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Vertigo poised to ‘redefine the industry standards’ of genre fiction

Vertigo ComicsIf the recent New York Times profile of former Vertigo Executive Editor Karen Berger — to say nothing of industry sentiment — made it appear as if the position and prestige of the 20-year-old imprint have been greatly diminished under the restructured DC Entertainment, the company would like to assure you otherwise.

A new Associated Press article, which seems tailored in response to that May 29 piece, turns the spotlight away from Berger and on to her successor Shelly Bond, who has worked at the imprint since its launch in 1993.

The Times contends that Berger’s departure in March “raises questions about the future of Vertigo and where its renegade spirit fits into an industry and a company that seem increasingly focused on superhero characters who can be spun off into movies and TV shows.” However, Bond speaks in rosier terms about the direction of the imprint, which lost its last founding title — and longtime flagship — in February with the end of Hellblazer (which was resurrected in the DC Universe as Constantine).

“I am so ready to bring in some new blood and new bravado and just continue to show the masses that comics are the most essential part of pop culture,” she tells The AP.

While in The Times article Neil Gaiman was uncertain how Vertigo will fare under DC Entertainment, a division of Warner Bros. created specifically to better exploit the comics properties for film, television and video games, Bond sees the new environment as an opportunity. “We want to kick down the barriers between what comic books can be and what popular culture is,” she says. “I think, now more than ever, we’ve got that opportunity to work in different mediums.”

It was tough not to take away from the earlier story that the overriding belief is that Vertigo’s best days are behind it; Berger herself noted that DC is now more focused on its own characters (versus those controlled by the creators, or jointly owned, as some of the imprint’s properties are), saying the publisher and Marvel “are superhero companies owned by movie studios.” As true as that may be, it’s hard to swallow for fans of Vertigo, long a refuge from superheroes.

And DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio did little — OK, nothing — to smooth the edges of Berger’s remarks, acknowledging there’s “some truth” to the feeling of a shifting landscape before he delivered perhaps the most widely circulated quotes of the article, saying, “There’s not a challenge to be more profitable out of the gate. But there is a challenge to be more accepted out of the gate.” Then came the wince-inducing part: “Mr. DiDio said it would be ‘myopic’ to believe ‘that servicing a very small slice of our audience is the way to go ahead.’”

Maybe he’s right? Or maybe not. Whatever the case, it comes across as harsh and unnecessarily alienating, which may be what brings us to this Associated Press article, whose sole purpose appears to be to ease fears about Vertigo’s trajectory.

“Now is the greatest time for us to actually broaden the scope,” Bond says, “and I think what you’ll see is that we’re not only going to defy the standards and confines of traditional genre fiction, but I think we’re going to redefine the industry standards because we’re going to really go deep and dark into areas of psychological horror, dark fantasy, action adventure and even next-wave science fiction and mythic fiction.”



“As true as that may be, it’s hard to swallow for fans of Vertigo, long a refuge from superheroes.”

There are so, so many publishers now that are refuges from the cape scene (Image, Dark Horse, IDW, etc) that I’m not sure Vertigo is really necessary. At least in that sense. I think they need to figure out what they want to be, though, because right now, they look like the misc file of the DC publishing group.

Its a tough market for Vertigo to now be in. The kind of titles that made them great are past them, and those that are still around are not being promoted and sold as much as DC hero properties. If DC had sense they look to how they can nurture creator owned books more, because that where most of the industry originality is now. Image seem to be really good at this.

Then again, in an age of Kickstarter, who needs these big boys as much when they struggle to promote all of their works.

For years now there have been dozens and dozens of non-superhero books with great concepts and great art, from all the top publishers, including Marvel and DC/Vertigo

Is the audience larger for capes? sure.

do we have to constantly pit the capes against the others? NO. The audience can have both.

I’m sure Shelley Bond and Vertigo are going to release some damn good comics.

Andrew Collins

June 10, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Vertigo reminds me some of an indie record label whose biggest artists have all left for the major labels and it’s left putting out ‘best of’ compilations until they find the next big thing…

I love Vertigo.
I never collected monthly regular DCU books until New52, as i found them terribly produced and convoluted. Though I hate to see how some of the creative decisions have turned out, a few of the new DCU books have been good, and they are the ones that have had stable creative teams. Swamp Thing, Wonder Woman, Batwoman, and I do admit to liking All Star Western.

But I digress, I have always read Vertigo. Preacher, Y the Last Man, Fables, I’ve always looked at Vertigo to give me a taste of something I couldn’t find with capes. Vertigo can succeed still. Fables is still strong. Astro City (capes, but not normal capes) launching and new books like Trillium look good. I am looking forward to some good books, but if the editorial decisions of the main line start to creep into Vertigo, then I dont know what could happen.

Vertigo’s as dead as hip-hop, y’all. Deal with it & move on, FFS.

I have no faith right now in DC. There are some great things coming out, but they seem in spite of the DC editorial culture, rather than in harmony with it, so I’ll keep my eyes on Vertigo but will believe in improvement when I see it. Love Astro City but is it in the Vertigo or Wildstorm or other category?

Vertigo is alive and well…it’s just called Image now.

Every time I miss the days when I collected more Vertigo than DCU proper titles I just look at Image and realize the choice is still very much there.

I have to agree with Papercut: a lot of cutting-edge stuff is coming from Image these days. Great series and minis, many having nothing to do with superheroes, and lately, many of their introductory trades have been priced at $10 (or so) – it certainly encourages me to try their new titles.

Image is finally publishing the type of material that validates their formation. It’s just a shame that it took 20 years and a whole new generation of creators to do it!

I was going to say the same thing about Image. They appear to be picking up a lot of titles that “seem like” they could have been at Vertigo (or Icon). Other than The Unwritten (which was a Karen Berger title, of course), the only ongoing series that I get excited about are being published by Image.

Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter what Bond or anyone else says. Actions speak louder than words, and neither the actions taken by DC and Vertigo (moving Hellblazer back to the DCU, Fables/Unwritten crossover) nor the current state of Vertigo’s offerings do anything to counteract the notion that their best days are behind them.

This is pure gold:

Bond said the imprint, whose current and coming titles include Bill Willingham’s “Fables,” Scott Snyder’s “The Wake,” Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s “100 Bullets: Brother Lono” and the upcoming graphic novel “Fairest: In All the Land” won’t play it safe.

So, in the same sentence in which we are told that Vertigo “won’t play it safe”, we are given examples of (A) their longest-running title and “tentpole”, (B) a title by DC’s most popular writer, (C) a spinoff from one of their popular titles. and (D) another spinoff from one of their popular titles.

What do they do when they DO play it safe? Get Geoff Johns to write a series? Up the number of Fables titles into the double-digits?

Hm. If I didn’t know better I’d assume, after reading this article, that Time Warner must own the associated press.

But yeah, I’d agree where Image is where it’s at. Prophet and Saga alone are enough to earn them that. Meanwhile Vertigo has…um…a 100 bullets spinoff by one of the writers fresh off Before Watchmen? Sign me the fuck up.

Here’s the thing: Ever since DC’s reappropiation into Time Warner proper (the event that outed Levitz from any leadership role in the company) the suits there have realized that it’s hard to make a blockbuster out of, say, Vikings or a Indian Reservation Noir of Antler-Boy Post-Apocalyptica so Vertigo is relegated to the backseat until some so-called “idea” man comes up with some way to pimp that imprint out to hollywood or whoever (Before Watchmen is another regreatable by-product of this phenomena). Who gives a shit about art? God forbid they should make good comics for good comics sake, but that must be too much of “servicing a very small slice of our audience” I guess.

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