Vertigo died a lot in the last ten odd years.
You could say Vertigo died the year between 2000 and 2010 that Alan Horn demanded changes to the famously generous Vertigo contracts.
You could say Vertigo died in 2012, when DC fired Karen Berger.
You could say Vertigo died in 2016, when DC fired Shelly Bond.
You could say Vertigo died this month, when DC announced they will roll Vertigo into DC Black Label. (2019)
But like every death, it was all of the above and then some. Vertigo was a trade paperback powerhouse, until the widespread use of torrents or sites where you could read everything for free. Or until Borders closed and Barnes & Noble contracted. Or until DC stopped permitting series to fail in single issues in the hope of finding an audience. Or until Paul Levitz’s protection from content troubles left with him. Or until Image got Saga.
Or until Vertigo became boring. Like it or not, Vertigo’s new series haven’t inspired much of anything. From the 2018 relaunch alone, there’s two comics that’ve gotten attention:
–Border Town got cancelled in light of allegations against writer Eric Esquivel regarding abusive behavior.
–Second Coming, a comic about Jesus Christ and an off-brand Superman, was boycotted by arch-conservative Christians and instead of standing behind the team and milking the attention, Vertigo cancelled the comic.
All this wasn’t helped by what Rich Johnston described as a Puritanism coming over DC management, spiked of course, by the Brian Azzarello/Lee Bermejo Batman penis shot.
When you put together the following, it’s a surprise Vertigo didn’t get shuttered sooner:
-rise of the internet
-rise of competition
-loss of bookstores
-loss of key editorial talent
-a more aggressive sales goal for single issues
-increasing hostility to content from management
Rich reports that at the end, DC figured Vertigo wasn’t worth the content headaches they got. I can’t blame them, but that tells you something about Vertigo then and Vertigo now. Vertigo now? Those constant headaches? Once upon a time, it was why Vertigo meant something. The editorial team committed themselves to challenging works and were allowed to do so by management. In 2019, management viewed Vertigo as not worth the trouble, and with Vertigo’s former slate, I’m not sure they’re wrong.
What a world to live in.