There has been a Vertigo at DC Comics for 25 years. Vertigo, that odd duck of an imprint, once the resting place for the "British Invasion" of comics writers and artists like Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Jamie Delano and Alan Moore. These stalwarts of the industry made their names at Vertigo, writing titles like Sandman, Hellblazer and Swamp Thing with artists like Sam Kieth, Jill Thompson, John Ridgway and Mark Buckingham. Vertigo grew from there to be much more than that.
Over the intervening years, Vertigo has brought legendary mature-readers titles to the forefront: Rachel Pollack and Richard Case on Doom Patrol, Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra on Y: The Last Man, Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon on Preacher. Not to mention iZombie by Chris Roberson and Mike Allred, Tom King and Mitch Gerads on Sheriff of Babylon, and Gail Simone and Jon Davis-Hunt on Clean Room. To name a few.
For the most part, though, ever since DC's line-wide New 52 relaunch in 2012, Vertigo has lain dormant, releasing a few titles per year and that's it. Even the innovative and award-winning "Young Animals" books, spearheaded by celebrated comics writer and musician Gerard Way, were their own imprint and not technically Vertigo.
That's all changing. The Vertigo brand, now called DC Vertigo, is storming back in a big way, with a slate of titles announced for late 2018 and another wave right behind it for 2019. DC is not messing around: this is the new Vertigo, the theme is social justice, and it's designed to be forward thinking, bold and controversial. Vertigo isn't afraid to ruffle feathers with these books: the right people will get it.
So how did this ambitious relaunch come about? SYFY WIRE got in touch with Mark Doyle, who returned as Vertigo's Executive Editor in May 2017 after a stint as Batman Group Editor (and previous time with Vertigo before that). We asked him about this Vertigo resurgence and where he plans to take it from here.
How did this Vertigo relaunch first solidify? I assume it coincides with you returning to the Vertigo fold in May 2017. Who was involved at the ground floor?
That's right. The relaunch started when I came back to Vertigo last spring. But I guess it started before that in conversations with Dan and Jim about the imprint, and ideas of what I would do if given the opportunity. They were really open and encouraging about taking some risks.
In general terms, how did each of the 2018 Vertigo titles (Border Town, Hex Wives, American Carnage, and Goddess Mode) initially come together?
The short answer is teamwork. I sat down with my editorial team (Molly Mahan, Andy Khouri, Amedeo Turturro and Maggie Howell) and we talked about what kind of books we wanted to publish. What kind of books we want to read. We knew we had about seven slots in our overall publishing plan to begin with, so we just talked about great Vertigo books that we loved in the past. We talked about style, tone, genres, characters. We talked about what's happening in the world today and how do we tell good stories that reflect that.
And then, everybody went out and started talking to talent. They thought about the things they were reading, listening to and watching that really spoke to them and just started reaching out and saying, "Hey, I love your work, do you want to do a comic for Vertigo?" And these folks were thrilled to be asked.
What sort of goals do you have in mind for these books and these creators at Vertigo? How will you know that you've succeeded?
Our goal is to tell great stories. I want to help these people tell the stories that they're passionate about and help bring them to life. I want to keep pushing things forward.
There are four launch titles planned for late 2018, with more to follow in 2019:
Border Town, by Eric M. Esquivel and Ramon Villalobos. A story of immigrants, an army of monsters inspired by Mexican folklore, and misfit high-schoolers.
Eric has been a comics journalist for years and has published several notable independent comics with striking names like Thor: Unkillable Thunder Christ and The Adventures of Bikini Automatic. Ramon is best known for the regular artist on Marvel's Nighthawk and America.
Hex Wives is by Ben Blacker and Mirka Andolfo. A group of housewives are not what they seem: they're actually witches, they've been brainwashed by a conspiracy of men, and these witches are starting to remember who they are.
Blacker has written for the TV show Supernatural, has co-written numerous pieces of Star Wars fiction, and co-created the Thrilling Adventure Hour, a sort of old-time live radio reading slash podcast thing that must be heard to be believed.
Andolfo has drawn for DC Comics Bombshells, Harley Quinn and Wonder Woman, and created a sensual fantasy called Unnatural for the Italian market that was brought over in a translated edition by Image Comics.
American Carnage, by Bryan Edward Hill and Leandro Fernandez, springs out of mountains of research and conversations that Hill has had with white supremacist groups. It's about a biracial former FBI agent who goes deep cover in a white supremacist group. He answers when a fellow agent is found dead.
Hill recently took over Detective Comics, making him the first black writer to take on the title on an ongoing basis. Before that, he wrote numerous Top Cow projects, and is part of the writing team for the TITANS live-action DC series.
Fernandez has drawn numerous Marvel series like The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man: Tangled Web, and Punisher MAX, with Garth Ennis writing.
Goddess Mode is by well-known activist Zoë Quinn and Robbi Rodriguez, and is about a young woman in the far future, doing thankless tech support for an A.I. that controls the world. Until she finds a secret world of superhuman women and monsters, and everything changes.
Quinn, the video game developer and famed social justice activist who has spoken at the United Nations, is launching her first foray into comic books. Rodriguez co-created Spider-Gwen, otherwise known as Ghost Spider, star of a host of comics and a character in this fall's animated Spider-Man feature film.
As always with these sorts of relaunches, the sales will tell the tale on whether the series have a long shelf life or are cut down before their prime. Though, with talent like this, full support from DC, and modern-day, relevant sci-fi that speaks to so many outside of traditional comics audiences, this feels like a Vertigo relaunch that's ripe for success.