WWC: Experiencing Vertigo

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A striking change in tone and subject matter was evident in many of the projects discussed at the Vertigo panel at Wizard World Chicago. Reacting to events in the world around us, many creators at Vertigo are bringing forth thought-provoking works that are more socially conscious than ever before. In attendance were Jason Aaron, Peter Gross, Brian Wood, Tony Moore, Brian Azzarello, and editor Will Dennis. A number of series, both established and newly announced, were discussed.

Brian K. Vaughan’s original graphic novel, Pride of Baghdad, is at last seeing print in September with art by Niko Henrichson. Vaughan is said to view this project as the work he is most proud of. Some concern had been expressed over whether the Iraq War (which serves as the backdrop for a story of escaped lions from the Baghdad zoo) would end before the book was released, though the panel joked that clearly this is no longer an issue.

The Middle East is also serving as the setting for the upcoming Sandman Mystery Theatre: Sleep of Reason by John Ney Rieber, which will focus on an all-new character taking up the mask and gas gun of Wesley Dodds in a climate of war and global fear. The region also will play a role in Rick Veitch’s near-future tale Army@Love, which chronicles an endless global conflict and a hedonistic lifestyle encouraged by the U.S. government to ease the soldiers’ pain.

Past conflicts serve as inspiration in titles such as Jason Aaron’s The Other Side, a tale of two grunts on opposite sides of the Vietnam War. The series is illustrated by Cameron Stewart who spent several weeks researching in Vietnam. Conflicts that sadly remain with us are the focus of series such as Aaron’s Scalped, a crime drama set on a Native American reservation, and the original graphic novel Incognegro, focusing on undercover agents sent to infiltrate hate groups in the hopes of destroying them from within.

Not all of Vertigo’s upcoming projects display this social conscience, though they remain true to the spirit of the imprint and its fantasy/horror roots. Bruce Jones and John Watkiss’ Deadman revamp and its afterlife quandaries was discussed, as was Mike Carey’s Crossing Midnight, which focuses on twin children with strange abilities born in Nagasaki on opposite sides of the witching hour. Carey and Jock’s Faker will address the mystery of four party-going college kids who awaken to find a fifth member. Carey is proving to be quite prolific at Vertigo, also offering God Save the Queen, which centers on Queen Titania of Faerie, her struggle with Queen Mab, a young girl’s coming-of-age, and a group of “slacker faeries.” The Swamp Thing spin-off, The Un-Men, will bring the return of some of the twisted creations of Anton Arcane. And of course, no Vertigo panel would be complete without mention of Absolute Sandman, a “director’s cut” remastered version of Neil Gaiman’s classic series.

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Popular continuing series were also discussed, such as Y: The Last Man, which is building towards an explanation for its global gender plague. Testament was billed as the “Vertigo book that exposes the Bible” and it was remarked that Vertigo hasn’t “pissed enough people off yet,” referring to the fact that the creators hope to challenge people’s beliefs and assumptions with the book.

Upcoming issues of Fables will tell the tale of Hansel being chosen as the Adversary’s envoy to Fabletown, while the much anticipated Fables graphic novel, 1001 Nights of Snowfall, is scheduled for October.

Brian Wood will both write and draw DMZ #12, something he hopes to do at least once a year. Some of the biggest news of the panel came from Wood’s admission that he’d signed a two-year exclusive with DC and was working on a second ongoing Vertigo book called Northlanders, centering on Vikings. It was jokingly suggested that Cameron Stewart be chosen as artist, as his devoted research ethic would no doubt have him out “raping and pillaging.”

Tony Moore commented that The Exterminators (which he says began as a television pitch before coming to Vertigo) is the best-written book he’s had the pleasure to work on. Brian Azzarello’s Loveless also received praise from the panel, though with the dubious honor of making “Deadwood look like a tea party.” As for Azzarello’s 100 Bullets, the book is still slated to end at #100 and the writer would only cryptically apologize to fans for the upcoming (but necessary) arc.

Harvey Pekar’s new volume of American Splendor will be launching at Vertigo in the near future and Pekar’s graphic novel, The Quitter, will receive the softcover treatment in October.

When a fan asked about the change in style for Vertigo over the years and the increasing social relevance of its excellent stories, the panel remarked that we are now living in a different world.

Whatever the case, that world is a better one while Vertigo is a part of it.

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