Karen Berger is leaving DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint, it was announced yesterday. Berger, who created and headed the Vertigo division from the beginning, is staying on until March 2013. We can leave it to the industry insiders to question what this means for the future of Vertigo and DC, and we will add our voices to wishing Berger the best in all future ventures once April 2013 rolls around. While we can’t pretend to know exactly how much influence Berger had on each individual work that published under the Vertigo imprint, it’s probably an understatement to say not only has she been one of the most influential people in comics over the past 25 years, but the sensibilities of the Vertigo line during its burgeoning in the 1990s has cast a long shadow of influence that can be seen across all media — not just comics — today.
Hellblazer, which is now just ending after decades — literally decades — of quality horror-tinged yarns. Animal Man, in which Grant Morrison shared his meta-sensibilities and a more thoughtful take on the weird life of a C-level superhero. Sandman, which shaped generations of goth and emo kids while telling amazing stories as it helped catalyze Neil Gaiman’s career in fiction. Preacher, with the sick, sad, touching, violent sensibilities of Garth Ennis plastered over an epic 70-odd issues. Names such as Milligan, Ellis, Aaron, Willingham, Azzarello, Roberson. And, recently, Jeff Lemire with Sweet Tooth and Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque of the stunningly high-quality American Vampire series. Even as super-comics have lived and died by the monthly pamphlet, Vertigo books were perhaps the first high-profile publishing arm to focus on the trade paperback, prioritizing the bookshelf over the longbox, a move that the rest of the industry seems to be trickling toward.
The marketplace has changed due to changes in media, consumption habits, and new realities of creator-owned publishing, in which artists and writers are far less dependant on the Big Two than ever in terms of getting an audience. Even as Vertigo seems less relevant and certainly less prominent due to title attrition over the years, I can’t help but acknowledge that nobody in comics had more of an overall effect on my entertainment sensibilities than Karen Berger.
Here is Karen with Dick Giordano
So maybe you’ll join me in saying to her, “Thank you, keep on keeping on, and looking very forward to what you do next.”