30 For 30: Revisiting Vertigo’s Biggest And Best, Three Decades Later

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This year also saw the debut of Vertigo’s first cover design meant to set it apart (which would be notoriously met with disapproval by Dave McKean and not appear on the first few Vertigo-published issues of The Sandman). The logo was presented in the top left corner as DC (not DC’s logo itself but DC written in a font similar to Vertigo’s logo) with Vertigo underneath it. This was also accompanied by a border that would cut off an entire portion of the cover, although it could range in levels of opaqueness/ transparency from being a completely separate and solid color from the rest of the cover to still allowing you to see what would have been there otherwise. The idea feels a bit like Fables (there’s even a crossover between the two series), but it follows a different path by exploring the relationship between fiction and human consciousness It’s also about fame and celebrity.

Commonly regarded as Morrison’s magnum opus, The Invisibles unfortunately suffered for breaking ground and would be a victim of censorship on multiple occasions, something that would upset Morrison, especially since later creator-owned series wouldn’t seem to be held under the same scrutiny. In its first year, The Invisibles remained fairly tame in comparison to what would come of it, introducing readers into its world with Jack Frost, although unexplained major plot threads would be introduced from the very beginning. Black Orchid would struggle to gain the success of some of its peers, at the start of the year, new artist Rebecca Guay came on the book to replace the popular Jill Thompson, making both the writer and artist of the series lesser known creators. The my sources series also began to move into a different direction then its earlier issues and Gaiman’s miniseries had established, instead pursuing the idea of Black Orchid being a nymph goddess and stepping further away from the “realism” of her foes into the more supernatural. Throughout the year two one-shots were also released, meant to interest people by giving them a brief tidbit of the various series ongoing at the time that they might not be reading. The first of these was Vertigo Jam which would feature short-stories from several of the ongoings that weren’t necessary to the overall plot-lines and yet gave you an idea of what to expect from the book’s featuring The Sandman; Hellblazer; Animal Man; Doom Patrol; Swamp Thing; Kid Eternity; and Shade, the Changing Man.

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Having taken a year off, the Joe R. Lansdale and Timothy Truman creative team returned to Jonah Hex at Vertigo for a second time. The miniseries was again five issues, this time entitled “The Riders of the Worm and Such” and introducing an underground civilization of worms and their human-hybrid spawn that were wreaking havoc in the Old West. Mixing genres, Jonah Hex was both a Western and supernatural, while also spotted with a healthy dosage of humor (all of which are represented partially in the comic’s title).

That is the case of Transmetropolitan, written by Warren Ellis and co-created and designed by Darick Robertson. A cyberpunk satire in which a journalist and his filthy assistants fights the corruption and abuse of power of two successive United States presidents. When the dystopian future feels like today, it’s scary, but also really entertaining and quite brillant. Hilarious and sneaky when it wasn’t being sentimental and honest, this book didn’t just make Garth Ennis’ name, it pretty much set the tone for everything he’d do afterwards. The Golden Age revival title Sandman Mystery Theatre ran for 70 issues in the 1990s, and occupied a unique space in Vertigo’s line, straddling the line between the imprint’s adult-oriented fare and a core DC Universe concept.

vertigo comics

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Neil Gaiman wrote the bookends as they featured The Deadboy Detectives (from The Sandman) and introduced the basic premise that kids were disappearing and this was because Free Country (a Faerie-related place) was in need of children with special powers to save it. Although no new series was published in 1993, the original 1990 miniseries by Neil Gaiman was collected for the first time and a preview for the ongoing series that launched the following year was released. Bridging the miniseries and ongoing was the Arcana Annual which was published as part of The Children’s Crusade (originally the series was going to be called Arcana but this was scrapped and the original title was kept). While his first arc was seven parts long, in order his response to make the series accessible to new readers for Vertigo’s launch, the last two parts were published in a double-sized #56 and with its 57th issue it came under the Vertigo banner. With Delano, Animal Man became Buddy Baker and the series moved away from superhero antics and into the horrors of nature, also introducing Annie Cassidy who would have an important role in Buddy’s life and breaking Ellen onto her own so she could have stories independent of her husband. Vertigo was to be something different, it was created in a time when new publishers were popping up constantly and it was to stand out as a line of titles that would draw people in for their stories and pushing the medium forward as opposed to how collectible they were.

Written by Ann Nocenti and drawn by Sean Phillips, the series was not an instant hit and while it survived its first year, it wasn’t fated to last. The stories featured a vast array of supporting characters and a seemingly directionless protagonist (Kid) who couldn’t seem to figure out what exactly it was he was meant to do. Thus, the Vertigo run was meant to be accessible to new readers by simple extension of being the first issue of Rachel Pollack’s run on the book (her first significant work in comics). She began to significantly change up the line-up of the Doom Patrol (as Morrison had before her) and introduced a new headquarters and various team members as well as concepts not commonly explored in comics. Perhaps one of the most notable aspects of her run was the addition of Coagula to the team, one of the first and few transsexual superheroes in comics. 1993 was met with the introducing of some company-wide features that would distinguish the imprint from the rest of DC.

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Unfortunately, rather then keeping things sequential, the arc collected was Dangerous Habits, the break-out arc that introduced Americans to Garth Ennis. Considered an essential piece, this skipping of #10-40 caused the decade-spanning system of leaving portions of the Hellblazer pop over to these guys series uncollected and only reprinting bits and pieces from the early years. Kid Eternity was the second ongoing series to come out of Vertigo and was based off of the concepts and plot threads originated in Grant Morrison and Duncan Fegredo’s 1988 miniseries.

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