Dizzy Heights

Comic Heroes - - Contents -

Ver­tigo is re­launch­ing with a raft of in­trigu­ing new ti­tles. Jaime Her­nan­dez? Sold.

Ask a comics-savvy friend to name some of the best non-su­per­hero comics of the last 25 years and, chances are, they’ll list Ver­tigo ti­tles. DC’s adult-fo­cused im­print is the home to the likes of Sand­man, Preacher, Y: The Last Man and The In­vis­i­bles, to name just a few… The im­print has been a home for in­ter­est­ing and thought-pro­vok­ing comics ever since it be­gan back in 1993. It was a spring­board for icon­o­clas­tic creators like Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Peter Mil­li­gan and Garth En­nis, but with the de­par­ture of its Ex­ec­u­tive

Edi­tor Karen Berger in 2013, it seemed to floun­der. Even its lon­grun­ning flag­ship ti­tle, Hell­blazer, came to an end that year with its hero, John Con­stan­tine, ab­sorbed into the more kid-friendly New 52.

Now it’s time to turn that around once again. From Oc­to­ber, Ver­tigo will launch 12 new books, four a month, that aim to rein­vig­o­rate the line. They’re a mix of on­go­ing month­lies and minis­eries, and Ex­ec­u­tive Edi­tor Shelly Bond has high hopes. “Ver­tigo has a long-stand­ing tra­di­tion of unit­ing the most tal­ented creators in the in­dus­try,” she says. “That be­gins with a top-notch ed­i­to­rial staff. I’ve put to­gether a brand new team – with ed­i­tors com­ing from di­verse pub­lish­ing back­grounds – to round out Ver­tigo’s sen­si­bil­ity. The re­sult is a fear­less new wave of 12 in­ven­tive ti­tles”.

Ver­tigo has al­ways in­cluded a mix of es­tab­lished ta­lent and new creators, and the 12 ti­tles are no ex­cep­tion. Bond sees the ap­peal of work­ing on a book for Ver­tigo to be as strong as it al­ways was.

“There was a con­certed ef­fort to lure in­dus­try leg­ends like Dar­wyn Cooke over to the dark side,” she says. “He asked if Gil­bert Her­nan­dez would con­sider work­ing with him. Af­ter a five-sec­ond phone call, you have the seed of The Twi­light Chil­dren [re­viewed on page 120]. Most creators come to Ver­tigo know­ing the sen­si­bil­ity and [as­sured] that their vi­sion will be brought to life and backed one hun­dred per cent. They know our his­tory and un­der­stand that we’re look­ing for the sto­ries that keep them up at night.”

Rob Wil­liams is the writer on Novem­ber’s Un­fol­low, one of the new month­lies (re­viewed on page 121). “It’s an ac­tion thriller for the so­cial me­dia era,” he ex­plains.

“The bil­lion­aire who in­vented our story’s ver­sion of Face­book has ter­mi­nal cancer, and he pub­licly de­clares that, when he dies, 140 char­ac­ters from around the world will share his for­tune equally. But if one of them dies, 139 will share the money. And if 139 of them were to die... then the re­main­ing one will get all of his money.”

Un­fol­low isn’t Wil­liams’s first project with the im­print – it picked up his minis­eries The Roy­als:

Masters Of War af­ter DC closed its Wild­storm im­print – but this is the

Ver­tigo’s al­ways felt lik ethe HBO of comic com­pa­nies

first new se­ries he’s sold to Ver­tigo. “It’s a story about find­ing out who hu­man be­ings re­ally are be­hind the fa­cade of tech­nol­ogy. How we’re all still part of the food chain.” Is so­cial me­dia chang­ing so­ci­ety for bet­ter or worse? “That’s one of the things we’re deal­ing with. It’s sup­posed to make us com­mu­ni­cate more with the world, but we all sit round the break­fast ta­ble look­ing at our phones rather than each other... So there’s ob­vi­ous con­tra­dic­tions. The world’s chang­ing. Open­ing up and clos­ing down. My part­ner’s al­ways nag­ging me to ‘put the phone down!’ That’s part of where

Un­fol­low came from.” Ver­tigo was the nat­u­ral home for the se­ries, says Wil­liams. “I think it’s the lack of bound­aries and the feel­ing that you can tell any story. You can go to some am­bi­tious places with that, say some things that may shock. Ver­tigo has al­ways felt like the HBO of comic com­pa­nies to me, and that’s still the case here. With

Un­fol­low we’re telling a story that re­ally has the zeit­geist at heart.

And it looks in­cred­i­ble thanks to the art of Mike Dowling and the colours of Quin­ton Win­ter.”

Chang­ing, man

“I think be­cause Ver­tigo has been around for a few years it’s easy to lose sight of how ex­tra­or­di­nary and won­der­ful a thing it is,” says Peter Mil­li­gan, who made his name at Ver­tigo with books like Enigma and Shade: The Chang­ing Man. “Noth­ing stays the same, and Ver­tigo may be go­ing through some changes, but it’s still a place where I feel com­fort­able and in­spired.”

Mil­li­gan was one of the Bri­tish writ­ers who es­tab­lished Ver­tigo’s dis­tinc­tive tone and has worked on Ver­tigo ti­tles on and off ever since, most re­cently his “Kill Bill meets The Wolf of Wall Street” tale, The

Names. “In an in­dus­try that’s of­ten male-dom­i­nated, the pow­er­ful fe­male pres­ence in Ver­tigo has also al­ways been one of its strengths,” he says. “With my lat­est story, New Ro­mancer, the in­put of some of the younger fe­male ed­i­to­rial staff has been in­valu­able for what is a story with a young fe­male pro­tag­o­nist.”

New Ro­mancer ex­plores many of the fa­mil­iar themes that Mil­li­gan has made his stock-in­trade as a writer. “It’s the story of a young woman who meets the man of her dreams and re­alises you should be care­ful what you pray for. New Ro­mancer is a su­per­nat­u­ral ro­mance set in and around a strug­gling dat­ing startup – New Ro­mancer – in Sil­i­con Val­ley. Our hero, Lexy, is a young and bril­liant fe­male coder. Through a mix of weird sci­ence – uti­liz­ing cod­ing de­vel­oped by By­ron’s ge­nius daugh­ter, Ada Lovelace – and weirder weather, Lexy is united with the Bri­tish ro­man­tic poet Lord By­ron. But By­ron isn’t quite what she imag­ined he’d be. Casanova and other de­mon lovers be­gin to show up with their own wicked agen­das and what could have been a sweet love story spins off into some­thing cra­zier and more twisted...”

New Ro­mancer is drawn by the rel­a­tively new artist Brett Par­son. “Brett is hugely tal­ented and I’m sure a star of the fu­ture,” says Mil­li­gan. “His work on this book is re­mark­able.”

The magic of books

It’s not just new se­ries, how­ever. We can also look for­ward to the

re­turn of a long-run­ning main­stay, Lucifer, which ran un­der Mike Carey and Peter Gross for over six years. But the new Lucifer se­ries, writ­ten by nov­el­ist Holly Black, is a dif­fer­ent beast from its pre­de­ces­sor, as she em­pha­sises: “I am try­ing not to con­tra­dict what’s come be­fore in any sig­nif­i­cant way, but ob­vi­ously this will be a new Lucifer by virtue of the fact that I am a new per­son writ­ing him. The chal­lenge was to find a new sto­ry­line that would still be re­spect­ful to the canon.

“I guess the core dif­fer­ences are that if Mike Carey’s Lucifer was about grow­ing up and mov­ing away from home and parental au­thor­ity, then this Lucifer is about com­ing back home and be­ing drawn into old con­flicts (and re­peat­ing old pat­terns) no mat­ter how much you swore you never would. If Mike Carey was in­ter­ested in puz­zling through the para­dox of free will, I am in­ter­ested in look­ing at the para­dox of evil.”

Black has been work­ing with Bri­tish artist Lee Gar­bett on the book, who has worked for DC on Bat­girl and on a num­ber of dif­fer­ent se­ries for 2000 AD. She is very proud of the re­sults. “He’s amaz­ing. I fully con­fess that I de­scribed some things and then thought ‘no one can re­ally draw this in a comic.’ But he could and he did.”

Black isn’t the only nov­el­ist that

Ver­tigo has at­tracted for the new slate. Lau­ren Beukes, the au­thor of The Shin­ing Girls, had form with Ver­tigo (she wrote an arc for Fables spin-off Fairest) but The Sur­vivors’ Club, co-writ­ten with video game jour­nal­ist Dave Haver­son, is al­to­gether more am­bi­tious.

“Sur­vivors’ Club came out of a very sim­ple idea,” say Beukes. “What if the ’80s hor­ror movies were real? And where are those kids to­day?”

“I was re-watch­ing Child’s Play and won­der­ing what hap­pened to the pro­tag­o­nist af­ter the cred­its rolled,” adds Haver­son. “Be­cause that would scar you for life!”

“The story fol­lows six char­ac­ters who all sur­vived some hor­ri­fy­ing events in 1987,” adds Beukes, “from killer video games to sexy can­ni­bal neigh­bours. Now Chen­zira has brought them all to­gether to con­front an old evil that has resur­faced. We’re play­ing off all the ma­jor hor­ror tropes and sub­vert­ing them, twist­ing them around in ways you hope­fully haven’t seen be­fore. It’s Scooby Doo by way of Junji Ito,” she ex­plains.

“We’re both big hor­ror fans, and work­ing to­gether on this is like creepy play­time,” Haver­son told us.

Beukes thought Ver­tigo was a nat­u­ral home for the se­ries. “It’s my first orig­i­nal comic se­ries. I wrote a six is­sue arc of Fairest, which is ex­actly why I brought this project to Shelly Bond. She’s a very canny – or un­canny! – edi­tor who has an amaz­ing vi­sion for how the story fits to­gether and pushes all of us to do our best work. Ver­tigo’s the home of some of our favourite foun­da­tional comics from Sand­man to V For Vendetta, Lucifer and Hell­blazer and more re­cent kick­ass books like Sweet Tooth, Dead­en­ders, 100% and Un­writ­ten.”

In terms of newer ta­lent, David Bail­lie, a Bri­tish writer who has worked on 2000 AD, is also part of the new launches. His se­ries Red Thorn mixes up Scot­tish

myths with mod­ern cul­ture. “Red Thorn is a story set in mod­ern­day Glas­gow and mines Scot­tish mythol­ogy and pop cul­ture to find the raw ma­te­ri­als for a sexy, bloody story that pushes all of its char­ac­ters to their lim­its.

“Isla is our viewpoint char­ac­ter for the first arc. She’s a young Amer­i­can woman with Scot­tish an­ces­try, who’s in Glas­gow to in­ves­ti­gate a dark se­cret from her fam­ily’s past. She also has an un­usual abil­ity: when she draws peo­ple they some­times come to life. Throw into the mix the fact she’s started sketch­ing Thorn, an al­most per­ma­nently fu­ri­ous and nude demi-god who’s been im­pris­oned be­neath the streets of Glas­gow for the last six­teen hun­dred years... It’s my at­tempt at putting a very mod­ern spin on clas­sic Ver­tigo ter­ri­tory. And it looks gor­geous – Meghan is prob­a­bly the best new comic artist in the western world. And the cov­ers by Choong Yoon are ab­so­lutely bril­liant.”

Ver­tigo vi­sions

Af­ter a rel­a­tively low-key cou­ple of years, Ver­tigo has very am­bi­tious plans to in­crease its vis­i­bil­ity once again. For Shelly Bond, this move is fully in keep­ing with the his­tory of DC’s bold im­print.

“Launch­ing 12 new num­berone comics in three months is an au­da­cious move, but if you look at our his­tory, look at se­ries like The

Sand­man, Fables, Preacher and 100 Bul­lets, we’re known for go­ing the dis­tance. And be­lieve me, this is only the be­gin­ning...”

Above and open­ing

page: Renowned artist Dar­wyn Cooke and ac­claimed writer Gil­bert Her­nan­dez team up to tell a sur­real tale of strange happenings in a re­mote Latin Amer­i­can sea­side vil­lage in The

Twi­light Chil­dren. How could it not be great?

Above and be­low: Lucifer re­turns, now writ­ten by nov­el­ist Holly Black and drawn by Bri­tish artist Lee Gar­bett. And when we say “re­turns”, we mean “comes back home”...

Above: So you think the world of so­cial me­dia is dan­ger­ous? In Rob Wil­liams and Mike Dowling’s Un­fol­low, it be­comes re­ally cut­throat. No, re­ally... as in lit­er­ally.

This page: With ev­ery­thing from punk rock­ers to fire-fight­ers who may or may not also be ar­son­ists to su­per­nat­u­ral ro­mance with Lord By­ron, the new Ver­tigo is as di­verse as ever – and as quirky!

Left: Norse mythol­ogy? Old hat. In Red Thorn, dark Scot­tish fables burst vi­o­lently into the mod­ern world.

Above: You think the hor­ror ends when you’ve sur­vived be­ing pos­sessed or es­cape a haunted house? Not in

Sur­vivors’ Club.

Fac­ing page: With great power comes... no re­lief from your midlife cri­sis.

Jacked is a very Ver­tigo take on su­per-pow­ers.

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