Fear of Heights

A look back at Vertigo

This week DC announced the end of the Vertigo line. Vertigo was a clear attempt by DC to create a line of comics which were not aimed at children but at young adults and older. Vertigo came along at just the right time for me. From The Daredevils and Warrior it was an easy leap to follow British Invasion creators like Alan Moore over to DC where he did amazing work on Swamp Thing. Others moving over included the likes of Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison. So along with my copies of Deadline and Love and Rockets I naturally picked up the first Vertigo comics.

a giant media company putting relatively serious resources into serious work that the company would not own but simply believed should be published? That was a major statement about original creator-owned cross-genre/non-genre narrative art and its importance.

Warren Ellis writing here
Sandman cover by Dave McKean

I was a bit slow on the uptake with Sandman and only managed to get in on the action with issue 5. It was one of the best comics I had ever read and made a huge impact on me. Sandman married Borges style storytelling with incredible covers from Dave McKean and interior art. I think Sandman is a little out of favour at the moment, I don’t see it appearing in many lists of favourite Vertigo comics. But for me it remains one of the high points of comics in the last few decades.

Storylines like ‘A Game of You‘ and ‘The Kindly Ones‘ set new standards in storytelling. The ‘next issue’ blurb from issue 5 from Neil promises/warns “Not for children. Not for the easily disturbed. Honest.” He wasn’t kidding.

Not for children. Not for the easily disturbed. Honest.

Neil Gaiman

I was luckier with Hellblazer and Preacher, getting in on the ground floor. Both were wildly iconoclastic for their time. The humour in Preacher seems a little adolescent to me now, but I loved it at the time. Garth Ennis pulled no punches in his tale of inbred saviors and arsefaced heroes.

Preacher cover by Glenn Fabry

Hellblazer saw powerful storytelling. Alan Moore had created John Constantine in the pages of Swamp Thing and it was a succession of fellow writers from the British Isles who were to bring more life to the scouse mage. Jamie Delano was another who made the move from British comics to work for DC and he told some hard hitting stories from Thatcher’s Britain. Garth Ennis was my favourite though. Rake at the Gates of Hell and Dangerous Habits took a hard look at consequences. John Constantine may have been cool but he always paid the price.

Hellblazer cover by Sean Phillips

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 on Twitter

Vertigo sometimes seems to be regarded as being a bit goth, a bit ’emo’ and other obviously false cliches. It was a diverse line that did a huge amount to further the cause of comics.

There were a string of other great titles from Vertigo. Flex Mentallo, Transmetropolitan, The Invisibles, The Filth, Lucifer, Sandman Mystery Theatre and many more. Enjoy some of the great covers here and raise a glass to Vertigo editor-in-chief Karen Berger.

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