I’ve just finished reading Scalped vol. 1, a graphic novel by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera. A prodigal son and sociopath returns to the Lakota reservation of his birth. His life was dark from the beginning, and it is clear he’s become a dangerously troubled man with a long, strange past. Currently, he is blackmailed by his employers, loathed and feared by his tribe’s criminal underworld, and estranged from anyone who might show him compassion or aid.
Just the kind of drama one expects from Vertigo Publishing.
Superhero comics, including DC’s, tend to mix characters, and appeals to a variety of ages. Vertigo was born out of DC’s desire for more gritty, mature storytelling, and stories that exist somewhat independently.
The most notable exception to this independence is John Constantine, star of the long running Hellblazer, who became a major mystical player in both the DC and Vertigo universe. His origin lies in Swamp Thing comics, a DC title, but he’s appeared in everything with a magic bent.
Speaking of magic tales, Vertigo’s long running Sandman by Neil Gaiman built this publisher a solid market niche. The first issue was released in 1989, and over 2 decades later it is still a key series for fantasy fans. Spun off from this 75 issue epic came Mike Carey’s Lucifer, with the unlikely protagonist of…well, the devil. Both are far darker and stranger than most titles under DC.
Vertigo is responsible for Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, a politically charged thriller (did you remember the fifth of November?), Brian K. Vaughn’s thought-provoking Y: the Last Man, the always ridiculous Doom Patrol (Grant Morrison) and the bizarre cyberpunk Transmetropolitan (Warren Ellis). 100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello is a noir crime series. Preacher, by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, is a no-holds-barred attack on bad religion. Unwritten, by Mike Carey, blurs between coming-of-age, mystery and fantasy genres. And of course my favourite Vertigo titles: Fables and Jack of Fables, by Bill Willingham.
Vertigo publications tend to be heady, heavy works. I recommend their titles to anyone who loves graphic novels but finds the superhero genre too light.