, "Here There Be Monsters," featuring new artist Paul Lee.

It's been 10 years since the birth of the Vertigo imprint, and Berger said she's proud of what the line stands for and what it's accomplished: "I think there's a special quality about a Vertigo book. There's a smartness, there's an irreverence. ... I think they push the bounds of comics. What I'm really proud of is that when we started, we were really out there. ... You've got the most talented people in comics, pushing comics outward. They've really made comics a medium to be reckoned with."

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