Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Vertigo Obitutary?

San Diego Comicon International 2010 has come and gone. I didn't attend, haven't since 2003. The size and scale have grown into something I am just not that comfortable with. The last time I seriously looked at going was 2005 and during the few minutes I got up from my chair to chat with my wife about going, the availability of the plane ticket I was considering went away. So too did my interest in attending. It also turns out that was the first time the place sold out and the fire marshall wouldn't let anyone else in. Time and money saved. As years progressed I have quite enjoyed reading all of the online coverage. Up to the minute announcements of stories and projects and certain artists working on favorite titles. It was great, even if some of them never happened. In particular I enjoyed reading about projects from my favorite imprint, Vertigo.

With Vertigo, DC Comics published fiction that interested and entertained me. I had long grown tired of guys and girls in tights beating the shit out of each other for no useful purpose. I looked for something with a little more thought and personality. Books that reflected the interests, intelligence and integrity of the creators. Projects brought forth with a passion, not in desire of a larger royalty check, or aftermarket art sale. Or even god forbid, a movie option. Vertigo provided this, an undiluted, not mixed with rat poison and stepped on seventeen different times fix for my comic habit. I am their target audience and Vertigo has provided what I need time and time again. It's a happy little arrangement.

For the past two months Vertigo has been announcing cancellations of titles. Air, Unknown Soldier, and Greek Street. This is not an uncommon occurrence. Vertigo is a publishing house in the business of making money. If a book doesn't sell, it does get cancelled. We are all adults and this is the way the world works. This time, however, we have a difference. Vertigo has done this before, it's a cycle. Cancel a few titles, announce and launch a few new ones. Wash, rinse and repeat. Except now we seem to be stuck on rinse, as in rinse away. Vertigo has not announced an ongoing title since SDCC 2009. At SDCC 2010 their is no online mention of any new projects. The major announcements are for an anniversary issue of Fables, Vertigo's ranking powerhouse, and Hellblazer, the longest continuously running book that's been launched in the last 22 years (for the record at DC the longest continuously published under a single titles are Detective, Action, Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman and Hellblazer). That's it. No hype for the remaining Vertigo Crime books that are in the pipeline. Or for Original graphic novels like Dark Rain, or the Dean Haspiel illustrated Cuba book. No extra push for The Green Woman by Peter Straub and painted by John Bolton. No mention of the book Janelle Jones is drawing for them that gets mentioned in her bio in the week of con release TroubleMaker (written by Janet Evanovich and published by Dark Horse, so it's going to get seen by more than a few people).

This silence is puzzling. And more than a bit concerning. Here's what I think we will be seeing in the coming two to three months.

1. The Retirement of Karen Berger. The heart and soul and driving force behind Vertigo, she is also the longest standing editor at DC. After more than 25 years it's not unexpected that she would politely step away, either by choice or request.

2. The dissolution of Vertigo as a separate label. I envision the statement going something like this - "Thoughout it's history DC has endeavored to bring a diverse and varied line of visual entertainment all under the legendary DC bullet. Not just Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern, but Jonah Hex, Sgt Rock, Young Romance, Camelot 3000, Watchmen, Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, Atari Force and countless others. It is with great pride that we welcome Fables and Unwritten to this ever growing legacy."

3. The burn through of whatever's been commisioned and is too far past the kill fee stage. With the recent announcements for the 2 year old Sean Murphy Hellblazer mini-series and Warren Ellis's "Shoot", I think we are already starting to see this happen.

If I could see the future I doubt I would use that power to look at this particular outcome but it does look like the writings on the wall. I truly hope it does not come to pass. I have very much enjoyed Vertigo's output for the past 20 years. Vertigo has provided topflight work from creators like Brian Azzarello, Eduardo Risso, Jock, Andy Diggle, Peter Milligan, Jaime Delano, Brian Wood, Brian K. Vaughn, Marcelo Frusin, Sean Phillips, Duncan Fegrado, Josh Dysart, James Jean, Paul Pope, Lee Bermejo, Paul Jenkins, Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon, Chris Bachalo, Ted McKeever, Jon J Muth, Dave McKean, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Barron Storey, Becky Cloonan, Steve Seagle, Dave Johnson, Michael Zulli, Clem Robins, Patricial Mulhvill, Todd Klein, Denys Cowan, Kent Williams, Warren Pleece, Danijel Zezelj, Jason Aaron, R.M. Guera and the list goes on and on. Brilliant and dedicated passion from each and everyone of them. And rarely do you see a useless bastard wearing spandex.

I love comics. Vertigo was created to provide a place as I grew and evolved, I do hope it continues.