Is DC Comics Shuttering Vertigo? UPDATE: Yes, They Are.

Bleeding Cool reported that according to multiple sources, DC Comics is planning to close down the Vertigo imprint. Vertigo was the brainchild of DC Editor Karen Berger. You might recall that DC reportedly fired Berger in 2013. One disturbing detail in the article by Bleeding Cool is that Warner Bros. CEO Alan Horn demanded that Vertigo contracts be renegotiated so more Vertigo books could be turned into film and TV shows. This led many creators to go to other companies that would allow them to retain ownership of their work. An attempted relaunch in 2018 failed to produce significant sales. Controversy over Border Town‘s Eric Esquivel being accused of abuse didn’t help matters. In addition, the controversy over the satirical comic Second Coming made matters worse.

DC Comics has reportedly refused to respond and has a Vertigo launch planned for San Diego Comic-Con. This may be all rumors, then. If it is, I would love to see a push towards great comics again from Vertigo. Vertigo pioneered the move away from the Comics Code Authority. It also presented comics for adults at a time when speculation was driving super-heroes through the roof.

Vertigo’s founder Karen Berger got creators like Neil Gaiman, Bill Willingham, Warren Ellis, Peter Milligan and Brian Azzarello to produce some of the best work to be seen since Watchmen changed the comics landscape. Comics fans can name Vertigo titles like Sandman, Swamp Thing, Hellblazer, Animal Man, Doom Patrol, 100 Bullets, Preacher, Fables, Transmetropolitan and Y: The Last Man, among others. They can also pull out an obscure Vertigo title or two to give as an example of the excellence that Vertigo represented. I will hold up Proposition Player and Enigma as great series. In 2008, Glenn Fabry’s Greatest Hits made me excited for a comic book mini-series again. 

If Vertigo is gone, it’ll be a sad symptom of something not working right at the second largest publisher in the country.

UPDATE (6/22/2019): DC Comics confirmed that Vertigo will be shut down as an imprint, officially as of January, 2020. There will be only three separate labels, all based on age-specific groups. Any remaining Vertigo titles and properties will be rolled into DC Black Label. DC Zoom and DC Ink will be reassigned into DC Kids or the main DC line depending on the content. Per DC Comics, the imprints will be defined as:

  • DC Kids will focus on readers ages 8-12 and offer content created specifically for the middle-grade reader
  • DC, focusing on ages 13+, will primarily be the current DC universe of characters
  • DC Black Label will focus on content appropriate for readers 17 and older

Given that we can only base our analysis upon what Dan DiDio and Jim Lee have said in the announcement, we cannot infer anything other than DC is restructuring its imprints on an age-based system. DiDio does claim that Vertigo-style material is mainstream across all genres. I take issue with that. The mainstream, especially at DC Comics is not edgier material. Genre diversity at DC proper, is not an apparent priority.

Black Label’s biggest news maker was a case of DC capitulating to outrage of it’s Black Label showing shadowed male frontal nudity. All announced and published titles for DC Black Label are centered on DC super-hero properties, almost exclusively Superman and Batman. Previously collected series for DC Black Label are Kingdom Come, New Frontier, All-Star Superman and Frank Miller’s Ronin. This does not look promising for a variety genres to be represented in the mature readers replacement for Vertigo.

So let’s pour one out for Vertigo, which paved the way for comic books to grow up. Let’s also hope that we see it’s variety keeps DC Comics a home for great comics about someone other than super-heroes.