Are you tired of the cracker jack, straight laced heroes getting all the spotlight now that Breaking Bad, Dexter, and Hannibal have all been concluded or cancelled? Then, Vertoscope might be the comic for you. Co-edited by comics artists Nechama Frier (Smut Peddler, Red Rabbit) and Ten Van Winkle, Vertoscope is a 200 page graphic novel anthology featuring sixteen black and white shorts spanning a variety of genres focusing on villains. It’s like the early 2000s Mickey’s House of Villains cartoon, but much more nuanced and featuring the catchy tagline “A villainous collection by many devious minds.”
This is a personal project for Frier and Van Winkle, and in the official press release they say that Vertoscope “is brought to you by creators who have sat through dozens of movies, books, and comics falling in love with the despicable characters. We don’t hate the hero or happy ending, but straightforward stories about a good person are easy to find.” This anthology will delve into psychologically complex antagonist protagonists and not just simply be another horror or superhero or Western genre anthology. (Those can be fun though.) Because face it, bad boys and bad girls are the best.
Included in the press release were one page samples of the art from the Vertoscope anthology as well as links to the creators’ past work to give fans a feel for their creative influences, style, and interests . “Breakfast in Bed” is the lead-off story in the anthology and is written by Sarah Winifred Searle, who is currently on the Georgian-era “Ruined” story in Fresh Romance, and drawn by Hannah Krieger, who was an illustrator on the Ladies of Literature project about famous female authors. Searle and Krieger subvert traditional gender roles in “Breakfast in Bed”, which stars a vampire and knight couple.
In the Entertainment Weekly preview, the knight is wearing armor that looks like the Hound’s in Game of Thrones and has some kind of supernatural abilities. They make the vampire and knight sympathetic characters by making their opponents common, worthless pick pockets and having a sweet, romantic ending. Krieger’s artwork is similar to the minimalist fantasy work of 8House‘s Marian Churchland with extra grey scale to go with their villainous tendencies, and humorous, expressive faces like Kate Beaton’s comic strip. All in all, “Breakfast in Bed” looks like a delightful horror fantasy adventure strip that undermines gender roles and stars two kick ass queer characters. It’s like if an amoral Brienne of Tarth and a soulless Spike went on quests together.
Evil lupine figures seem to come up in both “The Devil’s Dentist” and “Taming You” stories by Mady G (Oh Joy, Sex Toy) and Grace Park respectively. “The Devil’s Dentist” is a more terrifying story with lots of negative space and a young girl on the run from a sinister figure while “Taming You” is a tense confrontation between a hunter and his werewolf opponent in a snowy landscape.
A plethora of art styles are on display in from Enoch’s darkly funny “The Bear and the Jester”, which brings the feel of breezy slice of life webcomics like Questionable Content and Penny Arcade to big game hunting and the rough lines of the cryptic “C-259” by co-editor Nechama Frier and even some youth sports fun and rivalries in the soccer themed “Striker” by Tim Stowell, Steph Stober, and Shazzbaa. This comic is filled with trash talk, creative panel layouts, and some speed lines to add intensity. Sadly, in the United States, sports related comics aren’t as popular as sports manga in Japan (Vertigo’s recent Strange Sports Stories anthology notwithstanding), and it’s nice to see that Vertoscope has a place for it. It makes perfect sense because the world of sports is ripe fodder for villains (depending on what teams you support) with everyone from Bill Belichick and Tom Brady to Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin and the countless steroids users in Major League Baseball.
Striker by Stowell, Stober, Shazzbaa
In contrast with the cartoon-styled fun and darkness of “Striker”, “The Bear and the Jester”, and the religion themed mystery “The House of the Immaculate” by Sey Vee, there are the thickly atmospheric linework of Fate’s “Bear My Teeth”, whose preview page includes the horror of workplace nepotism and the visceral, stark black and white work of Ashley McCammon in “The Devil’s Pupil”. H. Preece and A. Lee continue Vertoscope’s tradition of non-human POVs with what looks like a blow by blow account of a young wasp’s danger filled daily life with a touch of body horror and nature documentary-style narration. Another strange narrator can be found in the culinary delight meets twisted children’s illustrated book that is “Tails” by Emilee McGlory with a protagonist, who is a cat with two tails that uses these tails to control the dead and keep the world safe by doing dark things. McGlory does an excellent job building suspense by not revealing the cat’s face in the preview page.
Tails by Emilee McGlory
The final two (with “Tails” sandwiched in between them) stories in Vertoscope have a clear manga influence. The preview page from Ama’s “Witchweed” features an anti-heroine, who scoffs at lofty heroic ideals while inwardly lamenting the moral cost that she had to pay to get her great powers. Ama uses a nice shatter effect on one of her panels to show the extent of this woman’s abilities. The final story “Coping Mechanism” by Knights Errant‘s Jenn Doyle and Ursula Wood has a suspicious bespectacled character paired with a cute kid in a situation that looks like an interrogation room or some kind of hostage deal. Something is definitely off.
Vertoscope is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to pay for a 3,000 copy print run of the comic as well as pay the contributors to the anthology for their work. There are lots of sweet perks, including PDF and softcover copies of Vertoscope to original pages of the “Striker” and “Bear My Teeth” comics and even a five page comic book commission on any topic from Nechama Frier. The Kickstarter will run until December 15, 2015 and has a goal of $20,000. If funded, the Vertoscope anthology will be released around February 2016.
Find more information about Vertoscope including creator bios at their official Tumblr.