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Is the DC Universe taking back Swamp Thing, other Vertigo characters?

Swamp Thing #128

Swamp Thing #128

A rumor snaking its way through the blogosphere has Swamp Thing leading a migration of characters from Vertigo back to the DC Universe, ending for some properties nearly two decades of imprint isolation.

In a brief post on Tuesday, Rich Johnston reported that new DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio “decreed” a new Swamp Thing title be released under the DC bullet, where it last appeared in February 1993. (That decision apparently meant the cancellation of a reboot in the works from acclaimed science fiction author China Miéville.) What’s more, Johnston contends a “new policy” would permit any character that originated in the DC Universe to again be used by that imprint.

None of that has been confirmed, but if it’s true it certainly signals a significant shift in editorial policy at the recently restructured DC Comics. With few exceptions, once a property moved from the publisher’s superhero line to its “mature readers” imprint, it typically remained. That’s not to say it never happened: In recent years, Animal Man and Doom Patrol were reclaimed by the DCU, and Zatanna and The Phantom Stranger have little difficulty traveling between the two imprints, even if their visits to Vertigo are only for the occasional cameo or one-shot.

However, when was the last time John Constantine, Swamp Thing or the Sandman cast popped up in a superhero title? (Probably 1997, in JLA, for the latter; Neil Gaiman has final say on their use. For the other two, I have no idea.)

Some may view this rumored “new policy” as a blow — both real and symbolic — against the Old DC, where editorial territory was said to be as fiercely defended as a medieval fiefdom. And it very well may be. After all, the former heads of two of the three primary imprints — calling them “vassal lords” would strain the metaphor — are now co-publishers. So it would be only natural to want to rescind a long-standing, and bothersome, edict.

But it also could be that the Vertigo of 2010 bears little resemblance to the Vertigo of 1993. An imprint that began essentially as a stable for “edgier” or “darker” takes on existing DC properties — Swamp Thing, The Sandman, Shade, the Changing Man, et al — evolved into a home for acclaimed original series like 100 Bullets, Preacher, Scalped, DMZ, Transmetropolitan and Y: The Last Man, and graphic novels like Pride of Baghdad and the new Vertigo Crime line.

Heck, it’s probably telling that the flagship series is no longer Hellblazer, the last of the imprint’s debut titles still being published, but Fables, a series introduced nearly a decade after Vertigo was established.

With original creations as its foundation, Vertigo has little need of those “edgier” versions of old DCU properties. So maybe it’s simply time for most of them to go back. Of course, that doesn’t guarantee Swamp Thing will fare any better in the DC Universe than he has in recent years at Vertigo. But at least he won’t have to jump additional editorial hurdles on his way to cancellation.



I believe Daniel, the new Dream, appeared in a panel or two of an issue of JSA around the time of Infinite Crisis (though the book was not an IC tie-in).

Andrew Collins

June 2, 2010 at 11:16 am

I know some people are worried about what this means for the future of Vertigo, but I’m personally excited about this. Didio and his writers have made coy references about Swamp Thing, Constantine, Black Orchid and the others for several years, but it would be nice to see them returned to their point of origin. I always felt their best stories were the ones done while the characters were still under the DC imprint.

It’s a shame this came at the expense of that new Swamp Thing series, it sounds like it could have been pretty good, from what I’ve read. I would like to see DC and Vertigo have the same relationship as Marvel and its MAX imprint, where there’s no issue of publishing both a ‘general audiences’ version at the same time as the ‘mature audiences’ version, like they did with the Punisher.

Of course, the snarky side of me can’t help but make jokes that there’s no real difference between DC and Vertigo these days anyway beyond Vertigo books carrying a “Mature Readers” tag, often with content less explicit than what’s in Didio’s DC titles…

A quick Google search reveals that Daniel appeared in JSA #59, 63, and 80 (the issue I was thinking of).

I never understood WHY there was a divide. It’s not like you can’t just have a Vertigo Swamp Thing and a DC Universe Swamp Thing and hypertime-away any discrepancies.

I think Black Orchid appeared in Trinity, at least according to Wikipedia. I would love to see the Martian Manhunter get a vertigo reboot, since everyone knows the Dr. Erdel side of his backstory. Let’s have some pre Erdel Mars (Before it was destroyed)

On a related note, while watching the Star Trek: The Next Generation marathon on BBC America on Monday, I saw an ad for the “Fables” series. Now, THAT was pretty cool. Anyone else catch it there or anywhere else?

@Squashua, IIRC the reasoning wasn’t continuity, but that kids might pick up, say, a Batman book with Swamp Thing, then want to read more about Swamp Thing and go looking for the mature-readers book.

I guess DiDio thinks JT Krul, Judd Winick and Geoff Johns are better writers than China Miéville. But again, I don’t know why we can’t have both versions of those characters.

Constantine and Swamp Thing both attended Hal Jordan’s funeral, for some reason–Swampy turned the Coast City crater into a big green park, didn’t he?

@Andrew Collins: I think that’s EXACTLY the reason why they want to use Vertigo characters in the Main universe- BECAUSE their superhero books are pretty much filled with horror these days. When a book like BRIGHTEST DAY can feature things like a woman slaughtering her own family in graphic detail, is the “kids might gravitate to Vertigo” thing a real problem anymore? They not only do not care about being kid-friendly, they don’t even care about those of us who are just sickened by the stuff. And while I’m no Vertigo fan, I do agree that some of their books were written better than this crap (Books of Magic comes to mind.)

Personally, other than the fact that I wish Didio, Johns and the rest would keep their bloodthirst limited to Vertigo versions of the DC characters ala MARVEL MAX, I think it’s a bad idea to start crossing the lines over anyway as it might lead to confusion and a weakening of the brands. Let each universe feature its own, original characters.

For those interested, I posted an e-mail from author China Miéville to my site, Roots of the Swamp Thing, today. Mr. Miéville was gracious enough to offer a glimpse at what his plans for the series would have been.

Rich Handley
Roots of the Swamp Thing

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