DC Comics announced today that the company will shutter its DC Vertigo imprint, once the publishing home of such influential comics as The Sandman, Preacher, Y: The Last Man, Fables, and Lucifer.
Starting in 2020, DC will retire the branding for Vertigo — as well as its graphic novel imprints for younger readers, DC Zoom and DC Ink — and reorganize into three imprints, grouped by age.
DC Kids will house books for readers 8-12, the same range as DC Zoom. Plain ol’ “DC” will contain material appropriate for ages 13 and up, including the company’s titles set within DC Universe continuity. Many current Vertigo books will wind up under the umbrella of DC Black Label, now representing stories for ages 17 and up.
At its inception in 1993, Vertigo was a place where DC Comics creators could craft stories intended for an exclusively adult audience, without kiddos stumbling across sex, drugs, and nudity. But its significant success and influence stemmed in large part from its other role, as a home for creator-owned projects at DC.
Founding editor Karen Berger already had a knack for discovering new young talent when she brought her titles under the Vertigo umbrella, shepherding DC’s publication of Y: The Last Man, Fables, Transmetropolitan, and others from creators like Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, and Neil Gaiman.
Following the announcement, Berger, who now oversees Dark Horse Comics’ Berger Books imprint, tweeted that the end of Vertigo was a long time coming, but that she was honored to have worked with “so many incredibly talented creators & editors.”
Corporate thinking & creative risk-taking don’t mix.DC nixing Vertigo was a longtime coming. But hey, we changed the game & we had a blast doing it!Honored to have worked with so many incredibly talented creators & editors & thx to all our fab readers! #VivaVertigo #Bergerbooks— Karen Berger (@karenpberger) June 21, 2019
In the past year, the Vertigo line has sparked numerous controversies for DC. On the imprint’s 25th anniversary in 2018, it announced a brand new lineup of seven new creator-owned series. In December of that year, accusations of past sexual misconduct surfaced against writer Eric Esquiviel, and DC made the decision to cancel his Border Town, the first book in that lineup. In January of 2019, DC released the rights to Vertigo’s Second Coming back to its creators and canceled the series before it was published, following a petition from an ultraconservative European advocacy group who called it “blasphemous.” One other series in the seven, Safe Sex, is now being published through Image Comics instead.
DC has also struggled with public shock over “mature content” in comic books. In the fall of 2018, a “production error” that resulted in Batman’s penis being visible in several panels of Batman: Damned #1, the first book of DC’s Black Label imprint, prompted some internal rethinking.
“We launched Vertigo to provide an outlet for edgier material,” DC co-publisher Dan DiDio said in the company’s official statement. “That kind of material is now mainstream across all genres, so we thought it was the right time to bring greater clarity to the DC brand and reinforce our commitment to storytelling for all of our fans in every age group. This new system will replace the age ratings we currently use on our material.”
Under the new branding, creator-owned books will be organized into one of the three labels according to the maturity their content. DC has given no indication of any cancelations, delays, or publications changes as a part of this announcement. DC co-publisher and chief creative officer Jim Lee tweeted to that effect, saying “No books are being cancelled or going away.”
Our decision to rebrand all content under the singular DC imprint is just that. Amazing bks that comprise the Sandman Univ e.g. will continue. Big plans for yr 2! YA, pop-ups & creator-owned comics will continue to be a big part of DC. No books are being cancelled or going away pic.twitter.com/0MpLf1rtXl— Jim Lee (@JimLee) June 21, 2019