Earlier this week, departing Vertigo Comics exec Karen Berger spoke with the New York Times’s Dave Itzkoff regarding her departure from the imprint, where she has spent the last twenty-plus years shepherding some of the most innovative comics of this generation.
In her comments, there was one remark that stood out to me: “I’ve found that they’re really more focused on the company-owned characters,” she said. DC and its Disney-owned rival, Marvel, “are super-hero companies owned by movie studios.”
This speaks to the central issue for many longtime followers of the industry: less and less about groundbreaking creative work and more about the exploitation of existing libraries with established characters.
Berger’s departure marks a major paradigm shift for the publisher, which is rapidly abandoning more innovative ideas and directing its efforts more toward the cross-media development of keystone characters such as Superman, Green Lantern, and the omnipresent Batman.
For many, this will be unsurprising. I will confess to having been a super-hero fan first and a comics fan second for much of my reading life. That said, the titles published by Vertigo under Berger were the ones that I gravitated towards when the standard super-hero narratives fell short of addressing concerns about the real world or when more was required than a simple action story.
How the Vertigo imprint moves forward will be something to watch. If DC knows what’s good for them, they will find someone to fill Berger’s position who possesses a desire to do more than simply funnel projects to Warner Brothers for development on the small or silver screens. The next Sandman is out there, but will anyone be looking?