Count Vertigo's always been a weird supervillain. Think about it: his power is essentially to make you epically dizzy. But, if you've ever been really, really disoriented—like, Tilt-a-Whirl x 1,000—you know it's nothing to laugh at. Even if the guy doing it to you is wearing a skirt.
It wasn't just his disorientation super-powers that made the DC Comics bad guy an oddball in his previous iterations, either. He was psychologically abused and manipulated with drugs by rebels in his homeland and then had a sort-of subtextual, kinky dom/sub relationship with Poison Ivy in old Suicide Squad comics. Now the character is making his debut in DC Comics' rebooted New 52 continuity as part of the publisher's Villains Month, complete with '90s-flashback-inducing 3D motion covers to promote the event. And, yeah, those Joker and Deadshot covers look cool but the Count's queasy loop is the only one that fits the character's powers.
Green Arrow writer Jeff Lemire took the time to answers some questions about bringing Vertigo back to the paneled page. Read on to see what's next for Oliver Queen and why this villain is better left as a second-tier evil-doer.
So far, the plots and conflicts that you've introduced to Green Arrow have been themed around family and secrets. Since Count Vertigo has been part of a royal lineage, will his appearance continue on this theme? Or are you taking this story arc in a different direction?
Jeff Lemire: I feel, the Count Vertigo story will continue a lot of the thematic threads I've set up in Green Arrow, like family, legacy etc., but also act as a breath of fresh air. The character is very different from Komodo, the villain who has been in the book so far. Vertigo's mind-warping powers open up all kinds of new opportunities for us to try some new things visually with the book. It's also the first time we'll see Green Arrow come up against a super powered adversary.
Count Vertigo's always been a B-list villain in previous incarnations but one who's seemed to benefit from that status. Creators could do weirder things with his personality and relationships. Are you going to try and make him a top-tier villain like Lex Luthor or the Joker, or will you keep him weird and on the fringes?
Lemire: I think Count Vertigo works far better on the fringes. He is a weird character, there is no doubt about it, but that doesn't mean he can't be taken seriously. This is a VERY dark incarnation of the character and one that I think will surprise readers who are used to previous versions. But, I think I've presented him in a way that makes him totally accessible to new readers as well. In many ways I set up his backstory as an inverted, twisted version of Green Arrow's.
Oliver Queen's been getting his ass kicked in his own book ever since you came on. How much further do you think he needs to be broken down in order to build himself back up? When will his actual competence match up with his cockiness?
Lemire: Very soon. In fact, there is a key moment in the battle with Vertigo that is the turning point. Its the moment Oliver's resolve and determination take over and he starts pushing back. But Vertigo will really push him to the limits. He is quite literally, a villain who Green Arrow can't hit. He can't even aim at, and if he's going to beat him he'll need to dig down really deep inside and find a new way to fight back, one that goes beyond trick arrows.
There've been teases about Oliver's status as a member of the Justice League of America in his solo book. Will that team ever appear in Green Arrow or is the book better served by keeping it more focused on Ollie and those characters?
Lemire: I don't plan on having the JLA appear in the solo book. I really want to keep this book focused on Oliver and his story. That said, a member or two may be popping up very soon, but not in the way readers will expect.
The TV version of Green Arrow and his new 52 reboot are radically different from the longer-running versions that preceded them. What do you think is the defining trait that ties the various iterations—from Kirby sci-fi weirdness to urban hunter to corporate superhero—together?
Lemire: At the core of all of the various incarnations of Green Arrow is his resolve and his determination. They are all stories of a man coming to terms with expectations and self-doubt and rising above that.