DC is shutting down Vertigo label, will brand comics by age-appropriateness

DC is shutting down Vertigo label, will brand comics by age-appropriateness
Image: Vertigo Comics

DC will shut down three major imprints in January 2020, including Vertigo, Zoom, and Ink amidst a reorganization. They will be replaced by a new branding scheme that sorts comics into age groups for younger and older readers called DC Kids, DC, and DC Black Label.

DC created its Vertigo imprint as a way for the publisher to explore more mature themes, and included ongoing titles such as DMZHellblazeriZombieLuciferPreacherThe SandmanSwamp Thing, Y: The Last Man, and standalone graphic novels. Those titles brought considerable critical acclaim. In 2012, DC announced that founder Karen Berger would leave the company, and in 2018, DC Comics “relaunched” Vertigo as DC Vertigo, along with a number of new titles, which would be “modern, socially relevant, high-concept, [and] inventive.” DC Black Label came about late last year as an outlet for mature stories and reprints, and it appears that the publisher will seat the stories for older readers under the new Black Label.

DC Kids comics will be aimed at readers from 8 to 12, the regular DC imprint will be for readers 13 and up, while Black Label will be for readers 17 and older. According to DC publisher Dan DiDio, the move is to establish a “singular presentation of the DC brand,” while DC publisher and chief creative officer Jim Lee notes that DC will continue to publish creator-owned and driven projects, and that “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.” Lee also noted that the publisher wasn’t cancelling any titles with the reorganization.

As Susan Polo notes over on Polygon, it was Berger’s eye that brought in a number of unique and powerful stories that weren’t being published by DC in 1993, and that the imprint’s risk-taking was an important part of its success. Her departure from Vertigo in 2012 was a shock to the comics community, and this move feels much like a final nail in the coffin for the imprint’s legacy for the comic scene.

Berger herself weighed in on Twitter, saying that the move “was a longtime coming.”

Corporate thinking & creative risk-taking don’t mix.DC nixing Vertigo was a longtime coming. But hey, we changed the game & we had a blast doing it!Honored to have worked with so many incredibly talented creators & editors & thx to all our fab readers! #VivaVertigo #Bergerbooks

— Karen Berger (@karenpberger) June 21, 2019

While DC says that it’s still going to continue to keep the same focus on different types of comics under its new naming scheme, it’s hard not to see this as a blow to the comics community. Vertigo brought some incredible new titles and authors before comics fans, with stories that weren’t being told via the major publishers. Hopefully, this new streamlined approach won’t eliminate the special titles and authors that Vertigo brought into stores.