Vertigo's new quarterly anthology series Vertigo SFX sees writers and artists take inspiration from the world of comic book sound effects to tell short stories, starting with the granddaddy of SFX; 'pop'. The first issue is available this Wednesday, April 29th, so we reached out to some of the creators to get a preview of their stories, and to invite them to take our special SFX Q&A.

Today we talk to David Winnick, David Hahn, Robin Furth and Rosemary Valero-O'Connell about the ideas behind their stories, 'Pop-Up' and 'Momma had a Baby and Her Head Popped Off', and to find out the sounds they like to wake up to, work to, and relax to. You can also check out our previous Q&As with Nathan FoxJim Zub, and Clay Chapman and Szymon Kudranski!

 

'Pop-Up' page 1, art by David Hahn, with Andrew Dalhouse

 

DAVID WINNICK

CA: What can you tell us about your interpretation of 'pop' in your story?

David Winnick: When we first started work on this story, I really wanted to step away from sticking with the sound “pop.” The initial thoughts which came to mind were things like balloons and bubblegum, things that would make a popping sound. What was most interesting about the SFX anthology, though, was that the story did not actually have to revolve around the sound itself. It was all about what sound inspired us to think of. I sat down with my dictionary and began looking for words starting with pop. It wasn’t long before I hit pop-up. This was particularly interesting to me because a pop-up book does not actually make the sound “pop.” The sound a pop-up book would make is that of paper sliding against paper. This then made me think about what would be required to make a pop-up book actually make a popping sound.

CA: What's your favorite sound?

DW: As a Southern Californian, my favorite sound is rain on the skylights in my home. It is such an uncommon sound that it is simultaneously exciting and calming.

CA: Least favorite?

DW: I live near two major cross-streets in my town. From my home, I can hear the faint sound of traffic passing, which is almost unnoticeable, but from time to time, I hear the smashing of metal on metal followed by sirens. That is probably my least favorite sound in the world.

CA: What's the sound that you wake up to?

DW: I wake up every morning to the alarm on my phone, which is a combination of buzzing and beeping. This is followed by every joint in my body cracking and popping as I stretch. Years of sports and martial arts have left me a creaky, crunchy person.

CA: The sounds that you work to?

DW: I normally turn on the television for background noise. It helps to drown out the sound of garage doors opening and closing in the alley behind my home. Normally I listen to the news. Most of the stories are not particularly interesting, but every now and then something comes along that could work its way into what I am writing. I will also put on music if the mood strikes. Normally I listen to Metallica, Rob Zombie, and The Misfits

CA: The sounds that you relax to?

Laughter is incredibly relaxing to me. I teach English at Chapman University and sometimes there are moments of dead silence in a classroom. That is never good, because it means the students are either not understanding or not interested. That tends to put me a bit on edge, but I know that if I can get them to laugh, I am getting my point across. It is the same in social situations for me. If I can illicit even the tiniest of chuckles from someone, my level of relaxation goes through the roof.

CA: The sound that excites you?

DW: Cooking is one of my favorite things to do. I always get excited when I start to cook a piece of meat and I hear the sizzle of a nice hot grill or pan. The sound of a really good sear is the best.

CA: The sound that reminds you of home?

DW: The whistle of a tea kettle always reminds me of home. My family is full of tea and coffee drinkers. Up until the invention of the pod coffee system, we used to use instant crystals. That meant that every morning and every night we would use the tea kettle.

CA: And your favorite comic book sound effect?

DW: My favorite use of a sound effect in a comic was from the 1997 Deadpool comics written by Joe Kelly. There is a scene in the very first issue where Deadpool is running through a forest. Suddenly, he runs full speed into a villain wearing an armored suit. The resulting sound effect of Deadpool’s head on the armor is a very strange “PWANG!” Deadpool then proceeds to talk about the sound saying, “Trees don't go ‘Pwang!’ Llamas don't go ‘Pwang!’ Nothing in nature goes ‘Pwang!’” That had me laughing so hard I was actually tearing up a bit.

Other than that, I don’t really have any favorite sound effects. To me it depends on how well the sound effect is executed. If I can feel my teeth rattle from the sound of a punch or taste the food from a sizzling pan, then the sound effect has done its job.

 

'Pop-Up', page 2

 

DAVID HAHN

CA: What's your favorite sound?

David Hahn: The sound of distant, rolling thunder. It's different every time you hear it, and you can't ever predict the moment it will stop. And when it goes on just a little longer than expected, it gives you a tingle of excitement and dread.

CA: Least favorite?

DH: The sound of a dog whining. Not a pained whine, but the demanding attention whine. "Shut up, you stinker!"

CA: What's the sound that you wake up to?

DH: These day, absolute silence. No alarm clock, no cars, no neighbors, nothing. It used to be the sound of someone knocking on the door trying to deliver a package, read the meter, or give us fruit from their fruit trees at 8:00 AM.

CA: The sounds that you work to?

DH: Unfortunately, a dog whining.

CA: The sounds that you relax to?

DH: The popping and crackling of a fire, or its elemental opposite: water bubbling in a stream.

CA: The sound that excites you?

Seriously? The thunder.

CA: The sound that reminds you of home?

Sorry, thunder again.

CA: And your favorite comic book sound effect?

It's a toss up between the ever-popular Snikt of Wolverine's claw or the Pap of Hopey farting in Love and Rockets.

 

'Momma had a Baby and Her Head Popped Off', page 1, art by Rosemary Valero-O'Connell, with Voxeler and Eva De La Cruz

 

ROSEMARY VALERO-O'CONNELL

CA: What can you tell us about your interpretation of 'pop' in your story?

Rosemary Valero-O'Connell: The story starts with the literal 'pop' of dandelions getting their heads flicked off, but for me there's also an element of a dam bursting, of something hitting its limit, that could also be interpreted in the word 'pop'.

CA: What's your favorite sound?

RVOC: The first bird you hear sing after a long winter!

CA: Least favorite?

RVOC: Tornado sirens or dogs barking.

CA: What's the sound that you wake up to?

RVOC: My roommates making coffee in the kitchen.

CA: The sounds that you work to?

RVOC: I can't work in silence, so I'm almost always listening to something while I work. If the project I'm focusing on has a narrative, I'll try to put on something that's thematically related to get me in the right mood.

CA: The sounds that you relax to?

RVOC: The Lord of The Rings soundtrack chills me out like nothing else.

CA: The sound that excites you?

RVOC: The ding of the toaster when it's done cooking your waffles.

CA: The sound that reminds you of home?

RVOC: Jotas! (A type of music particular to the region of Spain I'm from.) Although I don't actually enjoy them that much, they definitely make me think of home.

CA: And your favorite comic book sound effect?

RVOC: I know it's not very innovative, but I'm pretty partial to WAM.

 

'Momma had a Baby and Her Head Popped Off', page 2

 

ROBIN FURTH

CA: What can you tell us about your interpretation of 'pop' in your story?

Robin Furth: As soon as I heard that the there was going to be a Vertigo anthology based on the sound “Pop,” I thought of the game I played as a child: "Mama had a baby and her head popped off.” I don’t know if you’ve ever played it, but basically it consists of holding a dandelion with your thumb poised under the flower head, and popping the head off as you say the rhyme. Evidently in Scotland there is a version where it’s Mary Queen of Scots whose head pops off.

CA: What's your favorite sound?

RF: Oh, I have many favorite sounds! I love the trill of birdsong, the crash of waves, and the laughing-sound that river water makes when it’s flowing. The pop of a cork is also pretty good!

CA: Least favorite?

RF: My least favorite sound is probably that of the alarm clock ringing in the morning. Also of the telephone in the middle of the night. I’m always afraid that something awful has happened.

CA: What's the sound that you wake up to?

RF: In winter, it’s the sound of the alarm clock. In summer, bird song often wakes me up, since the sun is high so early. Occasionally, I’ve woken up to my own voice. (That’s when I’m talking in my sleep.)

CA: The sounds that you work to?

RF: I like to work in silence, but the ambient music of cars going by and of birds singing outside of my window is really nice. Sometimes I can listen to ambient music too, like Eno.

CA: The sounds that you relax to?

RF: I love music. Depending on my mood, the music can range from folk and Renaissance music, to psychedelia and ambient music, to rock and Death Metal. German Cosmic Music is also really good.

CA: The sound that excites you?

RF: The sound of the wind before a storm.

CA: The sound that reminds you of home?

RF: My husband’s voice.

CA: And your favorite comic book sound effect?

RF: I have a lot of them! In fact, I’m always searching for new sound effects. I have a few old fashioned favorites too, so I hope the ones that follow aren’t too boring! I like AAAAHHHHH because it has so many uses. Same goes for Ack! I love AAAIEEE because it’s such a wail. It sounds like a banshee, or a Shakespearean cry. Hahahaha is great because it sounds like a belly laugh.

To get really VIZ on you, I like fnar fnar for a snigger. SLAM, CRASH, and BANG are excellent too, and very useful (especially BANG BANG BANG). FWAP is also a great one, especially if you want to add an almost humorous touch!

In this comic, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what blood pouring out of an open wound might sound like. I ended up using gug gug gug. To me, a large part of a comic book sound effect’s impact is in the font, so I’m really careful with the fonts I use with sound effects. (Using an expressive font with a sound effect is like using really small type to show that a character is whispering. It has a subtle but powerful visual impact.)