In all the massive changes taking place at DC of late, the fate of the Vertigo imprint has caused much speculation and fretting. The staff has been slashed, output has been slowed, and what the future focus will be has not been publicly revealed. This comes, ironically enough, at the very time that plans long hatched for Vertigo to become more of a graphic novel imprint are finally being published. Chris Mautner takes a look at several recent GN offerings, which include work by novelists Stephen King, Peter Straub, Denise Mina, and Mat Johnson, as well as more typical comics types like Matt Kindt, Sarah Glidden, and Dean Haspiel. There are hits and misses but this is really a pretty lively lineup for any publisher, let alone one that is being completely rebranded.
Interestingly, the comment section opens up to a defense of Vertigo’s output including comments by Brian Wood and former Vertigo editor Brandon Montclare, who points out:
I don’t like to pile on, but I think all those OGN’s were approved at least two years ago. That was before the current publishers…it was even before the DC Entertainment decided it would reorganize the company. Brian is right: all of the monthlies–despite the length of the run–are much more indicative of “today’s” efforts.
Wood references a listing of Vertigo’s output this monthwhich is as follows:
* AMERICAN VAMPIRE #8 (NOV-10)
* DMZ #59 (NOV-24)
* FABLES DELUXE EDITION BOOK 2 (NOV-17)
* GREEK STREET VOL. 2: CASSANDRA COMPLEX (NOV-17)
* HELLBLAZER #273 (NOV-17)
* HOUSE OF MYSTERY #31 (NOV-03)
* HOW TO UNDERSTAND ISRAEL IN 60 DAYS OR LESS (NOV-03)
* I, ZOMBIE #7 (NOV-03)
* JOHN CONSTANTINE: HELLBLAZER – CITY OF DEMONS #3 (OF 5) (NOV-10)
* JOHN CONSTANTINE: HELLBLAZER – CITY OF DEMONS #4 (OF 5) (NOV-24)
* LUNA PARK (NOV-24)
* MADAME XANADU #29 (NOV-24)
* NORTHLANDERS #34 (NOV-17)
* SCALPED #43 (NOV-24)
* SWEET TOOTH #15 (NOV-03)
* UNKNOWN SOLDIER #25 (NOV-03)
* UNKNOWN SOLDIER VOL. 3: DRY SEASON (NOV-10)
* THE UNWRITTEN #19 (NOV-10)
* VERTIGO RESURRECTED: THE EXTREMIST (NOV-17)
It seems that most of the books approved long ago are still pretty germane today; HOW TO UNDERSTAND ISRAEL IN 60 DAYS OR LESS is getting a ton of attention and was named to PW’s Best Books list. Hopefully some of this attention will lead to sales success for a very well-crafted book; money talks.
Mautner’s overall view is that this kind of eclectic lineup isn’t what will keep the imprint around, and even jokes that he’s expecting Vertigo to get the axe. In a clarifying comment he writes:
What I found was that there was no connecting thread. Regardless of quality, there seemed to be a scattershot approach in these releases. Perhaps I should have regarded it as a healthy willingness to diversify and reach new audiences, but instead I found it disconcerting given all the recent upheaval at DC and tried to articulate my impressions in the above piece.
By my own standard, I should probably have included I, Zombie and Joe (and maybe Daytripper), though I’m not sure it would have altered my overall argument that much. Honestly, I’m not sure how talking about DMZ, Scalped, etc., really is germane. Yes, the continued publication of those books (assuming they’re still selling well, which is impossible to determine if you don’t work at DC) suggests that the imprint isn’t going to immediately wither and die. It doesn’t, however, tell me where they plan on focusing their energy in the future, what kinds of books they want to hang their wagon on in 2011. It really doesn’t tell me anything other than “DC continues to like to make money off of series that have continued to make money for them up till now.”
With overall plans for Vertigo as part of the new bi-coastal DC Entertainment still under wraps — and every other DC imprint a thing of the past — fretting and speculation will most likely continue. At the very least, the class of creators for whom “doing a book for Vertigo” was an ultimate career aspiration might be looking at different publishing plans.