Posts Tagged ‘Karen Berger’

Karen Berger’s Wonder Woman Legacy

December 5, 2012

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By the late 1980s, it had been a LONG time since Wonder Woman comics were relevant or any kind of bestseller.  She was very popular in the 1940s and drifted down from there.  With the mod revamp in the late 1960s and then the return to her Amazon roots and the TV show in the 1970s, Wonder Woman got some attention, but it didn’t really translate into comic sales or much acclaim for the series.  After Wonder Woman died in Crisis on Infinite Earths, the character needed something new and invigorating.

Enter George Perez and Karen Berger.  Perez gets pretty much all of the credit for the new Wonder Woman series that premiered in 1987, and he certainly deserves it, but you may not know that Karen Berger was the editor on the book for Perez’s entire run.  Berger is better known for her work on Sandman and the eventual creation of Vertigo, but she played a key role in making Wonder Woman relevant again.

The new Wonder Woman brought the character into the modern world, keeping key aspects of her Golden Age origin while updating and re-inventing other components.  The Amazons were more fleshed out, the gods became regular characters, Wonder Woman set up a new network of friends in Boston, and mythology became the core of the series’ stories.  It also dealt with real world issues, though, like feminism, racism, drug use, and teen suicide.  The book was extremely well-received, and for the first time in decades Wonder Woman made an impressive showing on the sales charts.  Perez’s writing and art really sold the book, but Berger’s editorial influence and insights shouldn’t be overlooked.

Another of Berger’s big contributions to Wonder Woman was the impressive number of female creators the series had while she was in charge.  Mindy Newell co-wrote over 10 issues in the middle of the Perez run, while Colleen Doran and Cynthia Martin each drew a couple.  Jill Thompson was Wonder Woman’s regular artist for the last two years of Perez’s tenure, before she jumped over to Sandman.  Tatjana Wood coloured the first few issues while Nansi Hoolahan coloured the last few, with Petra Scotese and Juliana Ferriter getting a colouring gig here and there in between.  For the last 27 issues of the 62 issue run, there wasn’t a single issue of Wonder Woman that didn’t have a female creator in some capacity.

Perez and Berger both left the book after Wonder Woman #62, and it had a bit of a rough go until Phil Jimenez came along and righted the ship.  Score another one for Karen Berger there.  When Berger’s departure from Vertigo was announced, Jimenez tweeted that she was one of the 2 or 3 people to whom he owes his career.  Berger may not have been involved with Wonder Woman anymore, but she was certainly involved in bringing along Phil Jimenez in the comic world.

Perez and Berger’s time on the book set a new standard for Wonder Woman, one that has inspired the creators that have followed.  They changed the game and made Wonder Woman relevant again, and the influence of their stories can be seen in the much lauded Greg Rucka and Gail Simone runs that came years down the road.

Of course, the DC universe has been relaunched now, and the new Wonder Woman is a far cry from the Perez era.  But guess what?  Karen Berger is still behind it all, however indirectly.  Writer Brian Azzarello established himself as a top creator at Vertigo with his run on Hellblazer and his own 100 Bullets, while artist Cliff Chiang was an editor at Vertigo before turning to art.  Vertigo also published some of his earliest work.  And when Cliff Chiang needs a break, who does DC turn to?  Tony Akins, best known for his work on Vertigo’s Jack of Fables.  Karen Berger’s influence knows no bounds!!

It’s an understatement to say that Wonder Woman wouldn’t be what she is today without Karen Berger.  Her influence on the early years of the new series, along with the many creators she’s shepherded through Vertigo, have made a lasting impression on the character.  It’s said that she’s leaving DC and Vertigo, but it’ll be exciting to see what fantastic things she does next!!

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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!!

Women In Comics Statistics: Previews And Predictions For DC’s Second Wave

May 3, 2012

Now that DC’s Second Wave has launched this week with Dial H, Earth Two, GI Combat, and World’s Finest, I got to wondering how that might affect their women in comics stats for May.  Luckily for me, I’m the guy that tabulates them, so I dug into my numbers.  I haven’t got the new books yet, and there are two more yet to come, but I do have a lot of data for the old books.

By looking at the six books that got cancelled (Blackhawks, Hawk and Dove, Men of War, Mister Terrific, OMAC, and Static Shock), we can see what effect their departure will have.  Tallying up their stats for the last four months, they have some interesting totals:

  • The books had 196 credited creators over 4 months, 184 men and 12 women.
  • The overall percentage of female creators for the 6 cancelled titled was only 6.1%.
  • The 6 books combined for 3 female creators a month, 1 editor and 2 assistant editors.

With DC’s average percentage of female creators fairly steady at 11% each month, the cancelled titles’ 6.1% is a real bring down for the overall total.  We don’t know how the new titles break down yet, creatorwise, but the loss of the cancelled titles is only going to help things.

Though not by a lot… it’s only 6 books.  For example, if we take those six titles out of March’s numbers (which are coming soon!), then DC’s overall percentage of female creators jumps from 11% to a whopping 11.3%.  It’s not super exciting, but it’s certainly better than nothing.  If the books are at least in the average range, then things should be up a tick at DC.

The 6 cancelled series were also putting up goose eggs on the creative side of the charts, so a) DC’s not losing anything with their cancellation, and b) there’s only room to grow.  Nicola Scott’s drawing Earth Two, so the new books are already one up on the creative side of things.  And Karen Berger’s editing Dial H I think, so there’s another lady.  Plus, based on information from previews for two issues (only two books had full credits in their previews), Rosemary Cheetham is colouring World’s Finest and Kate Stewart is the assistant editor on GI Combat.  With only partial information, we’ve already topped the 6 cancelled titles’ combined 3 female creators!!  And there could be even more once we have full credits for everything.

Overall, DC’s Second Wave should be nothing but a plus in terms of women in comics!!  The 6 cancelled titles were a combined drag on the numbers, so it looks like things will be going up.  The May numbers won’t be up for a while, but I’m optimistic.

FINAL FUN FACT: In case you were wondering why 4 of the 6 new series debuted all at once this week, it’s because DC’s trying very hard to have their titles come out on the same week every month.  Hawk and Dove, Men of War, OMAC, and Static Shock all came out at the first of the month, so that’s four holes for DC to fill with four of their new titles.  Now that I think about it, “Fun Fact” might not be the best title for this tidbit… I might be the only one that finds this sort of fact to be fun.


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