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Wizard World Chicago—Vertigo: From the Edge

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Closing out the first day of festivities at Wizard World Chicago, representatives from DC’s Vertigo imprint discussed various current and upcoming projects from the popular line. In attendance were Bob Wayne, DC’s Vice President of Sales, editor Jonathan Vankin, and creators Peter Gross, Brian Azzarello, Tony Moore, and Matt Wagner.

Among the series discussed was Brian Wood’s much anticipated Northlanders, a historical Viking saga set in the Orkney region north of Scotland.

New series Vinyl Underground by Sy Spenser will focus on an occult detective story in modern London.

Jonathan Vankin gave rapid fire presentations for several of the books in his editorial stable. Of particular note was the Swamp Thing spin-off, The Un-Men (which began this week). The series focuses on the twisted mutant creations of Anton Arcane and their reservation town of Aberrance, built on an atomic testing site. Vankin likened the town to a mix of Las Vegas and a traveling carnival and cited that, much like the Un-Men, the book itself will be a hybrid creation that blends genres.

Vankin discussed a preview of The Exterminators #24, in which the character C.J. comes to believe he is a reincarnated God of Cockroaches. Artist Tony Moore claimed it was one of the craziest comics he’s ever drawn, referencing a swarm of butterflies bursting from someone’s exploding head as evidence.

Vankin and artist Peter Gross spoke about the biblically influenced Testament, which will be ending its run at issue #22. Vankin praised the series for its treatment of the Bible as an "open source" story, a living, evolving work that people are influencing and shaping even today.

Special attention was paid to Vertigo staple Hellblazer, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year. Writer Andy Diggle will be taking the roguish John Constantine into a web of corruption and depravity (then again, that’s pretty par for the course with Constantine). Meanwhile, original series writer Jamie Delano will team with Jock for an original Hellblazer graphic novel and John’s faithful cabbie friend, Chaz, will star in his own miniseries, The Knowledge, from Simon Oliver and Goran Sudzuka. Sudzuka flew to London from Croatia for the first time, resulting in some fantastic reference photos for the artist.

Another classic that’s never far from Vertigo fans’ minds is of course The Sandman, which will receive a second volume of its Absolute Sandman edition in October. This will feature re-inked art and two previously un-collected stories, one focusing on Desire and the other a prose piece.

Brian Azzarello expressed regret in approaching the conclusion of his modern noir drama, 100 Bullets. Many in the audience (and panel) suggested a continuation or sequel, the most popular ideas being "100-ish Bullets" and "For a Few Bullets More." Azzarello did admit that there was room to revisit this world, though he had had an ending planned from the very start.

Azzarello also spoke about his western saga, Loveless, in which the writer and his fans agreed that there were no redeemable characters, just "dirty SOB’s." Nonetheless, Azzarello is having great fun writing the story and his upcoming arc will be set many years in the series’ future, around the turn of the century, where these characters’ mark will still be felt.

According to Wayne, the hit graphic novels of the year will be Sentences: The Life and Times of M.F. Grimm, by rapper Percy Carey and artist Ronald Wimberly, and Cairo by journalist G. Willow Wilson and artist M.K. Perker. Focusing on a drug runner, a journalist, an ex-patriate American and others in the ancient and richly mystical city, Cairo got high praise from the panelists who had previewed it.

Vankin gave high marks to Incognegro, a new series inspired by true events, which will chronicle an African American reporter’s attempt to investigate lynch killings in the South—as well as possibly save his own brother from a similar fate.

Finally, Matt Wagner discussed his newest project, Madame Xanadu, a re-working of an obscure but well-liked DC mystic character. Working with manga-influenced artist Amy Hadley, Wagner will tell a centuries-long Gothic romance story between the eponymous Madame X and the enigmatic Phantom Stranger.

The panel closed with a question and answer series and the creators swapping stories about their weirdest fan encounters, many involving tattoos of characters in uncomfortable places. Regardless of such awkward situations, all present were moved by the passion of Vertigo fans and determined to continue producing some of the most thought-provoking comics around.

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