Wizard World LA, Day 3: Outside the DC Universe: Vertigo and Wildstorm

Despite some insurmountable AV concerns, Saturday at Wizard World LA DC's marketing executive Bob Wayne soldiered on and led a panel which he compared to "Sharks and Jets," featuring "Swamp Thing" writer Joshua Dysart, "Fables" writer Bill Willingham and editor Johnathan Vankin representing Vertigo, with Tim Bradstreet making a late appearance. On the Wildstorm side, editor Ben Abernathy and colorist/editor Alex Sinclair were joined by former "Magdalena" creative team, writer Marsha Chen and artist Joe Benitez. Willingham made some allegations about who he believed "took the bulbs," which Wayne said, "Great, that will now be on two websites ... and three blogs just started up!"

Flipping the format, they started with questions, letting Willingham reveal what's next for "Fables." The next issue starts a storyline showing what happened after "Boy Blue stole a bunch of stuff from the business office and disappeared to the homeland. For all of you who insist on not finding the clues I have left throughout the series, Boy Blue will be in the room with the Adversary. You'll be able to say, 'That's the Adversary, the mystery is over!' As soon as we do that, the very next arc involves what happens to Fable Town when non-European fables start flooding in. Now they're spreading into the Middle Eastern and African fables, it's a big culture clash." There will also be a "Fables" hardback original graphic novel in 2006, which centers on the well-known Fables trying to enlist allies against the Adversary after it's all to clear the battle has already been lost.

When asked about the direction Vertigo is taking, Vankin replied, "It's an experimental imprint, it always has been, and we want to find new readers not just for vertigo but for comics in general. That's the purpose behind books like 'Vertigo Pop,' 'It's a bird...,' the Harvey Pekar book this winter. I think you'll be seeing a lot more of really good genre stuff and some selected, but really high quality non genre stuff."

Ben Abernathy talked about Wildstorm in the same light. "The goal is to bring back the monthly titles. All our licensed books are in flux. Last year when 'WildCATs' and 'Gen 13' and 'Stormwatch' were cancelled ... we're working towards relaunching them ... someday." He did also confirm that "Redbird" has been cancelled for reasons they won't discuss. "It's a real shame," Abernathy said.

As for existing works, Bob Wayne added, "Something might happen to 'Authority,' but we're not going to say right now." "I've gotten several pitches from John [Ridley], we're still definitely talking to John. He's a guy that we're going to be working with again."

They were all very cagey with what happens in upcoming issues. "'Majestic' became one of our favorite books in that Danny and Andy are turning in incredible scripts," Abernathy said, "It became such a great package. Issue four ends the first story arc, with the space ark, who are wondering where the 'oh my god' endings are, it's in issue four. When you think everything is hunky dory, Danny and Andy have one of the best twists. Once 'Sleeper' comes to its startling conclusion with issue twelve, we don't have any plans to do anything without him involved." They also noted an August release for "Wintermen."

Once he decided to give up hope on the struggling A/V techs, Wayne started to discuss the many projects that they had slides for but could not show. They started off with the new Harvey Pekar original graphic novel "The Quitter." Vankin offered, "Harvey calls it his prequel to 'American Splendor,' it's about Harvey growing up. It's sort of about his quest for self-esteem and respect from his peers. He found he could get that from beating people up on the streets. Really! It's coming out in October. He thinks it's the best thing he's ever written, and I agree. 96 page, black and white with gray tones, illustratred by Dean Haspiel. Harvey's really happy about his work."

In July, Jill Thompson will be doing a second original manga called "Dead Boy Detectives" featuring characters from "Sandman: Season of Mists," guest starring Death. "It's in a style so similar to the one she used on 'Death,'" Wayne said wryly, "that you will think she liked it." Wayne didn't want to talk about a "Delerium" mini series, which she's wanted to do for some time but hasn't seen the light of day. The questioner referred to a letter Thompson wrote to the young woman, which prompted Bill Willingham to say, "I've known Jill for 25 years, and she's never written me a letter."

In May, Alan Moore returns to Neopolis with the long-awaited original graphic novel "Top 10: The 49ers," with illustrations by Gene Ha, set in the early years of Neopolis when it was an untamed, rough place.

Two new Absolute projects involving Alan Moore were announced, starting with a second "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" Absolute hardcover, with every script and rare art, preparing for the return of the League next year. The big announcement, however, was an Alan Moore-approved "Absolute Watchmen" book, recolored by Wildstorm FX with the supervision of the original series colorist. There'll also be rarely seen supplemental material with scripts and out-of-print stuff from the "DC Grafitti." "One big ass volume in October," Wayne intoned. Brandstreet interrupted to ask how much the "DC Grafitti" book is going for, and Wayne suggested it was more than $200. "Then mine's for sale," Bradstreet smiled, "to the highest bidder at this 'con." The "Absolute Watchmen" slipcover will be priced at about $100, "so we won't cannibalize the value of Tim's book."

Alan Moore will also be bringing out "Albion," featuring the UK's most beloved heroes. Moore plotted it, and let his daughter Leah and her writing partner do the script, with art by Dave Gibbons. It features characters that were published in the UK but didn't make a big impact in stateside. DC is working with original publisher IBC to bring them back.

The comics adaptation of "Neverwhere" will debut June 22nd, drawn by Glenn Fabry as a comid book adaptation of the novel, not in the "Stardust" style. Wayne said, "Mike Carey is writing scripts and Neil Gaiman isn't changing a word. Mike has added some of his own style, Neil completely loves what he's done." Next month's issue of "Fables" will have a seven page preview with the cover, which made Willingham reply, "I'm glad to help that young up and comer, Neil Gaiman." Wayne retorted, "We took out ads, and put in pages of 'Neverwhere' ... what were we thinking?"

June will see the debut of "Wildsiders" by J. Scott Campbell, a team that sprang out of "Danger Girl." Issue zero will be a 32 page comic priced just $1.99. It features five friends with powers based on the animal kingdom, and allegedly uses a kind of holographic-looking art style.

The current arc of "Ex Machina" ends with issue #10, and #11 is called "a great jumping on point" by editor Abernathy, with a standalone story before "Fact vs. Fiction" begins, with the world's only superhuman mayor getting sequestered in jury duty while a new jetpack-wearing hero appears in the Big Apple.

Kurt Busiek returning to Astro City after a bit of a hiatus caused by health concerns and scheduling. "Astro City: The Dark Ages" was originally slated to be twelve issues, and is now sixteen. Artist Brent Anderson is on issue one, Busiek has written into issue four.

With "The Intimates" #8, the kids are let out for the summer, and instructed not to use their powers in the real world, but teenaged poor impulse control clearly will get the better of them. A new character, Flora, will be introduced as someone from Punchy's neighborhood, who knows him, and a story arc will show the kids first official team-up.

The "Magdalena" team of Joe Benitez and Marsha Chen will be bringing out "Wraithborn." For more on "Wraithborn," read our interview with Benitez and Chen. "It's a supernatural acton adventure book," Chen said. "The male protagonist has trained whole life to be next wraithborn, kind of superhero, but powers goes to tteenaged girl, who has no desire to use the powers. A lot of people who want tol get his power, and this is the perfect time. They have to work together to escape these people. We're going to see how she gets the power, and she'll meet the trained hero. A guy with trainig and no powers, girl with powers and no desire."

Vertigo will launch an ambitious TPB called "Vertigo: First Taste," which will have 168 ages and cost just $4.99. Featured will be the complete first issues of "Y: The Last Man," "100 Bullets," "Books of Magic," "Life in War Time," and the first Alan Moore issue of "Swamp Thing." "if it does well," Wayne said, "we'll do another so we can include 'Fables,' so bill can stop kicking me."

While DC wasn't able to get the A/V equipment working, they had hoped to show fans the cover image for Brian Azzarello and Marvelo Frusin's new Western series "Loveless." Click the image to enlarge.

Mike Carey feels it'll be time for another writer to take the title on, and will leave after his 41st issue. As of the standalone issue "Hellblazer" #216, Scottish crime novelist Denise Mina will take over, which will have " a special guest artist who cannot be named. Could be someone very close to us at this point ..." Bradstreet looked around innocently, and then talked about how much he enjoyed reading the script. "My feeling is that she will be bringing it a little more down to earth." Vankin commented. "You won't be seeing quite as many spectacular demons. It's gonna be a lot more human, a little down and dirty." When Vankin emailed her, vaguely asking if she'd be interested in working on the title, she allegedly emailed back, "I would eat my own guts to write 'Hellblazer.'" It didn't come to that, fortunately," Vankin admitted. "She'll be the regular writer on Hellblazer for the foreseeable future, starting in January."

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