About a month back there were rumors that DC was going to end the Vertigo line. I didn’t bring it up here on the blog because these were just rumors and I didn’t want to indulge in speculation. Well now it’s official: DC is ending the Vertigo imprint. (Somebody please let the Los Angeles Times know that’s DC, not Marvel.)
Before everyone goes crazy, this really isn’t as bad as the original rumors made it sound. As the above Newsarama link relates, they’re not really ending the line per se, they’re really just changing the way they present their material. So if Neil Gaiman ever gets the itch to do more Sandman, I’m pretty sure DC will be happy to publish it, even if it’s not under the Vertigo label.
Still, if you’re a sentimental fool like me, this is kinda sad. Vertigo had been the pride of DC for quite a while, formally beginning in 1993, but us old timers know that the roots of the imprint go back almost a decade earlier than that.
The whole thing really got its start with The Saga of the Swamp Thing #29 (Oct. 1984), a regular ol’ DC comic that wound up having to be published without the Comics Code seal of approval. A more complete write-up of the story here, but the gist of it is that it has zombie-type, living-dead characters (a code no-no), and it also kinda hints at incest (the body of Abby’s husband Matt is inhabited/controlled by her evil Uncle Anton when they’re intimate).
I bought the issue when it first came out and it remains, quite probably, the creepiest comic I have ever encountered. It’s also one of the most jarring and powerful stories I have ever read. The symbolism of bugs crawling around in dead bodies is absolutely chilling. It might be a high point for Moore’s career; certainly a high point for his Swamp Thing.
The Code seal was restored to the cover of the following issue (#30), but the higher-ups at DC realized they had a problem on their hands, as writer Alan Moore was having great success, both artistically and commercially, with stories like this and they were likely to only grow more intense. So with the thirty-first issue, it was decided that they would no longer be submitting Swamp Thing to the Code for approval. They also added “Sophisticated Suspense” above the cover title, signaling the more mature content within.
This was DC jumping in with both feet into the horror genre; into comics that went far deeper than your typical newsstand fare (although I believe they still continued to sell Swamp Thing on the newsstands, just without the code seal). This was truly the beginning of Vertigo.
Now as I said, they’re still going to be publishing Vertigo-style books, just under a different banner. Does it matter that they’re not going to be called Vertigo books anymore? Practically, no, but sentimentally… yes. Emotionally, it does feel a bit like the end of an era. You can read longtime Vertigo editor Karen Berger’s reaction here.