A World Without Vertigo Comics Is No World I Want

What If There Was No Vertigo?

I’m not sure I’d call it a rumor exactly, but there is a feeling that change is afoot at the DC Entertainment offices. A few months back, there were a lot of layoffs and considerable restructuring. The corporate masters at Warner Bros. seem to be taking a sharper look at the comic book publisher, and the numbers behind the various comics might not add up. The first victim was Wildstorm. My partners and I had even wondered at various times if Wildstorm mattered any longer. Then it looked like they got their stuff together from a story standpoint, but too late. The line was canceled, and that was that. Soon after, people began wondering if Vertigo was next.

It’s not that off base of a question either. Looking at the monthly numbers is a sharp stick in the eye to a Vertigo fan. It’s abysmal. Personally, I think Scalped is, hands down, the best monthly comic being produced today. Yet monthly it sells somewhere in the neighborhood 6-7000 copies. The fiercely intelligent and engaging DMZ is even uglier, but it’s been around for over 50 issues. The common wisdom suggests that the publisher makes up for it in trade paperback sales, hoping to get readers hooked on the first volume, and they’ll keep coming back for more. But even so, you have to wonder how long Vertigo had been building up a robust original graphic novel schedule, but it seems as if that has been shelved as well. There are hits, like Fables and American Vampire, but even those numbers are relatively modest, and do not seem to support an entire imprint. Good work is bring produced. Of that there is no doubt, but it sure doesn’t feel like the direct market is supporting it.

There other other clues that a change could be in the offing, if one were to take a suspicious angle. Recently Swamp Thing made his way back from being a Vertigo property to being part of the DC Universe. There are even rumors that John Constantine will be next to join the main DC Universe. If you go back and read his first appearance in the pages of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, it's not hard to believe. Conversely DC characters have made appearances in his title before. How will that chance the tone of the current Hellblazer book if it was true? That's hard to say, but it's a pretty scary thought.

In other areas of the comic book world, low comic book sales are bolstered by movie money, but other than Constantine, based on Hellblazer, none of the many, many excellent Vertigo properties have been made into features, and certainly not the runaway hit variety that can support the massive overhead a suite of offices and a team of editors demands.

It seems to add up that it is possible that someone could decide that, beloved as it may be, I can foresee a time when there is no more Vertigo Comics. What would that look like?

From the outset, the number of high quality, professionally produced, non-superhero titles available in comic shops would plummet. Let’s face it, if it doesn’t have a cape and mask, a comic book is likely to be a hard sell for most of the folks buying from comic book retailers. Further, the comics produced by Vertigo are usually exceptionally good. There are hits and misses, sure, but by and large, there’s a strict quality control, and as a comic book reader, the loss would be devastating. To understand such a thing, it's important to have a good grasp on just how essential Vertigo Comics is to the creative development of the modern comic book.

Looking at Vertigo from a wider standpoint, without them you’ve got a very different talent pool in US comics. In a very real sense, Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman got their start in America via Karen Berger. The same with Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Garth Ennis, Peter Milligan, Warren Ellis, and more from the early period. Later, we got to know Brian K. Vaughan, Bill Willingham, Mike Carey, Ed Brubaker, Brian Azzarello, Brian Wood. These are writers who shape so much of what happens in the biggest comics today, and in some cases beyond comics. Look at the careers of Andy Diggle and Jock after their work on The Losers. Known in the UK, they’ve become mainstays in US comics.

Then there’s Jason Aaron, who still puts out Scalped, and now works on the most mainstream comics you can, over at Marvel. I asked Jason about what Vertigo meant to him and his career.

I certainly wouldn't be writing comics without Vertigo. And I don't know how much a fan I would've stayed over the years without them either. Most of my favorite comics of the last few decades were produced by Vertigo, going back to Alan Moore's Swamp Thing (technically not a Vertigo series, but obviously still the birth of what became Vertigo) and Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol, probably the two main series that made me not only a comic fan for life but also someone who knew they wanted to grow up to write them for a living. And then low and behold, my big break in comics as a writer came courtesy of Vertigo. We are, without a doubt, a better industry because of Vertigo, and I'm just proud to be even a small part of that legacy.

That’s just about creators. Obviously the creators at Vertigo end up moving on and affecting the comics industry in big ways, but a lot of that credit can go to the editors, who are sussing out these artistic voices. There’s no doubt that Karen Berger is one of the finest editors and talent scouts we have in comics today. She’s got an amazing eye for what will work in comics, and spotting budding genius early. Her team, with long time  editors Will Dennis and Shelly Bond seem to have similar gifts as well. There have been plenty of others in editorial as well, names you'd recognize like Cliff Chiang, Stuart Moore, and Heidi McDonald. You might not know that the current Editor-in-Chief of Marvel, Axel Alonso got his editorial start at Vertigo, or at least the books that would become Vertigo. He’s yet another example of how Vertigo has shaped, and continues to shape the larger world of comics around them.

Axel moved over from Vertigo to Marvel, where he started working with Joe Quesada, who, along with Jimmy Palmiotti, found great success with a very Vertigo-like formula on Marvel Knights comics. They went so far as to hire several Vertigo creators for those books, including the Preacher team of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon on Punisher. Then Joe went on to become Editor-in-Chief for a decade, still holding on to those lessons learned from Vertigo and Marvel Knights, along with Axel who succeeded him. The influence has clearly become commonplace.

Overall, we’re in a comics culture where, other than the old standard superheroes, comic creators would do well to create something a mass audience can appreciate that can be read, long-form, in graphic novels, purchased in bookstores. It’s the financial model for much of the rest of the industry. While there have been a few movie adaptations, it’s surprising how many of Vertigo’s comic books stayed comic books. They’re made that way, and the universal appeal of the subjects and stories are among the best in comics for bringing in new readers. Vertigo has, over and over, produced work that you can give to people who don’t know from comics, but just want a good story they can get into. The reach of Fables and Y: The Last Man and Preacher can never be discounted for their power and success in convincing people that comics are a valid medium in ways most never gave a second thought towards. Robert Kirkman learned that lesson well, and I would argue that his Walking Dead success could easily be seen as the exact kind of model a Vertigo title would take. You could imagine Walking Dead coming out from Vertigo. It might have color, but other than that, it’s exactly right. Kirkman just applied it on his own, through Image Comics.

I don’t think Vertigo has finished serving its purpose. I can rattle off titles current titles now that are among the best comics have to offer, from Scalped, to DMZ, to Unwritten, to Fables, to American Vampire, and that there’s no other place that would publish them, certainly not with the distribution clout of DC and Vertigo, and definitely not with an upfront page rate that would enable creators to make a living from this art. Those guys would either have to go make superhero comics, or take their chances on the back end deal. Maybe it’s fair, but I also think it’s sad that there are so few outlets to publish material like this.

Personally, I owe my career to Vertigo, at least indirectly. When I came back to reading comics a decade or so back, I was looking for something else. I liked the regular mainstream comics just fine, but it was when I went and tried several issues of Hellblazer, 100 Bullets, and Transmetropolitan that I was well and truly hooked. It kept me coming back, and made me want to learn more, and make my own comics. From that, I started talking about comics with my friends, and writing about them, and podcasting about them, and here I am today. I told Karen Berger that once, and while it was a bit awkward, it was completely sincere, and I'm glad I had the chance.

With the recent re-introduction of Swamp Thing to DC proper, I’ve been thinking about these things and Vertigo’s place in comics. Like Swamp Thing himself, Vertigo began, seemingly by accident, and slowly, assisted by John Constantine, discovered the vast power and influence it had throughout the entire comics world. Things would never be the same without them, and I hope I never have to experience a comic shop with no new Vertigo comic books on their shelves.

Comments

  1. I don’t even have to read this post (but i will). The title says it all.

    – Dom

  2. You also had Sandman’s Death appearing in Action Comics earlier in the year which was a nice little nod.

    I have to say the news that Constantine could be pushed in the DCU, in Flashpoint of all places, saddens me… especially as I imagine he wouldn’t be able to do the things we know him for.

    He’d be forced to stop smoking right? And aging… the hell with that!

  3. Vertigo is da bomb yo. I would not be a happy camper without them.

  4. I think Vertigo’s tpb sales MORE than justify the imprint’s existence. I wouldn’t be too worried.

  5. Damn it, Josh. You scared the bejesus out of me. I thought for a sec it’s confirmed that Vertigo is done. Thank god it’s only theoretical and hopefully will always be.

    Loss of Vertigo would be horrible. The series that got me into comics was a Vertigo book (Preacher) and they have had a special place in my heart ever since. And it’s just not because I lost my comics “virginity” to Vertigo, but because they have put out some amazing books throughout the years.

    May Vertigo last for a thousand years.

  6. It’s a bit of a concession, but what if, in order to be more economic Vertigo were to become an OGN line, so DC could still produce the quality work without loosing money on their monthlies. I tend to like Vertigo in trades more, and that seems to be the route Didio wants to take the company.

  7. @vod89  Vertigo just shelved all their OGN’s, so I don’t see that happening.

  8. i’m really shocked that WB hasn’t pulled the trigger on more Vertigo titles to be made into movies especially now in their post Harry Potter blockbuster world. There are so many titles that could be no brainers. I wonder if its just a simple number cruncher thing? “Ohhh that comic only sells 6000 a month so no one likes it”…

    I admit, i don’t read much vertigo…if i do its only in trade. I usually love it, but only in small doses. For the most part,  The stories and characters are a bit too heavy and/or serious for what i want in my comics. I have no problem admitting that i tend to enjoy some silly capes and cowls escapism most often. That being said, i’d be really sad for comics if Vertigo went away. I feel that its really important to the industry and the only part of the medium (outside of the Pantheons and such) pushing comics of great literary value. 

    Lets hope you’re just being paranoid…. 

  9. Agree with @corpseed. Though the cancellation of Eisner nominee titles that ran long enough to calculate the number of waiting-for-the-trade guys has me worried a little.

    One thing they COULD do to balance monthly sales and tpb on-and-off’ers is to make every series limited from the start. And not like “it’s a limited series…somewhat around 50-75 issues”. I’m talking between 7 to 36 issues and an dogmatic rule/promise to keep that number. If a 10 issue mini-series turns out to be SUPER successfull, take a six month to two year break, and put out a SIMILAR vol.2 like Brubaker/Phillips do with Criminal. Had they done this, I would have started reading Air… just as an example.

  10. As long as Vertigo keeps publishing series like Y, Unwritten, Scalped, American Vampire, DMZ, Fables, and the like I will be a loyal reader. 

  11. I only read Vertigo in trades. More often than not their titles read better this way. I know many, many others who read Vertigo this way as well. Their tpbs are always good sellers, especially in regular bookshops. Saleswise, Fables alone should have enough clout to save Vertigo from being wiped out.

    Vertigo also has a very definite identiy and importantly tells stories in a manner than no other company or imprint does. While I was sad to see Wildstorm disappear, it was doing nothing that every other company was doing every month and wasn’t living up to the leagacy of great titles from it’s past.

  12. Vertigo doesn’t sell many issues, but it has a few books that are consistently in the top ten in trade sales (source: http://www.comichron.com/monthlycomicssales.html).  I’d like to think that is enough to keep the imprint around.  

    Having said that, I don’t know how profitable the line is, so I wouldn’t be shocked if the Vertigo went away.

    Jason Aaron’s quote is very telling.  The industry needs Vertigo or something very similar. 

  13. I think the demise of Vertigo, doesnt mean the demise of the books, only the imprint. Sandman and Hellblazer were DC books, Transmet was a Helix book. DC wont stop publishing any of those trades, it just may publish everything under the DC banner as it was before. DC has a long history of Vertigo style books, but they were under the DC banner. from a branding perspective it makes sense. the DC logo on some of these books may help. It has always been sthe stronger brand, especially outside comics where vertigo means very little. If the book is profitable enough it will be published. If not then it would go away no matter what logo is on the top.

  14. Is Scalped available digitally?
     I’ve always wondered about the extent to which a low selling,  quality book like Scalped would be helped by a day-and=date issue digital distribution. Scalped has a passionate fan base, but retailers might justifiably find it to be a hard sell to their cape and cowl base. But a digital release might allow the fans of the book to translate evangelism into sales? Maybe it would be a bump of a 1,000 or so, but it might help.

    A fair number of Walking Dead fans jumped on issues because of the day and date release option Granted, Walking Dead has a larger fan base than scalped, but I still wonder

  15. @DaveCarr  I think it just came on the DC Comics app. Not the whole thing, but some.

  16. It would truly be a very sad day.

    I find it very strange that comics survive on the disposable income of adults of a certain age (much as we’d wish otherwise, kids aren’t flocking to the medium the way we’d like) yet the trend seems to be moving away from demanding, intelligent adult content.  I really hope it ain’t so.

  17. I don’t think anyone would notice if Vertigo went away at my local comic shop. It’s very sad.

  18. Vertigo makes up most of what I read.  I would be devistated if those books and characters along with the feel of the line were to go away.

  19. @DaveCarr  I think the first 15 issues just came online or something. They really should try and market the collections instead of the singles on something like Scalped though. Get the first 6 issues for this discounted amount etc…

  20. Can’t say i’m a big of a vertigo fan as most people who post here, but i must say i think my entire view of what comics are and what they can be would be different were it not for Y The Last Man and Fables

  21. That whole Grant Morrison/Animalman run was amazing. Evidently, at that time, characters could appear in either or DC or Vertigo without concern, because you had Hawkman and Vixen stories in that run. Does anyone know when the line of demarcation was established?

  22. Including it in the DC comics App is a good thing, but I really would be curious to see if Scapled were at Image and there  had the chance for o a more robust distrubution.

  23. “There are hits and misses, sure, but by and large, there’s a strict quality control…”
    I think that statement sums up what makes Vertigo such a strong imprint. I’ve sampled Vertigo books that “weren’t for me” but there was never a question about the actual quality of the books, whereas a company like Image (as important as it is) can be hit or miss when you are trying something new out. 

  24. @DuncanIdunno  At the time that was coming out, there wasn’t a Vertigo. Karen Berger was the editor. The line was officially founded in 1993.

  25. There was some talk a few months back of Vertigo ending.  Like, pro’s who were in the know saying that it went under.  Word was that their better selling books like Hellblazer, Fables, American Vampire and Scalped were going to be released under DC proper.  

    I had noticed, after hearing that, that Scalped had the DC logo where the Vertigo logo used to be, but then it went back to Vertigo again.  Maybe they had a change of heart? 

  26. I also owe my love of comics to Vertigo. Transmetropolitan is my favorite series to date. I am guilty, though, for being that Vertigo lover who waits for the trades to come out. I LOVE Unwritten and Hellblazer and Sweet Tooth but I just think they read better in trade form.

  27. @josh – so was the title given to Vertigo just for the trades? That’s the format I have this run in, and it clearly has Vertigo on the covers – DC/Vertigo on the spines, but with pub dates of 1991. Market testing maybe?  

  28. @DuncanIdunno Don’t know exactly, the the comics were published under DC, and the trades have been published under Vertigo historically.

  29. Oh man, I’d always been interested in comics, but Vertigo is what got me absolutely hooked as an adult. Sandman, Fables, Y: The Last Man, Preacher, Swamp Thing, Scalped… I devoured those books and I really don’t think I would’ve destroyed a life savings on comics without them. Wait… Is that a good thing? Yes. Yes it is.

  30. Oh, and I also admit to waiting for trades with Vertigo series. I want those books on my bookshelf and so that I can easily lend them to friends. I think that’s what most of the people I know who love those books do. I really hope that’s not what’s concerning them about the viability of the line.

  31. @josh  Oh wow, I never heard about Vertigo shelving their OGNs.  I could have sworn I’ve seen one popping up in each month’s solicitations, so I take it this is fairly new?  They do still have Vertigo Crime though, which are essentially OGNs.  I think though there is a small difference between a one and done OGN and an ongoing series of graphic novels, which is what Vertigo titles would become if they cancelled the monthlies, although I think it’s easier to get an audience to pick up that first trade when there’s some buzz from the monthly that’s been coming out for several months already.  I can’t see Vertigo going anywhere, but the DC owned characters are gone except for Constantine, for now anyway.  Who knows, he could make the move at any time, and there is a thread on the Vertigo message boards about how people who have subscribed to Hellblazer will no longer be able to do so, read of that what you will.  I think the next generation of Vertigo titles is going to really show the future of this line, what with titles such as DMZ and Scalped eventually ending in the next year or two.  With titles like American Vampire though I’m not too worried.

  32. Looks like Constantine is coming to the DCU.  http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/04/22/john-constantine-dcs-man-in-black/  Whether that means the end of Hellblazer remains to be seen.  I hope not though, that would be a real tragedy, as he’s such a staple of Vertigo.  Frankly I don’t know why he can’t be in both universes like the 616 Punisher and Punisher MAX.

  33. I’m 99% sure that there’s a Fables OGN called Wolves of the Heartland due out at the end of the year. This still seems to be coming out as do the Vertigo Crime OGNs.

  34. Losing the Vertigo books would be a huge blow to me, but if they just lose the imprint branding and publish the books as DC books like in the pre-Vertigo days, it probably wouldn’t be the end of the world so long as they don’t force them have less adult subject matter. I think the idea of a seprate imprint probably had more merit back in the days when Vertigo had titles like Sandman crossing over to mainstream, non-comics collecting readers to give them some direction as to what to read next. It seems like the imprint has diversified its titles quite a bit more than in its early days too, so there’s less likelihood that somebody who likes one Vertigo title will necessarily like another one.

  35. @CGPO  Vertigo OGNs

  36. From about age 6 to 22 my comics consumption was 100% superhero books, but 5 years ago I came across a website called iFanboy run by 3 guys with impeccable taste in comics. Like Ron, I had long associated the Vertigo imprint with the goth kids hanging out in the mall at Hot Topic. But I quickly gathered that I should check out Y: The Last Man and Preacher, which turned out to be awesome (surprise)! After that it was off to the races and I have devoured about 70% of Vertigo’s 20 year content in the last 5 years. As this article notes, Vertigo needs a lot more support, but I estimate Vertigo has gotten about $1,000 out of me over those 5 years, so I hope more people start to discover the treasure trove Vertigo provides, both in the archives and in the current series. Vertigo should be paying iFanboy for those recent back page ads.

    Still, try as I might, I just can’t get past the 2nd trade of Sandman, despite multiple attempts…
     

  37. I would also be very sad to see Vertigo go! They have published some of my favorite books ever and are currently publishing many of the best books on the stands. They have me double dipping on a number of titles and I’m pretty stingy with my $$.

    Also @josh, saw the interview you did with Karen Berger and was incredibly jealous, must have been a super cool moment.

    Here’s to a Vertigo-filled future!

  38. Am I correct in thinking that so far, the only vertigo characters that have appeared in DCU-Proper books are those who were part of the DCU before Vertigo existed? yeah, Swamp Thing and Death have both been in DCU books, but they were technically in DCU books when they first appeared. Swamp Thing was in the DCU long before vertigo came about. Also, the first few years of Sandman CLEARLY take place within the DCU. In fact, certain story elements during Season of Mists had to be changed because they contradicted what was going on in Matt wagner’s Demon comic at the time, and The Demon is obviously in the DCU. Have any characters that are EXCLUSIVELY Vertigo for their entire existence shown up in any DCU books yet?

  39. @Andrew  Nothing wrong with not liking Sandman. While I love the book, I can totally get why somebody else might not like it. I personally applaud your effort of giving it multiple chances before deciding it isn’t for you. I’ve found in my own experience that sometimes I’m just not in the right frame of mind to enjoy something. Like i will read a book or a comic or watch a movie and not enjoy it. Then I’ll give it another go a in a week or to and totally love it. If I try something three times and don’t like, then i can say it’s not for me. Seems like you have a similar mindset, which I wish more people shared. I hate to give something one shot then trash it. I like my opinions to be as fair and informed as possible.

  40. I get the feeling too that if anything changes, it will be simply having all Vertigo books under the DC banner. I dont know if anyones noticed but when you look at the solicits on DCs website now, all the books (DC and Vertigo) are listed together whereas they used to be listed seperately.

  41. This would be seriously bad for everyone. Sad as it is to say there’s a big cultural stima attached to reading something that says DC Comics or Marvel comics on the cover that Vertigo circumvents.

    Vertigo has done more to open up the world of comics than almost anything else I woudl say

    Plus the Vertigo Logo just looks like a real publishing logo; it’s not cartoony and garish like the DC Burger King one. 

  42. What frightens me is the OGNs are cancelled and there have been no ongoings announced sice iZombie. So twoyears of ongoings being cancelled and nothing replacing them. Bummer. That pretty much leaves Image as the only place where a non-IP book can get an audience.

  43. @JohnVFerrigno  It is a good mindset to have and it has serve me well. I read the first trade of Fables several years ago and didn’t love it.  I read it again several months later and liked it a bit more, which led me to the next couple of trades, which won my heart.  I still have hope that the same thing will happen with Sandman, that it will just click with me some day, especially since it is routinely on all sorts of “Best Comics EVER!” lists. The big hurdle I just can’t get over is the art. However, this is one of the reasons I still have hope that a future older and wiser me will have changed tastes. I can recall randomly buying Gotham Central # 16 and not going any further because I didn’t dig the art. Years later, I can’t believe I didn’t like the gorgeous LArk art and he is one of my favorites.  I had the same aversion to Maleev early on Daredevil, but now he’s another one of my favorites.  So yeah, hopefully I’ll rise to the level where I can appreciate the art on Sandman!

  44. Bravo, Josh, Bravo! It takes a big man to say that he likes and wants something that is very critical acclaimed and at times hugely popular to not go away. Really.

  45. My point is “fuck it” Make your own continuity and all that stuff.

    Opening vertigo to DC writers just creates other story telling opppunities. it’s not a bigger.

  46. @Andrew  If the art is your main hang-up on Sandman, then i suggest you keep going, as each story arc as a different artist. Maybe the artists coming up will be more to your liking.

  47. Yeah, it’ll be great if dc absorbs vertigo and the books continue and then dc writers get other story telling opportunities. tangent: yorick brown’s reign! morpheus: the sandman strikes again! flashpoint: whatever happened to the preacher of yesterday? It’s not like anything bad happened to charlton or fawcett. Less is more! Oh wait, I thought more was more? Oh well!

  48. @edward  It takes an even bigger man to miss the point with such astonishing swagger and attitude.

  49. the word ‘platitudes’ comes to mind.

  50. @edward  Yeah, I was thinking of an even different word.

  51. i hope people don’t stop publishing books either

  52. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @edward  Not sure what the animosity is here. It’s hardly a platitude to write in defense of an imprint that may be abandoned or absorbed into its parent label. Even if you disagree with Josh about how significant a shift that is. 

  53. I am greatly concerned that DD&DC are going to make a decision that undermines the longevity of the Vertigo line. Vertigo was what got me through the 90’s shitstorm and continues to be my anchor to comics. It does not matter if the characters are used in mainstream comics, what does matter is the continuance of the line, and there is no reason both cannot exist.I guess if adult readers have been pushed out by the groundswell of new child readers, it would make sense to flush the line for the good of the kids….I suspect that if DC’s publisher was stupid/ignorant/retarded enough to destroy Vertigo…it would an excellent way to lose thousands of readers.

  54. @edward  — you’re really not understanding the big picture. There is more to a publishing imprint than just a logo on a cover Its a creative philosophy and direction. If Vertigo got absorbed into DC proper, the types of characters, titles and stories would have to figure ways to incorporate themselves into the DCU which would be almost impossible for a lot of them and specifically for new ones. Which means they wouldn’t get published at all.

    @ResurrectionFlan  –Big Cultural stigma for a publishing imprint? Don’t know about that. I think comics are funnybooks to 99% of the world. They see you reading one and they make snap judgments. They don’t care what logo is on the cover. 

  55. I didn’t get to read all of the comments, but Losers (a vertigo series) was made into a movie last year. Warner Brothers had also announced last year they would be using the Vertigo imprint for many different movies after Harry Potter was finished. They have a huge library of movie ready stuff and finally are going to use it.

  56. Thanks for such a fine article, Josh. As an optimist, I’ve been assuming that Dan DiDio just wants Swampy (and, it seems, JC) available for DCU stories and that participation in superhero stories isn’t an indication that Vertigo is going away. But I see the reasons to worry. While Zatanna and Doom Patrol have returned to the DCU without harmful effects, Hellblazer, definitely, won’t work under the DCU banner.

    A tiny point, Alan Moore was given the Swampy assignment not by Karen Berger, but Len Wein. Your points stand, of course.

  57. An industry without out Vertigo would be a much darker place. No company can help you sing the praises of the medium to a non-reader like Vertigo can. Without Vertigo I wouldn’t have been able to break my wife into comics (Y: the last man). Thanks for a thoughtful (as usual) and thought provoking piece Josh.

  58. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately now that I’m reading daytripper and Y the last man. Vertigo is needed for the strength of the comicbook industry.
    Would these books have found a home elsewhere? It could be argued that they would have but if you had told me a couple of years ago that Wildstorm would have shut down I would’ve said “no way they’re owned by DC comics” but the proof is in the pudding isn’t it. Also in a more independent comicbook market could they have been given the longevity to tell their complete story? 
    Also the argument of the multiple earths doesn’t cut muster with me as there has been very little multiple earth mentions in the DCU since countdown nearly 5 years ago. 
    Onto the John C argument. If he was brought into DC he could be treated like The great Machine in Wildstorm. Published by Wildstorm but with no connection to the universe (the universe got destoryed but with no mention in Ex Machina) or in the DCU with “the Mighty” or “The Light Brigade” which while published by DC have really no place in it.  
    That said I would hate to see Vertigo go the way of Wildstorm, Helix (Matrix), Zuda and paradox press all owned by DC but now defunct. When you see the list of dead imprints you really have to wonder is Vertigo safe. Great article. 

  59. I’m going to do something that I generally try to not do, and call a bunch of commenters out. 😉 Sorry, but I highly disagree with a few people in this comment thread. People saying that if Vertigo were to go away, that the properties would simply turn into DC ones. That is utter and total crap. That would by no mean take place. DC is the superhero universe, and sadly not much more. I realize that it doesn’t necessarily need to be that. But that is what it currently is. And Vertigo going away wouldn’t be because WB doesn’t want a side imprint. It would be because they didn’t think they could make money publishing such titles and stories. Vertigo’s death would be the death of Vertigo type titles. If you think all such titles would simply go over and be published under DC, you’re beyond foolish. Sorry if that sounds harsh. But it’s the truth.

    Vertigo going the wayside would indeed be a terrible, horrible thing. And not just because it would mean the death of DMZ, Fables, Scalped, or whatever other current titles being published. No, that to me is far from what would be the big loss in such a scenario. No, what would be the huge loss would be all the books that have yet to hit the market that would never get the chance to see the light of day. The next generation of Scalped, Y: The Last Man, Fables, Sandman, DMZ, Ex Machina, Preacher, etc. What if Vertigo didn’t exist when all those respective books were coming out? Maybe a couple of them would have found an independent publisher. But odds are not all of them would have. And that would totally suck. So to me, the biggest loss with losing Vertigo would be all the future potential Y’s or Scalped’s that we might never get the chance to read.

    It’s no different than with motion pictures. With big time studios tightening their purse strings, all we’re getting now days is more and more garbage summer blockbusters and remakes and reboots. They’re not willing to take chances on original stories and properties. Therefore we as consumers are getting a vastly narrowed swath of what would previously would have had the choice to choose from. It totally sucks. Companies are affraid of taking risks now days. They only want to spend money on projects that they are assured that will bring guaranteed returns. And there you have you 50 different Deadpool titles and zero Thor the Might Avengers.

    SIGH.

  60. @j206  Vertigo DIDN’T exist when Sandman started coming out. The first few years of that book is firmly ingrained in the DCU. But for the other titles, I completely see your point. You cant have a title like Y:The Last man in the DCU proper. You just can’t kill every male character in the DCU except for one and not have it effect every single book being published. That title would have NEVER seen the light of day as a normal DC book. Same thing with DMZ. Fables would have been tricky, but I think it could have been done. Preacher could never have been done. You can’t have nuclear bombs going off on American soil and not have the JLA involved. It just doesn’t work. So I 99% agree with your post.

  61. Sadely the writings on the wall with this it seems. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow…

  62. @j206  Ex Machina wasn’t Vertigo, it was Wildstorm. But your point stands.

  63. I agree with a lot of what is being said here, but the fact is that if Vertigo went away then it doesn’t mean the death of these “types” of books; or even the actual book themselves.  There are other ways of doing this.  Fables and Unwritten would be just as good if they were published by someone like Image or even self-published.  Vertigo is a convenient place which has a good marketing budget, a great editorial ethos and isn’t too scary to mainstream readers because it’s still linked to DC.  Sure, Hellblazer and others are different because they started at DC, but the same writers and artists could still make similar stories that are just as good, but with different characters.  Look at Kirkman at image, doing a superhero book that isn’t an established character and it’s BETTER than any other superhero book out there at the moment.  He didn’t need to go to Vertigo and ask to reinvent Captain Marvel or something.  I’m not saying these Vertigo books would be exactly the same, most of these books are writer-driven and it’s hard for a writer on his own to attract a really good artist without company money paying for them.  But saying these writers would never get into comics were it not for Vertigo is going a bit far (despite the quote from Aaron).  Great writers came to comics before Vertigo and they’ve come to comics without going through Vertigo.  There are other avenues for people who want to make really interesting work if (as I hope won’t be the case), Vertigo ceases to exist.  But the sentiment is right, we want comics like Vertigo puts out and if they go then it’ll be harder for them to exist.

  64. My main question is, WHY would DC cancel Vertigo anyway? It’s not like it’s a separate company. Yeah, it has a different editorial staff, but if they decided to cancel Vertigo, they would most likely put out more DC books to fill the void in their list of comics, for which they would need….a new editorial staff. I doubt the cost of putting a Vertigo logo on a book costs a whole lot more at the publishing end. And Vertigo books traditionally do very well in the non-comic book market, as the collected editions outsell a lot of super-hero type stuff (at least at the stores I frequent.) I just don’t understand why they would get rid of a line of comics that brings them critical acclaim and makes a profit, no matter how small that profit may be. It makes no sense. 

  65. @JohnVFerrigno  they’re not cancelling it. This whole thing is based on a rumor. great.

  66. @Edward, I don’t see John believing DC is cancelling Vertigo, just engaging with the subject.

  67. @Mart  Yeah, i was actually agreeing with him there. It was “great” as in “great it’s not being cancelled”

  68. @josh  Thanks Josh.  That’s pretty funny considering it was only a year or two ago they announced that they were pushing the OGN more.  Guess it didn’t pan out as well as they had hoped.  I’m not too worried about Vertigo though, their monthly series trades are their real bread and butter, and personally I like a more long-form story than a one and done lately.

    And in Hellblazer news, while JC will be heading to the DCU, Hellblazer isn’t going anywhere.  http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/04/24/peter-milligan-confirms-john-constantine-returning-to-dc-universe/  

  69. I would also be quite disheartened, though I read a lot of Marvel I compliment it with the big Vertigo titles.  At least DC is going back and starting to rev up the digital issues for the great runs of past in the event that Veritgo does fade away like Wildstorm.

  70. I hate to say it but if Vertigo went under I would probably just leave comics altogether.  Sure, I would finish out the runs of the current titles I’m reading but Vertigo has and always will be the core of my comics existence.  I buy 12 monthly titles (plus 4 bi-monthlies and some minis).  5 of those are Vertigo (Scalped, Fables, Unwritten, Sweet Tooth, Hellblazer).  When I look at my long boxes, consisting of only the series I will re-read or which have some personal significance, 4 of the 10 are Vertigo or Vertigo-related books ala Sandman, Swamp Thing and Doom Patrol.  My favorite series of all time?  Mostly Vertigo.  Sad but true.

  71. Vertigo is the core of what I read as well.  While I do pick up a superhero trade here and there, without Vertigo I doubt my interest would be as great.  Regardless, I think Vertigo isn’t going anywhere right now, they’re just changing their sales strategy.  Less OGNs, even the number of mini-series they produce have decreased.  I think when we see either of those formats it will be because there’s a built in audience such as a Hellblazer OGN or from a strong creative team, ie. if Brian K. Vaughn wanted to do something, I’m sure they’d let him.  The trades of the monthly series do too well, and I agree that there’s no way we’d see the Vertigo titles such as Scalped or Sweet Tooth become DC comics.  Besides, DC wants people to know their comics are generally for everyone and Vertigo allows some mature readers things to be printed.  Even if it somehow got folded into the DC editorial line, I would still think they’d leave the Vertigo label on it to show that it’s non-superhero and mature readers.

  72. @CGPO  – I hope and right now I think you are right.  Their main titles do well in trades and from what I had read their OGN line (specifically Vertigo crime) was mostly a flop.  Fingers crossed for many more years.

  73. @Mart  @edward  Yeah, I don’t think they are canceling Vertigo all together. it just makes no sense. They may be panning a new strategy or scaling it back a bit, but I don’t think they would scrap it entirely. There’s too many positives. 

  74. Vertigo brought me back into comics. I can’t imagine comics without it. And there really is no other publisher or imprint like it.

    I’ve read enough stories about FABLES, Y, and PREACHER being made into television shows that I expect them to hit sooner or later — I just hope it is soon enough to save the imprint, if that’s what it takes.

    And I’m heartened by the success of THE WALKING DEAD. It should show WB that non-superhero stories can do well adapted to TV. Course, that’ just me — network execs always seem to think exactly the opposite of how I do.

  75. @RickyStardust – I have to disagree with your premise that if Vertigo were not to exist that all these sorts of books would simply because Image books. Image is a totally different animal from Vertigo.

    For one, making a book at Image is an entirely different business model than doing one for DC. The writers and artists not only do not get paid up front, If I recall correctly, they also have to pay to have copies produced. All Image does it distribute their book for them. That’s a huge endeavor to undertake as a creator. I don’t know how many of the writers and artists would created their titles at Vertigo, working for DC would have been able to afford to go the Image route.

    @NaveenM – I hope you’re right about Vertigo’s property rights having more value to DC than the books themselves. Because in my mind, that might be the only thing to keep Vertigo going in today’s climate where most of their books do very small numbers.

  76. @j206  That’s not exactly correct. Image does not charge an upfront fee. But a creator is required to earn back a certain amount to recoup the publisher before they will be profitable on a book. It doesn’t cost the creators money up front. However, it does not pay anything up front either.

    On the other hand, Vertigo does pay the creators upfront, but that amount varies on the amount of creator owned participation for a given project. It can vary. Image, on the other hand, doesn’t own any of the IP. The creator does.

    Finally, Vertigo is guided by a team of editors, where, for the most part, Image doesn’t control editorial visions.

  77. @josh – Thanks for the clarification. I only knew the general jist. I thought I’d heard somewhere that creators had to pitch in on print costs for new Image books, but wasn’t certain.

    But my main point still remains. Say you’re writing a book and I’m drawing it. If we’re going the Image route, we’re going to need other guaranteed work otherwise it’s a no go. That is unless we don’t need a paycheck. Or if one of us has money and can pay the other for his time and work in advance. It’s a tricky proposition that takes some sacrifice and faith, that was what I was getting at.

    I know there are other publishers like Oni and Dark Horse were people can try to do a book. But I don’t know if there is anything like Vertigo currently in the comics world in terms of reach and stability. Which I think was the original point of the article. A theoretical elimination of Vertigo wouldn’t be the death nail to such titles. But it would drastically reduce the number of them, IMO.

  78. @josh – With Vertigo having a team of editors guiding their books. Is that strictly just a company comfort? Having editors keep things focused. Or is it because they own intellectual property with the titles and feel responsible? You said that the amount Vertigo pays upfront varies due to the level of creator owned participation. Are there any Vertigo titles where the creator has total say? Or books where a perceived creator owned title actually is in total DC control? Like if Scalped actually sold big numbers and Jason Aaron said that he was done. Would DC be able to continue the book with another writer? Lot of questions, I know. But curious if you got any answers. Thanks!