On early Saturday afternoon, former DC Comics publisher Paul Levitz sat down for an in-depth discussion with Vertigo founding editor and current editor of Dark Horse’s Berger Books imprint, Karen Berger. Levitz, who recently wrapped work on Brooklyn Bloods for “Dark Horse Presents” dropped a little bit of a bombshell when he mentioned that he was currently working on a new comic for the publisher.
His description of the new title began with an old joke. “A dead rabbi, a priest, and a minister walk into a bar and they are there to discover what their unfinished business is.” Karen seemed a little surprised by this announcement, indicating that the title will not be published by Berger’s Dark Horse imprint despite Levitz’ long history with her.
Indeed, as Karen noted during the panel, Paul hired Karen on October 1st, 1979, when Karen was 21 and Paul was 23. Together with former DC Comics publisher and president Jeanette Kahn, these three DC Comics creative worked to change the fabric of the industry. Paul and Jeanette believed “comics could be more than they were,” in Levitz’s words. He saw room for a more mature comics readership given the dissolution of newsstand distribution and the aging audience who bought their books from direct market shops. That’s why he and Jeanette gave Berger so much freedom when she started Vertigo, allowing Berger to take full hold of the reins and produce top-selling evergreen titles including Sandman, Preacher, and Y: the Last Man.
While Paul did note that “the creative work outlasts the business work,” Levitz said he was most proud of several things he did in order to try and improve the lives of creators. He wrote the first standard contract for DC writers and artists and instituted a royalty payment standard. He’s also proud of “helping the graphic novel come to life” as a format. He noted that he believed the long-form comic would be the bedrock of the industry “for the next 20 years.”
While Levitz’s unnamed new Dark Horse book will not be a part of Berger Books, the two quipped with one another about potentially working together in the future. Berger seemed interested in the possibility of editing her old boss.