Vertigo 2009: Cancellations and Launches

September 29, 2009

Unwritten

Vertigo consistently makes the smartest, deepest and most diverse comics for adult readers in the mainstream market. Whereas some publishers used the “adult” rating to merely amp the violence and sex, Vertigo allows the freedom such a rating gives them to explore thematic depths, philosophical concepts and ambiguous character traits that more approachable fair shies away from. Of course, using “Scalped” or “Preacher” as an example, the violence and sex isn’t shied away from either when necessary to the story. Yet it’s never the main goal or method in a typical Vertigo work. The problem presented by Vertigo is evident in last month’s cancellation of “Young Liars.” These are not books that fit a wide variety of tastes and preferences. Being funded by a subsection of a mainstream company, in this case DC comics, means that only so much money will be allocated in support of an artistic venture. With creator owned and distributed works like Jeff Smith’s “RASL” or Terry Moore’s “Echo,” low sells and limited appeal is overcome if the author has the time, money and passion to devote to a work that may take years to catch on. DC can always pick another up-and-comer to give a 2 year shot to with Vertigo, or they can move some money back to their main stable and release a new Superman ongoing title.

So, even though there is a tremendous history of smart, great works in Vertigo that got to start, run and come to their natural culmination in the beforehand planned “final issue” like “Sandman,” “Preacher” or “100 Bullets,“ the still ongoing “Hellblazer,” the going-past-originally planned “Fables,” or a host of other books that look like they’re in good shape to end their tale correctly, there are also a lot of books that get the axe before their time. Most recently this is the case with “Vinyl Underground” and “Young Liars.” Both of these titles launched about 2 years ago– “Underground” lasted 12 issues, “Liars” made it to their 16th last month. “Young Liars” is a frustrating example. It was the full work of writer/artist David Lapham, who never got around to wrapping up his creator owned “Stray Bullets” but who looked fired-up to tell this mind-bending, fully involved head-trip adventure through Vertigo in an on-going that never shipped late, often was set on the day it shipped to stores, and always delivered the goods. Axed before its time, we’re left with a hastily thrown together ending that tells us pretty much nothing…we have no idea where this would have really ended up and what detours it would have taken along the way.

So, that said… There are a few very promising works kick-starting this year, all a few issues into the story now. These three books all started around the same time, so the odds on all of them making it to the usual 70 some-odd books it takes to fully wrap a Vertigo tale aren’t tremendous…but if the numbers are decent, they will make it. So as a fan of these, I’m doing my part to get the word out. Buy the monthly…buy the trade too, and, if you like at which point you can sell the “floppies,” but you must buy the monthly if these series’ are going to last. It’s a gamble you take, sure, but you’re certain to be entertained along the way even if the ending never comes. We’re talking about an 8 or 9 dollar a month commitment; dig for some change and take the plunge.

First off, “The Unwritten.” This is a literary fans dream; if you’re a classics dork, check out the entire premise and especially the great detour this past months issue, Issue #5, takes. The basic story follows Tom Taylor, son of a famous author who has died. Taylor is the basis for his fathers best selling books about “Tommy,” a teenage wizard with animal cohorts and adventures. The series is written by Mike Carey and billed as a “literary conspiracy mystery.“ Last month’s issue  # 5 tells an alternate history of Rudyard Kipling and features his encounters with Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain). There are things that have occurred in the first 5 issues of this book I haven’t seen done since Neil Gaiman ended “The Sandman,” and I don’t mean to imply any overt similarities other than artistic ambition and non-pandering to popular taste.

Next, “The Unknown Solider.” A fully researched and prepared book by a former self-proclaimed pacifist struggling with the concept of war and “just” violence in the pursuit of peace. It’s set in Uganda and is complete with child soldiers, corrupt governments, agencies with misplaced priorities, humanitarian fervor and real, vivid- yet- dark, life.

“Sweet Tooth,” a post-apocalyptic story of a half-human/half-deer teen in the company of a hunter on the way to the promised land. Bizarre and although entrenched in an overly-used archetype of a setting, wholly invigorating and unconventional enough to make that setting new again.

Okay. I’ve pitched them and if you’ve ever been a fan of comics or graphic novels, pick them up. Support them, lets see them through to their natural conclusion.  Don’t forget “Scalped,” either— Vertigo’s best series which seems to be going strong, winning awards and in no danger of cancellation. It’s modern noir at its finest and hopefully one of the above three titles live up to it in time.

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One Response to “Vertigo 2009: Cancellations and Launches”

  1. JimmyBean said

    I don’t know If I said it already but …Great site…keep up the good work. 🙂 I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

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