Fare Thee Well, Karen Berger

Today, the news came that Vertigo impresario Karen Berger is no longer working for DC Comics. A rumor that this was coming has been bouncing around for awhile, and I'll leave it to people like Tom and Rich to talk about Karen's career specifically or to guess at what's coming next for the Vertigo imprint.

I will say, though, that I think this is the kind of thing that is bad for comics, or at least it is for us comics people. Although Image is in the process of stepping up to the plate, so to speak, and despite the fact that various comics from Boom! and Dynamite have managed to pass a very high bar in terms of quality, there's not a company in the market right now that is producing the same high number of very good, non-superhero, books that Vertigo was putting out even a couple of years ago. If that era is winding down because the imprint failed as an intellectual property factory farm, it suggests that the industry has gotten even more not-comics focused than I had feared.

Of course, there are always other avenues for high quality comics, but monthlies like Prophet and Fatale are exceptions rather than rules, and books put out by Drawn and Quarterly or Fantagraphics can be intimidating for the uninitiated. It's important, or at least it was for me, to have something like Vertigo around as new readers begin to take comics seriously; although I'd been reading them on and off for close to a decade, it took a chance encounter with Sandman, or maybe Transmetropolitan, on the shelves of my public library for me to consider that maybe there was more to them than spandex and superpowers. By 2006, those readings had driven me to the comic book store and, luckily for me, those were heady days for the imprint, with books like Fables and 100 Bullets in their primes, with Y the Last Man entering its final act and Scalped just about to start up. Without complex, interesting books like those, I'm not sure I would have stuck around, but, because they kept coming out, I kept going to the library and to the comic book store, and I kept looking around, and, eventually, I found my way to comics that better resemble traditional literature as well as superhero books that suggested that that genre, too, was one that had value, at least in the right hands.

And, so, my debt to Vertigo's steward is a great one. It's her fault that I'm out here, kicking this ball around. Thanks for all that, Karen Berger. I wish you well.

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