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SDCC: Vertigo Showcases Current Favorites, Future Hits

Vertigo, the DC Comics imprint that has brought fans "Sandman," "Preacher," "Y, the Last Man," "100 Bullets" and many more critically acclaimed titles looked to the future and unveiled its plans for 2014 and beyond at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Moderated by John Cunningham, , the panel consisted of editor Shelly Bond, "Fables" artist and "Dead Boy Detectives" writer Mark Buckingham, one of the artists of the upcoming series "Bodies" Tula Lotay, artist Lee Bermejo, "American Vampire" and "The Wake" writer Scott Snyder, "FBP" writer Simon Oliver and editors Mark Doyle and Will Dennis.

The panel kicked off with "American Vampire," as Snyder thanked the fans for bearing with the book's current break. A week after the series' hiatus began, Snyder said he already could not wait to get back to the world and characters he had created. He promised that in "American Vampire: Second Cycle," fans will see "the biggest war possible between different species of vampires, as well as creatures like mummies, werewolves and demons in a big crescendo of the series." Snyder said that he and artist Rafael Albuquerque are excited for the stand alone issue#5 which goes back to the Gold Rush and continues the series' thematic exploration of American history with what Snyder calls "an experimental issue." Issue #6 is "the biggest, most bombastic arc we've done in a long time" dealing with the vampires involved in the space race. Snyder teased that people used to say if the series kept going, he would have to do vampires in space, to which Snyder would respond, "Never!" But after he and Albuquerque had time to think about it, the idea became "Maybe!" The book will focus on "the secret history of America with monsters involved, but they will not just be part of that story -- they will change that story." The issue opens with an American rocket containing chimpanzees, and when the rocket lands, the chimps become "vampirized." Cunningham ended the "American Vampire" discussion by adding, "If only they were zombie, vampire chimps in space," to which Bond quipped, "with a cameo by Batman."

Shifting to Snyder and artist Sean Philips' horror opus "The Wake," the writer said he will miss the series when it concludes, teasing that he and Murphy want to do a spinoff with the series' dolphin and robotic parrot. Saying that the series was originally supposed to be a chance for Snyder and Murphy "to experiment," he praised his collaborator "Sean's art style, to me, is so daring, that he's such a great world builder but there's an elasticity to it." Snyder goes on to compliment his collaborator by saying that Murphy is not afraid to be cartoony but is "always grounded and emotional." Snyder saw the collaboration with Murphy as a chance to push himself, saying Murphy's art can realize even the craziest ideas because "the art is so convincing." The thematic point of the series, according to Snyder, was to "to be unafraid and experiment and explore." Issue #10 is his attempt to honor the theme of experimentation as, "nuttiest things happen... in order to push forward a story about being exploratory." Snyder thought "The Wake" would be "a fun but invisible series," but the response has been overwhelming. Cunningham added that the hardcover collection drops in November.

Moving on to one of Vertigo's most beloved franchises, which is quickly speeding towards its conclusion, Shelley Bond said the end of "Fables" can be summed up in two words: body bags. Bigby Wolf has returned and, according to the editor, he is "hungry and out for the kill." For Buckingham, the two major hooks of "Fables'" final story arc are the relationship between Snow White and Bigby, and Snow and her sister Rose Red. As the series throttles to a conclusion, Buckingham promises that Bigby is a "potentially huge threat to the entire Fables community." They will be exploring Rose and Snow as "magical creatures of great power that we never saw before" as things build to a conclusion with "a pressure cooker moment in the history of 'Fables.'" "No one is safe in this new world," he warned. Bond said there are weekly conference calls where Buckingham chides Willingham not to kill favorite characters, but there will be a great deal of death coming, much to the artist's dismay.

Starting with issue #27, Buckingham's "Fairest" arc, with art by Russ Braun, will deal with Reynard the Fox. Buckingham started his "Fables" career with the "Animal Farm" arc which "made me realize I was supposed to be doing fantasy books" instead of super-heroes. He is proud of creating the animals that populate the farm of "Fables," and he always wanted to flesh out many of the animal characters' back stories, dealing with "the most pressing issues facing the animals" -- their confinement on the farm. This story arc will allow Buckingham an opportunity "to explore what the animals are feeling," tackling a new animal character each month, and spotlighting the many "Fables "animals that never had the chance to be explored. Above all, he said he wanted to take over the animals so "Willingham couldn't kill them all."

Buckingham shifted discussion to "Dead Boy Detectives," a book starring two characters that spun off from Neil Gaiman's "Sandman." Bond said it's a great title because everything potential readers need to know about the series is right in the title. In this new series, the Dead Boys are joined by a new detective -- a recently deceased young girl. Buckingham promised that Crystal will discover the world of the Dead Boys. Bond's two word description for this series: "Rollicking adventure."

Moving on to "FBP," Simon Oliver plugged the third arc, "set in a different version of reality." The title takes place in a world where the rules of physics have lost all meaning and predictability, and the FBP are a special task force charged with dealing with the situation when physics and reality go pear-shaped. Oliver promised that issues #14 and #15 will be Cicero's story, providing readers with a visit to the FBP academy where Cicero became an agent. More importantly, it reveals "why Professor Hardy is so important." The next arc will be "bigger and bolder than the rest," but will then scale back down. Doyle calls the book "a great little character story at its heart." Bond called Reyes "one of the best female characters in comics," with Oliver confessing he "wished that he brought her in on the beginning of the story." Snyder added to the "FBP" love, calling it "one of the best books on the stands."

Moving from established favorites to new series, Will Dennis discussed new title "The Names," a "financial thriller" miniseries by writer Peter Milligan and Leandro Fernandez. "The Names" is a revenge tale about a young woman married to an older man. The man -- forced to write a suicide note to his wife and jump out a window by a mysterious figure -- was involved in a "very strange Cabal called the Names." According to Dennis, the Names control the financial world, but they are losing control. As the wife gets to the bottom of her late husband's suicide, she discovers the truth of how the financial world works. "The Names" drops in September.

In a book that Dennis described as a complete 180 from "The Names," the panel presented "The Kitchen." Set in 1970s Hell's Kitchen, the series is about the wives of Irish gangsters known as the Westies, who take over their husbands' rackets when the men are arrested. When the husbands are released and the women decide they don't want to return to their old lives, conflict is born. The book takes place in the "world of Summer of Sam, Taxi Driver, punk rock and disco." The book's writer, British newcomer Olly Masters, sold Dennis on the book through the strength of his pitch. When Dennis heard the pitch, his first reaction was, "Why hasn't anyone done this before?" The book will have art from Ming Doyle, covers by Becky Cloonan and colors by Jordie Bellaire. Dennis says he is proud to have "three very strong women creators" on one book, with Bond adding that "The Kitchen" illustrates what a great Vertigo book is all about: "the unexpected angle." "The Kitchen" hits in November.

"Bodies" was the next title discussed, and in describing the series -- which debuts next Wednesday -- Bond used four words: "Four eras, one body." Written by Si Spencer, "Bodies" is about a time traveling serial killer. The book's strength is, according to Bond, "not just the idea, but the execution... Each issue will have four chapters, each set in a different time period... we have 1890, 1940, 2014 and 2050, and it's basically about the detectives of each time period and the social and political mores of the time." Bond introduced artist Tula Lotay, who illustrated the future-based chapter about a "strange but clever detective" named Maplewood. Bond credited colorist Lee Loughridge for differentiating each time period through its color pallete. Artistic luminaries such as Eduardo Risso, Paul Pope, Francesco Francavilla and David Finch will handle the cover art.

The panel moved on to Lee Bermejo and his long awaited "Suiciders," which will arrive in 2015. Bermejo compared the book to "Mad Max" and "Escape from New York," an '80s sci-fi riff which Cunningham said is "getting a great buzz around the Vertigo office." The book is "a post-disaster story, set after a huge earthquake which decimates Southern California. A walled citadel called New Angeles, a great place to live, where the Valley is now. Next to New Angeles is Lost Angeles, a crime ridden ghetto." The book also features a gladiatorial game which is like, as Bermejo put it, "UFC meets the danger room from 'X-Men.'"

Cunningham ended the panel by showing off Bermejo's covers to the upcoming installments of the "Millennium Trilogy," the imprint's adaptation of the Steig Larsson novels by writer Denise Mena that began with "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," to a warm response from the audience.

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