Movies & TV / Columns

A Farewell to DC’s Vertigo

November 6, 2019 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
The Sandman Vertigo

I’m Steve Gustafson and thanks for stopping by. If you enjoy reading or discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. I throw out a subject, you comment below. Easy. Let’s get started. 

Previously on…
Last time we discussed Marvel Supervillains vs DC Supervilains. Here’s what some of you had to say:

vince’s grapefruits: “I mean Marvel got Disney. Not much more evil than that.”

DiMera: “Magneto and Doom are on one side..that pretty much tells the story.”
Nailz: “Marvel may have the best collection of villains, but DC has THE best villain: The Joker”

Krunchy: “Jeez, you didn’t even one of the best (non-movie!) villains of Batman and that is Bane. Dude was born and raised in jail due to the crimes of his father, was medically experimented upon with super steroids and broke out of an island prison, broke out all the other villains from Arkham, deduced who Batman was, broke his back, etc .. then post Knightfall became a tweener who believed he was Bruce’s brother. Haven’t been into comics for the last 10-15 years so don’t really know if he’s still written well, but it’s hard to find a better 90’s villain.

And now that they made a really good Joker “origin” I’d love to see them do justice to Bane on film after the crap they put him through in the movies. A Vengeance of Bane movie would be awesome if they stayed true to the source material.

OH, and DC has the best villains on the planet. Once you get off of Earth, I would say Marvel. I mean, weren’t most of DC’s galactic baddies invented by former Marvel writers?”

Richard C: “The photo finish goes to DC — do not forget the Brotherhood of Evil for the Winner’s Circle photo.”

GoalFather: “this “Marvel vs DC” feud has to be the most immature weird fucking thing ever.

only proper nerdy geeks can get involved in stuff like this……the ironic thing is that they buy movies,merch and etc. from both.

with that being said……i’d rather say this. Batman & Spider-Man have the best collections of villians”

El Atomico: “I gotta go with Marvel. I know this isn’t really fair, but when I think of DC villains, the first images that come to mind are the corny bad guys from the Batman tv series. Penguin especially doesn’t seem badass or evil.
Having said that, I love The Joker and hate Thanos.”

Big Dirty: “DC – Joker, Lex Luthor, riddler, penguin, catwoman, two face, zod, darseid – they are all iconic. the average person would be hard pressed to name the marvel villains other than magneto and thanos.

John: “Marvel beats DC if we look at the top ten rogues gallery

1. Batman
2. Spider-man
3. X-men
4. Justice League
5.Fantastic Four

6. Flash
7. Superman
8. Avengers
9. Captain America
10. Daredevil”

Joseph Hanson: “I think it depends.

If we’re talking street level? DC hands down just based on Batman’s rogues gallery alone. Not that Marvel doesn’t give them a run for their money with folks like the Kingpin, The Hand etc.

Galactic threat? Marvel all the way.”

FLIPwatcher: “hands down marvel has more interesting well-rounded villains than dc. they have personality and good character developments as opposed to the distinguished completion, where whom only a few popular character are well fleshed out. aside from the flash rouges and batman villains, the lot of them a too two dimensional.”

Too many great comments to share. Go back and see for yourself. Also, as always, thanks for the input!

This week we say…

Farewell to DC’s Vertigo Line

We knew it was coming but the end was a little sooner than announced. DC officially closed their Vertigo line with the Sandman Universe titles, the only ones left under Vertigo, being moved under DC Black Label beginning with October 30’s The Sandman Universe Presents Hellblazer #1. DC Black Label is also going to gain November 6th’s The Dreaming #15 and November 13th’s House of Whispers #15.

The the last DC/Vertigo issue was October 23rd’s Books of Magic #13.

Like mentioned, it was announced earlier that the line was closing up but not until 2020. DC Editor Andy Khouri was asked about the hastened shuttering and said at this point “for us it’s just a name change.”

A sad way to pay tribute and say goodbye to the end of a legendary line. 

Vertigo launched in 1993 under Karen Berger, who had been with DC since 1979. Her career is important to note because we have her to thank for some of comic book’s best. Berger got her start as an assistant to editor Paul Levitz and by the mid-1980s, Berger was the editor for Wonder Woman and Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld. She began pulling in writers from the UK that included Neil Gaiman, Peter Milligan, and Grant Morrison, finding “their sensibility and point of view to be refreshingly different, edgier and smarter” than those of most American comics writers. She worked with them and others on the industry changing series like Animal Man, Doom Patrol vol. 2Shade, the Changing Man vol. 2; the Black Orchid miniseries, The Sandman vol. 2, Hellblazer, and The Saga of the Swamp Thing

These titles all carried a “Suggested for Mature Readers” label on their covers, having a more adult theme. In a 1993 editorial meeting with Berger, Levitz, DC publisher Jenette Kahn and managing editor Dick Giordano, Berger was given the mandate to place these titles under an imprint that, as Berger said, would “do something different in comics and help the medium ‘grow up’”. 

Vertigo has turned out some outstanding series over the years. I wanted to bring back to your attention some of the big ones but I’m interested in what series is your favorite. I have no doubt that if we had a poll, Sandman would come in #1. I’m a huge Sandman fan, even if some of the stories had me scratching my head in a good way. Was it my favorite though? Hard to say.

Enigma was an eight-issue mini by Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo about superheroes, sexuality and existential crises that was solid across the board in writing and artwork. You often hear this mentioned when it comes to debates about underrated titles and for good reason. The story is about Michael Smith, a compulsive, telephone repairman living a highly structured life in Pacific City, California. Smith meets Titus Bird, a writer of the superhero comic book series The Enigma and things build from there. Definitely worth your time. 
Neil Gaiman and Chris Bachalo’s Death: The High Cost of Living is a series that’s been a little forgotten over the years. Its premise is that Death takes human form once a century, to remain grounded and in touch with humanity. 

From 2007 to 2012, I was a huge Scalped fan. A crime series the focused on Dashiell Bad Horse, one of the Oglala Lakota members of the Prairie Rose Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Bad Horse, an FBI agent sent undercover to the home he left fifteen years before. 

DMZ is another series before its time. Who wouldn’t want to see a near-future NYC with America torn apart by a second civil war? Could happen sooner than you think.

Going back to The Sandman, it’s hard to sum up the elegance of the series. You can simply start with: It tells the story of Dream of the Endless, who rules over the world of dreams. But it’s so much more than that. The main character, of course, is Dream, also known as Morpheus and other names, who is one of the seven Endless. The other Endless are Destiny, Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium who was once Delight, and Destruction who turned his back on his duties. The series uses anthropomorphic personification of various metaphysical entities, while also blending mythology and history in its horror setting. The Sandman was Vertigo’s flagship title and one of the first few graphic novels ever to be on the New York Times Best Seller list. It was one of five graphic novels to make Entertainment Weekly’s “100 best reads from 1983 to 2008”. Norman Mailer described the series as “a comic strip for intellectuals.” It can be read over and over and still, after all these years, have hidden gems be found within its pages.

While the AMC series gets a few things write, nothing can fully capture the the nuances of Preacher. Preacher tells the story of Jesse Custer, a preacher in the small Texas town of Annville. Custer was accidentally possessed by the supernatural creature named Genesis in an incident which killed his congregation and destroyed his church. Custer, bonded to Genesis, goes on a journey across the US attempting to (literally) find God, who abandoned Heaven the moment Genesis was born. His powers allow him, when he wills it, to command the obedience of those who hear and comprehend his words. He is joined by his old girlfriend Tulip O’Hare, as well as a hard-drinking Irish vampire named Cassidy. Stephen King has said that his comic book series The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born was influenced by Preacher, exemplifying its impact. Like most things Vertigo, it’s hard to describe the book in just a few sentences. The supporting cast and characters are among the most unique you’ll ever meet and it’s a mix of dark humor and weighty issues.

Fables follows the various people from fairy tales and folklore, hence “Fables”, who have been forced out of their Homelands by “The Adversary”. The Fables have traveled to our world and formed a community in New York City known as Fabletown. Fables who are unable to blend in with human society live at “the Farm” in upstate New York. You’ll never read fairy tales the same way again and you don’t have to look hard to see the influence Fables has had. ABC’s Once Upon A Time and NBC’s Grimm being two obvious examples. It’s had a number of spin off series, miniseries, a novel, several original graphic novels, and video game.

Next up is Y The Last Man. The plot pulls you in right away: On July 17, 2002, something (“a plague”) simultaneously kills every living mammal possessing a Y chromosome, including embryos, fertilized eggs, and sperm. The only exceptions appear to be a young amateur escape artist named Yorick Brown and his monkey, Ampersand. Writer Brian K Vaughan and artist Pia Guerra tell both a simple, yet layered story that’s filled with compelling characters. I’ve read it a number of times over the years and have marveled at how consistently amazing it is. It runs the whole spectrum of emotions and is one I can always point to when introducing someone to comics. It’s been in development limbo for years and looks to be getting a little momentum at coming to fruition. The series is a truly satisfying read.

If I had to choose one Vertigo series that I’ve favored more than others, it would be 100 Bullets. A perfect blend of mood between art and story. The concept of 100 Bullets is simple. It’s 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. The series has the mysterious Agent Graves approaching someone who has been a victim of a terrible wrong. Graves gives them the opportunity to take revenge by providing a handgun, 100 bullets, and documentation about the primary target responsible for their woes. He informs the candidate the bullets are completely untraceable by any law enforcement investigation, and as soon as they are found at any crime scene investigations will immediately cease. 100 Bullets has garnered critical acclaim and described as “very violent, dark and clever” and “a series of compelling morality tales”. In his introduction for the second volume collection Howard Chaykin wrote “Thanks are overdue to both these guys for producing the most exciting comic book in years”.

Transmetropolitan. Spider Jerusalem. A cyberpunk comic book that follows the renegade gonzo journalist of the future who is an obvious homage to Hunter S. Thompson. Spider Jerusalem dedicates himself to fighting the corruption and abuse of power of two successive US presidents. He and his assistants fight to keep the world from turning more dystopian while dealing with the struggles of fame and power, brought about due to the popularity of Spider via his writing. Armed only with his laptop, a pair of camera-glasses and a ray-gun called “the bowel disruptor”, this series is outrageous. Yet, you can’t escape the pull of Spider. Funny, dark, intelligent. They capture the essence of Thompson but with a wicked spin.

Hellblazer was the longest-running and one of the most successful titles of Vertigo imprint. Also, it was the stepping stone to many British writers like Jamie Delano, Garth Ennis, Paul Jenkins, Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Mike Carey, Andy Diggle, and Peter Milligan. That alone makes it worthy of note. The series follows John Constantine, a complex man mixed up in the world of the supernatural and the occult. Probably one of the best written characters of all time, Constantine tries to do good but is a healthy mix of danger and manipulation. Each writer took the series and put their own stamp on it, creating a wonderfully written series that is dark and disturbing. The series has spawned a film adaptation, television show, novels, multiple spin-offs and crossovers. Running for over two decades, it received huge critical acclaim with Warren Ellis calling it as “among the very best horror works of the 1990’s.”

Wish me luck trying to describe The Invisibles. From the mind of Grant Morrison, it follows (sorta) a single cell of The Invisible College, a secret organization battling against physical and psychic oppression using time travel, magic, meditation, and physical violence. From that simple plot comes a complex series of stories that blew the minds of readers. The plots and characters were unlike anything seen before. The leader King Mob; Lord Fanny, a transgender Brazilian shaman; Boy, a former member of the NYPD; Ragged Robin, a telepath with a mysterious past; and Jack Frost, a hooligan from Liverpool who may be the next Buddha coming together to fight the Archons of Outer Church, interdimensional alien gods who have already enslaved most of the human race without their knowledge. To say this series was controversial is a no-brainer and it pushed the boundaries, often times with editors stepping in to tone it down.

What are some of your favorite Vertigo titles? 

That’s all the time I have. Check out our Comic Book Reviews tomorrow and see you next week!  

article topics :

DC Comics, Vertigo, Steve Gustafson