April 2008. Vertigo Version 3.0 is, in my opinion, a failure.
July 2002. I run the comic shop.
Neil Gaiman long ago ended Vertigo's Version One era (Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol & Animal Man) with the gold standard of Sandman. Six years on, Vertigo offered us Vertigo "ghosts" such as Merv Pumpkinhead, Agent of Dream.
Also, Mike Carey's acclaimed Lucifer run is nearing its end.
July 2002. The Books of Magic, Preacher and The Invisibles have come to their respective ends. Their writers, John Ney Reiber, Garth Ennis & Grant Morrison have moved on to Marvel.
July 2002, Vertigo hasn't had a true "hit" since the 1999 launch of 100 Bullets. (And
Transmetropolitan doesn't count. It was a transplant from DC's failed Helix imprint.)
July 2002. Vertigo offers me Y: The Last Man by writer Brian K. Vaughan, fresh from closing out a failed Swamp Thing re-launch.
May 2002, I look out upon the comics and see the corpses of the failed and failing.
American Century. Outlaw Nation. Codename: Knockout. Flinch. Crusades.At this point, Fables had yet to arrive.
May 2002, I order 12 copies of Y #1.
Smartest decision I ever made comics-wise.
I'd followed Brian K. Vaughan's work. I loved his two-issue stint on Wonder Woman. I still believe, that while still a bit "green," his work on Swamp Thing was pretty good. I loved his "fill-in" work on Batman. Do you know who he was filling in for?
Ed Brubaker, writer of the soon-to-be-canceled Vertigo series, Deadenders.
I bought the first issue of Y for no other reason than the nifty JG Jones cover.
And then, I read the comic. And, then I told people about the comic. And, then I recommended the comic so then, I had to re-order the comic. Others did the same and the next thing you know, with Fables, 100 Bullets & Y: The Last Man drawing rave reviews and more than respectable trade sales, Vertigo was on the map again.
Let's look at those three series I just mentioned. Fables. 100 Bullets. Y: The Last Man.
What does one have that the others don't? No end in sight.
Fables is ongoing. 100 Bullets and Y are finite series.
After a five-year, sixty issue run, Y is finished and with 100 Bullets reaching issue 90, it is rounding the corner to its planned ending with its 100th issue.
Of the V2 group, The Losers, with its slick art and gritty dialogue, looked to be the clear choice to pick up the 100 Bullets mantle but alas, it seemed no one bothered to ask the writer whether or not it was an ongoing series. Its story came to a close long before Bullets' did.
April 2008. And much like July 2002, Vertigo is, again, left without "definitive" Vertigo.
Vertigo Version 3.0 has been less than stellar. Vertigo, knowing that their "definitives" were coming to their respective ends, let loose with a sea of new titles. Titles that, thematically, bore some striking resemblance to its some Vertigo 2.0 brethren.
American Virgin, let's face it, was Y: That Other Man.
Army @ Love is satire and is the province of the beast or MAD Magazine.
Testament, while interesting, had too much going on.
Brian Wood's DMZ & Northlanders are good but don't pack the wallop of his earlier works such as Channel Zero.
Loveless written by Bullets' Brian Azzarello looked to have the most promise but due to delays and slow pacing lost its momentum.
Deadman had two knocks against it out of the box. One: It didn't feature DC Comics' unliving trapeze artist Deadman, Boston Brand. It featured some guy who was a... dead... man.
Two: it was written by a man known for not knowing what story he wants to tell.
The clever Exterminators, Crossing Midnight and Un-Men are all soon to be canceled.
Vinyl Underground has that early old Vertigo "Brit" feel to it but, if possible, feels almost "too Vertigo."
Of the V3 lot, there is one contender for "definitive" Vertigo status and it comes in the form of the wonderfully written and well-paced series Scalped by current Wolverine writer and Marvel exclusive Jason Aaron.
Marvel. Exclusive. Jason Aaron.
Damn, DC/Vertigo, why'd you let this one get away.
I've had this feeling before. It feels like deja vu and much like in June 2002, it sees Vertigo at a crossroads and an emerging talent gone to the other side.
What DC work have we seen from this man? In July, we get a one-off Penguin story.
It resembles when Brian K. Vaughan wasn't offered Batman full-time and instead went to Marvel and created Runaways?
It feels like when Brubaker went Marvel and became a breakout star.
Vertigo develops writers and has inadvertently become a farm team for Marvel, where they go off and sell comics in the tens of thousands.
That old feeling? Oh yeah, I know what it is.
Part Two of "The Ones That Got Away" and how DC Comics and Geoff Johns plays into all of this next week...