SDCC 2018: The Rebirth Of Vertigo (And It Sounds Amazing)

by Noah Sharma

Vertigo executive editor Mark Doyle welcomed a packed room to the DC Vertigo panel on the second full day of San Diego Comic Con.

The first point on the agenda was the Sandman Universe, bringing up Domo Stanton, the artist on House of Whispers. The line launches with Sandman Universe #1, which features the creative teams of each book working on the section dealing with their books. Stanton introduced us to a pair of sisters, the younger struggling to deal with the fact that her sibling has a girlfriend. However, while this is the case, Sandman is a shared universe and Sandman Universe #1 was an interesting chance for the creators to play with some characters and concepts that are not necessarily from their book. Rich calls Sandman Universe a primer on The Sandman that will get anyone up to speed.

Preview Pages from The Sandman: House of Whispers by Domo Stanton

At this point the panel welcomed the writer of House of Whispers, Nalo Hopkinson. She went on to describe the situation that our protagonist sisters find themselves in a little better. The elder sister falls into a coma and, when she awakens, something has changed, something that can’t be explained, and something that leads her to the House of Whispers. Hopkinson says that she had great fun creating the residents of the House of Whispers and setting the book in New Orleans’ French Quarter.

Border Town Cover by Ramon Villalobos

Turning to the new original Vertigo titles, Eric Esquivel and Ramon “Mr. Vertigo Comics” Villalobos started things off with their comic, Border Town. Esquivel is a longtime Vertigo fan, even having an Invisibles tattoo. He says that all of the folklore that his grandma used to scare him with is in this book: La Llorona, Los Duendes, El Cucuy… Devil’s Fork is a town on the border of the U.S. and Mexico but also on the border of our world and Mictlan, the Aztec hell. As such there’s a lot of supernatural weirdness going on and, as in Esquivel’s actual hometown, any and all weirdness is blamed on the Mexicans.  He pitches it as “what if Stranger Things was on telemundo?” Doyle says that one of his favorite things about this story is that it’s focused on kids. That comes from going to the Latino Comics Expo, where Latino kids would ask why the characters in Eric’s books didn’t look like them. That was a question that grew harder and harder to answer as years went by and Vertigo finally “had the balls” to publish a story to answer them.

Ben Blacker and Mirka Andolfo are teaming up for Hex Wives. Intensely grabbing the mic away from Andolfo, Blacker revealed that this book is about “the insidious ways that men control women” prompting a laugh from the crowd. The idea came from watching Bewitched and not understanding how Samantha could be this powerful being but live for this mundane ad man. Hex Wives wonders how that classic scenario would be changed if the witch didn’t know she had this power until now and if the narrative actually explored the gender politics of the situation. Blacker says that he has benefitted immensely from his female editors, his wife, and his artist. Andolfo loves drawing darker and sexier things and she pushed Blacker to go there. There’s a scene in the second issue that Andolfo describes as  “sexy, strange, sad, and weird”, a description that Blacker wants to adopt as a motto for the book.

Bryan Hill and Leandro Fernandez are telling a story that Hill calls “what if someone went undercover into white supremacist Game of Thrones.” American Carnage came into existence after the Dylan Roof murders when Hill contacted white supremacists to understand what they’re about. The book sees the FBI’s best agent trying to pick up his life after the agency chewed him up and spit him out. The trick is that our protagonist is bi-racial but can pass for white and, when a white agent is lynched he’s sent undercover to figure it out. Hill says that this will not be an easy book, joking that he can only make it because people will trust that a black man doesn’t actually sympathize with white supremacists, but that he is trying his best to create a book that’s as honest and unflinching and true as he can. Hill also says that race and politics obviously play a critical role, but at its heart this is a crime story, about the way that politics are used for crime and self interest.

Concept Art for Goddess Mode by Robbie Rodriguez

Zoë Quinn says that Goddess Mode is her screaming everything she couldn’t say in non fiction. The magical girl genre is fascinating to her because it mirrors the way that women are being ‘chosen’ to fight vast and unknowable evil while trying to manage a life. “I wanted a cast of hot messes because hot messes are my people,” said Quinn.

Finally Mark Russell and Rob Sheridan joined the panel. Sheridan is the writer of High Level, a mysterious title that builds off of the archetypal adventure story. The book takes place a few hundred years after the end of the American empire. Barnaby Bagenda, who you might know from the similarly stunning Omega Men, brings a distinctive look to the story, thanks to his process of drawing only pencils before sending them to the colorist.

Concept art for High Level by Barnaby Bagenda

Second Coming is about Supe- SUN MAN “DEFINITELY NOT SUPERMAN”, who shares an apartment with Jesus Christ. It’s kind of an odd couple story as Jesus’ instinct to heal and forgive undercut Sun Man’s justice. Seriously, Russell cannot stress enough that Sun Man is not Superman…

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