Thursday, May 30, 2013

Who Killed Vertigo?

You'll excuse me if this post isn't too elaborate on the images — I'm typing on the bus to Massachusetts and bandwidth is at a premium.

But I did want to add a little something to this dialogue about, essentially, "who killed Vertigo Comics?"

The debate spins out of the NYT profile about Vertigo founder Karen Berger. As The Outhousers point out, there is quite a bit of Dan DiDio quotes in said article — and it makes him look like, essentially, he didn't think Vertigo was "all that" and thus let the brand "die."

I worked at DC about two years before DiDio arrived, and I can tell you — a large portion of the imprint's output was already stale. Two bright lights were the books Heidi MacDonald ushered in (including "Y The Last Man" and "Transmetropolitan") and the office of Will Dennis ("100 Bullets"). Outside of that, things were largely Xeroxes of Xeroxes of cool things Vertigo did ten years ago.

I'm talking countless series that tanked. And then add to the pile Vertigo-esque imprints like Helix and DC Focus. And then add a number of the Vertigo-esque Wildstorm titles except stuff like Alan Moore.

This is what Dan faced when he arrived at DC. A massive pile of WTF titles that nobody bought and nobody knew how they got approved and nobody knew how they would could sell. I know, because these comics, when we got them in our weekly comps, were pilled HIGH in the recycling bins. The bloat and waste across the board — including the superhero books — was prolific.

And so when he says that the Vertigo sales model was "myopic," all this needs to be kept in mind.

Of course, being the co-publisher of a DC that is seeing Karen go, he's not going to come off great in this article no matter what he says. He's just going to look like the Suit who killed Vertigo.

But who killed Vertigo?

Vertigo went the way of many formerly exciting and ground-breaking brands that became increasingly conservative and...and, frankly, myopic. It's the Circle of Life, my friend: the hippie becomes the Wall Street tycoon, the Artist becomes the Sellout, and Dennis Miller becomes a  Conservative talk radio host.

This isn't to downplay the groundbreaking work Pre-Vertigo, Vertigo, and Karen Berger did, key in furthering the art form and making DC king of the bookstore market. And this is not to say that DC should not continue some sort of Vertigo-type program. And this is not to say that Vertigo hasn't produced any hits in the past decade.

But the death of Vertigo was long in coming. And if it has a resurgence/reboot, it needs to look like Image, and not like some imprint obsessed with its glory days and afraid of anybody not within its "circle." Because I know way too many highly talented, cutting-edge writers and artists who felt that latter-day Vertigo (and related offshoots) snubbed/alienated them, and went on to do brilliant things elsewhere; if you're looking for a tragedy in all of this, there you go.