Comics has lost one of its most influential tastemakers with the news that executive editor Karen Berger will be stepping down from Vertigo Comics, the DC Comics imprint she founded and ran since its inception in 1993. In her nearly 20 years running Vertigo, Berger helped birth numerous legendary comics, like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, which often reached beyond the usual superhero audience of DC Comics and left a lasting mark on pop culture.
And now that Vertigo characters like Sandman, John Constantine, Animal Man and writers like Scott Snyder (American Vampire) have been absorbed into the regular DC Comics superhero universe, thanks to its sprawling but uneven New 52 reboots, who knows long it may be before Vertigo itself follows Berger into the storied comics’ sunset?
One could argue that its credibility just did.
Comics’ greatest working writer today, Grant Morrison was already a budding star thanks to astounding runs on DC’s Animal Man and especially Doom Patrol. But from old-school stunners like The Invisibles (above) to newer mind-wipers like We3, Seaguy and Joe the Barbarian, Morrison blossomed into a legend while working with Berger at Vertigo. “Karen Berger gave me my first DC Comics job on Wonder Woman,” The Invisibles artist and comics’ favorite Scary Godmother Jill Thompson tweeted. “I’m happy to say I penciled the first Vertigo issue of Sandman.”
V For Vendetta
With the coordination of Berger and Len Wein, Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing helped put American’s British comics invasion on the map. But that revolutionary run still pales in influence compared to Moore and artist David Lloyd’s foundational, prescient series V For Vendetta, which ran unfinished from 1982-1985 in the UK anthology Warrior. Berger and editor Scott Nybakken picked it up stateside from Moore and Lloyd, who finished off a more colorful but still destabilizing series that is now appearing, pretty much everywhere in the world, in a instantly recognizable Guy Fawkes mask.
DC Comics was well underway with its British invasion — led by Moore, Morrison and more — by the time Berger launched Vertigo on the axis of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s epochal The Sandman. Currently being rebooted for Vertigo by Gaiman and artist J.H. Williams III, The Sandman brought instant credibility to DC Comics’ mature new imprint. “I’ve worked with a legend for 25 years,” said Gaiman on Twitter. “She’s the best, & I’ll miss her gentleness & sanity at Vertigo.”