Written by Brandon Pascall
Vertigo, the DC publishing imprint, has had a busy year to say the least. From relaunching the beloved Sandman universe to the brand new titles launching each month, Vertigo is trying to take itself to new heights. And, to celebrate the imprints 25th anniversary, executive editor Mark Doyle’s goal was to find interesting people with new voices to bring Vertigo back into the spotlight.
Doyle moderated the panel with guests Kat Howard, Ben Blacker, Zoe Quinn, Tara Horn, Dan Watters and Rob Sheridan.
The panel opened with Doyle talking about the Sandman Universe, a franchise that changed his life. “Why comics?” he asked the crowd.
The first book discussed was Lucifer #1 by Dan Watters, with Jock on the cover and Max Fiumara on pencils. Watters talked about how the devil has been represented differently through different mediums. Vertigo’s goal is to tell a new story for the Devil. Lucifer is a blind homeless man who is in Hell, but a different type of Hell, a personal Hell. He chose comics because he wanted to tell a story about how Hell can be different for different people. Dan wanted to change the character’s appearance from the classic blonde look and said that he wanted to put Lucifer through the ringer. There are fanatical characters and they are real characters in this story we are introduced to a police deceive named Decker.
Dan commented on Decker’s role in the story and said that if you lived in the Sandman universe and didn’t know all these amazing things existed… and then all these events started happening, you would go crazy. And, in the comic, that is exactly what happens to Decker. How he and Lucifer are connected wasn’t revealed at the panel, but I’m sure we’ll find out.
Kat Howard is writing Books Of Magic with art by Tom Fowler. There have been a lot of different versions of Tim (the classic main character of Books of Magic) but this harkens back to the original title as the next evolution. Kat says that the fun for her is turning her words to images, and that combined with the characters’ reactions the book feels very immersive. The story is at its core a high school story: Tim is a 13 year old kid who can either destroy the entire universe or become the greatest wizard in the universe… all while balancing an algebra exam.
Hex Wives was next on the list, written by Ben Blacker with art by Mirka Andolfo and Marissa Louise. This story is a drama, and Blacker said he wanted to write this as response to the world today. He’s “heated up” and this book is his reflection, as he channels his anger into this story. He also praised his creative partners Mirka and Marissa. Each witch in the series is based off a pop culture witch, he teased.
Zoë Quinn was up next on Goddess Mode with art by Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi. Quinn chose to work on comics because of the speed work can be produced (in comparison to games!). She enjoyed communicating with a more linear form of storytelling compared to other media. The characters are watching how technology is destroying the world and being used to hurt the innocent people of the world. The main characters are “total disasters.” Her favorite characters in fiction are messes – for example Harley Quinn – so she’s enjoying the chance to write one.
High Level by Rob Sheridan with art by Barnaby Bagenda Romulo Fajardo Jr. was next. Sheridan said that he chose comics for the visual world-building which comics provide, telling an abstract narrative and makeing it a personal story that can drive the readers and characters through an emotional journey. Set in a post-post-apocalyptic world, this world isn’t far away from our own. The story has three distinctive arcs; starting off with an adventure story. Sheridan wants to turn his personal experiences into something people want to read, distancing the story from current events just enough to where it isn’t the main focus but still in the background of the story. The story will gradually unveil into a bigger and bigger event.
Tina Horn was next, the writer of Safe Sex. She talked about how important representation is, and how Vertigo is making that a reality. Safe Sex’s narrative is also set in a dystopian world with art by Mike Dowling with covers by Tula Lotay. She chose comics because she grew up reading Vertigo – Sandman and The Invisibles were name dropped as her favorite stories. She never thought about getting into comics before even though it is her favorite medium.
She built this world where pleasure is monitored, because as a journalist she was interested in making sure everyone is represented in this book. She said that she felt coming from nonfiction to working in fiction was a fantastic way to find out what was in her head. No one thinks they are the villain in this story, and she wanted to comment on the themes of her personal life and how marginalized groups fights the battles against the oppressors of the world.
Mark said that all of these stories and all of these creators are here because these are the stories they are dying to tell. If these were to be their final stories: these are the stories they would want to tell.
And telling those stories can only be done in comics.