Executive editor Karen Berger was in fine form at this year's Vertigo panel, introducing a crop of new one-dollar monthlies and several original graphic novels on the theme of racial and cultural identity.
First up was new monthly The Unwritten, by the Lucifer team of Mike Carey and Peter Gross - both spoke animatedly about this series, which explores both the power and the danger of fiction. Unwritten will follow boy Tom, who has never managed to escape the shadow of his author father. Based on the real-life Christopher Robin from A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh, Tom is also a character in his father's fantasy books; everywhere he goes, people know him only as Tommy the wizard. When someone asks him to explain his true identity at a convention, Tom realizes he actually has no idea who he is, and so begins a journey of personal discovery ... and a battle with a shadowy conspiracy who might prove to Tom that he is more fiction than fact. Unwritten's first 32-page issue will be $1.00, and is out in May.
The new ten-issue series Daytripper is the first and longest English language work by creators (and artists of Casanova) Fabio Moon and Gabriel Bá, and it takes place in Brazil. Its hero is a lowly obituary writer who dreams of higher callings, yet finds himself overshadowed by his renowned Brazilian author daddy. There's a lovely element of magical realism, too, teased Berger.
New monthly Greek Street is Peter Milligan's angsty, dark take on visceral ancient literature. Milligan set classic Greek tragedies in the modern-day location of London's SoHo, which as he told it is the home of "the lowlifes, the gangsters, the brothels." When young orphan Eddie escapes the children's home, he goes to find his mother - and subsequently sleeps with and murders her. He runs away to Greek Street, and a bloodline of tragedy follows him. His first 32-page story will be in an oversized issue that appears this summer, and is again just $1.00.
Jeff Lemire also has a new graphic novel, The Nobody, which will appear in hardcover in May. It's essentially the story of The Invisible Man, updated to a small fishing village in Maine. Berger said it will be in 2-color and will cost $20.
Next up is the intriguing Luna Park, a time-travelling historical crime thriller. How's that for genre-bending? It follows a Russian gangster who goes back in time to Coney Island, and also journeys through Russia. Luna Park, written by Kevin Baker and drawn by Danijel Zezelj, will be out in November.
Berger was specifically excited to reveal Vertigo's new original graphic novels, which all center around the theme of travel or immigration - racial identity, and how that fits in with a larger human message. The first one she announced, Gone to Amerikay, is written by Stagger Lee's Derek McCulloch and has art by Vertigo favorite Colleen Doran. Amerikay is a sweeping historical drama that follows three generations of an Irish family. They're just starting it now, though, so no word on when that will be released.
Cuba: One Story is the graphic novel that actually made Berger cry. It's the fiction-tinged memoir of Inverna Valesquez, who has never before written comics. "Inverna has been my second mother for 25 years," confessed artist Dean Haspiel. "She told me many stories of her time in Cuba — she was in Castro's army, she was a surgeon, ... I pushed her to purge, to write her story. I was so thrown by what she wrote that I said, 'Karen, I have to have a meeting with you!' I brought Inverna in, and she spoke for one and a half hours. By the end of it, Karen had tears in her eyes. This is my most personal collaboration." Cuba comes out next year, and will also be in 2-color for a "different look," according to Berger.
Finally, Berger presented a quirky-looking travelogue by indie artist Sarah Glidden. How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less is the true story of a Jewish girl's birthright tour through her native country - the twist is that Glidden was raised in a left-wing, pro-Palestinian family in America. She went on the tour to challenge her own viewpoint a little, and ended up experiencing a complete emotional and spiritual awakening about the nature of humanity. Editor Jonathan Vankin clearly loved it; he says that while it's meaningful and serious, it's also undeniably clever and funny. That'll be out within the next year.
Finally, it was time for an update on Fables. Bill Willingham couldn't be at the con, but he sent this letter, which editor Shelly Bond read aloud (with no small amount of indignance):
Karen - Don't let Shelly give all the great Fables crossover secrets away at the panel. You know how nervous she gets speaking in public ... and how she has to hit the bottle for four or five belts beforehand! Definitely don't let her reveal that Jack will be sneaking back into the Fables book, or that Snow and Bigby will be exiled to Jack's book. And we definitely don't want her to blab about the new Jack Frost and his relation to our current Jack, or what happens when Jack ends up babysitting Bigby and Snow's cubs. Basically, Karen, don't let Shelly say anything!
That was followed by the exciting news of the first Fables prose novel, Peter & Max, for which Berger displayed a working cover image featuring two pipers. Steve Leialoha will provide illustrations. Unfortunately, Berger revealed, those rumors of an ABC TV series are about to die down - "that's not happening right now," she said, "but maybe someday."
Vertigo's pushing monthlies for all their worth - Berger would like you to know that if you have ever considered buying issues as they come out instead of waiting for the trade collections, this is the time to do it! And they've also placed a high priority on original graphic novels with a politically relevant bent: Promising stuff, surely, from the best cerebral comics publisher out there.