The Berger Books panel included a murderer’s row of creators, moderated, of course, by Karen Berger herself. She opened the panel by asking who in the audience attended last year’s Berger Books panel at NYCC 2018. A sizable number of hands rose, demonstrating fans’ continued excitement for Dark Horse’s publishing imprint.
Karen asked her panelists to briefly sum up their careers in comics. Ann Nocenti spoke first, recounting her 30 years in the industry. She said that her former Daredevil collaborator David Aja called her up asking if she’d like to work together again. That led to Seeds, one of the most buzzworthy miniseries published through Berger Books.
Peter Milligan explained that he worked with Berger proto-Vertigo on Shade the Changing Man, a series that was retroactively put under the Vertigo umbrella. The editor on a project is a major factor for Milligan when choosing assignments, and he was immediately drawn to the opportunity to work with Berger again.
Martin Morazzo said that he mostly worked on Image Comics before She Could Fly, the series written by his fellow panelist and filmmaker Christopher Cantwell.
G. Willow Wilson introduced herself, saying that she mostly writes superhero comics such as Ms. Marvel and, most recently, Wonder Woman. But she broke into comics through Vertigo, discovered by one Karen Berger. Wilson was excited to reunite with her former editor by releasing Invisible Kingdom through Berger Books.
Tana Ford, the artist of Laguardia, shared how enthusiastic she was to work with Berger. The panel was the first time they met in person.
The first title Berger showcased was Ruby Falls, written by Nocenti and illustrated by Flavia Biondi. It’s about the central figure in the cold case thought of by many as a “fallen woman.”
The story revolves around family across three generations: a grandmother, mother, and daughter. The daughter yearns to solve the prohibition murder while her grandmother doesn’t even want to think about it. Nocenti said the comic has a distinct noir bent, which she relished as a longtime fan of the genre.
The second series spotlighted was Everything. Its writer, Christopher Cantwell, spent hours as a kid running around stores across the mall his parents shopped at. That inspired a comic about a town that’s excited about for a superstore being built in the area. The story unveils that there is more than meets the eye in the suburbia setting.
Cantwell and Berger talked up the comic’s artist I.N.J. Culbard, sharing a double-page spread from the comic of a silent procession occurring inside the superstore, where employees throw rose petals for a co-worker who died. It all felt very surreal.
Next up was Invisible Kingdom written by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Christian Ward. The start of a second storyline and first trade volume are on sale at the end of October. Wilson described a vision in her head of space nuns, which built to a story about the relationship between four planets that exist very close to each other. Because of their proximity they have to cooperate and coexist, despite the many differences between the worlds and their people. They all have their own unique cultures, but Wilson deliberately doesn’t spend too much describing them because she feels it would confine them. She describes the heart of the story about the wrestle be between commerce and art, the head versus the heart.
The next slide was for a new book: Tomorrow written by Peter Milligan and illustrated by Jesús Hervas. It comes from the cynical side of Milligan, who sometimes thinks of his schooling as a Catholic version of Lord of the Flies. The series questions whether darkness exists in children rather than adults, as typically portrayed in fiction. The protagonist is Oscar, a young man on the spectrum. He’s in New York when a Russian computer virus wipes out most of the world’s adult population. That separates him from his twin for the first time in their lives. In the story, Oscar travels across the country to reach his sister, but she gets involved in a gang and starts to change. As Oscar tries to find her, she tries to find herself.
Milligan described Tomorrow as Lord of the Flies meets Planet of the Apes, despite the lack of apes and a setting nothing like the island in Lord of the Flies. He considers the comparison apt because the book sees a new society take shape while uncovering the dark humanity inside children.
Another book discussed was Laguardia, which stars a pregnant Nigerian woman who smuggles a magical plant through TSA and tells the story of what happens from there. Tana Ford described how she tried to show the integration of cultures even in a world teeming with alien life. Since New York City is a melting pot, she wanted it to continue to appear that way and feel real in a world full of alien creatures.
The last book in the presentation was an announcement just for NYCC: Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegrado’s Enigma is being republished! The creators recently got the rights back from DC for their 8-issue miniseries. Originally released through Vertigo in 1993, Enigma will be republished with new colors as a high production hardcover! Milligan described the story as a man searching for someone named Enigma and finding the enigma of his own existence. Over the course of his journey, the character discovers his true sexual orientation. Fans have told Gilligan that reading Enigma helped them come out, so he’s very glad to see the book reprinted.
During the Q&A portion of the Berger Books panel, an audience member asked Berger about the challenge of publishing indie titles in a crowded market. She agreed the market is oversaturated and it’s difficult to sell them. She’s working on a couple of projects that are being published as graphic novels but said that sometimes selling the issues is an important part of the process. She chose to house Berger Books at Dark Horse because the publisher pays its creators upfront, rather than on the backend and/or with no guarantee of how much they’ll earn.
Karen ended the panel by saying that her hope is to tell stories that present the world in new and interesting ways, and how happy she is to be doing that with Berger Books.