The Edge of 2002: Heidi MacDonald on the Year in Vertigo

It was a good year for comics, according to most, including DC/Vertigo editor Heidi MacDonald. But it was also a year that changed her mind about something in the industry.

"I've long been of the opinion that the people who make comics need to stop worrying about market forces and concentrate on making good comics," MacDonald told CBR News. "However, in, 2001, with the market showing improvement after what can only be termed a precipitous decline, I've emended that attitude a bit. I think we've stripped down to an audience of readers, and every reader counts. So while at the end of the day, putting out good work will always be the bottom line, I also think you have to be very, very aware of your market, more so than ever before."

Looking ahead to 2002, MacDonald was asked which one title she's editing for release in 2002 has her most excited.

"Of course, I CAN'T choose just one.

"For a monthly series, I have to say 'Y The Last Man.' It's a new, creator owned series from Brian Vaughan and Pia Guerra. A virus strikes the earth and seems to kill all the animals on earth with a Y chromosome. Except for one man. And his monkey. Yes, women take over the earth. I've seen this idea before, but I've never seen it done this way. Everyone who reads this script is totally into this book. Brian's stories are intelligent, thought-provoking, and also full of adventure, politics, religion, sex, you name it. Pia is a relative newcomer, but she's incredibly talented. I defy people to read the first issue and not pick up the second!

"The other book I'm really excited about is 'Fight For Tomorrow.' It's written by Brian Wood, with art by Denys Cowan and Kent Williams. 'Nuff said! Brian W. is one of the most exciting new writers in comics, and he's the perfect guy to write a John Woo-esque, kung fu gangster epic about lost love and found honor with lots of fights. It's about Ced, who has a dark past as a fighter in slave camps somewhere in Asia. He comes to New York's Chinatown with the girl who helped him escape from his past, but she's kidnapped by the head of a gang, and he has to rescue her. Except maybe she doesn't want to be rescued. I'm a big fan of the old kung fu comics, and this is in that tradition but with a totally modern, cutting edge sensibility. Denys hasn't really done anything for us in a while, since he's been so busy with the Static TV show, but he's back and in top form. And Kent Williams is Kent Williams. I couldn't be more excited about getting to work with these guys."

MacDonald also thinks she's got a curve ball to throw at fans this year:

"'The Darwin Theory' by Joe Casey and Ben Templesmith. Although I think by now people have caught on to the fact that there is a lot more to Joe Casey than just a superhero writer, this will really show what he can do. It's a 3-issue prestige series about Jimmy Darwin who is a super spy for, believe it or not, the U.S. Census bureau. You know if you ever met anyone like James Bond in real life, he'd probably be a complete prick, and that's what Darwin is. But he starts following a case involving alien appearances that makes him question why he's cut himself off from being a real human, and it sets him in all sorts of crazy directions. This story is about struggling to be a whole, functional human being, but it also has the midget mafia, gun running nuns and god knows what all. Ben Templesmith has gotten some attention for his Web comics and his 'Hellspawn' work, but he's going to knock this one out of the park."

Looking back on the successes of 2001, MacDonald counts the relaunch of "The Books of Magic" as "Hunter: The Age of Magic" among them.

"'Hunter' is really the book I want it to be. I knew Dylan Horrocks would turn out to be a great writer, I'm just lucky I managed to get him on a project that he could really sink his teeth into. Both Dylan and Richard Case are terrific talents, and I think this book has really reinvented the character."

2001 also had its share of disappointments.

"Well, 'Swamp Thing' got canceled, which was sad. It just never caught on. I don't think people wanted to read about a female anti-hero. I think you can get away with that with male characters a lot more easily. Just a theory."

2002 will see the end of Vertigo's current biggest hit, "Transmetropolitan." What the next Vertigo flagship title will be is anyone's guess, MacDonald said.

"Ugh. No one can answer this question. You can't sit down and create the NEXT anything. You can only create the first something else. Certainly, '100 Bullets' is already poised to be the 'flagship' book, but beyond that you can never predict anything."

If "100 Bullets" seems an odd and unlikely hit series, "Midnight, Mass." may well be another.

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"M,M. is simply described as two socialites who are also the world's foremost paranormal investigators. It's much more of a traditional horror book than anything else Vertigo is publishing right now, so it really goes back to the roots of the line, in many ways. But it's also about Adam and Julia Kadmon as a married couple, keeping their relationship going when death cults of Kali, and demon-collectors are trying to kill them and destroy their house. The story opens when they hire an assistant, Jenny Swan, who sees to be the innocent who is entering the crazy world of the Kadmons, but as the 8 issues continue we'll see she has her own dark secrets and mysteries. In issues 2 and 3 we flash back to a case that they went on with their nemesis, Magellan, and we see them screwing up, and some terrible things happening as a result. The story in numbers 4-6 is a really neat adventure involving Kali, a coven of deadly witches, a lot of bugs, homemade napalm ... you name it. I've long felt that John Rozum was one of the most underrated writers in comics -- I hope he gets a little bit of his due with this book. His work on 'Xombi' and 'The X-Files' has a real cult following. Jesus [Saiz]is a marvelous artist with a sense of mood and horror and beautiful, glamorous people. And he draws GREAT monsters. There really isn't a 'selling point' to this book, aside from exciting adventures, funny dialogue, and cool characters. Just another excellent comic book. As I stated above, I think books that don't have immediate high concepts are losing out a bit today, which is a shame."

Also sliding around on the dark fantastic fringe Vertigo once was known for is "Hunter," which shook up the old "Books of Magic" status quo, although MacDonald promises that it'll be returning to its roots in a big way in 2002.

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"It's funny, because I think with the change to an older Tim, we've lost some old readers, but gained some new ones. So overall it's holding steady, given the state of the market. Dylan has a long term plotline that will be unfolding. And, OK, in 2002 Molly WILL return. But both Tim and Molly will be seeing other people, so don't expect them to fall into each other's arms. I think as much as anything, Dylan writes great boy/girl stuff, and we'll see this odd love quadrangle develop. Mr. Tolstoy, the antiquities dealer we met in #8 is going to ensnare Tim in a plot to get the Codex Raziel, which contains the language of creation. But of course there's going to be a double cross or even a triple cross there. And meanwhile, Tim's ability to read all languages is going to lead to Mr. Lily and the Lotus starting the big magic war which Neil wrote about way back in the original BoM miniseries. So, yep, it's on."

CBR News Editor Beau Yarbrough contributed to this story.

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