Today marks the end of an era in comics, as DC announced that it was shuddering Vertigo, the home of its comics for adults since 1993. Instead, DC will stick its own name on all of its books, with different labels to indicate their intended audience. “DC Kids” will be for children between the ages of 8 and 12. The main DC Comics series will be intended for children and adults age 13 and older. And “DC Black Label” will be the new home for mature content intended for readers over the age of 17.
Here is DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio’s statement on the news:
We’re returning to a singular presentation of the DC brand that was present throughout most of our history until 1993 when we launched Vertigo to provide an outlet for edgier material. That kind of material is now mainstream across all genres, so we thought it was the right time to bring greater clarity to the DC brand and reinforce our commitment to storytelling for all of our fans in every age group. This new system will replace the age ratings we currently use on our material.
These changes are entirely reasonable, but longtime fans are understandably upset about the end of Vertigo. I started reading comics right around 1993, so for the entirety of my comics fandom, Vertigo has been the one of the most important labels in the entire industry. Its lineup of series and graphic novels reads like a list of the greatest comics of the 1990s and 2000s. Some of them have become films and television shows: Hellblazer, Lucifer, Swamp Thing, Preacher, The Losers, Human Target, and the upcoming Y: The Last Man. But a lot of them have not, including some of the very best Vertigo books, like The Sandman, 100 Bullets, The Invisibles, and Transmetropolitan. (Frankly, some of these books were too dense, too weird, and too bold for film and TV.)
A lot of the credit for Vertigo’s track record belongs to Karen Berger, the editor who founded the line after several years recruiting the writers and artists who would become Vertigo’s core creative voices to work on comics like Swamp Thing and Animal Man. Berger left DC in 2013, and while several other extremely talented editors have held watch over Vertigo since then, the writing may have been on the wall ever since she left.
DC has said the end of Vertigo doesn’t mean the end of adult comics; that’s what DC Black Label will be for. The series that were ongoing at Vertigo will be moved over there. Even if the chance is just cosmetic, though, it does feel like a momentous cosmetic change. In the ’90s and early 2000s, no label in comics had more brand value than Vertigo; when you saw that word on the cover you knew, love it or hate it, that the art inside would be provocative, interesting, and worth your investment. All of that going away makes this a sad day.