Posts Tagged ‘Alan Moore’

Karen Berger Leaves Vertigo OR Karen Berger Is Why Comics Are Good

December 4, 2012

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Karen Berger, the executive editor, senior vice president, and basically the creator of DC Comics’ Vertigo line is stepping down from her post.  Yesterday, a press release announced that Berger will leave in March 2013 and be replaced by a “new leadership team” likely comprised of current Vertigo editors.  This is a sad day for comics, because Karen Berger is why comics are good today.

Do you remember the 1970s?  I don’t, seeing as I wasn’t alive, but by all accounts it was a mess.  There were some good stories here and there, but the superhero industry faced a massive financial crisis and adjusted to the direct market, and basically just churned out product.  It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great, and for a while the 1980s weren’t much better.  No one was breaking new ground or pushing the boundaries like DC did in the 1940s or Marvel did in the 1960s.  Things were sort of stagnant.

But then things got better.  People had bigger ideas, told new and crazy stories that elevated the medium, and this led to old creators upping their game and legions of new, inspired creators eager to take things even further.  This was largely due to Karen Berger.

These are just a few of the books she was involved with:

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There are SO many more.  These ones are just my favourites.  These pictures could go on for pages and pages.

The top row was the beginning of this new era.  Berger worked with Alan Moore on Swamp Thing and V For Vendetta, and with Neil Gaiman on Sandman.  Some of the stories were superhero-esque, but had their own distinct flavour.  They were more nuanced, dark, and adult, and brought in a new audience.  The books were so good and so successful that DC launched a new imprint, Vertigo, just to tell these kind of stories.  Other notable creators were part of this initial wave, like Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis, Peter Milligan, and many others.

When the rest of the Big Two’s output was overly muscled superheroes with gargantuan weaponry and poorly drawn feet, Berger’s Vertigo offered something completely different.  And its impressive output never slowed down.  As the initial creators moved on, along came Mike Carey and Brian Azzarello and Bill Willingham with their own fascinating series like Lucifer, 100 Bullets, and Fables.  There was also a new generation of creators who grew up on Vertigo, which led to series by younger creators like Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man), Jason Aaron (Scalped), Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth), and Scott Snyder (American Vampire).  Vaughan is like unto a comic god now, Aaron is one of the big writers at Marvel, and Lemire and Snyder are currently two of the biggest players at DC.

Because of Vertigo, the comics industry as a whole is better.  Vertigo has been the model for how good comics are made, and most publishers are reaching for the standard Berger set.  Image, which began as a rebellious group of artists in the overly muscled, gargantuanly gunned vein, is now best known for their darker, mature, and experimental comics.  They’ve basically become Vertigo 2.0.  And the influence of Vertigo on DC and Marvel’s superhero books is obvious, as the past decade or so has seen a turn to more nuanced, character driven storytelling.

Karen Berger not only edited and then shepherded some of the greatest comic book series of all time, her work also inspired countless creators and changed the entire industry as a whole.  Her impact was far more than just the books she worked on.  The quality of Berger’s books made everyone else have to be better, and now we’re enjoying a much more varied and creative comic book market than we’ve ever seen before.

But now Berger is leaving Vertigo, and who knows what will happen with that.  DC has been siphoning off some of their best characters, the brass at DC Entertainment are keen on contracts for Vertigo that most would hardly call “creator owned” so many creators have left for greener pastures, and the general vibe at DC since the relaunch has been “consolidate, consolidate, consolidate.”  Vertigo may not last long in its current form, and the departure of Berger could hasten its new role.

One thing’s for sure, though: Karen Berger is going to be fine.  Whatever she does next, and I hope it’s more comics, it’s going to be fantastic.  She’s been attracting top talent and making amazing, award winning comic books since before I was born, so whatever she does is bound to be a massive success, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for her.  It sounds like DC has been a stifling place for the past few years, and an unfettered Karen Berger could be a very good time.

Come back tomorrow, when we’ll look at Karen Berger and her legacy with Wonder Woman!!

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Before Watchmen Is Coming OR This Is Just Dumb

February 1, 2012

So they’re doing some Watchmen prequels.  Seven of them in fact, starting in Summer 2012.  Now, we all knew this was coming… this was the worst kept secret in comics.  We even knew a bunch of the creative teams.  But now it’s officially here and we can talk about it like it a real thing.

First off, and this is a completely random and not at all deep point, you do a prequel to the most famous graphic novel of ALL time and the best name you can come up with is Before Watchmen?  That’s just super boring.  You should have done some more brainstorming on that one, DC.

Second, I don’t like this.  I mean, I’m not going to cry to the heavens for Glycon to come and rain vengeance upon the folks at DC.  I’m not angry about it.  It just seems entirely uncalled for, and I’m sort disappointed in DC and, if I’m being totally honest, in the creators too.

These aren’t stories that need to be told.  The Watchmen prequels were IN Watchmen.  I’ve read the book a million times… I know what happened to everyone before the main story because it’s in there.  I really don’t need to know anything more about Rorshach or Nite Owl or anyone else.  I’ve got a rather well-rounded sense of them as characters.  I don’t know how much of the new series are going to be rehashes that expand on things already shown in the original, but I know the important bits of each character’s story.  I don’t need four issues of Dr. Osterman doing fun physics work or whatever they’re going to do.  The relevant bits of all of their stories have been told.  The idea of Watchmen prequels is just dumb.

I understand why Alan Moore is irked about it, though I’m not against the prequels on his behalf.  Alan Moore is amazing and pretty much the best comic book writer of all time so maybe we shouldn’t be doing shitty things with his awesome books all the damn time, but he doesn’t own Watchmen nor did he originate the characters.  They’re Charlton characters that he repurposed… none of them are his original creation.  Plus Moore’s done stories with tons of other creators’ characters, and these creators have gotten screwed over way worse than he has.  I mean, Moore’s written Superman… Siegel and Shuster had it FAR worse than Moore ever did.  Other people getting to play with the cool stuff you build is what happens when you do work for hire at a major publisher.

But what most bothers me about Before Watchmen is that it’s so obviously a money grab.  Yeah, I know all us nerds are freaking out on Twitter and forums and such, but they’re going to sell like hotcakes.  I think it’s a completely ridiculous idea, but I’ll probably still check out a couple of them.  The sales are going to be HUGE.  And then huger still when they’re released as collections.  Which on the one hand is smart… companies need to make money.  But on the other hand, is it the right kind of money?

Here’s what I mean: Lots of cities and states have been facing some harsh budget shortfalls lately during the recession, so they’ve started selling stuff.  Parks, building, parking meters… they’re cleaning everything out to balance the budget for THIS year.  In a lot of cases, they’re trading long term guaranteed income for a short term windfall (like with parking meters).  The result is that the budget will work out this year, but then next year you’ve got the same problems and nothing left to sell.

I feel like DC is doing the same thing.  They’re going after a short term money grab instead of a long term investment.  Before Watchmen is a limited bunch of series.  They’ll sell well as single issues and as trades, but it’ll peter off pretty quick after that.  There are a lot of good creators on the books, to be sure, but let’s face it: There’s not going to be a second Watchmen here.  The prequels won’t have anywhere near the longevity of the original.  But DC will make a lot of money right now. 

Here’s the thing: SO much effort is going to go into these prequels… these are big name creators, and you know DC is going to advertise like mad.  It’ll be a pricey big push on their end to put the books out there, which they’ll easily recoup.  But then what?  They make some money this year and that’s the end of it.

So what if they got big name creators to come up with new ideas that target new readers, and put some solid money behind that instead?  That could pay off for ages, with new characters and series and a broader audience.  Don’t put Brian Azzarello on some Rorshach prequel… put the advertising money behind the next 100 Bullets.  Don’t have Darwyn Cooke write a Silk Spectre book… invest in a cool and interesting take on a side character that gets you the new Catwoman.  Do new things and grow the brand instead of putting so much effort into a limited cash windfall.

I know that sounds very pie in the sky, but remember this: Watchmen wasn’t created to be the most famous graphic novel of all time.  It was just some maxi-series they did in the 80s, with no real expectations.  It came out of an environment where talented creators were given room to try out new things, with the support of their publisher.  And now, because of that, a) DC’s been making money for AGES off of it, b) comics have become a respected medium, and c) the bar was set higher for everyone, resulting in better comics.  Everybody wins!!

DC hasn’t been thinking long term lately.  Their recent relaunch was a lot like these prequels, a momentary burst aimed at the people who buy their stuff already, and the relaunch is already losing steam only five months in.  There are other examples too (PUT YOUR SHOWS ON NETFLIX, DC!!  GET THE KIDS HOOKED NOW!!) but I’ve blathered on long enough.  My point is that short term money grabs are not a sustainable way to run things.  It’s exciting to have something new and crazy every few months, with a flurry of discussion and anticipation and all of that, but slow and steady wins the race.  Before Watchmen is unnecessary as a story, and their money and support could be much better used elsewhere.

Finally, these books are going to be SUPER late, right?  Lee Bermejo, Jae Lee, Adam Hughes, J.G. Jones, and Amanda Conner are all fantastic artists, but they aren’t known for their speed.  The final issues of some of these minis might be coming out in 2014.


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