Just over a year ago, I more or less wrote off the future of Vertigo Comics in a piece I titled “The Former King of Comics,” and it was for several fairly founded reasons. Those reasons included their creator-owned deal not being as attractive as the one their competitors offered, their relationships with prominent creators being frayed publicly over the years, and perhaps most importantly, the high profile departure of Vertigo’s founder, Executive Editor and muse Karen Berger. While I was high on the potential of the team of Shelly Bond, Will Dennis and Mark Doyle that were taking up her mantle, it was hard not to look at the vastly reduced line of titles and not feel like Vertigo was slowly going the way of the buffalo.
“Out of the books they are currently publishing, four of those books will have wrapped within the next year, and five will if you really, genuinely believe The Sandman: Overture will reach its conclusion by then. Beyond that, there aren’t any replacements on the horizon, unless you include Peter Milligan’s The Discipline and two other unrevealed books that were mentioned in this New York Times article back in July of 2013. That will leave the imprint with single digits in its publishing line, and no real explanation or idea as to why the number is dwindling so.”
Shortly after that piece, more bad came. Dennis left the company, Doyle went full-time on the Batman line (save for editing American Vampire) and Bond had to deal with rebuilding without them in the face of a cross-country move and losing what I have to imagine was an array of lower profile names of value. That’s a lot to deal with on top of revitalizing a flagging line.
But then as the move came closer and closer, new names and titles started to appear and hope started to form. Writer, former Oni Editor-in-Chief and generally impressive dude Jamie S. Rich joined up as a Senior Editor. They announced new books with quality teams at NYCC. DC co-publisher Jim Lee was even speaking publicly about a plan to revitalize the imprint. I may be a sucker but I believed him.
“If you look at what we’re going to do in 2015 (which I’m not at liberty to discuss at this moment), possibly first quarter next year, you’ll see that we’re going through a major effort to rebrand the imprint. That’s going to come about through the projects themselves.”
Lee shared that that plan would see the light of day in early 2015, and that came and went without a peep. Save for Fables and American Vampire, my Vertigo thoughts mostly went into hibernation for much of this year.
Until San Diego Comic Con, that is.
Apparently they were saving it all for San Diego, as Vertigo won the con by revealing not one, not two, not three, but twelve – or eleven if you don’t count the previously announced Clean Room by Gail Simone and Jonathan Davis-Hunt – new titles. All are set to hit in waves over the last quarter of 2015. While few of them have the immediate sex appeal of the books announced at Image Expo or even titles of Vertigo past, most of them have immense promise. For the first time in quite a while, I found myself excited about the future of Vertigo.
And who wouldn’t be? We are getting a book from Gilbert Hernandez and Darwyn Cooke. Hernandez and Cooke! Their title the Twilight Children immediately leaps near the top of my most anticipated comics list for the rest of 2015. That is despite knowing literally nothing about it. It is just on the sheer power of the creative team. There are plenty of other standout names – like Mike Allred, Meghan Hetrick and Rob Williams – Working on books and random delights like Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ book The Sheriff of Baghdad getting a hell of a cover by DMZ cover artist John Paul Leon.
There’s just something about seeing a cover by Leon that just tells me everything is going to be alright again at Vertigo.
Besides the Hernandez and Cooke comic, I wouldn’t say any of them look like surefire hits for me, but even then, that’s exciting in its own way. One thing that has always made Vertigo such an interesting imprint is how unlike its corporate mothership, it wasn’t about trying to please everyone. It was about releasing great work and trying to find an audience from there. Did I ever expect to love a crime story told on an Indian reservation? No way in hell. But Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera’s Scalped is one of my favorite comics ever, and there’s something magical about it coming from an entirely unexpected place.
Who knows what my next Scalped could be in this next generation of titles? I’m not even sure there is one. But for the first time in a while at Vertigo, I’m excited to find out, and that is a very good thing indeed.
Now I’m curious as to what you think, dear readers. Do you feel like this new wave of Vertigo titles is something worth being excited about or much ado about nothing? Take the poll below and let me know, and feel free to expand on your answer with your thoughts on Vertigo and what book you’re most excited about. I’ll run the results on Friday along with the best answers.
Using a mobile device and can’t see the poll? Follow this link to take the poll on SurveyMonkey.