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Pop Art: A Look at Vertigo Quarterly: SFX #1

Pop Art: A Look at Vertigo Quarterly: SFX #1

By Tim Beedle Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

Who says that comic books are a silent medium? Certainly not the writers and artists behind the debut issue of Vertigo’s newest anthology.

Comics are colorful and vibrant. They’re sometimes frenetic, sometimes smart and sometimes funny. They’re deftly visual and concisely written. And they’re often very loud.

Yes, you read that right. The sound effect is one of the most common and consistent comic book tropes, and while not every comic book approaches them the same way, most make use of them in one form or another. After last year’s successful color-based CMYK anthology, this year’s Vertigo Quarterly looks at sound effects, with each issue taking one common cue as its inspiration. First out of the gate is SFX POP!, hitting stores this Wednesday. With a truly impressive list of contributors, we thought it would be fun to hear them introduce their stories in their own words, previewing a few pages in the process. Listen up!


Ray’s Bachelor Party
By Hope Larson

When Vertigo asked me to contribute a short comic to their SFX POP! anthology, I was thrilled. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of working off a specific prompt, and I immediately started brainstorming things that go POP! The obvious choice is a balloon, but that’s boring–unless it’s The Red Balloon. I wanted to go darker.

That’s how I ended up writing “Ray’s Bachelor Party,” a weird little story about how much it blows to be a sex doll. Each person the doll comes in contact with, from a bunch of raunchy dudes to a little kid to a homeless woman, projects their own ideas onto her. It’s a subversive take on Kelly Sue DeConnick’s sexy lamp test.

Most of my work is for kids, so it was gratifying to explore more adult territory. I spent most of the drawing process thinking, “I can’t believe they’re letting me get away with this!” I hope you enjoy the result.

–Hope Larson

Pop Goes the World
By Erica Schultz and Sara Richard

“Pop Goes the World” came to me in a fever dream. That's not hyperbole. Ellie Pyle (our amazing, fabulous, wonderful editor) contacted me about doing a story for the latest Vertigo anthology, and I was in the midst of a horrible sinus infection/head cold/all points bulletin of nastiness. I came up with a few ideas, took a nap (or rather fell asleep from exhaustion and cold meds), and let the hallucinations take over. What you see before you is a product of those hallucinations. It's kind of like my own version of Kubla Khan (now Coleridge's ghost is going to haunt me). 

This story takes us to a faraway and fantastical world; a world made all the more fantastical by the utterly STUNNING artwork by the spectacular and wonderful Sara Richard. We open on the wedding of two young royals, Princess Bolla and Prince Xumbo. If you've ever been to a wedding, you'll know that there's always drama...This shows the drama in all its pastel glory...with a twist at the end. We hope you enjoy it!

–Erica Schultz

“Pop Goes the World” is a colorfully written story by the crazy (in the best way) imaginative Erica Schultz with just as colorful of a palette to accompany it and the editing mastery of Ellie Pyle. 

In a kingdom of bubble people, a bride's rage can be just as terrifying as the hot missy on the side wanting back what was hers the night before. Watch out for the devastating power of forks and see the beginning of the #XumboIsMySpiritAnimal movement. Get ready for the pastel smackdown of the century!

–Sara Richard

Something in the Water
By Laurie Penny and Brett Parson

“Something in the Water” is a 21st-century reply to The Little Mermaid. That film came out when I was five, and it set the standard for the way women could rebel: sweetly, silently and always on someone else's terms. 

Sirena and her gang are people I know in real life. They're the weird queer kids who don't fit in, making a new world in the wreck of the old one. There's a magic to that, and I wanted to celebrate it. 

The idea of merfolk eating oestrogen-laced fish to change their gender is just an extrapolation, using bad science to create better narrative, but there's a point to it. The notion of pollutants in the water and in the food cycle causing people to turn crazy and adopt communism is keyed in to conservative moral panics in the United States, beginning with water fluoridation in the 1960s—think of General Jack D Ripper in Doctor Strangelove, chewing the walls about 'our precious bodily fluids.'

Climate change and environmental destruction are the great global crises of our generation, but much of the response in fiction, since well before Tolkien's time, has been a muted yearning for collective return to some mythic, pastoral golden age, when people were simpler, lived off the land, and knew their place. I reject that. I think what is required is the imagination and will to remake the world, to do new kinds of magic in the flotsam and debris of late capitalism, and it's the freaks, the dreamers, the lost kids and the queer kids who are going to lead the way. I believe that, because if I didn't I'd despair, and despair is boring.

I wasn't sure eight pages would be enough to bring that sort of story to life, but somehow Brett managed it. I am such a fan of Brett's art—I ran around squealing with my pants on my head when I heard he was going to be working on “Something in the Water.” I had to spend quite a long time Googling 'mermaid genitals' so I could leave the right notes for him, and I hope whichever poor NSA agent is watching my search history appreciated my thoroughness. 

–Laurie Penny

I really had a blast working on the POP story! Laurie's script is packed with great characters and dives into so many powerful subjects. It's a story about individuality, challenging tradition, and the horrifying effect we humans are having on our planet (and all in just eight pages!). I hope that readers find “Something in the Water” to be a refreshing and edgy change from the typical mermaid fluff.

–Brett Parson

Note: In addition to a page from “Something in the Water,” the below gallery also includes a preview from a fourth SFX POP! story, “Pop Psychology” by Peter Milligan and Celia Calle!

VERTIGO QUARTERLY: SFX POP! #1 will be available in print and as a digital download on Wednesday, April 29th.