Vertoscope is an anthology comic currently trying to raise funds via a Kickstarter campaign. It’s a collection of sixteen stories centring on the psychology of villains. I had a little chat with co-creator Nechama Frier about what draws someone to the dark side.
A Place To Hang Your Cape: Could you run us through the basics of VERTOSCOPE?
Nechama Frier: VERTOSCOPE is a 200 page graphic novel anthology that runs on the theme “antagonist as protagonist”. My co-editor Ten Van Winkle and I sought out artists and writers that wanted to create complete short stories about characters that were objectively reprehensible, and yet fascinatingly complex. We were less interested in the surface of the horror genre or any singular trope or theme and more interested that all our creators delve into the individual psychology of their character. The results are immaculate, and we have sixteen beautifully crafted and thoughtfully written stories that each have their own unsettling atmosphere to contribute to VERTOSCOPE‘s goal.
AP2HYC: What draws you to villains?
Nechama: Exploring villain characters and the tendency to do evil is human, cathartic, and brilliant. What’s important and often forgotten about dark fiction is the boundary between fantasy and reality – fiction at its base is meant to damage no one and can cause no physical pain. It would be useless to deny that we experience dark impulses, and my ability to sink my claws into pages of prose or slash an illustration with jagged lines of ink turns those impulses into a creative form rather than a destructive one. The result is a contained frame that can be accessed and shared with people who experience similar catharsis.
Besides, don’t villains themselves seem to have all the fun in their magnificent self-destruction? They’re free of honor, duty, or heroism – their potential is limited only by the rules they refuse to break, which let me tell you,is not many.
AP2HYC: What do you think makes in interesting villain?
Nechama: An interesting villain is someone that has multiple dimensions to why they do the things they do – maybe they’re a murderer, but strangely loyal. Maybe they want to kill their rival, but know that doing so would make their life empty and meaningless. A sense of damaged humanity is really fascinating, too – when you get a glimpse of who this awful person might have been if things didn’t take a very wrong turn. By proxy villains also tend to be more mysterious – they lie more, keep more secrets, and end up becoming inscrutable by way of self defence. When that’s spun well you have a master-work of intrigue interpreting the puzzle.
AP2HYC: What inspired you to make an anthology?
Nechama: The sage advice of “just make comics”. Ten and I share a nearly identical philosophical outlook towards villains and dark fiction, but we also work on multiple jobs in addition to comics. Our team-up and call for entries was equal parts looking for unique stories we hadn’t seen told before and motivation to just make more comics. The results far exceeded our expectations, and we’re beyond excited to share the gorgeous results of all our artists.
AP2HYC: How did you find the other creators for the project?
Nechama: With the exception of Ten and myself, everyone was recruited through a social media based call for entry. We asked potential participants to fill out a Google form that explained what their story was about and to show us examples of their work. we then assessed each entry based on the strength of the creator’s portfolio and how strongly we felt the proposed story fit into out ultimate vision for the book. We received almost two hundred responses, and the process of narrowing it down to what we could afford was somewhat heart-breaking. There were some artists with incredible portfolios that proposed stories that were about anti-heroes instead of villains, or concentrated too much on the horror genre rather than the psychological depth we were after. Overall each entry was chosen for its combination for its combination of draftsmanship and how well presented the story itself was – art and writing was treated with equal importance in our decision.
AP2HYC: What is your story, C-259 about?
Nechama: C-259 is a sci-fi adventure about spaceships and aliens…! The story focuses on Filip Sawicki, one of the last human refugees trying to make a go at surviving on a barely-liveable moon far away from earth or really any memory of it. When their settlement, known as C-259, is threatened by an ominous presence that arrives from above, Filip follows his instinctive philosophy of survival of the fittest,and makes some questionable personal choices in the process.
AP2HYC: If you could write a story based on any villain, who would it be?
Nechama: Oh man that is so tough… there are so many that I love! If I were to narrow it down just to the Big Two, I’d have to choose Lobo. He’s without a doubt one of my all-time favourite characters, and although he’s sometimes framed as an anti-hero, I feel like at his core he’s a villain with a weirdly strong sense of personal integrity. I love that his integrity is the only grain of goodness is an otherwise utterly and bizarrely chaotic character – DC has been forced to power him down multiple times because his ability to single-handedly eliminate planets and reproduce from drops of his own blood were just getting a little much for the rest of the universe to deal with. After all this talk about depth, psychology, and character layering the embodiment of hyper-masculine pulp Lobo is might seem like an odd choice, but that’s really just it – he’s an immaculate surface of completely untapped potential.
AP2HYC: Would you make a sequel?
Nechama: If the first volume goes well, I would love to. It would be really interesting to me, in the future, to expand VERTOSCOPE into a combination graphic novel and prose anthology, especially if we could pair short comic stories with prose stories that go with them. We will see what the future holds, its certainly an exciting prospect!