Tuesday, July 24, 2012
It’s an odd thing that, in any form of serialised entertainment but particularly in comic books, there can be a product or a piece of art that is so consistently good that we all just stop talking about it, instead giving the knowing nod to other customers in your local comic shop that have similar good taste. It’s the secret handshake of the LCS. The recently released new Parker adaptation by Darwyn Cooke, The Score, is a good example of this; a book that had established a fan base that were going to buy it no matter what, and because of this the response for the new release felt somewhat muted. This doesn’t necessarily translate to poor sales; in fact it can sometimes mean that so many people are buying it that it doesn’t warrant talking about. Unfortunately it can also mean that shouting from the rooftops about how good a book is has become tiring because nobody listens, instead opting to buy whatever ‘Earth shattering event’ the big two are willing to shill on them. Indifference has killed series before they have had a chance to grow, even within the big two themselves. (Captain
, SWORD, and Dr Voodoo from Marvel are all recent series that got cut off at the knees mainly due to fan indifference.) This is not Marvel or DC’s fault; like the retailers that sell the comics, the publishers are in the business of making money. Nor is it the fault of individual fans, who have every right to buy what they want. Sadly, whoever is to blame, it means that many promising series, often books that are attempting to push the medium forward, can’t float in the shark infested waters of the Diamond top 100 comics. This effectively hurts the medium as a whole. Britain
Admittedly none of this is to say that Vertigo is like the Mother Teresa of comics, allowing properties to continue going on whilst losing money hand over fist. Two titles that were prematurely ended were The Exterminators and American Virgin. Both were great titles but the sales just weren’t there. Even so, Vertigo still gave them a chance, both got into at least the mid twenties in terms of issues. For a comic to sell as low as they did and still get to issue thirty in today’s market would be a pipe dream.
So, what becomes of Vertigo and the new titles and creators that would have been obvious choices for the imprint? This writer believes that Vertigo will become more similar to Marvel’s Icon imprint; a place for DC exclusive creators to be able to put out their own creatively controlled product whilst still working for DC proper. In some regards, the most critically acclaimed Vertigo title right now, American Vampire, already feels like it follows this model. In respect of creators and creator owned comics there is no need for concern. Image Comics, once the safe haven for gravity defying breasts and thimble sized waists everywhere has now, under the guidance of publisher Eric Stephenson, become more than Vertigo ever could be with fully creator owned projects under their banner and a diverse range of genres and subject matters for both the young and old. It’s no coincidence that Happy, the next project from longtime DC creators Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson will be published by Image.
So, the Vertigo we knew and loved is now a distant memory, replaced by something that is completely different and possibly, culturally redundant. This is not the fault of DC, who for their part, distributed twenty years worth of some of the best comics of our generation. It is the fault of an ever changing market that has no space for a Vertigo anymore. Hopefully DC will put Karen Berger to work at what she does best; finding new exciting voices to put out forward thinking comics that we can all enjoy.