If 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.
In the recent New York Times profile of former Vertigo Executive Editor Karen Berger, Dave Itzkoff writes that DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio “said it would be ‘myopic’ to believe ‘that servicing a very small slice of our audience is the way to go ahead.’” It’s a weird way to structure the quote, but assuming Itzkoff is accurately capturing what DiDio meant, that’s a controversial stance for DC to take.
But he kind of has a point. Heidi MacDonald rightly notes that Vertigo books make up roughly one-third of DC’s list of essential graphic novels, but if we’re just going by sales, Vertigo’s slice of DC’s pie does look pretty small. According to Diamond Comic Distributors, just 6 percent of DC’s graphic novels in April’s Top 100 were Vertigo titles. The percentage was a lot higher in March (15 percent), but only 7 percent in February. The number of Vertigo titles in the Top 100 has been pretty consistent in the past three months: two or three. What made the difference in March was that DC had less Top 100 titles overall. Of course, that only covers a short amount of time and only includes direct market sales, but if we look at a list of what DC considered its top-selling graphic novels as of last autumn, only about 13 percent of those are from Vertigo. None of that is super-scientific, but it paints a pretty good picture of how much Vertigo contributes to DC in terms of sales.
Publishing | Dave Itzkoff profiles Karen Berger, who stepped down in March after 20 years as executive editor of DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint (she still consults on a few projects). The story has a wistful tone, with Berger suggesting that DC is more interested in its company-owned characters and Co-Publisher Dan DiDio basically agreeing, but noting it’s an industry-wide trend. He said it would be “myopic” to believe “that servicing a very small slice of our audience is the way to go ahead,” adding, “That’s not what we’re in the business for. We have to shoot for the stars with whatever we’re doing. Because what we’re trying to do is reach the biggest audience and be as successful as possible.” [The New York Times]
With the departure of Vertigo Executive Editor Karen Berger, speculation has been rife that DC Comics may be closing the door on its nearly 20-year-old mature-readers imprint. Not so, say the publisher’s Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne and Vice President of Marketing John Cunningham.
They’re the two who make the rounds of comics news sites each month to frame DC’s direct-market sales performance, and in their conversation with Comic Book Resources they even managed to sound cheerful about the November chart, in which Marvel had eight of the Top 10 titles.
So take this any way you like, but when asked by ICv2.com about the future of Vertigo, they were pretty upbeat. Here’s what Cunningham had to say:
I am not certain about a lot of things, but I am pretty sure of this: If you read enough of Karen Berger’s comics, it makes you a better person. It would have to. It just makes too much sense!
In more than 30 years, first as a DC Comics editor and then as head of Vertigo, Berger helped to transform the comics industry by shepherding some of the most acclaimed and beloved series in recent memory. Swamp Thing, Hellblazer, The Sandman and other not-exactly mainstream DC books not only helped define Vertigo’s identity, they established their own, free from the restraints of a shared superhero universe.
The news of Karen Berger leaving Vertigo spread quickly. It wasn’t so much that it was a surprise, but that it finally happened. DC
Comics Entertainment has been going through significant changes over the past couple of years, including grabbing characters long associated with Vertigo and returning them to the DC Universe, and rumored changes to creator contracts. Despite the unfortunate end, Berger leaves behind an amazing legacy no matter what becomes of the nearly 20-year-old imprint.
I have a very clear memory of high school in the 1990s where kids much cooler than me were reading The Sandman. These were kids who otherwise didn’t read comics, and certainly not the superhero stuff from Marvel and DC. This was not an isolated incident. Vertigo in the ’90s brought a new audience to comics, a maturing audience with interests in horror, fantasy, suspense and mythology. These readers didn’t have access to, and probably weren’t ready for, the underground or alternative comix scene. As superhero comics turned into garish collector items, Vertigo provided the alternative: stories.
Crime | Police say a Willston Park, New York, man shot his girlfriend in the back Monday following an argument about the AMC adaptation of The Walking Dead. Twenty-six-year-old Jared M. Gurman reportedly believed a military mishap could lead to the release of a virus, triggering a zombie apocalypse; Jessica Gelderman, 27, thought the idea was absurd. According to police, the argument escalated and even continued through text messages after Gelderman left the apartment to spend the night at her parents’ house. When Gelderman returned to try to smooth things over with her boyfriend, police allege he was sitting on the stairs with a .22-caliber rifle; a single round pierced her lung and diaphragm and shattered her ribs. Gurman was arrested when he took Gelderman to the hospital. She’s in stable condition with the bullet still in her body. [Newsday]
“I was [...] seriously disappointed when I’d heard about the demise of Vertigo’s Hellblazer recently announced, in favor of transitioning the lead character into the DCU entirely, not an idea I’m overly fond of. As a longtime reader of Hellblazer it was disheartening. I felt as if Vertigo was beginning to slowly be sucked dry, its life’s blood drained away. And with the departure of Karen Berger I have to admit that I’m feeling even more disheartened. And speaking as bit of a fan here, not an industry professional, I’m feeling torn between a struggle of anger about some things and rather optimistic for what the future may hold for Karen, and in turn for us as readers. As a creative editor Karen has something to say, always has, and I’m certain her voice will rise up out of the din and resonate with something new. And when that voice does sound, in whatever form that may take, I know I’m there to listen. Comics needs Karen Berger! ”
– J.H. Williams III, responding to Monday’s announcement that Karen Berger, executive editor and senior vice president of Vertigo, will leave after nearly 20 years at the helm of the DC Comics imprint
When Joe Kubert passed away in August, he left a sizable hole in the world of comics, by virtue of his lifelong career in the field, his fairly unique role as one of the medium’s first and most influential teachers, and his immense talent.
At the time of his death, many of the obituaries and remembrances mentioned he was still drawing comics at his advanced age, and that, in fact, he had projects on his drawing board.
I suspect a lot of people will be contemplating Kubert’s work this week, and mourning his loss, as Wednesday the major publisher with which he was most associated throughout his career released some of his latest and, sadly, last work, giving readers to chance to see some of that stuff of that was on his drawing board when he passed away: an eerie, unfinished story for a Vertigo anthology and the first issue of a new limited series bearing Kubert’s name.
The Vertigo anthology is Ghosts, and Kubert’s piece is “The Boy and the Old Man;” it’s about a brave old warrior on his figurative deathbed, lying there awaiting his end, and, ultimately, vigorously fighting against it when it arrives, in order to save a young man.
Scalped, the Eisner Award-nominated crime series by Jason Aaron and R. M. Guéra, will end in April with Issue 60.
While Aaron had repeatedly suggested the Vertigo comic was nearing its conclusion, he resisted naming a final issue, writing just three months ago that, “It’s never been a secret that Scalped had a definite ending point. I still haven’t put a specific issue number on it, but we’re certainly getting closer.”
However, during Thursday’s Vertigo panel at Comic-Con International, Executive Editor Karen Berger got specific, confirming that Aaron and Guéra will bring the story to a close with the 60th issue.
Debuting in January 2007, Scalped is a gritty crime Western that’s been described as “The Sopranos on an Indian reservation.” It follows Dashiell Bad Horse, an angry undercover FBI agent who’s to return to the Prairie Rose Indian Reservation after a 15-year absence to infiltrate the criminal organization headed by Chief Lincoln Red Crow and bring him to just for the murder of two agents 30 years earlier.
The end of Scalped will follow the conclusion of DMZ in December and the cancellation of Northlanders in March.
CBR’s interview with DC Co-Publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio is the gift that keeps on giving. And while their tandem answers to questions about the role of the Vertigo imprint will be playing under their reign — specifically, the rumor that Vertigo characters like Swamp Thing are on the verge of reintegration into the main DC Universe — leave lots of room for interpretation, they do paint a picture of the pair’s working relationship with both the line’s creators and its leader, DC Vice President – Executive Editor Karen Berger.
Shifting focus to talk about Vertigo for a minute. Recently, you’ve had two well-received launches with “American Vampire” and with “Greendale,” both of which represent in their own way the two things that Vertigo is most known for: long-running series with a definite shape and scope to them and stand alone volumes build for a general audience to jump right into. Neither of you had worked much with the Vertigo staff or on those kinds of properties before becoming co-publishers. Do you foresee that Vertigo will continue to present projects in those two veins, or do you think that you’ll change things up in terms of the kind of material and formats we see?
Lee: Karen Berger is fairly synonymous with Vertigo, so it wouldn’t make a lot of sense for us to walk in and say, “Hey, by the way…this is how Vertigo should run.” We certainly sat down with her and went over all the titles and how the publishing plan should run. And fortunately, we had a great dialogue, and through that dialogue we’ve really come to lay down some stuff we think will best represent Vertigo as a line and will create more hits like “American Vampire” and “Greendale” that we think will make an impact with the readers. Part of the trick is that they do a lot of one-offs, so you don’t have projects dealing with well-known characters with established histories. It’s not just about finding diverse material. It’s about pushing the marketing to find new audiences for this material. It’s a great challenge, and that’s how Dan and I helped Karen – in pushing Vertigo as a line. And that’s where I think we’ll be more helpful than necessarily deciding “it’ll be this book and these creators,” because that’s what she and her team are so good at.