Vertigo Spotlight: Postcards from the Ledge (No. 3)

A column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: Robert Murray



Thanks for choosing the Ledge! With the limited time you have each day to peruse online comic book columns, I’m glad you’re reading this one. This week, I have an exciting interview with Un-Men artist Mike Hawthorne, an artist I have been a big fan of over the last few years. He’ll reveal his experience working on Un-Men as well as his insights into where the series is going. But first, let’s look at the Vertigo news from the past week (insert news introduction music here).

It’s that time of year when we have Best Of lists, and Time Magazine is no different, releasing among other things their Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2007. Two Vertigo comics made the list: Jack of Fables Volume One and Sentences: The Life of M.F. Grimm (Wow! That’s two weeks in a row on a Top Ten list!). Congratulations to both of these fine works!

Also, DC announced their summer 2008 trades and collections, which included six Vertigo titles. But, the one I’m the most excited about is the Dead Boy Detectives trade, collecting the 2001 four-issue mini-series for the first time. You can’t go wrong with a Sandman spin-off featuring Ed Brubaker and Bryan Talbot. Sweet!

Finally, this just in... Vertigo announced a new ongoing series written and illustrated by David Lapham of Stray Bullets fame. The new ongoing series is titled Young Liars and will premier in March. Talk about exciting news!

Now, because I read everything Vertigo, here are the Vertigo Trends of the Week:

Killer Covers: Last week it was Attack of the Variant Cover, but this week it’s The Charge of the Bloody Cover Brigade. All five new issues had blood on their covers, but there were some real gems to behold, particularly Dave Johnson’s poignant Scalped cover and Brian Wood’s stark cover for DMZ.

Four Arcs & a Stand-Alone: Well, this works as long as you still think of DMZ’s current “Hidden War” stories as an entire arc. Regardless, Un-Men and Loveless reach the ends of their current stories, Fables and DMZ roll on, and Scalped presents an intriguing look at Dash Bad Horse.

War!: Action scenes galore in most of our issues this week, with Ruth Cutter of Loveless getting the award for Most Ruthless Woman in Comics.

Ladies and Gentlemen, are you ready to rumble? Just kidding! There was no rumble in my e-mail conversation with Un-Men artist Mike Hawthorne, who was an affable guy and a cut-up, as you’ll read. Be prepared for revelations (wink)!

Robert Murray (RM): Easy question first! How did you get involved with The Un-Men?

Mike Hawthorne (MH): Well, I had just started working on Exterminators with editor Jon Vankin. About halfway through issue one, Jon asked if I'd like to try out for the series. I actually turned him down at first, because I was worried about getting involved with a monthly. But once they explained it was the Un-Men and what they're all about, I couldn't help but fall in love with them!

RM: I've really enjoyed the first four issues of The Un-Men. How are you enjoying illustrating the residents of Aberrance? Any particular favorites?

MH: I love it! I was just telling my wife that I couldn't imagine being on any other book on a monthly basis. I tend to get bored with books once there are no new challenges, but the nature of this book is such that each new story presents a new set of challenges. Besides, how do you get bored drawing freaky characters for a living? *wink*

RM: What's the most exciting element of the reality you've created for The Un-Men?

MH: Probably re-imagining such a classic group of characters. I want to do them justice, especially following a legend like Mr. Wrightson. I find myself often thinking, “Would Bernie like this? What would Bernie do?" It's also tons of fun coming up with a new generation of Un-Men, and adding a bit of myself to the universe these guys inhabit.

RM: The Gaffs reminded me of the Morlocks from X-Men comics. What are some of the influences for your take on these characters?

MH: Mostly classic side show freaks and circus performers, but with a modern twist. It's also been fun to sneak freaks into everyday situation. Spices things up visually.

RM: John Whalen is a writer I haven't read previous to this series. What do you think of his scripting style and where the future story of Un-Men is going?

MH: John is brilliant, and the fact that Vertigo has given him a monthly book featuring these classic Swamp Thing baddies shows just how much love and thought he's put into the book. I'm not sure myself where we're going to go, as Jon and John don't show me their Master Plan, but I know bits and pieces. I can tell you it's just going to get more and more wildly fantastic. I'm working on issue eight as we speak, which is the second part of a three issue arc, and I'm telling you it's just outrageous but expertly written. You guys are gonna be shocked at where John is going with this.

RM: I loved your work on Hysteria, which I thought was like jazz on paper. You've obviously toned down your style in this series and in Umbra, though there still seems to be a kinetic tension even in the quietest of scenes.

MH: I know what you mean, and thanks for the jazz reference. It's difficult to totally let loose on a book you're collaborating with other folks with.

RM: Will the realism you inject into Un-Men remain a constant in this series?

MH: I think so. I think going for a slightly more realistic world makes the freaks that much more disturbing.

RM: Any upcoming Un-Men revelations you can share with us? We won't tell!

MH: Can I trust you?....Okay, well we're going to do a cross over with 100 Bullets where we show that Agent Graves is really Cranius! Either that or we're going to show how Cranius is the real creator of the disease that kills all the men in Y: The Last Man. Seriously though, don't tell anyone!
Okay, all kidding aside. I can say that we're going to introduce the first UN-WOMAN in the second story arc, and she's a good-un!

RM: Do you have any new titles you're working on? Hysteria II, maybe?

MH: Well, One Man Gang is actually Vol. 3 of Hysteria. SO, I'm going to wrap that up soon. I'm making Hysteria into a webcomic, starting from the very beginning with the four issue self-published series I put out in 99, on my site, Think Tank Comics. Everything else will follow suit, including One Man Gang. I'll also be using the site as my home base for side projects, including Monster-A-Day (which wraps up January 1st) and my print series.

RM: What comics do you read when you have a spare moment? Any Vertigo titles?

MH: It's hard to find time, but I MAKE time for Scalped. I love the series and think Aaron and Guerra are perfect together. I've also been reading 100 Bullets since it began. Since I started getting the DC comps, I found myself getting into books I wouldn't have guessed I would like. I've gotten really into Green Lantern Corps! Fantastic space cops/war comic. Tons of fun.

RM: In one word, what best describes your feelings about comic books?

MH: Limitless.

Thanks, Mike! We’ll keep looking for you in the funny books! Oh, dear reader, don’t tell me you don’t currently peruse Un-Men and delight at the fine work Mr. Whalen and Mr. Hawthorne are amassing? Why I oughta... However, before I severely beat you around the head and neck, shoot me a line telling me what Vertigo titles you are reading or the reasons why you’re not reading other Vertigo comics. I need your input to collate the best darned Power Ranking list on this here Internet. That’s right, even better than the NFL version! So, please send your comments to murber74@cox.net. Oh, and if you want to tell me how you think I’m doing with “Postcards from the Ledge,” you can do that too. Spammers need not apply and will be severely dealt with. Gosh, all the violence this week has gone straight to my head...

Thanks for reading,
Robert

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