DC Comics has announced that Karen Berger, head of Vertigo Comics since founding the imprint in 1993, will be stepping down from her position after 33 years total at DC Comics. She’ll stay on to help transition to whatever will happen at Vertigo until March 2013.
There has been much speculation about Vertigo Comics over the last chunk of years, and what the future holds for the imprint. We’ve heard from inside DC Comics that that’s not the case. But time has passed and things can change. What I do know is that Berger was the driving force behind some of the best comics we’ve seen in the past three decades, from Sandman to Preacher to Y: The Last Man to Fables to American Vampire. She was instrumental in bringing creators like Alan Moore and Grant Morrison to work for DC Comics in the 80s. Her vision and voice lead the way to producing the kinds of comics that brought many readers back to the artform as adults, myself included. There were misses as well, obviously, but the one thing you could say about books from Vertigo is that they were always trying to break new ground, and always aspiring to be something more than your typical comic book. It’s an aesthetic that has, thankfully, bled out to other areas of mainstream comics. Need proof? Axel Alonso, formerly an editor under Berger, is now Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics.
Lately, we’ve seen plenty indications of change at Vertigo, most recently, the end of Hellblazer and the transformation of John Constantine from a mature-readers character, to a more all-ages version in the DC Universe proper. Prior to that, we’ve seen several series end, including Scalped and DMZ without being replaced. They canceled all graphic novel projects that weren’t already done, and the Vertigo Crime books ended. At this point, there is Fables and its spinoffs, and American Vampire, and a handful of other books that don’t sell very much. And make no mistake, these are all market driven decisions. The market didn’t support most of the projects they’ve tried recently, and there aren’t any big media projects to buoy the lot. Now, Vertigo are producing Girl with the Dragon Tattoo adaptations, because Wildstorm aren’t around to do so anymore. Creators who would previously have gone to Vertigo are now going to Image, because they get more control and ownership of their project, which they apparently consider more important than basic page rates. They might have a point.
If I was Berger, I’d have stepped away too.
Since I’m not her, I can be very sad indeed for what seems like the end of an era. Personally, I think I can confidently say that I would not be where I am today if not for Karen Berger. Comics are my job, and Vertigo were the comics that made me fall in love again. My favorite series of all time is Preacher. I have a page from Transmetropolitan on the wall, and not a single one of us hasn’t recommended Y: The Last Man to someone who doubted comics could be cool.
I met Berger a couple of times, and I was a bit tongue tied, because her very presence intimidated me. Her office was awash in books and merchandise from her time at DC Comics, which means it was the best room in the building to me. I was very pleased that I was able to interview her once, and equally pleased I was able to tell her how important her work was to my life.
I don’t know where else a lifelong comic book editor goes after leaving DC Comics. She certainly seems like she’s got plenty more work left in her, and I don’t want to imagine comics without Karen Berger, but it feels little like I might have to.
Here’s the whole press release:
Karen Berger, Executive Editor & Senior Vice President of DC Entertainment’s Vertigo brand, has announced she is stepping down from her post after nearly 20 years at the helm of the award-winning literary imprint. She will remain on through March 2013 where she will be assisting in the transition to a new leadership team which includes veteran staffers whom she has mentored over the years.
Karen is responsible for shepherding critically-acclaimed and best-selling publishing titles including perennial favorites: THE SANDMAN, HELLBLAZER, V FOR VENDETTA. FABLES, PREACHER, THE INVISIBLES, 100 BULLETS, Y – THE LAST MAN and AMERICAN VAMPIRE. Vertigo has published nearly 300 new literary properties during the last 20 years. Berger notes she is ready for a professional change and is looking forward to pursuing exciting new opportunities.
“I’ve been incredibly proud to have provided a home where writers and artists could create progressive￼ and provocative stories that broadened the scope of comics, attracting a new and diverse readership to graphic storytelling, ” said Berger. “I’d like to thank all the many immensely talented creators who have helped make Vertigo into a daring and distinctive imprint and I’m grateful to everyone at DC Entertainment and the retail community for their support and commitment to Vertigo all these years. It’s been quite an honor. ”
DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson stated, “We are extremely grateful for Karen’s commitment and dedication to Vertigo, its books and its incredibly talented team of staff and creators. In Vertigo she leaves a legacy to which we remain committed and on which we intend to build for the future. She will always be a deeply valued and respected member of the DC family. ”
DC Entertainment is planning a celebration next year – to help salute Karen, her 33 years with the company and her many accomplishments, befitting her legendary￼ status within DCE and across the publishing and comics industries.