|Parent company||DC Comics|
|Defunct||January 5, 2020|
|Successor||DC Black Label|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Headquarters location||New York City|
|Publication types||Comic books|
Vertigo Comics, also known as DC Vertigo or simply Vertigo, was an imprint of American comic book publisher DC Comics started by editor Karen Berger in 1993. Vertigo's purpose was to publish comics with adult content, such as nudity, drug use, profanity, and graphic violence, that did not fit the restrictions of DC's main line, thus allowing more creative freedom. Its titles consisted of company-owned comics set in the DC Universe, such as The Sandman and Hellblazer, and creator-owned works, such as Preacher, Y: The Last Man and Fables. The Vertigo branding was retired in 2020, and most of its library transitioned to DC Black Label.
Vertigo grew out of DC's mature readers' line of the 1980s, which began after DC stopped submitting The Saga of the Swamp Thing for approval by the Comics Code Authority. Following the success of two adult-oriented 1986 limited series, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, DC's output of mature readers titles, edited by Karen Berger, grew. By 1992, DC's mature readers' line was editorially separate from its main line and Berger was given permission to start her own imprint. Vertigo was launched in January 1993, with a mix of existing DC ongoing series and new series. The first original Vertigo series was Death: The High Cost of Living, a Sandman spin-off featuring the character Death.
Although its initial publications were primarily in the horror and fantasy genres, over time Vertigo published works dealing with crime, social commentary, speculative fiction, biography, and other genres. Vertigo also adopted works previously published by DC under other imprints, such as V for Vendetta and Transmetropolitan. The imprint pioneered in North America the publishing model in which monthly series sold through comic book shops are periodically collected into editions which are kept in print for bookstore sale. As DC's most popular and enduring imprint, several Vertigo series won the comics industry's Eisner Award, including for "best continuing series", and were adapted to film and television.
The imprint began to decline in the 2010s, as certain properties like Hellblazer and Swamp Thing were re-integrated into DC's main comic books, while Berger departed in 2013. Berger's departure was followed by a series of editorial restructures, culminating in the imprint's relaunch as DC Vertigo in 2018. However, the relaunch suffered a multitude of setbacks, including numerous cancellations. After months of speculation, in June 2019 DC announced that Vertigo would be discontinued as part of a plan to publish all the company's comics under a single banner, with DC Black Label taking its place as DC's mature readers' imprint.
Vertigo originated in 1993 under the stewardship of Karen Berger, a former literature and art-history student, who had joined DC Comics in 1979 as an assistant editor. In the mid-1980s, Berger was editor of such DC titles as Wonder Woman and Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld, and began recruiting writers from the UK, including Neil Gaiman, Jamie Delano, Peter Milligan, and Grant Morrison. She "found their sensibility and point of view to be refreshingly different, edgier and smarter" than those of most American comics writers.
Berger edited several new or revived series with these writers and Alan Moore (a British writer hired by editor Len Wein), including superhero/science fiction series such as Animal Man, Doom Patrol vol. 2, and Shade, the Changing Man vol. 2, fantasy series The Sandman vol. 2, and horror titles Hellblazer and The Saga of the Swamp Thing. She also edited limited series such as Kid Eternity, Black Orchid (Gaiman's first work for DC) and The Books of Magic limited series.
These six ongoing titles, all of which carried a "Suggested for Mature Readers" label on their covers, shared a sophistication-driven sensibility the comics fan media dubbed "the Bergerverse". In a 1992 editorial meeting with Levitz, publisher Jenette Kahn, and managing editor Dick Giordano, Berger was given the mandate to place these titles under an imprint that, as Berger described, would "do something different in comics and help the medium 'grow up'". Several DC titles bearing the age advisory, such as Green Arrow, Blackhawk, and The Question (the last two cancelled before the launch of Vertigo), did not make the transition to the new imprint.
Meanwhile, Disney Comics and former DC editor Art Young had been developing an imprint to be called Touchmark Comics, analogous to Disney's mature-audiences Touchstone Pictures studio. This project was abandoned following the so-called "Disney Implosion" of 1991. Young and those works were brought into the Vertigo fold, allowing Berger to expand the imprint's publishing plans with the limited series Enigma, Sebastian O, Mercy, and Shadows Fall.
Vertigo was launched in January 1993 with a mixture of existing ongoing series continued under the new imprint, new ongoing series, new limited series, and single-volume collections or graphic novels. Their publishing plan for the first year involved two new titles – whether ongoing/limited series or one-shots – each month. The existing series (cover date March 1993) were Shade, the Changing Man (starting with #33), The Sandman (#47), Hellblazer (#63), Animal Man (#57), Swamp Thing (#129), and Doom Patrol (#64, with new writer Rachel Pollack).
The first comic book published under the "Vertigo" imprint was the first issue of Death: The High Cost of Living, a three-issue series by Neil Gaiman and Chris Bachalo. The second new title was the first issue of Enigma, an 8-issue limited series initially planned to launch Touchmark, written by Peter Milligan (also author of Shade, the Changing Man) and drawn by Duncan Fegredo, the artist from Grant Morrison's earlier Kid Eternity limited series. The following month saw the debut of Sandman: Mystery Theatre by Matt Wagner and Steven T. Seagle, and illustrated primarily by Guy Davis, described as "playing the '30s with a '90s feel... haunting, film noir-ish...," and starring original Sandman Wesley Dodds in a title whose "sensibilities echo crime genre fiction." Joining it was J. M. DeMatteis and Paul Johnson's 64-page one-shot Mercy.
New series that began in the months that followed include Kid Eternity (ongoing) by Ann Nocenti and Sean Phillips (continuing from the earlier Morrison-penned limited series), Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell's three-issue steampunk limited series Sebastian O (another ex-Touchmark project), Skin Graft by Jerry Prosser and Warren Pleece, The Last One by DeMatteis and Dan Sweetman, Jonah Hex: Two-Gun Mojo by Tim Truman and Sam Glanzman, Black Orchid (ongoing) by Dick Foreman and Jill Thompson (continuing from the earlier Gaiman/McKean limited series), The Extremist by Peter Milligan and Ted McKeever, Scarab by John Smith with Scot Eaton and Mike Barreiro, and The Children's Crusade, a crossover involving several of the imprint's ongoing series. The Books of Magic limited series was relaunched as an ongoing series written by John Ney Rieber, and illustrated by Peter Gross (later also writer), Gary Amaro, and Peter Snejbjerg.
Although the books did not have a consistent "house style" of art, the cover designs of early Vertigo series featured a uniform trade dress with a vertical bar along the left side, which included the imprint logo, pricing, date, and issue numbers. The design layout continued with very little variation until issues cover-dated July 2002 (including Fables #1) which introduced an across-the-top layout ahead of 2003's "Vertigo X" 10th anniversary celebration. The "distinctive design" was intended to be used on "all Vertigo books except the hardcovers, trade paperbacks, and graphic novels." Berger noted that DC was "very" committed to the line, having put a "lot of muscle behind" promoting it, including a promotional launch kit made available to "[r]etailers who order[ed] at least 25 copies of the February issue of Sandman [#47]," a "platinum edition" variant cover for Death: The High Cost of Living #1 and a 75-cent Vertigo Preview comic featuring a specially written seven-page Sandman story by Gaiman and Kent Williams. In addition, a 16-page Vertigo Sampler was also produced and bundled with copies of Capital City Distribution's Advance Comics solicitation index.
Vertigo publications generally did not take place in a shared universe. However, several of the early series which had begun as part of the main DC Universe had a "crossover" in 1993-1994: The Children's Crusade. The event—"did not yield smashing results" or garner many positive reviews, in large part due to its "gimmicky" nature, which ran counter to Vertigo's quirky, non-mainstream appeal and customer-base. The event was defended as "no marketing ploy" by one of the event's editors, Lou Stathis, who wrote of his dislike of the often "crass manipulation" of crossover events, defending The Children's Crusade as having come not from marketing, but the writers' minds, and therefore being "story-driven" rather than manipulative. The crossover did not become an annual event, however—indeed, "annuals" linked to Vertigo series rarely reappeared after this event.
Works previously published by DC under other imprints, but which fit the general character of Vertigo, have been reprinted under this imprint. This has included V for Vendetta, earlier issues of Vertigo's ongoing launch series, and books from discontinued imprints such as Transmetropolitan (initially under DC's short-lived sci-fi Helix imprint) and A History of Violence (originally part of the Paradox Press line).
Two of the new ongoing series did not last long; Kid Eternity was cancelled after 16 issues, and Black Orchid continued for only 22. Sandman Mystery Theatre and most of the pre-existing series continued for several years, including Sandman which reached its planned conclusion with #75. Hellblazer was the last of the original ongoing series to be canceled, ceasing publication in February 2013 with #300.
As the imprint's initial ongoing series came to their ends, new series were launched to replace them, with varying degrees of success. The Sandman was replaced following its completion by The Dreaming (1996–2001) and The Sandman Presents, which featured stories about the characters from Neil Gaiman's series, written by other creators. Other long-running series have been The Invisibles by Grant Morrison and various artists (1994–2000); Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon (1995–2000); Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson (1997–2002); 100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso (1999–2009); Lucifer by Mike Carey, Peter Gross, and Ryan Kelly (2000–2006); Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra (2002–2008); DMZ by Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli (2005–2012); and Fables by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, and various other artists (2002–2015), which launched spin-offs including Jack of Fables by Willingham, Lilah Sturges (credited as "Matthew Sturges"), and various artists (2006–2011), and Fairest by Willingham and various artists (2012–2015).
The financial success of many Vertigo titles relied not on monthly issue sales, but on the subsequent "trade paperback" editions that reprinted the monthly comics in volumes, which were also sold in general-interest bookshops. Vertigo's success in popularizing this approach led to a wider take-up in the American comics industry of routinely reprinting monthly series in this format. Limited series (ideal for later collection) and original graphic novels made up the majority of the imprint's output, with trade paperback sales accounting for a substantial segment of the imprint's sales.
An irregular series of self-contained short stories featuring characters from the DC Universe, reinterpreted or recontextualized.
Vertigo Visions: Artwork from the Cutting Edge of Comics was a 2000 collection of artwork from various Vertigo titles, with commentary by Alisa Kwitney.
The Vertigo Voices featured creator-owned "distinctive one-shot stories."
The short-lived "Vérité" line, evoking the realism of Cinéma vérité, "was a 1996–98 attempt to promote new Vertigo projects devoid of the supernatural qualities that had gotten to define the publisher."
The "fifth-week event" brand V2K (Vertigo 2000), was a "much hyped concept" whose titles were designed to "usher...in the new millennium," and, as such, several of them were limited series rather than one-shots.
The Vertigo Pop limited series were designed "to be about pop culture around the globe in some vaguely defined way."
In 2003, the Vertigo imprint celebrated "Ten years on the edge" by branding their books cover-dated April 2003 to February 2004 (i.e. released between February and December 2003)—Vertigo's 10th anniversary—with the legend Vertigo X. This special subtitle was debuted on the Vertigo X Anniversary Preview (April 2003), a 48-page special previewing Vertigo's upcoming projects and featuring a short Shade, the Changing Man story by the "Ecstatic" team of Peter Milligan and Mike Allred (a pun on their then-current Marvel project together: X-Statix). Projects highlighted included Death: At Death's Door, Jill Thompson's first manga-ized version of the "Season of Mists" storyline, retold from the point of view of the Sandman's elder sister Death and Gaiman's own return to the mythos with the hardcover Sandman: Endless Nights all-star collection of short stories spotlighting the seven members of the Endless (an eight-page Endless Nights Preview issue was also released before the hardcover).
Also highlighted and previewed were two original graphic novels: Lovecraft (based on a screenplay by Hans Rodionoff and adapted by Keith Giffen with art by Enrique Breccia) took the conceit that H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos creatures were real, to paint a highly fictionalized biographic portrait of the titular author, while Howard Chaykin and David Tischman's Barnum! (with art by Niko Henrichon) similarly drifted in the realms of fictionalized biography, but did not stray into the horror/supernatural world. The tale of Barnum: In Secret Service to the USA saw the celebrated showman saving the life of President Grover Cleveland and (with his circus charges, including original Siamese twins Chang and Eng) matching wits against the "evil" Nikola Tesla. Also previewed as a 2003 release from Vertigo was Brett Lewis and John Paul Leon's The Winter Men, which ultimately saw its first issue released in September 2005 through WildStorm's "Signature Series" imprint.
The final Vertigo Pop! limited series, and the eighth-and-final issue of Garth Ennis' War Story series of one-shots were released in their entirety during the year and featured the logo:
Similarly, two other graphic novels were released during the year, but not specifically highlighted in the preview as anniversary titles:
The following ongoing series had issues released during Vertigo's anniversary year and those issues carried the "Vertigo X" branding:
The following series and limited series finished during the year, with the final issues featuring the "Vertigo X" logo:
Paul Pope's 100% #5 was cover-dated July 2003, but was not branded a "Vertigo X" title.
At the 2008 Comic-Con International Karen Berger outlined plans for a new "sub-imprint" called Vertigo Crime: "it's a line of graphic novels, in black and white, hardcover". It was launched in 2009 with two titles: Brian Azzarello's Filthy Rich and Ian Rankin's Dark Entries, the latter featuring John Constantine. Each volume features a cover illustration by Lee Bermejo. Vertigo Crime was ended as a sub-imprint in 2011.
The following original graphic novels have been published under the Vertigo Crime imprint (in order of publication):
In December 2012, Karen Berger announced that she would be leaving the company the following March. Berger's position at the head of Vertigo was filled by Shelly Bond, who had begun editing for the imprint in 1993. However, in 2016, DC "restructured" Vertigo, eliminating Bond's position, and oversight of Vertigo was placed under Jamie S. Rich, until May 2017 when Mark Doyle became the new editor.
In 2018, DC Comics announced a "line-wide relaunch and rebranding" as "DC Vertigo", including 11 new ongoing titles planned for the coming year, under Doyle's editorship. These included a new sub-imprint based on Neil Gaiman's Sandman with four new ongoing series, announced in March, and seven new series announced in June.
The relaunch experienced a number of complications, however. Border Town by Eric M. Esquivel and Ramon Villalobos dealt with immigration and Latino identity, for which Esquivel received death threats in advance of its publication. The series was well received by critics, but after four issues were published, Esquivel was accused of sexually and emotionally abusing a former partner. Villalobos and colorist Tamra Bonvillain withdrew from the project, and DC cancelled the series, including issues that were ready for publication. Meanwhile, Second Coming by Mark Russell and Richard Pace came under criticism from Christians and conservatives who considered its announced premise – in which Jesus Christ returns and lives as a roommate with a modern-day superhero – blasphemous and offensive. The series was cancelled before the first issue was published; Russell and Pace later published the series through Ahoy Comics. Safe Sex by Tina Horn and Mike Dowling was also cancelled before its debut, and later published as SFSX by Image Comics.
In June 2019, DC announced that, as part of a consolidation into a unified branding, the Vertigo imprint would be discontinued in January 2020. The DC Zoom and DC Ink imprints for children and young adolescents were also eliminated. Under the new plan, all of the company's comics would be published under the "DC" brand, and categorized by intended reader age: DC Kids (8–12 years), DC (13+), and DC Black Label (17+). The Sandman-related titles retained their new branding as "The Sandman Universe".
In addition to Berger, several other editors have become linked to the imprint. Berger was editing proto-Vertigo titles from the start of her time with DC, beginning in 1981 with House of Mystery. She took over editorship of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing run from Swamp Thing co-creator Len Wein in 1984, and in 1986 "became DC's British liaison," bringing to DC's pre-Vertigo titles the individuals who would be instrumental in the creation and evolution of Vertigo seven years later. From 1988, her Swamp Thing and other DC titles were joined by Gaiman and McKean's Black Orchid miniseries and Hellblazer as well as the odd miniseries The Weird. Editing Doug Moench's The Wanderers, Berger was joined on issue #5 (Oct 1988) by co-editor Art Young, who would also later be instrumental in the formation of Vertigo. Grant Morrison's Animal Man and the ultra-dark Arkham Asylum OGN were swiftly joined on Berger's slate by The Sandman, Skreemer, The Books of Magic, The Nazz and Shade, the Changing Man. Berger continued with The Sandman and Shade during 1992, and saw the pre-Vertigo titles as "all [having] some basis in reality."
By the early 1990s, "[t]he core Vertigo titles had already become their own little enclave," so when Berger returned from maternity leave, she spoke with DC President Jenette Kahn and Executive Editor Dick Giordano, the outcome being a separate imprint to "actively expand [the] sensibility" of the titles she had been editing. Berger included in the initial Vertigo line-up the five titles she had had some hand in creating or editing (Swamp Thing, Hellblazer, Animal Man, Sandman and Shade) as well as Doom Patrol which she "decided to include... because Grant Morrison was working on it and the sensibility was very much like the other series." Berger oversaw the entire Vertigo line, and was promoted to the position of "Senior Vice President—Executive Editor, Vertigo" in July 2006. Her promotion came as Vertigo was said to be equivalent to "the fourth largest American comic book publisher" in 2005, with Paul Levitz praising her personally as having "built Vertigo into an imprint which is simultaneously one of comics' leading creative and commercial successes." In addition, Berger won Eisner Awards for her editing in 1992, 1994 and 1995 for her work on the proto- and early Vertigo titles Sandman, Shade, Kid Eternity, Books of Magic, Death: The High Cost of Living and Sandman Mystery Theatre.
Art Young joined Karen Berger to edit pre-Vertigo issues of Animal Man (from issue #3), Hellblazer and Swamp Thing on issues cover-dated November 1988. Two months later, Young also took on the initial issues of The Sandman, before in mid-1990 moving to Doom Patrol, which with Animal Man he edited until early 1991 (also over-seeing the original Books of Magic miniseries along the way). He then left DC to work for Disney in setting up Touchmark, before returning with those projects to Vertigo in early 1993, when he edited debut title Enigma, and later miniseries and one-shots such as Sebastian O, The Extremist, Mercy, Rogan Gosh, The Mystery Play, and Tank Girl: The Moovy. He edited all four of the "Vertigo Voices" titles in 1995, as well as Shadows Fall, Ghostdancing, Egypt, Millennium Fever and both Tank Girl miniseries. Young's last editorial credit for Vertigo was Flex Mentallo #1 (June 1996).
Shelly Bond was a Vertigo Group Editor. Like Young, she has overseen a large number of notable projects during her (almost-)exclusive time working with Vertigo since April 1993. Roeberg took over editorial duties on the second Vertigo issues of both The Sandman and Shade, the Changing Man from Lisa Guastella—then Lisa Aufenanger—editing those two titles until their respective final issues; she also edited the first 36 issues of the "ahead of its time" crime/noir series Sandman Mystery Theatre. Between 1993 and 2000, she edited titles exclusively for Vertigo (with one exception—the nine issues of Peter Bagge and Gilbert Hernandez's Yeah! (1999–2000) for DC's imprint Homage), including relatively little known titles and one-shots such as Skin Graft, The Last One, The Heart of the Beast (1994), Mobfire, Terminal City, Menz Insana, The Girl Who Would Be Death, Heavy Liquid, Pulp Fantastic and Accelerate. She also edited the first Vertigo works of Bill Willingham and Ed Brubaker in Proposition Player and Scene of the Crime, and the higher-profile series Moonshadow, Girl, Seekers into the Mystery, The Minx and all issues of House of Secrets (with Jennifer Lee from issue #11).
She (co-)edited the final 25 issues of The Dreaming between 1999 and 2001, initially as Shelly Roeberg, and latterly as Shelly Bond (after marrying artist Philip Bond), and most of the Sandman Presents... miniseries and one-shots. From 2000, she has continued to edit most of the highest-profile Vertigo titles, including almost all of Mike Carey's Lucifer (with Mariah Huehner) and the entirety of Ed Brubaker's Deadenders, Howard Chaykin & David Tischman's American Century, Jonathan Vankin's The Witching, Si Spencer's Books of Magick: Life During Wartime, Steven T. Seagle and Kelley Jones' The Crusades and Bill Willingham's Fables (to date). She oversaw the first fourteen issues of American Virgin, the first eleven of Jack of Fables, the first two Vertigo Pop! miniseries, Paul Dini's Zatanna: Everyday Magic and the innovative Vertical one-shot. She helped shepherd the OGNs Barnum!, Confessions of a Blabbermouth, 1001 Nights of Snowfall, God Save the Queen, The Little Endless Storybook, Re-Gifters, Sandman: Endless Nights and Silverfish as well as both Bite Club miniseries, Faker, Grip: The Strange World of Men, My Faith in Frankie and House of Secrets: Facade. From 2007, she had also been heavily involved in the new DC imprint "Minx", but continued to edit titles for Vertigo, including the new 2007/8 series House of Mystery, Vinyl Underground and Young Liars.
Tom Peyer was, by 1990 editing (with Karen Berger) what would become the pillars of Vertigo: Hellblazer, Sandman (taking over from Art Young), Swamp Thing and Shade, the Changing Man. He soon left Swamp Thing to Stuart Moore, however with issue #100, and Moore would edit and co-edit the remaining 71 issues of that title, including the switch from DC to Vertigo. Peyer moved to Doom Patrol and Animal Man, which he edited during the transition from DC to Vertigo, before moving to edit the initial issues of Kid Eternity and Black Orchid as well as two "Vertigo Visions" one-shots. Peyer left editing behind in 1994, returning to DC as a writer. Moore edited a wide range of Vertigo titles between 1993 and 2000, including the transitional issues of Hellblazer as well as Swamp Thing, the first fifteen issues of The Invisibles, the first seventeen issues of Preacher and the first thirty issues of Transmetropolitan. In 1996, Moore won the Eisner Award for best editor, for his work on Swamp Thing, Invisibles and Preacher. He edited the first issues of Books of Magic, and both Books of Faerie miniseries (with Cliff Chiang), and returned to the main Books of Magic title for a further 20+ issues with Chiang in 1998. He also edited several miniseries for both Vertigo and Vertigo's sister imprint Helix.
Axel Alonso (who would later move to Marvel Comics) began his editorial career at Vertigo on Animal Man, Black Orchid, Doom Patrol and Hellblazer, and also edited the opening issues of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso's 100 Bullets and the final issues of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's Preacher.
Will Dennis was promoted from assistant editor to editor upon Alonso's departure. He took over the editing of 100 Bullets and later assumed the reins of Vertigo's biggest hit series since Preacher, Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra's Y: The Last Man. Dennis has been responsible for bringing writers Brian Wood (DMZ) and Jason Aaron (Scalped) to Vertigo. He teamed writer Andy Diggle and artist Jock on their breakout series The Losers. Dennis edited Vaughan's commercially successful graphic novel Pride of Baghdad. He was the editor who presided over the Vertigo Crime line of graphic novels.
Jonathan Vankin was hired as an editor at Vertigo in 2004 after previously writing two of the line's Vertigo Pop miniseries and several entries in the Paradox Press "Big Book" series as well as several other non-comics works . His contributions to the line as an editor have included the series, The Exterminators and Testament. For the latter, he brought media theorist Douglas Rushkoff to Vertigo. Taking over editing of Hellblazer from Will Dennis, he hired acclaimed Scottish crime novelist Denise Mina to write the title for 13 issues. He brought Harvey Pekar to Vertigo, where Pekar published the graphic novel The Quitter as well as eight issues of Pekar's long-running American Splendor autobiographical series. Vankin also edited the graphic novels Incognegro by Mat Johnson and The Alcoholic by novelist and essayist Jonathan Ames.
Although the "mature reader" works of Alan Moore, Grant Morrison (with Jamie Delano and Neil Gaiman) under the DC imprint paved the way for Vertigo's launch, neither author was part of the initial line-up. Indeed, Moore never produced work for the Vertigo imprint—having refused to work for parent company DC in the late 1980s—although his DC-published Swamp Thing work and V for Vendetta reprint-maxiseries were subsequently collected as Vertigo-issued TPBs, while the Hellblazer solo title dealt with the character co-created by Moore, but never written by him.
Grant Morrison, whose pre-Vertigo work on Animal Man and Doom Patrol was similarly retroactively branded as "Vertigo" when collected, also wrote two issues of Hellblazer pre-Vertigo, which are collected in a 2005 trade paperback. Wrote three volumes of The Invisibles between 1994 and 2000. In addition, they had produced a number of miniseries including Sebastian O (1993), the Doom Patrol spin-off Flex Mentallo (1996), Seaguy (2004), Vimanarama (2005), We3 (2004–2005) and "Joe The Barbarian" (2010) as well as the longer miniseries The Filth (2002–2003). They collaborated with writer Mark Millar on five issues of Swamp Thing in 1994, produced two one-shots—The Mystery Play (1994) and Kill Your Boyfriend (1995)—and contributed to several anthologies.
Of the eight debut Vertigo titles, half of them were the work of two authors. Neil Gaiman, who went on to become a New York Times best-selling novelist, came to prominence four years pre-Vertigo with the launch of The Sandman for DC Comics, a title that became the backbone of the initial Vertigo line-up. Gaiman's work on the first The Books of Magic miniseries (also released as a DC title, 1990–91) lay the groundwork for the long-running Vertigo Universe series of the same name, which featured young wizard Timothy Hunter.
Peter Milligan, who began his career at 2000 AD, before working briefly for both Pacific Comics and Eclipse Comics, contributed two titles (one quarter of the initial line-up; the same as Gaiman) to the Vertigo launch. His Shade, the Changing Man was launched by DC and ran 70 issues (July 1990) – #70 (April 1996), by which time it was under the Vertigo imprint. He also wrote the creator-owned eight-issue miniseries Enigma (1993). Milligan and Brett Ewins's Skreemer, written for DC pre-Vertigo (1989) was subsequently collected by Vertigo, while his work on the DC character Human Target was released entirely by Vertigo as a four-issue miniseries (1999), an original graphic novel (2002), and an ongoing series (2003–2005). Milligan also produced the one-shots The Eaters and Face in 1995 for the "Vertigo Voices" sub-imprint, and a number of other miniseries, including The Extremist (1993), Tank Girl: The Odyssey (1995), Egypt (1995–1996), Girl (1996), The Minx (1998–1999), and Vertigo Pop!: London (2003).
Garth Ennis (Hellblazer) and Jamie Delano (Animal Man) were two other launch authors who went on to great success with Vertigo and elsewhere. Ennis' best-known Vertigo work was his and artist Steve Dillon's creator-owned Preacher, which ran for 66 issues and six spin-off specials between 1995 and 2000, while Ennis' prolific work on Hellblazer rivals initial-series author Delano. Ennis has also written several miniseries for Vertigo, including Goddess (1995–1996), Pride & Joy (1997), Unknown Soldier (1997), and Adventures in the Rifle Brigade (2001–2002), as well as eight one-shot War Stories between 2001 and 2003. Two of his pre-Vertigo works—True Faith (serialized in Crisis) and the four-issue DC/Helix miniseries Bloody Mary (1996–1197)—have had collections released under the Vertigo label. Alan Moore, co-creator of the jaded, chain-smoking, modern-day British wizard John Constantine in Swamp Thing, hand-picked Jamie Delano to continue Constantine's adventures as star of the DC title Hellblazer (1988–2013), but Delano left that series in 1991 before the launch of Vertigo. Delano did write Vertigo's Animal Man#51–79 (1992–1995), and produced 19 issues of Outlaw Nation (2000–02) and the 12-issue miniseries 2020 Visions (1997–1998), plus two Hellblazer miniseries—The Horrorist (1995–1996) and Hellblazer Special: Bad Blood (2000). He also wrote the one-shot titles Tainted (1995) and Hell Eternal (1998), the miniseries Ghostdancing (1995) and Cruel and Unusual (1999), contributed to anthology titles, and with Gaiman and Kwitney wrote The Children's Crusade #2.
Rachel Pollack, who was writing Doom Patrol when Vertigo launched, continued on that title until #87 (Feb. 1995), the final issues. She also penned two "Vertigo Visions" specials—1993's The Geek and 1998's Tomahawk.
Nancy A. Collins, who wrote Swamp Thing #110–138 (Aug. 1991 – Dec. 1993), also wrote the 1996 one-shot Dhampire: Stillborn.
John Ney Rieber has produced most of his output for Vertigo, working exclusively for the company between 1994 and 2000. Reiber wrote the first fifty issues of the first ongoing The Books of Magic series (May 1994 – July 1998), as well as a number of miniseries, mostly set in the wider Vertigo universe (and particularly the Sandman/Books of Magic sections) – Mythos: The Final Tour (1996–7), Hellblazer/The Books of Magic (1997–8), The Trenchcoat Brigade (1999), The Books of Faerie: Molly's Story (1999). Reiber's Shadows Fall (with artist John Van Fleet) was a self-created horror story grounded in a reality which made the tale "all the more creepy than if the story was played out in the realm and scope of superheroes." Reiber's Tell Me Dark, produced for DC, was collected in softcover by Vertigo, and he also contributed to various anthologies.
J. M. DeMatteis began his comics career on DC's House of Mystery title over a decade before the formation of Vertigo, and later became one of the earliest Vertigo creators thanks in large part to his proposed Touchmark projects. DeMatteis' Mercy (1993) one-shot and miniseries The Last One both debuted in 1993, with reprints of two creator-owned Epic Comics projects following in subsequent years: his 1985–87 creator-owned maxiseries Moonshadow was reprinted between 1994 and 1995, with the miniseries Blood: A Tale seeing print again in 1996–7. DeMatteis also wrote fifteen issues of Seekers into the Mystery (1996–7) for Vertigo.
Mike Carey, having started his American comics career with Caliber Comics in the mid-1990s catapulted to prominence in March 1999 with the first issue of his Sandman spin-off miniseries Sandman Presents: Lucifer, which would lead to an ongoing series a year later and considerable praise and projects for Carey. A second Sandman miniseries, Sandman Presents: Petrefax (2000), soon followed, before the June 2000 debut of Lucifer. Neil Gaiman's preferred Sandman spin-off had not had an easy time being published, due to its title and main character, but Carey was able to helm it for a Sandman-equalling 75 issues (and a 2002 one-shot: Nirvana) for 6 years. During this time, Carey also wrote the hardcover OGN Sandman Presents: The Furies (2002), over 40 issues of Hellblazer between 2002 and 2006 and a 2005 Hellblazer original graphic novel, All His Engines. He also wrote a non-Sandman miniseries, My Faith in Frankie (2004), the comicbook adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere (2005–6) and the OGN God Save the Queen (2007). In 2007 he launched the ongoing series Crossing Midnight (2007–8) and the miniseries Faker (2007–8).
Brian K. Vaughan's first Vertigo work was a short story in 2000's Winter's Edge #3 anthology, which led to him relaunching Swamp Thing (vol. 3) (2000–01), which lasted for 20 issues. In September 2002, his (and Pia Guerra's) Y: The Last Man launched. It would ultimately run for 60 issues until March 2008. Vaughan also wrote the 2006 OGN Pride of Baghdad for Vertigo.
Ed Brubaker's first Vertigo work was on the "Vertigo Visions" Prez one-shot (1995), and intermittent contributions to a couple of anthology titles preceded his Scene of the Crime (1999), effectively laying the groundwork for his later crime comics. His next Vertigo project, the post-apocalyptic series Deadenders (2000–01), ran for 16 issues while Brubaker wrote for both Batman and Detective Comics for parent-company DC. His 2001 miniseries Sandman Presents: The Dead Boy Detectives told the story of some incidental Sandman characters, and was later retold by Jill Thompson in manga form (2005). Brubaker subsequently took his Vertigo/crime sensibility to work from WildStorm, Icon and the mainstream DC and Marvel universes.
Bill Willingham came to Vertigo after a plethora of small press work in 1999 to launch his poker miniseries Proposition Player (1999–2000), and contribute to the Sandman universe with a one-shot spy-spoof, Sandman Presents: Merv Pumpkinhead, Agent of D.R.E.A.M. (2000), and a single issue contribution to The Dreaming on-going series. A second Sandman one-shot, The Sandman Presents: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Dreams... (2001), also led to a 4-issue miniseries, Sandman Presents: The Thessaliad (2002). Willingham's best-known work soon followed, with the July 2001 debut of Fables (with artist Lan Medina). In 2004, he returned to the world of the Sandman with Sandman Presents: Thessaly: Witch for Hire, and 2006 saw the debut of the Vertigo-esque magical—but mainstream DCU title—Shadowpact and Fables companion series Jack of Fables. In July 2008, with Fables nearing a major turning point in its run, Willingham relaunched House of Mystery as a Vertigo title with Lilah Sturges (then known as Matthew Sturges).
Other notable people who have written for Vertigo include Kyle Baker, Warren Ellis, David Lapham, Mark Millar, Brian Azzarello, Paul Pope, James Robinson, and Brian Wood.
Several artists have also produced a large amount of notable work for Vertigo, several (Steve Dillon, Pia Guerra, Eduardo Risso and Darick Robertson) mainly producing lengthy runs on individual creator-owned titles (in Guerra's case, Y: The Last Man makes up around 80% of her output to date), but others on a number of titles. Vertigo's main Universe titles, The Sandman, Hellblazer and Swamp Thing, have been particularly artistically diverse, and home to many talents, while the large number of creator-owned miniseries has seen large numbers of individuals producing work for Vertigo.
Peter Gross worked on a pre-Vertigo issue of Swamp Thing and an early Vertigo issue of Shade the Changing Man (#36, June 1993) before penciling & inking a story featuring Timothy Hunter in the "Children's Crusade" crossover Arcana Annual (Jan. 1994). This led to a regular inking role on the newly launched Books of Magic series, taking over as regular penciler and inker with #6; he would stay with the title for most of its run, writing as well as drawing its final 25 issues (1998–2000). Gross also inked Reiber's Mythos one-shot, and provided full artwork on the first Books of Faerie miniseries (1997) and pencils on the following year's The Books of Faerie: Auberon's Tale (1998). After Books of Magic, Gross moved to Lucifer (beginning with #5, Oct. 2000) and penciled 56 of the remaining issues, as well as inking a handful. He also co-penciled 2005's Constantine: The Official Movie Adaptation and several issues of Douglas Rushkoff's Testament from 2006 to 2007.
Dean Ormston has similarly produced a disproportionate amount of his artwork for Vertigo titles, including the lion's share of the alternate reality Books of Magick: Life During Wartime series (2004–5). His first Vertigo work was as one of several pencilers in the pages of Sandman #62 (Aug 1994), and in 1995 he penciled and inked Peter Milligan's The Eaters one-shot. His artwork appears in most (14) of the non-Peter Gross issues of Mike Carey's Lucifer, and he also handled art duties for Caitlin R. Kiernan's 4-issue The Girl who would be Death (1998–9). In addition, he has worked on a number of single (and jam) issues of other Vertigo titles, including The Crusades, House of Mystery, The Invisibles, Mythos, Sandman Mystery Theatre, Swamp Thing and Testament between 1994 and 2007.
Duncan Fegredo's first major American work was on the 1991 Kid Eternity miniseries with Grant Morrison. A 1992 cover for Doom Patrol similarly fell in Vertigo territory pre-Vertigo, while Fegredo's first "true" Vertigo work was also on the joint-first new series released by the imprint: Peter Milligan's Enigma. Immediately after the end of the eight-issue series, Fegredo took over as cover artist on Milligan's long-running Shade, the Changing Man (issues #42–50), collaborated with Milligan on 1995's one-shot Face (Jan) and then returned to cover duties on Shade, producing all but one of the remaining pieces of art. He produced pencils and inks for the miniseries Millennium Fever (1995) and (with Milligan) for Girl (1996). Between 1997 and 2002, he contributed artwork on fill-in issues (or to jam issues) of Crusades, The Dreaming, Flinch, House of Secrets, The Sandman Presents: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Dreams..., Totems, Weird War Tales and Weird Western Tales. In addition, his cover work graced the 1999 miniseries Sandman Presents: Love Street, six issues of The Books of Magick: Life During Wartime and the first fifteen issues of Mike Carey's Lucifer.
Jill Thompson, although primarily known as an artist, has also produced scripts for Vertigo, producing as writer-artist three Sandman tie-ins: The Little Endless Storybook (2001) and two manga retellings of storylines: Death: At Death's Door (2003) and The Dead Boy Detectives (2005). Between 1993 and 1994, she penciled the first six issues of the ongoing Black Orchid series and the 4-issue miniseries Finals (1999). She has contributed ten issues each to the high-profile Vertigo series Sandman (penciling the complete "Brief Lives" storyline, part 7 of which was the first Vertigo issue) and The Invisibles, and penciled four of the last five issues of Seekers into the Mystery. She has produced fill-in issues of Books of Magic, The Dreaming and Swamp Thing and contributed artwork to the anthology comics Fables #59 (in addition to a story in the hardcover OGN 1001 Nights of Snowfall) and Transmetropolitan: Filth of the City.
Jon J Muth, a painter, has produced several lavish volumes for Vertigo, including writing, penciling, inking and coloring the 1998 one-shot Swamp Thing: Roots. Primarily, his Vertigo output has been in collaboration with JM DeMatteis, an issue of Blood: A Tale, the maxiseries Moonshadow (and its coda, Farewell, Moonshadow (1997)) and three issues of Seekers into the Mystery. Muth painted Grant Morrison's The Mystery Play (1994) and the 2002 Lucifer: Nirvana special for Mike Carey. His work also effectively ended Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, Muth painting issue #74, the final issue of The Wake storyline, and second-to-last main issue.
The artwork of Charles Vess has infrequently but notably accompanied the words of Neil Gaiman on Vertigo projects, including the 4-issue Stardust (1997–8) miniseries, later reprinted as an illustrated hardcover book. Vess' work can also be seen in the two Shakespeare adaptations in the pages of The Sandman, the first of which (pre-Vertigo) won the comic and duo the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story, and the last of which was also the final (75th) issue of the series. Vess also contributed a story to the Fables OGN 1001 Nights of Snowfall, illustrated a Books of Magic cover and produced an issue of The Dreaming (2000).
Sean Phillips earliest American comics work was in the pages of pre-Vertigo Hellblazer, and in May 1993 he became one of the early Vertigo artists by illustrating (with assists from Paul Peart and Sean Harrison Scoffield) the entire 16-issue run of Kid Eternity (1993–4). He drew the covers for twenty-three of the twenty-five issues of the first The Invisibles series and also returned to Hellblazer (switching from artwork and covers to just covers after around 20 issues) between 1995 and 1998. He drew three issues of Shade, the Changing Man (1994), the one-shot Hell Eternal (1995) and the miniseries The Minx as well as inking most of Michael Lark's work on Scene of the Crime. He penciled four issues of the final Invisibles series between 1999 and 2000, produced covers for the Hellblazer Special: Bad Blood miniseries, and shared art chores with John Bolton on the 2001 miniseries User.
John Bolton, another frequent Gaiman collaborator has rarely worked with that author directly for Vertigo, but has utilised his characters, including in the OGN Sandman Presents: The Furies and the Books of Magic lead-in Arcana Annual. He also contributed to the Sandman Mystery Theatre annual, and the Fables OGN 1001 Nights of Snowfall. With Sean Phillips, he produced the artwork for Devin Grayson's 2001 miniseries User, and individually fully illustrated the OGN's Menz Insana (1997) and God Save the Queen (2007).
Other artists include Chris Bachalo, Mark Buckingham, Guy Davis, Phil Jimenez, Jock, Warren Pleece and Liam Sharp.
Inarguably the name most associated with Vertigo's cover output is the artist who provided all of the covers to the Vertigo's highest profile series (The Sandman series (1989–96)): Dave McKean. The first 46 of these covers were created for the DC imprint, but McKean's work also includes a number of Sandman-spin-off issues, miniseries and galleries. These include the two Death miniseries and all 60 issues of The Dreaming (1996–2001). He provided the first 24 DC published covers to Hellblazer, and all 22 covers to the 1993-5 Black Orchid Vertigo series (which spun off from his (and Gaiman's) 1988 DC miniseries). He produced the first cover for Sandman Mystery Theatre and his work was featured in a 1997 artbook incorporating his Sandman covers, "Dust Covers: The Collected Sandman Covers, 1989–1997."
In addition, McKean's artwork also graced the inside pages of the public service comic Death Talks about Life (1994), an issue of The Dreaming (#8), two issues of the DC-published Hellblazer (#27 with Gaiman and #40 with Delano) and his and Neil Gaiman's OGN Mr Punch (1994). The duo's Black Orchid was similarly produced for DC, but was retroactively deemed a Vertigo title.
Brian Bolland and Glenn Fabry have also produced a large number of iconic covers for the Vertigo line, Fabry probably being best known for his work on one title: Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's Preacher (and the spin-off miniseries). Bolland, one of the very earliest British creators whose work was brought to America, drew the first 63 covers for Animal Man, mostly for DC, but also the first six Vertigo issues before handing over to a succession of other artists. Bolland also drew the cover for Vertigo's first Doom Patrol issue and for the entire second and third volumes of Morrison's Invisibles (1997–2000) (and in addition provided artwork for the TPB collections of Morrison's Doom Patrol run, and all volumes of The Invisibles). Bolland provided covers for three issues of Mark Millar's Swamp Thing run (1995), and miniseries including Vamps (1994–5), both Vertigo Tank Girl (1995–1996) miniseries and Blood + Water (2003) as well as the one-shot Zatanna: Everyday Magic (2003). Bolland also wrote and illustrated stories for the anthology titles Heartthrobs and Strange Adventures (1999) and OGN 1001 Nights of Snowfall, as well as providing a cover each for the Gangland and Winter's Edge anthologies. With issue #12, Bolland took over cover duties (from Fables cover artist James Jean) on Fables spin-off Jack of Fables, which he continues to produce as of June 2008[update].
Fabry, in addition to his Preacher covers, provided covers for Ennis' miniseries Adventures in the Rifle Brigade: Operation Bollock (2001–2002) and most of that authors first run on Hellblazer (1992–1994)—which included the first Vertigo issue—as well as his return to the title in 1998–9. In addition, Fabry has also penciled a couple of short Hellblazer stories for various specials, and drew the covers for the Hellblazer: The Trenchcoat Brigade miniseries. He contributed to the multi-artist Transmetropolitan special "I Hate It Here" and provided three covers each to the ongoing Transmetropolitan (2002) and Swamp Thing (Vol. 3) (2001); covered the complete Scarab (1993–4) miniseries, all 19 issues of Outlaw Nation and one issue each of the anthology titles Gangland, Heartthrobs and Weird War Tales. Between 2005 and 2006, Fabry fully illustrated Mike Carey's adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, having previously collaborated with the man himself on a story in the 2003 OGN Sandman: Endless Nights. At the start of 2008, he provided a cover for an issue of Exterminators, before taking over from Lee Bermejo as on-going cover artist on, again, Hellblazer.
Other notable cover artists include Dan Brereton, Tim Bradstreet, Duncan Fegredo, James Jean, Dave Johnson and J. G. Jones.
Main article: List of Vertigo publications