NYCC 2013: Vertigo panel talks ‘Sandman,’ ‘American Vampire,’ more

Oct. 13, 2013 | 7:22 a.m.
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A cover for "Sandman: Overture" No. 2 by J.H. Williams III. Alternative covers for the miniseries will be by original series cover artist Dave McKean. (Vertigo)

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"Sandman: Overture" No. 1, by writer Neil Gaiman and artist J.H. Williams, is out Oct. 30. This cover's art is by Williams. (Vertigo)

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"American Vampire," by writer Scott Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque, will return from a planned hiatus. (Vertigo)

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"Coffin Hill" No. 1, by writer Caitlin Kittredge and artist Inaki Miranda, came out Wednesday. Cover art by Dave Johnson. (Vertigo)

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Cover art for "The Wake" No. 5 by Sean Murphy. The issue is set for a Nov. 20 release. (Vertigo)

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"Dead Boy Detectives" No. 1, written by Toby Litt and Mark Buckingham with art by Buckingham and Gary Erskine, is due out Dec. 31. Cover art by Buckingham. (Vertigo)

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"Fables" No. 134, written by Bill Willingham with art by Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha, will be released Oct. 16. Cover art by Buckingham. Vertigo)

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"Fairest in All the Land," a hardcover, 160-page original graphic novel written by "Fables" creator Bill Willingham with illustrations by artists including Mark Buckingham, Renae De Liz, Chrissie Zullo, Gene Ha, Adam Hughes and more, is out Nov. 20. (Vertigo)

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"Fairest" No. 22, by writer Marc Andreyko and artist Shawn McManus, will be released Dec. 4. Cover art by Adam Hughes. (Vertigo)

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"The Wolf Among Us," based on "Fables," is being released this weekend by Telltale Games. (Telltale Games)

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"Federal Bureau of Physics" No. 4, by writer Simon Oliver and artist Robbi Rodriguez, came out Wednesday. Cover art by Nathan Fox. (Vertigo)

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"Hinterkind" No. 1, by writer Ian Edgington and artist Francesco Trifogli, came out Wednesday. Cover art is by Trifogli and Greg Tocchini. (Vertigo)

It’s been 17 years since an issue of Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed, bestselling “Sandman” series hit stands, and — noting that it’s about 17 days until the first installment of the writer’s “Sandman: Overture” miniseries with artist J.H. Williams III is released — Vertigo executive editor Shelly Bond decided to give one reader a 17-second look at that hotly anticipated No. 1.

It might have been a little more than 17 seconds: As “Coffin Hill” writer Caitlin Kittredge pointed out, DC marketing executive John Cunningham at first set the timer for 17 minutes.

But after a loose vocal count-out, the chosen woman (she waved more vigorously than others for the chance) was invited up on stage to share her reaction with the crowd at a Saturday evening panel held by the DC mature-readers imprint at New York Comic Con, with freedom to say whatever she wanted, which was short and, well, too colorful to publish in full: “It’s … gorgeous,” she said, clearly emotional.

Bond had told the audience that Gaiman is “completely at home and so on his game from the very first caption,” and that Williams has “raised the bar in artistry of modern comics” in the miniseries. After the 17-second super-exclusive preview, she said that there is something “unprecedented” near the end of that issue by the two Eisner Award winners — which from a distance looked like a four-page gatefold, but is apparently something rarer still: “I’m sure you’ve all seen gatefolds,” she continued. “Well, there’s something in ‘Sandman: Overture’ No. 1 that has never been done in comics before and it is going to blow your mind.”

"American Vampire," by writer Scott Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque, will return from a planned hiatus. (Vertigo)

“American Vampire,” by writer Scott Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque, will return from a planned hiatus. (Vertigo)

The Eisner-winning horror series “American Vampire,” by writer Scott Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque, has been on a planned hiatus as Snyder has been working on “Batman,” “Superman Unchained” and other books, and Albuquerque on projects including the one-shot “American Vampire: Long Road to Hell,” which he scripted, and “Batman” backup stories.

The team discussed the title’s return — and a mix-up during a previous New York Comic Con that ended with Albuquerque staying with Snyder’s parents; the Brazilian artist gave them a vividly violent original “American Vampire” page that the writer said now hangs in his folks’ kitchen.

Snyder called the series his and Albuquerque’s “baby,” and said it was a “trying time” for him being away from it, so much so that he’s working to make sure that he can see this priority project through to the end while continuing on his higher-profile DC superhero efforts.

The next arc starts in 1967 and will have a “summer blockbuster feel,” he said. Star bloodsuckers Skinner Sweet, a 19th century outlaw when he became the first of the American vampire species, and Pearl Jones, a 1920s aspiring actress when she was turned, are apart, and each has a new purpose in life. He’s working as a hit man in Mexico; she’s gone back to her family’s farm in Kansas. The arc will not only bring some other characters back, but will introduce “terrifying new species of vampires” in a story that Snyder said has traces of “Straw Dogs,” “The Magnificent Seven” and “The Wizard of Oz.”

"Coffin HIll" No. 1 variant cover by Gene Ha ("Top 10"). (Vertigo)

“Coffin HIll” No. 1 variant cover by Gene Ha (“Top 10”). (Vertigo)

That’s not the only horror title at Vertigo: Kittredge and artist Inaki Miranda’s “Coffin Hill,” which deals with witchcraft and family secrets, launched this month. The writer told potential readers that the series is a good fit for fans of the TV shows “American Horror Story” and “Sleepy Hollow.” The New England-set series’ heroine, Eve Coffin, left home years ago “after unleashing an unspeakable evil,” Kittredge said, and must now return to face what she did.

Miranda (“Fairest: The Hidden Kingdom”) explained the challenges of drawing in the genre: “Horror is very difficult to do in a comic because you don’t have music, you don’t have … camera movement, so you have to pick exactly what to put in each panel to create that sense of horror and suspense.”

“The Wake,” Snyder’s series with artist Sean Murphy (“Punk Rock Jesus”), is reaching its midway point, and there will be a major shift there. The sci-fi story about a creature discovered in the depths of the ocean and involving human evolution has a “game-changing issue” with the upcoming No. 5, Snyder said.

There’s a cataclysm in the time of the first half, and then the second half jumps into a future “post-apocalyptic fairy tale America,” he said. The new section stars a girl with a psionic dolphin who’s been glimpsed in earlier issues.

“It changes gears entirely,” he said, but brings together all the mysteries involving Neanderthals and the future.

There’s a lot going on in “The Wake,” sometimes maybe a touch too much: Snyder said Murphy called him to say, “Do you know how hard it is to draw a thousand mermaids?”

Murphy, a writer himself, said he always tries to add something extra: “For me, the most rewarding part of comics is surprising the writer with his own script.”

Also in the sci-fi realm, there’s “Federal Bureau of Physics.” Artist Robbi Rodriguez said that in his drawing process for the weird-science series, he acts out every role in his apartment. Issue No. 4 recently came out, and he said that a female team member would be introduced in No. 6. Also coming up: a look at the quantum suicide theory, and covers that tell an alternative version of what’s inside the comics — which he memorably said “could be the worst … idea ever, or the greatest … idea ever.” (Let’s reiterate: Vertigo books are for mature readers.)

Another recent launch is post-cataclysm series “Hinterkind”; No. 1 came out this month. Writer Ian Edgington told prospective readers that in his comic’s world, humans, now rare and isolated in a world Mother Nature has largely taken back, have fallen “to the bottom of the food chain” under elves and other races that aren’t magical, but evolutionary in origin.

"Suiciders" is written and drawn by Lee Bermejo.

“Suiciders” is written and drawn by Lee Bermejo.

The upcoming Lee Bermejo-written-and-drawn series “The Suiciders” is set in Los Angeles 30 years after a disastrous earthquake, and the city has seceded from the country and is internally split into two sections: the walled-off, wealthy New Angeles and the criminal-run ghetto Lost Angeles. It will follow two main characters, Bermejo said, a recent immigrant arrival in Lost Angeles and a celebrity in New Angeles.

Why that title? “There’s a gladiatorial kind of game that is basically the biggest thing in New Angeles,” Bermejo said. “It’s basically two guys in a coliseum going at it, only the coliseum goes at them too.” (In a brief conversation after the panel, Bermejo told Hero Complex that the venue isn’t the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, though some buildings from the L.A. of today will remain.)

Some familiar faces are returning in the next issue of writer Bill Willingham’s long-running, many-Eisner-winning myths-in-modernity series “Fables.” Bond said No. 134, which shows artist Mark Buckingham “at the height of his craft,” is an interlude about two beloved characters who are “allegedly” dead — Boy Blue and Bigby Wolf. (Buckingham is also doing covers and pencils for the upcoming “Dead Boy Detectives,” which follows characters introduced way back in “Sandman” No. 25.)

Fabletown’s super-spy Cinderella is on the case in two upcoming stories: a Marc Andreyko-written story for the companion series “Fairest,” and the “Fairest in All the Land” original graphic novel, due Nov. 20, written by Willingham. That 30-chapter, 22-artist book, long known to be narrated by the Magic Mirror, is a murder mystery, Bond said. Among the artists: Gene Ha, Renae De Liz, Adam Hughes, Phil Noto, Chrissie Zullo and Chris Sprouse.

Also in the “Fables” realm: Cunningham reminded the audience that the Telltale Games title based on the series, “The Wolf Among Us” (set before the events of the comic’s No. 1, with Bigby front and center) has just been released.

Cover art for "The Unwritten: Apocalypse" No. 1. (Yuko Shimizu / Vertigo)

Cover art for “The Unwritten: Apocalypse” No. 1. (Yuko Shimizu / Vertigo)

“The Unwritten,” a literature-rich story about story itself from the team of Mike Carey and Peter Gross (the “Sandman” spinoff “Lucifer”) begins its second volume, “Apocalypse,” in January after the climax of “The Unwritten Fables” event that involves the Willingham title’s world. Bond said that final-sounding volume will indeed bring the story home — in 12 issues. The original graphic novel “The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice,” a sort of prequel to the series, is on the New York Times bestseller list of hardcover graphic novels and has been nominated for a Young Adult Library Services Assn. great graphic novel for teens award.

In the short audience Q&A, one reader asked Bond if there might be any further “Sandman” stories from Gaiman after “Overture,” maybe a story about Daniel, the new incarnation of Dream from the end of the original series.

“I’ll have to call him and tell him that we spoke,” the editor said, “and maybe suggest that he should think about a future story after ‘Overture.’”

New York Comic Con, with an expected crowd of 130,000, is the East Coast’s largest pop-culture expo. The four-day event continues at the Jacob K. Javits Center in Manhattan through Sunday.

— Blake Hennon | @BlakeHennon | @LATHeroComplex


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‘American Vampire Anthology’ brings new blood

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