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Karen Berger is one of the most influential names in the comic book industry, first as the founder of DC's mature reader label, Vertigo, back in 1993, where she curated classic series like The Sandman, American Vampire, The Invisibles, 100 Bullets, and Preacher, and more recently overseeing her new imprint at Dark Horse Comics.
Berger Books is paddling into supernatural waters with its latest title, The Girl in the Bay, a miniseries that explores the notions of trauma and time displacement in the aftermath of a tragic incident, and SYFY WIRE has an exclusive early look. Written by industry veteran J.M. DeMatteis and instilled with arresting art courtesy of Corin Howell, there's a disturbing air of menace and melancholy evident in this compelling title that should attract a wide range of fans searching for a meaningful read.
The plot is set in 1969 New York, when 17-year-old Kathy Sartori is savagely attacked and her bloodied body tossed into Brooklyn's Sheepshead Bay. By some miracle she survives the assault and, when she rises back to the surface, discovers that 50 years have sped by and a bizarre double has lived out a lifetime in her absence.
Kathy must eventually clash with this odd doppelgänger, but also the deranged person who ''murdered'' her half a century earlier. Does the evil entity that altered her life hold the key to Kathy's missing decades? Is Kathy destined to become a phantom of her former self, or will she be able to reintegrate into the world that she desperately yearns to embrace again?
"I love this story— it taps into the 'what ifs' of our lives, the paths we didn’t take," Berger tells SYFY WIRE. "And like all of J.M’s work, it's full of heart and humanity, showcasing why he's one of the most talented and respected writers in the field, with masterful storytelling, fluid writing, compelling characters, and a story with something important to say. Corin Howell’s art and Jimmy Devlin’s color is pretty great, too!"
DeMatteis claims to have always been fascinated by and obsessed with the blurring speed with which our lives pass, and he dissects the temporal aspects of the storyline with the precision of a surgeon.
"Blink and a year goes by; another blink and a decade has passed," he reveals to SYFY WIRE. "The older I get the more convinced I am that the mystics are correct: This is all a swiftly passing dream. Our lead character, Kathy Sartori, literalizes that idea. She’s attacked, and apparently murdered, in 1969, tossed into Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay. But she somehow survives, struggles back to land, and discovers that 50 years of her life have passed in what seems like a matter of minutes."
The time-jump concept was the initial spark that lit the flame of this unusually moving fable, and there are multiple layers that are exposed as the series unfolds.
"Not the least of which is the fact that, while Kathy was gone, someone else was living out her life: a 68-year-old doppelgänger with a life and a family all her own," he adds. "Personal identity—who we are vs. who we think we are—is another theme that’s always obsessed me, and The Girl in the Bay really drills into that idea.
"Then there’s the man who murdered Kathy, who's still alive, hovering on the outskirts of the story," continues DeMatteis. "He remembers two realities—one where Kathy died and one where she lived—and those double memories have driven him mad. Now he wants both Kathys dead and his vengeance-quest is being driven by a dark, disturbing entity who adds a truly horrific element to the story."
Corin Howell's artwork help drive the story into unexplored dimensions. DeMatteis admits he wasn’t familiar with Corin’s work before she was brought to his attention by Berger.
"Corin can go dark and horrific, but she can also handle the humanity of the characters, as well as trip off into mystical realms—which makes her perfect for Girl in the Bay," he notes. "She’s handled everything in my scripts with grace and power, and I now count myself among Corin's biggest fans. I hope the book is a success and we can work together again, telling more tales of Kathy Sartori. (This first story is complete in itself, but we leave enough dangling threads for us to move forward with other adventures if this first series does well.)"This new project has been somewhat of a reunion for DeMatteis and Berger, as they both hail from Brooklyn and the story reflects both his sensibilities and hers.
"Karen and I go way back: We were friends before either of us worked in comics, and we worked together at DC on a number of projects, from Doctor Fate to the early, creatively exhilarating days of the Vertigo line," he recalls. "We hadn’t done a project together for quite a few years, and the launch of Berger Books gave us the perfect opportunity to collaborate again."
Check out our exclusive page preview in the gallery below, where we find Kathy under the cold waters of Sheepshead Bay, then roll back to spend time in Brooklyn, establishing Kathy's character, her family and friends, and the drug-fueled world of the late '60, all leading to the moment when it’s upended by a madman with a knife.
Dark Horse Comics' The Girl in the Bay arrives on Feb. 6.