For those who continue to stick with Vertigo, you have noticed that the last few years have been a decline. The number of titles continues to drop, as well as simply popular or breakthrough ones. Scott Snyder’s The Wake and Jeff Lemire’s Trillium both did well, and American Vampire continues to be successful. Sandman: Overture may be the biggest crossover they have had in years, reaching numbers that Vertigo rarely does, but this is still relatively incidental because of the strength of that brand and the creators attached. Coffin Hill, Federal Bureau of Physics, Dead Boy Detective, Hinterkind, and the rest all are having consistently low numbers. Fables and Fairest are in their last leg, with Fables wrapping up in just a couple months. Many of the new titles that we would be used to seeing on Vertigo have moved over to Image, or even Oni and Dark Horse in may cases. Wytches, Sex Criminals, Outcast, God is Dead, Revival, Lazarus, and so many others were titles that we could have been expected to be ported over to Vertigo, but they remain stuck to creator-focused brands elsewhere.
The question is, what is Vertigo planning in 2015 to revitalize the brand? It seems as though they are always going to prioritize it over at DC because of the strength of long-term trade sales, and even though Original Graphic Novels don’t sell numbers anywhere close, they still have a huge backstock and are attractive for those type of titles.
The new Vertigo rumors have been circling for the last couple months, after publisher Jim Lee spoke of Vertigo’s future in 2015 at last year’s New York Comic Con. About this he said:
“If you look at what we’re going to do in 2015 (which I’m not at liberty to discuss at this moment), possibly first quarter next year, you’ll see that we’re going through a major effort to rebrand the imprint. That’s going to come about through the projects themselves. We’re working on a hit list of the top creators in the business and we have some exciting news to unveil in the early part of 2015.”
They have also created what many are calling a controversial royalty program that recalculates how creators are getting paid for their work.
“The reason we made the change is to be competitive with the other publishers in the sense that we’re working from a system that allows us more flexibility in regards to pricing and strategies. We’re going to be moving into different markets and also different formats.”
Vertigo has always been a pioneer in moving beyond the convention direct market, with a large number of their sales coming from actual book stores that are selling trades, OGNs, and other collected editions. It may then be a good move to focus in on digital comics as well.
Jim Lee acknowledged that Vertigo can’t just “rest on its laurels” because it just doesn’t have the consistent characters that people follow like that have in the regular DCU. People will remember that all regular characters that had been a part of the Vertigo universe, which at this point was mainly John Constantine, were taken out and returned to the DCU along with Shade, Animal Man, and Deadman. Vertigo was then only going to be creator owned work, though its creation in the early 90s was based on its “adult” treatment of owned characters.
While the Vertigo rumors have been running plenty, we really do not have much concrete about what is coming up. The Fables: A Wolf Among Us miniseries is just about to begin, as is Effigy and Suiciders, but none of them are signifying a major change. It could be that Vertigo will move towards just having miniseries, or that it is going to open up a whole new line that we didn’t see coming. It seems telling right now that creators are taking their projects elsewhere, so how is Vertigo going to attract them back and revitalize the brand? During their previous rebranding they allowed Teen titles such as Astro City and Dead Boy Detectives, and I wonder if what we have coming is simply going to be a strange mix of creator-owned and alternative titles. Perhaps they will return Vertigo to a more “universe” format of licensed characters, but it is hard to tell at this point.
Lee is openly stating that the entire success of Vertigo is based on whether or not they can attract creators and top projects, so hopefully this is the first step in their ability to attract back those who have moved to other publishers. The new royalty program may be enough to do this. Without this, it will be hard to sell Vertigo as a top brand for comics future. He really is offering promise here, especially as he mentions collaboration with Geoff Johns:
“We work very closely with Geoff Johns and his group to maximize the impact of these projects, not just through publishing, but beyond through the Warner Bros. family. That’s been a part of our strategy. Stay tuned to 2015; there’s a lot of amazing things in the works.”