Posted by: Brian Hibbs on December 4, 2012
I’m crazy sad that Karen Berger is leaving DC Entertainment & Vertigo.
As many of you know, I opened in April of 1989, so I “came up” at the same time as Vertigo, in many ways — I still have my very first order form I ever turned in, and I ordered a whopping 15 copies of SANDMAN #6, my single highest ordered comic book for that month (BATMAN #434 came in next at 12 copies). Before the year was out, we’d be selling triple-digits of SANDMAN.
All of the comics that Karen oversaw — ANIMAL MAN, DOOM PATROL, SANDMAN, SWAMP THING being the most prominent — were among our biggest sellers, we were one of a new breed of comics stores, stores for who reading was more important than collecting, per se, where creators matter more than characters, where we were all about trying to find NEW readers for comics.
Vertigo comics were generally one of the best tools for new readership — especially when Karen aggressive started pursuing graphic novel collections. It was EASY to hand someone a copy of “A Doll’s House”, and have them enjoy it immensely. But compared to the other “wide audience” books of the time, EIGHTBALL, HATE, LOVE & ROCKETS, that entire wing, what Karen did was put out comics for literate adults, and have them come out monthly at the same time.
THAT was the critical difference between Vertigo and virtually any other attempt at the time to do “smart” comics — they actually came out frequently enough that one could make a living from selling them.
Quickly we became known as “a Vertigo store” (I believe we were if not THE first one identified as such, it was in the first 10), and I put an enormous amount of my success at the feet of Karen Berger, and her editorial sensibilities and skilled in navigating the market.
More recently, Vertigo became a pale shadow of itself, largely, I am understood, as a result of new contracts which Warners insisted on, which gave them more control and ability to exploit properties. “Strangely enough” people stopped wanting to take new titles to them after that, go figure.
I assume this is functionally the end of Vertigo, with Karen moving on — I think adaptations of “mature” books and movies, like “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” and “Django” are much more likely to be the future of Vertigo from here out.
I’ve been prepared for this for a long time — from the day that Paul Levitz left I’ve been thinking that Karen couldn’t really stay past the end of whatever contract she had at that point, and I really hope that Karen has a Second Act in her, because I’d love to see her land somewhere, or start something new, that could teach everyone just why that first Vertigo Revolution happened in the first place — if you put out genre comics that respect their audience, that are produced regularly, that support their creators, you’re 90% of the way there.