This fall, Vertigo blasts onto the scene with a full slate of books that promise mystery, intrigue and excitement. The 11 new #1s, announced today at Vertigo’s panel at San Diego Comic Con, will debut between October and December and include writers and artists such as Gail Simone, Lee Garbett, John Higgins and Simon Oliver.
October will see the debut of four different, unique books that range from science fiction horror to technological thrillers: Twilight Children, Survivor Club, Clean Room and Art Ops. EW spoke exclusively to the creators in advance of today’s announcement to learn more about what stories they plan to bring to their readers.
EW: Can you talk a little bit about your influences in writing this story? I’m very intrigued by the premise, especially since horror and supernatural stories are starting to become a little more mainstream in the comic world.
GILBERT HERNANDEZ: I’m influenced a lot by how I perceived the world as a child. The story of The Twilight Children is something I would have once imagined happening in some alternate reality, and that’s how I approach so many of my story concepts.
You and Darwyn [Cooke] have both done amazing work on your own, and now you’re working with each other. What has that process been like? What have you learned from each other?
I’ve never worked with Darwyn before but what I’ve seen so far on the book is really great. I was happy to work with him because I knew of his storytelling skills and I have no problem with him adjusting my script to his way of visually presenting the story.
Provided you can give things away…can you talk a little bit about the main character in the book, and why we might be able to connect with them?
There are several strong characters but the main one would be Tito, the town hottie. She’s the most emotionally driven character, though I’m not shy about showing her flaws. That can be tricky, as she becomes volatile and I don’t want to the readers to lose their connection with her.
What kind of journey do you have in mind for the characters of your story?
I don’t have any special message with the story, other than to present a humanistic view of flawed people, as in the real world. That’s what all my stories are about.
EW: What excited you about diving into this particular story?
LAUREN BEUKES: When Dale [Halvorsen] told me about his idea, I was struck by the brilliant simplicity of it and how that would allow us to subvert horror genres in interesting and complicated ways, to tell a story you haven’t seen before. What if the 80s horror movies were real and where are those kids today? And what if they’re not the survivors… what if they’re the chosen ones?
DALE HALVERSON: I’m a big horror fan. I watch everything. I was watching Child’s Play and as the credits rolled, I thought, what if that wasn’t the end of the story? That kid would be really messed up, living with that PTSD. Generally horror movies end with them defeating the evil, but what if they couldn’t? What if they had to live with it?
The premise of the book seems to be drawn from something that is very prevalent in today’s world: the use of the Internet and social media. Did that focus have any effect on the way you thought about your story?
BEUKES: It’s a reflection of the way we live our lives — Dale and I both probably spend too much time on Twitter and scruffling around in strange pop culture places online. The way the Internet affects who we are is a particular preoccupation and I explored it in my novel Broken Monsters, too.
HALVERSON: It’s about the spread of ideas, horror stories, urban legends finding a life of their own. What intrigues me is that they leave people asking “is this real or not?”
Can you talk a little bit about the six protagonists who we’ll meet? Did you have fun crafting their relationships (or drawing them) based on what they all have in common with each other?
BEUKES: All the characters had something tragic and horrible happen to them in 1987 when they were little kids. And not the garden variety of trauma either — Chenzira stumbled on an arcade machine that opened a gateway to hell, Simon believed he was the source of the demonic evil possessing his family home, Alice told the cops her dolly murdered her parents, Kiri’s school friend disappeared leaving only a burned shadow, Teo has a weird bite on his neck, Harvey saw the babysitter killed in front of him. They’re only just starting to put the pieces together and they’re all coming in with their own agendas.
HALVERSON: We wanted each character to embody a different 80s horror trope: the killer doll, the slasher, the haunted house, J-horror, creepy neighbours, interdimensional gates. When we first came up with the idea, what was interesting was talking about the characters, creating a portrait in words, which I took away to do initial character sketches. Their personalities emerged from the drawings and really came into their own when Ryan put his own spin on them and brought them alive on the page.
For both of you: what was it like working together and collaborating together? Did you have a chance to learn from each other’s art or words?
BEUKES: Dale’s a genius ideas guy. This concept was all him. He comes in to work at my house with this ton of crazy research he’s done and his eye for detail and sinister twists is diabolical. It’s been amazing to share the hard labour of writing — we’re old friends and we spark off each other in very cool ways. And we talk through the dialogue, re-enacting the scenes in my kitchen. It’s hilarious and really fun, but also often brain-breakingly tricky. I’ve worked with Eva before and I love the palette she’s using here, which is more subdued, than some of her other work, but very rich. Ryan’s art blows me away — the filmic perspectives, the emotional texture which sometimes makes us rethink the dialogue and pushes it to be more interesting. Clem’s lettering is awesome and he’s a pleasure to work with and Bill’s cover design — holy hell!
HALVERSON: I think of our writing sessions as creepy playtime: improv with a horror twist. I’ve been learning from Lauren’s storytelling for years, having designed all her book covers in South Africa. Coming from the arts side, it’s a different challenge. I have a newfound respect for writers. I’ve realized coming up with a great concept is one thing — executing it properly is a whole other skillset. That’s where Lauren’s genius comes in. She’s so good with plot structure and dialogue. Ryan brings a very interesting fresh perspective to the art. Whenever we receive his art, it’s always better than what we’d imagined. He takes the words and breathes life into them. He’s the Dr Frankenstein to our Mary Shelley. He’s working at an incredibly high skill level. I often think to myself, “I couldn’t do that!” The same way grading on film can make or break the tone, the colors of a comic book set the atmosphere and Eva has nailed it.
As a rabid comics fan, I knew a lot of Bill’s covers. Growing up in a small seaside town in South Africa where comics were insanely hard to come by, I remember seeing his Dazzler covers in the corner cafes. I realized I’ve been a lifelong admirer, before I ever knew his name.
I’d love to know how your collaboration as a writer and artist came about, given the wealth of work you’ve produced in the industry.
GAIL SIMONE: We looked everywhere for an artist, we looked at the biggest names, and a number of them were very interested in the book, but we needed someone whose work would feel like a surprise to the reader, like a revelation. My editor, and the book’s biggest supporter, Shelly Bond, sent stacks of art samples and comics from people from places all over the globe, and Jon Davis Hunt’s art just popped — it has such charm, which makes the horrific stuff even more terrifying. But the acting he brings, the voices he gives the characters, just in their body language, he’s amazing. He left a lucrative career in video game design for this book and he’s full of brilliant ideas, I absolutely love him and he’s the heart of the book, without doubt. People are going to get their minds blown.
JON DAVIS-HUNT: I’d been working in comics for a few years, mainly for 2000AD here in the UK, when I met Shelly (Bond) at a convention. Several chats and a few samples later, I was offered the chance to work with Gail on Clean Room. The whole experience has been a whirlwind of surreal awesomeness!
Can you tell me a little bit about Chloe, and what we can expect to see with that character?
SIMONE: Chloe is a small-time journalist, never really went after the big story. Astrid Mueller is history’s most successful and charismatic self-help guru, in charge of a media empire where the only product is herself. Chloe’s fiance becomes obsessed with Astrid’s philosophy, and something terrible and inexplicable happens to him. Suddenly, Chloe’s journalistic tiger has awoken, and she wants to take Astrid down permanently. Teeth are bared, claws are out. It’s two driven, obsessed women colliding against each other, and both are implacable.
DAVIS-HUNT: Chloe’s journey through the start of the book runs the entire spectrum of emotions as she has to process a lot of extreme experiences which mix in with her otherwise ‘normal’ life. I wanted to make sure that she comes across as a grounded, but fairly nuanced character, so I’ve tried to give her a look that conveys that. As for what to expect — lots of very weird s***!
In a way, I feel like this book does more than just take us on a horror journey – it explores our fears and the things we’d rather forget. Was there any kind of personal experience either of you had from creating this that you took to the book?
SIMONE: Absolutely. When I was a child, I had a nightmare, my family were all hunters, and I had a dream that a cackling old woman was butchering a still-living deer in my bedroom while I was sleeping. That haunted me most of my life. So it’s in this book, and the first thing I did was ask everyone on their team what their most haunting childhood nightmare was…and THOSE are now all in the book, as well. We fear what we don’t understand, sure. But we also fear exposure. We fear people knowing us for what we truly are. That’s what this book is about.
DAVIS-HUNT: I’ve tried to find inspiration a lot in the kind of stuff that I found creepy as a child — weird, old fairytale books, strange old sci-fi TV series. As a young kid, you apply a filter to the world that distorts and amplifies those things you find scary and don’t yet fully understand. Pretty much everything that has ever creeped me out over the last few decades is getting chucked into this book somewhere.
What can you tease about this story for readers? What kinds of things can they look forward to seeing?
SIMONE: This is a story about nightmares that don’t go away when you open your eyes, and crackpot conspiracy theories that might terrifyingly be true. It’s the power of psychology versus the power of a free press, when there are monsters on both sides, figurative and literal. Astrid Mueller has a room, a Clean Room, where she asks you a series of questions. And once you answer them, she owns you forever. Monsters are scary, secrets are scarier still.
DAVIS-HUNT: There is a lot of really cool stuff. Gail has an incredible way of writing really great ‘moments’. Little horror vignettes that feel unique and creepy and are also incredibly fun to draw. In every script so far there’s been at least one moment where I’ve been like ‘Whoa – Ok, I’ve never seen that before. Now how the hell am I actually gonna draw it!’. Like the best kind of horror, it’s packed with as much mystery as it is blood. You’re not 100% sure exactly what is going on – so like that first victim of every good slasher film, you’re enticed further into the darkness! J
EW: Can you talk about how you came up with the premise for this story and how the concept came about?
SHAUN SIMON: It started with a title that I’ve had in my head for a few years, “The Assassination of the Mona Lisa.” I didn’t have story for it until Shelly asked me to pitch her something for Vertigo Quarterly. If you’re going to kill something, it has to be alive, so I sent Shelly the idea that Mona Lisa escapes from her frame, gets into some trouble, and a team of Art Ops have to track her down and put her back in. She liked it enough to ask me if I wanted to turn it into a ongoing series. Obviously I said yes. She brought it to Mike, who loved the idea, and we started developing it.
MICHAEL ALLRED: The premise sprung from Shaun’s brilliant head, and I was happy to have him let me put my stamp on it.
What can you tell us about Reggie and what we’ll learn about him? Will we learn about other specific characters in the Art Ops as well?
SIMON: After a tragedy hits him, Reggie Riot’s life gets turned upside down. He becomes eternally bound to art and gets thrust into a role he wants no part of. There’s a long, secret history in the world of Art Ops and a personal one between Reggie and his mother.
What can you tease about this story for readers? What kinds of things can they look forward to seeing?
SIMON: We have the entire art world at our disposal and we aren’t limited to paintings. Things might get weird. From Reggie’s leather jacket and bandaged arm to seedy clubs on the Lower East Side, and from glamorous galas to high stakes art heists, this is Mike Allred at his best.
Michael, how much fun was it to draw this series, because I imagine from the premise it must be pretty cool to illustrate panels for this book. How was it collaborating with Shaun?
ALLRED: Fresh, exciting and BIG fun! So far unless Shaun had a very specific idea for a character, our collaboration has allowed me complete freedom to run with the look and styles of the characters. I have my favorites, but I wanna keep that to myself until I get the uninfluenced reactions from the readers.
Preview the rest of Vertigo’s November and December line-up below with these exclusive first looks.