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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Building a New VERTIGO 2.0 Imprint for DC Comics



Once upon a time, back in the dark, gimmick-covered era of the 1990s, one of the few bright spots of quality was DC Comics' Vertigo imprint.  Founded in 1993, Vertigo assembled several of DC's edgier, mature-reader titles, including Animal Man, Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol, Garth Ennis' Hellblazer, Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, and Peter Milligan's Shade the Changing Man, into a line of DC Comics characters kept separate from the traditional DC Universe.

And for a good, long while, it was absolutely terrific.  Vertigo produced some of the Best Comics Ever, adding titles such as Fables, The Invisibles, Preacher, Sandman Mystery Theatre, Transmetropolitan, Y: The Last Man, and others that remain highly-regarded to this day.  Over time, though, Vertigo drifted (or evolved, take your pick) from its adult DC Universe roots, to the point where the decision was made in 2010 that Vertigo would become a strictly creator-owned imprint.  All titles except for the flagship series Hellblazer would return to the regular DC Universe, effectively tearing down the wall and allowing the characters to appear in DCU titles alongside Superman, Batman and others if so desired.

All well and good, sure, but where are those edgy DC Universe books today?  We recently saw titles such as Doom Patrol and The Last Days of Animal Man, but they weren't Vertigo-style takes on the characters with considerable depth.  And while it's great to see characters such as Death or John Constantine appearing in the all-ages DC Universe again, shouldn't there still be a place where you can see some DCU characters say the word fuck from time to time?

So with this in mind, I think we need a new version of Vertigo Classic, a "Vertigo 2.0" if you will, only with a much better name like "Verge" or "Brink" or perhaps "Fred."  A separate line of comics that returns to the core idea of reviving stale and forgotten DCU characters with bold, fresh takes that aren't inhibited by DC Universe continuity.  Doesn't that sound just lovely?  In fact, I'll even throw in a few quick ideas off the top of my head for potential titles...
  • Doctor Occult -- A Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster creation that actually predates Superman, Doctor Occult regained a bit of life after Neil Gaiman included him in the classic Vertigo mini-series The Books of Magic.  My take involves simply getting Doctor Occult and his companion/assistant Rose Psychic back to investigating magical mysteries every month, essentially making the series a supernatural version of Doctor Who.  The Doctor and Rose...Yeah, that might just work.
  • Amethyst -- Created with young female readers in mind, Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld debuted in 1983 and told the story of a 13-year-old girl who discovers she is actually from a fantasy realm called Gemworld, and has magical powers in an adult form whenever she travels there.  However, the series' somewhat dark tone and intrigue among its twelve kingdoms make this perfect for an audience addicted to World of Warcraft or HBO's Game of Thrones series.
  • Checkmate -- Although the concept has been around since 1988, the recent Checkmate series by Greg Rucka showed the best glimpse of potential for an espionage series involving DCU characters.  Here in the "Verge" or "Fred" imprint, though, you can do a truly uninhibited espionage series that makes the recent Casino Royale film look like A View to a Kill.
  • Nemesis -- Debuting in 1980 as a backup series for The Brave and the Bold, Nemesis appeared in a serial about a "master of disguise" government operative whose brother was an undercover agent that infiltrated a criminal syndicate and was killed.  Seeking revenge, he takes out a different member of the syndicate each issue, until his brother is avenged and balance of the scales of justice is restored.  Anyone who was a fan of HBO's The Sopranos or the CBS series Wiseguy might see the appeal here for a quality, unrelenting update of the character.
And of course, there are countless other characters that could be given the same treatment, but I think this illustrates the potential that's being missed right now.  While they don't have to be "Verge/Fred" titles, it would certainly be nice to have a place available where they could be...

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