A Sea Change
Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows talks about the impact the end of DC’s Vertigo imprint will mean for the comics industry and for DC in particular…
Yesterday it was officially confirmed that DC would be ending its Vertigo imprint, which began back in 1993 started by Karen Berger with titles like Swamp Thing, Hellblazer, Shade The Changing Man and Sandman.
It is very unlikely, that if Vertigo hadn’t existed, you would be reading Tripwire online now. We started Tripwire as a magazine in 1992 and it was the pre-Vertigo books which became part of the line like Swamp Thing, Hellblazer, Sandman and Shade The Changing Man that fitted into the Tripwire remit. We were started as a magazine that would cover left of centre mainstream titles. Marvel had started the ball rolling with Archie Goodwin’s Epic line in the 1980s and Dark Horse had published a number of creator-owned titles in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But it was Vertigo which brought together their more sophisticated comics under one roof and more importantly, it was a home in the US for the cream of British talent. Writers like Grant Morrison, Peter Milligan, Neil Gaiman, Jamie Delano and artists like Frank Quitely, Steve Yeowell, Sean Phillips, Chris Weston, Duncan Fegredo, Steve Dillon, Philip Bond and Glenn Fabry were at the heart of this groundbreaking imprint.
Titles like Shade The Changing Man, Doom Patrol, Sandman, Preacher, Sandman Mystery Theatre, The Invisibles and later on books like Y The Last Man, 100 Bullets, Scalped, American Vampire and The Unwritten offered different voices and a different take on comics. It was a bold and dynamic comics imprint. For a man in his twenties who was looking for something different, it offered me something fresh and unique in comics.
In recent years especially since the departure of Shelly Bond at its head, DC didn’t seem to know what to do with it and it has floundered. Apparently the line of Sandman Universe books will end up at the company’s Black Label imprint. But this is a paradigm shift for DC. It has been quite a while since they launched a creator-owned book of the calibre or ambition of something like Preacher, Sandman or Scalped.
One of the problems that Vertigo had is that companies like Image and to a lesser extent places like Boom and IDW had stolen their thunder a little. Image publishes the sort of comics that Vertigo would have put out ten or fifteen years ago. Also, Berger Books at Dark Horse, run by Vertigo’s former head Karen Berger, and Black Crown at IDW, from Shelly Bond, who also used to be in charge at Vertigo, are putting out books that would have felt at home at DC’s imprint too. So the spirit of Vertigo lives on but ironically in places other than DC. It will be interesting to see what Black Label offers in terms of creator-owned titles but so far it has just been a place where slightly unusual takes on DC’s company-owned characters are published.
So let’s raise a glass to Custer, Morpheus, John Constantine, King Mob and the rest and celebrate the huge legacy that Vertigo and its editors have left since it was set up in 1993.
Here’s a gallery of the Tripwire magazine covers over the years which featured Vertigo creators and characters