Karen Berger Steps Down from Vertigo Comics

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.

Comments

  1. bigben2012 says:

    I know that Lemire and Synder have Vertigo books either out or coming soon, but with the cancellation of Hellblazer, moving Swamp Thing to the DCU and now this? I don’t like where Vertigo is going…

  2. Jr. Wormwood Jr. Wormwood says:

    Sad news indeed. Vertigo has always had its pulse on what’s next in comics, and I’d hate to see that completely fade away. And damn, I miss Preacher. That book and Hellboy were the only things to pull me back in after I hung up the capes.

  3. mickmac59 mickmac59 says:

    I’m glad you were the one to write this, Josh. It’s almost impossible to overstate Berger’s contribution to modern comics. I hope (I REALLY hope) that she continues to work in the field in some way – it’s a better place for having her.

  4. nastysnow nastysnow says:

    Writing was on the wall

  5. Dean B. Dean B. says:

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

    So how long until Vertigo folds then?

  6. xBigbyx xBigbyx says:

    I hope they don’t kill the imprint off but with image going strong it will be hard to hold up. maybe they do the same thing marvel is doing with icon, Snyder and Lemire could still put out their work at Vertigo and with some of the series still going they still have a decent line up.

  7. bub64882 bub64882 says:

    Nice send off, Josh. So long and thanks for all the fish…errr spectacular comics, Karen!

  8. JZga JZga says:

    That’s pretty sad to hear, right now Vertigo seems to be in this weird phase. But good thing we have Image comics picking up the slack in creator owned material, they are pretty much putting out superior content at this point.

  9. tripleneck tripleneck (@tripleneck) says:

    Image Comics: Please set up Ms. Berger with her own imprint as soon as the terms for her leaving DC allow.

  10. TurdSandwich TurdSandwich says:

    I feel the exact same way, regarding Vertigo’s books providing solid comics for adult readers. I own more Vertigo trades than any other publisher, and my “To Read” list is nearly all Vertigo

    News about Vertigo just gets more depressing with each new announcement. I still refused to believe it was going away even after all the big changes recently, but with this one, I’m not so sure anymore. Even if the Vertigo label sticks around, it will never be the same. I guess all we can do is continue to support the books we read from them, I hope that The Unwritten, Saucer Country, and American Vampire get to wrap up properly.

  11. This doesn’t bode well for Vertigo as it looks like they’re trying to integrate more titles into the DCU which is certainly something I’m not keen on.
    I just hope that the company can see out 2013 & then who knows……?

  12. stasisbal stasisbal says:

    Sad to see her go. I don’t think a person could have a career in comics more significant than Karen Berger’s.

    I’m certainly curious to see where Vertigo goes from here. I’m still currently reading Fables, Fairest, Saucer Country, Sweet Tooth (then Lemire’s next project), and The Unwritten. Hopefully those don’t go anywhere. I don’t see DC touching stuff that is working/selling but can we expect new and exciting projects? At least Image has already begun to fill that void with more and more big name creators heading there.

  13. okc says:

    This is very sad, the end of an era.
    Although if she started up Berger Comics I would try every book in the launch line-up.

  14. KenOchalek KenOchalek says:

    I’m not surprised, but this is still disappointing. 33 years a long career in any field, but I really hope Karen Berger has the opportunity to steer a new ship at another publisher if that’s what she wants. Throw a tiny pebble at my bookshelf and you’re probably gonna hit a book she had a part in.

  15. Ilash Ilash says:

    The end of an era indeed. It’s hard to think of a greater or more important editor in modern American comics than Karen Burger and without her at the helm I can’t see Vertigo lasting much longer. Considering the tremendous impact of Vertigo Comics under her helm, it’s sad to see it go down like this, but I really do hope that she gets a chance to set up her own comics company/ imprint that will once again allow her to do her stuff, free from the shackles of a big company like Time Warner.

  16. DavidClark DavidClark says:

    It’s economics and quite transparent. Vertigo will either cease to exist entirely, or will be remade into an imprint publishing titles that make DC a profit–exactly what that would look like, I don’t know.

  17. tomistommy tomistommy says:

    Godspeed, Karen Berger. You’re one of the best things to happen to the industry in the past 30 years. No matter where you go or what you do next, I wish you success.

    It’s sad to see what has happened to one of the boldest and most influential publishers in the business. As others have said, though, at least we have Image and a number of other publishers giving us quality, creator owned content.

  18. Neb Neb says:

    Well, I hope this doesn’t mean the death of Vertigo, but it’s hard to say at this point. I wish her the best with her new endeavors. She had an amazing impact on the art form, and I think it’s important that imprints like Vertigo continue to expand the market and experiment with the art form.

  19. I hope Ms. Berger keeps going in comics in some form or another. She is a talent in her own right and should not be wasted. Truly, she is someone to be respected in the world of comics. It is sad to find this out.

    And even though I got a bit of a lecture from the iFanboy staff for saying this last time, I still have my suspicions of where Vertigo is headed. Or ending.

  20. With any luck, she’ll get a huge media job as a producer, where her kind of flavor and delectation has migrated to these days.

    • yeah i kinda think thats a good call…i’m sure there are some deep pockets out there looking to bring in someone with an eye for great talent and stories. I think she’s writing her own ticket.

  21. Sad news indeed. All good things…She definitely helped shape what comics are today, so best of luck to her in whatever she chooses to do next.

  22. J-Nel J-Nel says:

    I can only hope she continues a career in comics elsewhere. It’s been a brilliant career thus far and I hope the best is yet to come. As for the implications of this story for Vertigo, well, it’s obviously a little depressing. But hey, maybe they’ll surprise me…

  23. moodydoom moodydoom says:

    JH Williams III has posted his thoughts about Karen leaving on his blog.

    http://www.jhwilliams3.com/archives/1664

    Nice send off Josh. Definitely a painful piece of news for all us Vertigo fans.

    Hope to see Karen unleashed in comics!

  24. WheelHands WheelHands says:

    Well, I can’t help but feel this is a big nail in the Vertigo coffin. With all these cancellations and announcements, I don’t see how DC could say otherwise with a straight face.

    Like Josh and many others, Vertigo helped show me what the medium is capable of. Preacher is also my favorite finite series, and book like Hellblazer and Y have kept my love of comics alive.

    Thank you for your years of incomparable service, Karen Berger. You and your ilk will most definitely be missed.

  25. microwave25 microwave25 says:

    It’s ironic when people say women are struggling/need to find a bigger voice in comics when Karen Berger has literally been at the forefront of some of the mediums greatest stories in the last 30 years. She’s probably the most well connected person in the industry when it comes to the very top talent.

    The woman is a goldmine for any publisher and I’m sure the suits will be throwing themselves at her to get a hold of her knowledge. I really hope Vertigo can find its own renaissance like Image seems to have found. It would be a tragedy to its fans and Karen if it was slowly allowed to melt away.

  26. BobDigi76 BobDigi76 says:

    I think Vertigo is finished. Moving Hellblazer & SwampThing to the New 52 were some of the first signs & now this. It’s a shame because Vertigo appears to be fading away but it doesn’t mean the types of books it used to produce are. In the past a book like No Where Men or Morning Glories would have been obvious Vertigo titles. Image is the natural heir to the type of storytelling DC used to support.

  27. ConJob110270 ConJob110270 says:

    Pretty much just echoing what every body else is saying. She has been responsible for opening the door to so many amazing worlds.

  28. Drumanespic Drumanespic says:

    Momentous news, which suggests to me the imminent end if the Vertigo imprint.

    Karen Better deserves the gratitude of generations of readers, along with so many within the business, for her stewardship.

    She has been a champion of quality & diversity of storytelling within comics for such a long time; the concept of her being out of the business is a little hard to digest.

    I hope she finds new endeavours & that we haven’t heard the last of K.B.

  29. bhannaoh bhannaoh says:

    I’m sure this has been said already, but here goes….

    I don’t know to think when vertigo comics found something it was amazing. My take turn the imprint into the next Image give the creators more control.

  30. This is a sad story and it does end an era with Vertigo.

    But that’s what this is, an end of an era.

    I don’t understand how people can ultimately assume this means the print is gonna go away. If DC was going to do that then they would have done so many, many, many years ago. Sales have been sagging on all of their books for years and they could have pulled the plug any time they wanted. With Berger leaving it is just signalling that they are going in a different direction with the print. It looks like they want to put their best writers and artists on mini-series instead of focusing on new series (sans the one’s that already exist). Honestly I don’t see any problem with that as it seems like that’s where the industry is heading.

  31. keithfury keithfury says:

    Karen Berger should go down in comics history as one of the most important and influential people ever.

  32. I guess it really is DC *ENTERTAINMENT!!!* not DC Comics anymore.

  33. Since Stan Lee in the ’60s, has any editor been more important or influential than Karen Berger? Probably not. The end of her era is not just a huge milestone moment for Vertigo and DC but for the industry and the medium. If, years from now, we look back at this as a turning point, hopefully it will be as the beginning of the next chapter of her career rather than as the end of something special at DC.

    • Josh Flanagan Josh Flanagan (@jaflanagan) says:

      Joe Quesada, for realizing what she had going on over there, and hiring as many of Vertigo’s editors, writers, and artists for Marvel, and then making a crap ton of money for the company.

  34. muddi900 says:

    The death of Vertigo has more to do with WB meddling than market forces. They drove away creators by giving them a terrible deal. I guess Image getting an influx of The Walking Dead money had a lot to do with that too, but WB made Vertigo an uncompetitive and useless.

  35. CP CP says:

    Vertigo, particularly in the early to mid 90′s, is the number one contributing factor to why I still read comics. I had grown tired of the usuall superhero stuff and turned to Hellblazer which then got me interested in Preacher and then their seemingly unending self-contained miniseries. I felt a real connection to those writers and their stories. I’m very sad to see these recent developments.

  36. xoman xoman says:

    Sad day indeed. She had a hand in a lot of my favorite books, books that I’ve given to my teenage boys. My mind was blown/opened by them and I hope they have the same effect on them!

  37. CGPO CGPO says:

    I wonder what this means for the Sandman prequel, as Berger was going to edit the mini-series herself. Perhaps she’ll stay on for that, as I imagine Gaiman wouldn’t be too happy working with someone else. I don’t think Vertigo is going away, but it definitely is having troubled times. I remember them announcing a new ongoing by Simon Oliver of Exterminators fame that was set to begin in early 2013, but haven’t heard about it since, not sure if that’s because of Oliver or if it got shelved due to the shake-up at Vertigo. I’d hate to see the imprint go, as it has always been my favourite, but really once Hellblazer ends, I’ll only be reading American Vampire and The Unwritten from them, and that’s sad, as I used to read maybe half a dozen titles from them at a time. I don’t know if Fables and American Vampire can keep the imprint going, I guess only time will tell. Perhaps we’ll be seeing those titles with a DC logo on them eventually…

  38. EricE51 EricE51 says:

    Bummer but I hope she can repeat this success at another company.

  39. Karen Berger will go down in history as one of the all-time great editors in comics. She is up their with Julie Schwartz and Stan Lee. Modern comics owe pretty much everything to her.

  40. stuclach stuclach says:

    I hope she can create something even more incredible next.

  41. JohhnyNormal JohhnyNormal says:

    Big business does, as big business does.
    I thought i went nuts when Hellblazer was murdered.
    But i suppose big Dan was just getting the ball rolling.
    Karen Berger and Vertigo have been the foundation of my love of comics for over twenty years.
    She strove to make american comics more than parody in underwear.
    She brought literature into the funny pages and made many the adult reader.
    Thank-you for giving us art.

  42. kmob181 kmob181 says:

    Image is the heir and that’s good but I would argue the aesthetic, the tone and look of Image books are not the same as Vertigo. I can’t quite put it into words but Vertigo books seem grittier, darker – even the lines are blurry. Image is edgy but their books are still brightly colored.

    Once Sweet Tooth ends I still have Fables, American Vampire, Unwritten, and Saucer Country. I think DC will let American Vampire and Unwritten finish – even though the former going on hiatus makes me nervous – both being at or past the halfway point and neither of the books seems to be losing money. Saucer Country is still new so who knows. I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets truncated into 20-30 issues. That will probably be the end of ongoings at Vertigo with the exception of Fables which is still a money maker. Speaking of ongoings, I remember a solicitation for something called Collider that was supposed to debut this past fall. Presumably it died a quiet death. Like Vertigo. If I had to guess once these current projects wrap up Vertigo will become Fables-verse, creator minis (for DC creators, max 12 issues) and movie/book/toy/adaptations.