Saturday's Vertigo panel at WonderCon began with a special guest as DC VP of Sales Bob Wayne introduced Matt Wagner. Bill Willingham then showed up and apologized for being late, at which point DC Comics Editor Bob Schreck noted Bill being late didn't surprise him. And thus started the Vertigo panel.
Wayne jumped right into the program saying that if the creator of the mentioned project wasn't there, they wouldn't spend much time on that book, so that there would be more time for the creators that were there. Wayne started with "Northlanders" by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan on art, but Wood and Cloonan were talked out after just doing a panel on "Northlanders" right before they came to this panel. Wood hoped that readers would stick with the series until issue #4 since that would be the point where things come together.
"House of Mystery" came next. Willingham started off pointing out that it would be the same house that you knew from "Sandman," but after the first three pages the story is ripped from the familiar settings after Cain comes home to find that the house has been stolen. The book will focus on a cast of characters that are trapped in a house that will keep them alive, but will not let them leave, so they decide to open a bar and charge the customers a story for their drinks. A mysterious coachman, whose agenda will be slowly revealed, brings the customers. Willingham promises that they really do know the answers to every question in "House of Mystery," unlike some tv shows. Jill Thompson will do the under sea tale and Bernie Wrightson will do another story with other known artists who will be announced when the deals are done. "House of Mystery" debuts in May.
Bob Schreck told the room he is editing "Madame Xanadu." Karen Berger wanted to revive the character and then Schreck spent the next four months convincing Matt Wagner to write it. Newcomer Amy Hadley will handle art chores for "Madame Xanadu" and is described by Schreck as "a mormon who draws manga style." Wagner wasn't sure about the choice until he threw a lot of stuff for the book at her and saw what came back, which is not at all like the manga samples he had seen. The story will be one long Gothic Romance between Xanadu and The Phantom Stranger. Wagner wanted to give the Stranger some more character and he sees him as being more manipulative in the background than we have previously seen.
"DMZ" #31 starts the new arc "Blood in the Game" which begins in March. It will cover an attempt to hold elections in the DMZ while following Mattie "messing up and getting personally involved in the DMZ" according to Wood.
Wayne checked with Wood before showing the next slide. The big announcement of the panel was DC/Vertigo will publish a new trade of "Demo," originally published by AiT/Planet Lar. "It will be bigger," says Wood. Wood and Cloonan agree that it was a very important book for both of them and that they are very happy to see the books back in print.
Later in the panel, after Cloonan was asked is she'd be doing something new for DC following her work on "American Virgin," she revealed she'd be doing art for a new, six-issue "Demo" series. Wood explained it would be in the same format with extras in the back. Cloonan mentioned she also had "East Coast Rising" coming from TokyoPop.
"Fables" #73 will feature Steve Leialoha on art duties. Leialoha surprised Wayne by mentioning that the current issue of "Fables," #71, is only half done and is due at the printers next week. Willingham apologized for putting him in that position. Willingham then mentioned the "Art of James Jean's Fables covers" book. Willingham trumpete the beauty of the book and added, "The cover will be the ultimate Snow, Bigby and the cubs illustration." It will be an oversized coffee table art book due some time next year.
Next up was "Jack of Fables," written by Willingham with Matt Sturges. Willingham revealed the process of figuring out story ideas, "If it sparks the 'dare we do this?' impulse, then we decide that is right for the book." The next arc for the book will be set in 1883 and involve Jack facing off, for the first time, against a unnamed sheriff with no gun from out east, while he tries his hand starting an outlaw gang.
Wayne then snapped quickly through a few cover slides, some of books that have been previously announced, while others are upcoming or new announcements. Highlights included:
"The Alcoholic" by Jonathan Ames and Dean Haspiel. According to Wayne, it is about "a failed writer coming out of a doomed romance, looking for hope. Much like everyone in the room. Unfortunately, from the title you can tell it is not gonna be a happy story. but an interesting slice of life." "The Alcoholic" comes out in September.
"American Splendor" by Harvey Pekar comes back. Artist will include Chris Weston, John Lucas and David Michael.
The final trade of the recently completed "Y: The Last Man" goes on sale in June.
The third and fourth volumes of "Absolute Sandman" will see release in May and November of this year.
When the floor was opened to Q&A, one fan asked if "Fables" has a larger overall plan or ending?
Willingham responded that yes, it is an open ended series, but he has a final story in mind. Just recently the final story got moved up in the schedule and they have some new ideas for what happens after that. Willingham then asked that everyone just come to the "Fables" panel where more plans and a few secrets would be revealed.
The next fan wanted to know where Brian Wood finds the look of his books and how does he balance a good story with political commentary? "It's the kind of art I do." "Channel Zero" was his final art project in college and "DMZ" extends from that. Also, street art inspired the style. It was difficult for Wood to balance the politics and story and he has found that age has helped to find the balance. The early books are definitely the product of a " twenty-something, angry white art student, though."
A fan who wouldn't be there on Sunday and unable to attend the Fables panel, because she had to work at a bookstore, wanted to know if Willingham had thought of doing stories about other Fables characters like he's done with the "Jack of Fables" series. Willingham answered, "Yeah we have a book about other characters. It's called 'Fables.'" He then said that they will be exploring other characters, but they always come back to Jack, "because he might sue us otherwise." Bob Wayne asked if that fan could ship the Marvel books back and get more Vertigo at her store. She wouldn't.
The next question was about Swamp Thing coming back, which prompted Wayne to tell an action packed story about the conflict between Vertigo and DCU editors fighting over the character. He said, jokingly, they would look into it when things calmed down at the offices.
Another fan asked did Willingham plan to kill Flycatcher in "Fables" then change his mind? Willingham answered that no he didn't ever plan to, even though it looked like he did.
One fan in attendance asked if there was any new information on the "Y: The Last Man" film, optioned by New Line. The panel responded that there wasn't anything they could say at this time.
Wrapping things up, it was noted that Vertigo would do another sampler comic later this year.
Warren Ellis mentioned that "Transmetropolitan" might be redone as new set of trades collecting more issues in fewer volumes. Wayne grudgingly admitted that we might see them in 2008-2009 and that he would never tell Ellis anything secret again.
Grant Morrison will do another Vertigo book as soon as he tells the Vertigo office which book he plans to do.
The last question was if there would be hardcovers of "Fables" and "Y?" Wayne thanked everyone for coming then polled the audience. Finally he relented and said you will probably see both eventually but don't tell Willingham.