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  1. #1
    Ultimate Member Lee Stone's Avatar
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    Default Karen Berger Era Vertigo, from Swamp Thing #20 to Hellblazer #300 Appreciation



    Technically, Karen Berger's first issue of Swamp Thing was #25 but Alan Moore's epic run had just begun five issues earlier.
    And Stuart Moore took over editing on Hellblazer, the longest running first wave Vertigo title, with #41...

    But the classic Vertigo that launched in 1993 really began with Swamp Thing #20 in 1984 and ended with Hellblazer #300 in 2013. A massive thirty year reign of mature, suspenseful and oftentimes surreal stories that still inspire comics today.
    It can be argued that without the books that comprised some of Vertigo's best, there would be no Hellboy, no Madman, no Walking Dead.
    Actually, all three could have all been Vertigo comics in another life.

    So for sake of defining a period, the "Karen Berger era" encompasses everything from Alan Moore's first issue of Swamp Thing that would help shape what was to come all the way to Hellblazer #300, the last issue of the original Vertigo titles.

    Before the arrival of Vertigo, Karen Berger was mostly over the Legion of Super-Heroes family of books and female-centric comics, such as Amethyst, Angel Love and George Perez's critically acclaimed Wonder Woman relaunch that came after Crisis on Infinite Earths.
    But it was her earliest DC works, editing House of Mystery in the early '80s, that really set her down that twisted and dark path that everyone would come to admire her for a decade later.

    Six of the eight Vertigo launch titles in 1993 had been around for quite a while, tucked in a corner away from the spandex and shiny-happy superheroes of DC's core universe. And Karen oversaw most of them before she drew them under the label that would come to define their look and feel for the next twenty years.

    The launch titles for Vertigo were:
    Animal-Man #57
    Death: The High Cost of Living #1 (a mini-series)
    Doom Patrol #64
    Enigma #1 (a mini-series)
    Hellblazer #63
    Sandman #47
    Shade the Changing Man #33
    Swamp Thing #129

    With Sandman Mystery Theatre #1 the following month.

    Pre-launch Vertigo comics include:
    Animal-Man #1-56
    Doom Patrol #19-63
    Hellblazer #1-62, Annual #1
    Sandman #1-46, Special #1
    Shade the Changing Man #1-32
    Swamp Thing #20-128, Annual #2-6
    Books of Magic, volume 1 #1-4
    Black Orchid, volume 1 #1-3

    I'll let Karen describe Vertigo here...
    From the Vertigo Preview:



    And for a bit more information, here's her editorial from the first month's books:



    For me, personally, Vertigo became associated with tales of the supernatural, harrowing psychological suspense and bouts of existentialism.

    Mystical characters like Zatanna, Phantom Stranger, Demon, Deadman, Spectre and Dr. Fate really found their purpose in Alan Moore's Swamp Thing and Neil Gaiman's Books of Magic.

    Books like Shade the Changing Man and Swamp Thing became just as much about the supporting cast as the main characters. Kathy in Shade and Abby in Swamp Thing were just as important as the stars of the books. It was their strength and mortal frailty that helped ground the books and give readers an entry point to easily relate to.

    If I had to pick the books to show someone what Vertigo was, I'd probably point them to the first books that made the most impact on me, personally-
    Death: The High Cost of Living #1-3
    Books of Magic, volume 1 #1-4
    Sandman #50
    Swamp Thing #49-50 & 56
    Doom Patrol #19-22
    Shade the Changing Man #33-35
    Sandman Mystery Theatre #1-4
    Black Orchid, volume 1 #1-3
    100 Bullets #1-5 (from a later part of Vertigo's history where they began to branch out into more crime-fiction with less of a supernatural element)

    What are your fondest memories of the Karen Berger era of Vertigo?
    Last edited by Lee Stone; 04-01-2016 at 06:01 PM.
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  2. #2
    Ultimate Member Lee Stone's Avatar
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    Annotations:
    (Note on annotations: They are meant to be read AFTER you first read the comic. They contain spoilers. After reading the annotations, or while you read them, you may go back and discover things that you might have missed the first time.)

    Animal-Man
    Books of Magic
    Death: The High Cost of Living #1
    Doom Patrol
    Flex Mentallo
    Hellblazer -select issues
    The Invisibles
    Sandman, Sandman #75, Endless Nights
    Swamp Thing

    And related (books that should have been or could have been Vertigo):
    League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Probably would've been a Vertigo title if things had happened differently... By Moore.
    Promethea -one of the most Vertigo of the non-Vertigo books out there. By Moore.
    Seven Soldiers of Victory -considering DC didn't really follow up on this, it may as well have been a Vertigo series. By Morrison.
    Watchmen, and another one for Watchmen -No real reason why this hasn't been absorbed into the Vertigo umbrella like V for Vendetta was; has no bearing on DC continuity. By Moore.
    Last edited by Lee Stone; 04-01-2016 at 08:39 PM.
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    This was truly a golden age for American comics. The bar was set pretty damn high. Thank God that Image is around today carrying the torch.

  4. #4
    Ultimate Member Lee Stone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by missingmarch View Post
    This was truly a golden age for American comics. The bar was set pretty damn high. Thank God that Image is around today carrying the torch.
    Very true.
    It's actually quite amazing when you realize that early Image and post-Walking Dead Image are about as different as Kupperberg/Larsen Doom Patrol and Morrison/Case Doom Patrol.

    I would say that Dark Horse's Legend imprint was pretty close during it's time, also.
    And I was never a fan of Marvel's MAX line, but I had high hopes for their first attempt to emulate Vertigo with Strange Tales. It probably would have actually lasted if they'd used Dr. Strange. Man-Thing and Werewolf by Night were good but not high profile enough to build a new line around.
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  5. #5
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    This thread you started is like a love letter to my favorite body of fiction. For me, nothing will ever top these group of titles, in style and quality. This era of comics was the driving force for inspiration in my own writing. Funny when I look at it, I was only 2 years old when Moore's Swamp Thing came out. Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere was the first novel that made me want to write my own novel. Ever since that I followed all of Gaiman's work, obviously into Sandman. But it wasn't until after college I decided to pursue all those other Vertigo titles that were in the works when Sandman was being published. As I got deeper and deeper into titles like Shade and Doom Patrol I realized these were the kinds of stories I wanted to write and to read. And ever since then I've been obsessed with these books. So thanks for starting this thread. I also greatly look forward to whatever this "Vertigo Rebirth" may entail, crossing my fingers we can get a resurgence of the quality/shared universe (ie Sandman, Tim Hunter, Constantine, Doom Patrol, etc.) we had back in the 90s.

  6. #6
    Ultimate Member t hedge coke's Avatar
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    Some of the runs that launched Vertigo, like Nancy Collins' Swamp Thing and Rachel Pollack's Doom Patrol remain my favorite runs of those characters/books. The early oneshots and minis from the aborted Disney comics publisher and those in-house, were ridiculously strong for any imprint, any line. Kill Your Boyfriend. Farewell, Moonshadow. Enigma, which remains one of the finest comics anywhere, ever, at all.

    I've probably written, professionally, more about Vertigo than any other comics imprint, and possibly namecheck or reference The Invisibles more often than any comic I'm not just using as a touchstone of "character everyone knows."

    I've never been a fan of "this would have been Vertigo," if it came before, or during, but wasn't. I think it both devalues what was accomplished with Vertigo, and how much it was Karen Berger's deal, and also makes out Vertigo to be a much bigger deal than it is. It's not, and never has been The House of Alan Moore, or The House Moore Built. It's never been, and never will be the only place to find intelligent comics or pretentious purple prose investigate our rough loner feelings comics. It was a home to painted comics before Marvels or Typhoid, but it's not where those should be published any more than it's where ABC titles belong or Planetary or Strangehaven.

    There was no omnipotence at play, in any era of the imprint. It was just an imprint at a larger publisher. What Berger, and Shelley Bond, and so many writers, artists, and colorists accomplished through Vertigo is an awesome testament, but it's a testament to them, not a cool imprint name and a stripe down the edge of the book that just as often mucked up a cover as aided it.
    Patsy Walker on TV! Patsy Walker in new comics! Patsy Walker in your brain! And Jessica Jones is the new Nancy! (Oh, and read the Comics Cube.)

  7. #7
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    I hate to say that I've really neglected Vertigo over my 6 years as a DC fan, only having read V for Vendetta. I still haven't read any Sandman, Swamp Thing, Hellblazer etc. Ultra expensive trades of Vertigo series just might force me to get into digital comics!

  8. #8
    Ultimate Member Lee Stone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Atlanta96 View Post
    I hate to say that I've really neglected Vertigo over my 6 years as a DC fan, only having read V for Vendetta. I still haven't read any Sandman, Swamp Thing, Hellblazer etc. Ultra expensive trades of Vertigo series just might force me to get into digital comics!
    Now's a good time.
    Pretty much all the key Vertigo series are complete in digital.
    At $2 an issue.

    The only title that's sorely missing at the moment, I'd say, would be the first ongoing Books of Magic series.
    And they're still digitizing Swamp Thing. #1-163 are available now. Only eight more issues left until it's completed. And some later Annuals, but DC and Marvel both tend to take their time with those.
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  9. #9
    DARKSEID LAUGHS... Crazy Diamond's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Atlanta96 View Post
    I hate to say that I've really neglected Vertigo over my 6 years as a DC fan, only having read V for Vendetta. I still haven't read any Sandman, Swamp Thing, Hellblazer etc. Ultra expensive trades of Vertigo series just might force me to get into digital comics!
    Depending on where you live, your library might have some trades of Vertigo stuff. That's how I read Kill Your Boyfriend and The Invisibles.

    Did Karen Berger play in role in Paradox/Piranha Press and Helix? I know several titles under those imprints were later put under Vertigo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crazy Diamond View Post
    Depending on where you live, your library might have some trades of Vertigo stuff. That's how I read Kill Your Boyfriend and The Invisibles.
    My library's always been short on Vertigo stuff. No idea why, since there's a pretty good selection that includes Image comics. I'm just glad they have Invincible!
    Last edited by Atlanta96; 04-02-2016 at 07:05 PM.

  11. #11
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    I'm impressed how much Quality work karen did on DC/vertigo. why sje left DC/vertigo?

  12. #12
    Ultimate Member Lee Stone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tayswift View Post
    I'm impressed how much Quality work karen did on DC/vertigo. why sje left DC/vertigo?
    She was probably just ready for a change. And I bet the Vertigo DC properties being folded back into the DCU gave her a bit of an incentive.

    It's too bad DC didn't move her over to oversee the Dark line. Could you imagine a New52 with Johns and Berger instead of Johns and Lee? Or all three of them, even, with Lee over the superhero stuff, Berger over the Dark and Edge titles and Johns above the both of them?

    I keep hoping that Morrison will launch his own company and enlist Berger as the EIC.

    Which reminds me of another Vertigo legacy company... Aftershock. Their titles and creator line-up are very much in a similar vein.
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  13. #13
    Ultimate Member Lee Stone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Atlanta96 View Post
    My library's always been short on Vertigo stuff. No idea why, since there's a pretty good selection that includes Image comics. I'm just glad they have Invincible!
    You should check to see if your library uses Hoopla for their digital book service.
    Mine does and they have all the Sandman books, as well as Walking Dead, Saga and Hellboy.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tayswift View Post
    I'm impressed how much Quality work karen did on DC/vertigo. why sje left DC/vertigo?
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/30/bo...moving-on.html

    Gives a pretty good explanation as to why Berger left.

  15. #15
    Ultimate Member Lee Stone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crazy Diamond View Post
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/30/bo...moving-on.html

    Gives a pretty good explanation as to why Berger left.
    Thanks for the link.
    I think I had actually read the article before but forgot where.

    It really does seem like she just wasn't interested in the direction DC was heading.
    It sounds like a movie studio that quits chasing after the Oscars to focus solely on Summer Blockbusters. Not entirely bad for them, of course, because that is where the real money is. And it's great for fans of Summer Blockbuster type things.
    But fans of the Oscar type stuff have to look elsewhere for something that satisfies their cravings for creative storytelling. It left a void that had to be filled.
    And was.
    And it seems like DC is okay with that. They do what they do best and let Image, Dark Horse and Aftershock deal with the avant-garde stuff.
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