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Vertigo: The Imprint That Changed the Comic Book Industry

Updated: Jan 25, 2020


A few weeks ago it was announced that the Vertigo imprint at DC Comics was being shut down. Hearing that news made me really reflect on how much of an impact the comics published by Vertigo had on me. It was a hard pill to swallow, knowing that there would never be another new series with the Vertigo banner. I know we can't deny the magnificent books that Image Comics and other indie companies are publishing right now, but there's just something about that Vertigo logo that I'm gonna miss seeing.

A LITTLE HISTORY

Vertigo was first formed in 1993 to house the more "mature comics" being published at DC at the time. Titles like SHADE THE CHANGING MAN, SANDMAN, DOOM PATROL, HELLBLAZER, SWAMP THING and ANIMAL MAN were the first books to switch over to that banner. But it wasn't just a place for mature stories starring familiar superheroes, Karen Berger had bigger plans. As Berger described, Vertigo would "do something different in comics and help the medium 'grow up'".

It was Vertigo that helped shepherd a new age of comics. The imprint helped show the world that comics could be more than just men and women in spandex fighting crime. They could tell thought provoking tales of the King of Dreams, stories of men waging war against god, or the adventures of a loveable streetwise, cigarette smoking magician. Vertigo had something for everyone.

HOW VERTIGO CHANGED MY LIFE

When I first got into comic books I was 5 it was 1993, which coincidentally was the same time that Vertigo first formed 1993. As a kid I, of course, gravitated towards superhero books. I read both DC and Marvel. I loved Spider-Man and X-Men from Marvel, but I have to say I was more of a diehard DC fan. I mean my first comic book was FLASH #82 by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo, (there's a reason Wally West is my favorite character) and the love just grew from there. I asked my mom to drive me to get comics at least once a week, always asking for more Flash, Batman, and Spider-Man. 

As I got older my tastes began to change, I still loved superhero comics but, I wanted something more. It was after reading DARK KNIGHT RETURNS that I really fell in love with how mature and thought provoking comics could be. Luckily my LCS, Collector's Paradise, was there ready to help. Immediately I had a whole new world opened up to me. Now I know these aren't Vertigo, but 2 books that continued me on the path towards different genres were PLANETARY and AUTHORITY by Warren Ellis. Both were completely different then anything else I was reading. If you haven't read either of those, I highly recommend you checking them out. From there I entered the world of Vertigo.

The first 2 Vertigo series I read were 100 BULLETS and Y THE LAST MAN.

100 BULLETS blew me away from the first volume. Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso created a world full of rich and diverse characters.

The premise of the book was based on the question of people willing to act on the desire of violent revenge if given the means, opportunity, and a reasonable chance to succeed. It was Agent Graves who would present someone, who had been wronged, with the opportunity to get revenge by providing a handgun, 100 bullets, and documents about the primary target responsible for their troubles. Not only were the bullets completely untraceable by any law enforcement investigation, but as soon as they're found at any crime scene, investigations will immediately cease.

What initially were episodic stories each focused on different characters, it quickly turned into one of the most epic crime sagas in fiction. As a teenager this book blew my mind, and still to this day is one of my favorite comic series.

Y THE LAST MAN was another book that transformed the way I looked at comics. Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra  told the tale of Yorrick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand, the only males who survived the apparent global androcide. As the only surviving males in a world of women, hilarity obviously ensued. Not only did they have to keep themselves hidden, but they sought to find a reason why they survived this plague. I could literally write an entire article on this series, which now that I think about it maybe I will.

From there, I sought out everything published by Vertigo. I picked up PREACHER, TRANSMETROPOLITAN, and FABLES. Which mind you are also some of the best comic series I've ever read.

It wasn't till years later that I finally read SANDMAN. The sheer magnificence and scope of that series would have been too much for my young mind to handle anyways though. There's a reason that SANDMAN is considered one of the pieces of literature in existence. Neil Gaiman masterfully wove one of the most grandiose epics ever to grace a comic book page.

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