The Vertigo Imprint: End of an Era?

Published on December 4th, 2012

With the announcement from DC Comics that Karen Berger was stepping down as Executive Editor of the Vertigo Imprint has DC put the final nail in the coffin of one of the most prestigious and career launching imprints in comics?

Before we delve into answering that question, this question needs to be put into context and for those readers that don’t know who Karen Berger is, I will tell you. Karen Berger started her career in DC Comics and has been there for over 30 years. She went up in the ranks from assistant editor to editor to then running the Vertigo imprint when it was decided to group some comics that she was editing that were labeled for mature audiences. Some of these comics were written by the likes of Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Peter Milligan, Garth Ennis and Alan Moore. These comics that made up the Vertigo line, comics held in high regard by both fans and critics, include Sandman, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, Doom Patrol, and up until recently Hellblazer, which is the only comic to still be running from the beginning of Vertigo. Karen Berger helped shaped not only horror comics but mature comics that made you think and didn’t condescend. They were challenging and served as an alternative to super hero comics.

Now, I didn’t start reading comics until 2000/2001, but right before then I was reading a lot about comics, online when I had the chance but mostly I was reading comic book news in Wizard Magazine. I remember reading an article about some new comic launching from the DC/Vertigo line, and as I read that article I thought to myself, I didn’t know comics could be like this. Meaning, I didn’t know that in comics published by the mighty DC Comics, that they could curse, and show nudity and handle mature subject matter. It blew my mind and it also made me fall in love with the medium. In comics you can do anything, tell any story, with any characters, and that concept blew my mind. As I was reading the article the 2 comics that were discussed, and I only remember these 2 but I know there were more, were Y-The Last Man and Fables. Those two comics, along with Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men, and Daredevil, became my first pull list.

From that point on knowing about Vertigo I always looked to see what they were publishing and what they had published, because I wanted to read everything. I haven’t read everything but I’ve read many series and some of my favorite comic book series of all time have come from that line. I remember reading 100 Bullets for the first time. Reading 100 Bullets for me was a religious experience, it was like when I saw Pulp Fiction for the first time, it changed my fucking life. 100 Bullets is, in my opinion, the best crime fiction I have ever read, crime fiction, including film, television, comics, and books. And that is something I don’t say lightly. Y-The Last Man introduced me to the man who would become my favorite writer in comics, Brian K. Vaughan. There was something about the ideas coming out of Vertigo that spoke to me, a teenager at the time in high school, the fact that Vaughan created Y-The Last Man because he thought that if he was the last man on the planet the girl that he liked would of course have to like him back. It was like he was reaching in my brain, and yes, the story is much more than that but the fact that the story came from that concept was fantastic.

Vertigo was also the place where many creators got their start in comics, many writers who are big names in the business right now. I know that a lot of creators have lengthy runs on super hero books but I truly think if you like those writers and don’t read their comics from Vertigo then you are missing out, suggestions follow.

  • 100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso [Crime]
  • Y The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra [Post-Apocalyptic]
  • Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon [Religion]
  • DMZ by Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli [Journalism]
  • Scalped by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera [Crime]
  • Northlanders by Brian Wood [Vikings]
  • Loveless by Brian Azzarello [Western]
  • Young Liars by David Lapham [Crime]
  • Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire [Post-Apocalyptic]
  • American Vampire by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque [Horror]

The best part is that that list is just the beginning.

Now there has been a lot of speculation on the internet that the people in charge of DC Comics were looking to close the Vertigo line. I’m not going to say they are or they aren’t because that’s not up to me and it’s completely out of my hands. Some may argue that with Hellblazer ending its run at Vertigo and moving over to the DC 52 and Karen Berger stepping down from Vertigo that it’s all inevitable. Vertigo will go away and that’s that. But I don’t think so, and here’s why. Yes, Karen Berger is the heart and soul of the imprint, she has given me, us, hours upon hours of reading material but just because she steps down doesn’t mean that the line is dead. She’s been working with the company for 30 plus years, maybe she decided it’s time for her to take a break. She’s staying on to help transition the new editorial team, I don’t think that would be happening if DC was getting rid of the line. Also, this past New York Comic Con, Vertigo had a panel where it announced new titles from the likes of Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire. Two creators that have been essential to DC and the New 52, they need to scratch a creative itch that they can’t in the regular DCU so DC keeping the Vertigo line also helps in keeping their current creators happy. And they’re still publishing comics, comics like Fables, The Unwritten, Saucer Country, and Fairest.

Now, is it the end of an era? Yes. It is the end of the Karen Berger era. I need to thank her for all the comic series she approved and decided to publish because they have brought me tremendous enjoyment in reading an amazing conversations and discussions with my friends and comic book fans across the world.

Now, is it the end of the Vertigo Imprint? Hell no. Vertigo will go on, for the time being. The future is uncertain but we can’t worry about something that is out of our control. Besides those comics that we love are always going to be there. There’s always going to be that kid who wants something more than super heroes in their comics and to me, Vertigo has always been the place to start, it brings in so many different worlds to a reader, to me, it looks like DC knows this and that’s why they’re keeping it around.

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