You have to have a solid foundation in order to build almost anything. You also have to understand that trees aren’t exactly admired for their roots. Sometimes it’s those branches that extend out far from the center where things become truly different and wonderful. For some comic book fans, Vertigo were those very branches. It’s where DC wasn’t so polished, so buttoned up. It’s where those stories went that really wanted to branch out and be different. Now they will have a new home.
DC has confirmed the rumors, and has announced that Vertigo will be no more as of January 2020. The young imprints, DC Ink and DC Zoom, will be shelved as well. This will make way for a new structure, split into three parts. DC Kids will essentially be where titles will be released for readers ages 8 to 12. DC will be for those ages 13 and up, and continue to operate as the main arm of the publisher. DC Black Label will remain, and will be intended for readers 17 and older, containing more mature content.
In a statement, co-publisher Dan Didio said of content normally under the Vertigo label, “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.” Co-Publisher Jim Lee also added, “We will also continue to publish creator-owned projects, and will evaluate and assign to the appropriate label to help our fans find the best books for their interests. These new labels not only bring greater consistency and focus to our characters, but they also open up a wealth of new opportunities for the talent working on our books.” So, what does this all mean really?
The perception is that Vertigo is going away, and thus, so is that creative space outside of capes and masked heroes. I get that, but the strategy isn’t as crazy as you might think. Some newer readers, right or wrong, are buying the label just as much as anything else. New readers especially might not be familiar with Vertigo, but they know that DC label. Could be that buying a Harley Quinn title from DC Black Label leads them to explore other stories on the same label because they know that they will get similar content. I know that will frustrate long time readers, especially Vertigo fans, but new readers are essential to success. They are the roots I mentioned earlier. Without them, along with us the long time readers, it doesn’t matter what kind of branches the tree has. Without that support, it will topple eventually.
My only concern here lies with the number of titles under these three divisions. Could this more broad brush approach lead to some titles being lost in the shuffle? What happens to books like American Carnage or Wildstorm? Yes the Sandman Universe will continue, but now it will compete with more mature Batman titles. Does that mean that it will lack the attention that it deserves? We can’t really know for sure until we see this in action.
Like it or not, we need to get comfortable with our new surroundings. None of this changes the fact that you can still support great stories and the storytellers that create them. The label on the front may be different, but money still talks. If a book sells, it will be supported no matter what imprint that it is a part of. Look at this not as an ending, but a new opportunity to possibly put more of a focus on titles that might not get it otherwise. I sure hope that is the case. While we wait, read more comics.