What up, Vertigo?


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:

* DMZ #59 (NOV-24)
* HELLBLAZER #273 (NOV-17)
* I, ZOMBIE #7 (NOV-03)
* SCALPED #43 (NOV-24)
* SWEET TOOTH #15 (NOV-03)

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.

  1. Karen Berger said outright at SDCC that Vertigo was to become, with the exception of Hellblazer, a label for creator-owned work to be published (which is why titles like Madame Xanadu are going away and a new Swamp Thing series was aborted). I don’t think there’s a “Kind of book” they are shooting for, rather they are there to let creators do their own thing.

  2. I don’t think the question of Vertigo’s “identity” is that much of a mystery. Now, more than ever post-DCE, its the original-material, creator-owned imprint of DC. Does it need to be categorized any further than that?

  3. But slightly more seriously.

    Vertigo was launched as a mature readers imprint of DC, featuring several of the same characters and assorted offshoots in situations deemed too mature for regular readers.

    Flash forward, it is now DC’s creator imprint. Fine, okay. All that shows is that DC mainstream is no longer interested in keeping separate mature themes books. I disagree with this decision, but whatever.

    Yes, these projects were approved two or so years ago. That’s not the point. It still clearly shows where Vertigo is these days.

    The real question to ask is how many projects DID the new regime cancel? Any, Five? Who knows. Certainly none of us.

  4. “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.”

    That’s bunk. Obviously they are going to keep books in print that sell well. However, The Unwritten and Sweet Tooth have been critical success stories with decent sales. Titles like Scalped and DMZ ARE germane when talking about the fate of the publisher. The handful of quality books Vertigo’s putting out right is a damn good indication that the imprint will survive in one form or another.

  5. Oh well, there goes the ‘creative’ part of DC and comics in general. Vertigo has produced some damn fine comics these past 10+ yeras from PReacher, to Y the last Man to Sandman and new stuff like iZombie and American Vampîre are refreshing. I guess the new DCE Team wants to go down the Marvel rout. Publish 50 new monthly batman and green lanther titles instead and fload the market with crap no one wants to buy. It is sad what the industry has become these past 5 years or so….

  6. Just to be clear, my quoted comment wasn’t a qualitative judgment as to how Vertigo might favor either monthlies or OGNs. I was just pointing out that the ongoing monthlies are produced on a MUCH faster schedule than OGNs. It’s months vs years. The original Robot 6 article was trying to read today’s tea leaves, but didn’t take into account how far back those roots spread.

    Vertigo has changed, is changing, and I’m sure will change again and again (rather than fade away). But the publishing reality is that you won’t see any of today’s changes reflected in the product until tomorrow’s books are on the shelves.

  7. For better or worse, Vertigo has become a freighter rather than a frigate. I know of one book they greenlit last year which may not see the light of day even next year.

  8. Thanks, Todd, that was my point. How many ttles did Berger and/or others, greenlight, only to have DidiLee cancel?

  9. Dark Rain is a good book. Not as meaty of a read as I would have hoped, but it’s a good story told well.

    Also, unlike that Robot 6 person, I thought Incognegro was a great book and knowing Dark Rain was by the same author was enough to get me to read it.

    I never understood why DC treated Vertigo the way it did. There’s no reason Swamp Thing can’t appear in Action Comics AND Hellblazer or his own book at Vertigo… same with Death or Madame Xanadu or anyone and vice versa. But I’ve learned that you can’t tell people anything unless they’re required to listen to you…as in you’re their boss. Thanks to Warner and Disney, Marvel and DC comics are “top-down” establishments.

    and I don’t really care anymore. As long as someone publishes stuff worth reading, I’ll be happy. Don’t care what the logo on the front looks like.

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