It’s the end of an era as DC has announced plans to shutter its Vertigo publishing line. The Vertigo line was originally launched in 1993 as an outlet for publishing more adult themed (read: less mainstream; more edgy) stories. It quickly became one of the most creative and successful lines at DC.
In this post I’ll take a look at what I think are the five most important and best titles that were published under the Vertigo label over the last 26 years.
Vertigo was begun an experiment in branding. DC was already publishing creative and sophisticated comics throughout the 1980s (Watchmen and the Dark Knight Returns alone were creative highs), however, after the early nineties and an expansion in the audience for the comics market, DC asked Karen Berger to launch a label where all the more adult themed comics DC had could be collected.
The result was one of the most dynamic and challenging line-up of comics titles to ever hit the comic store shelves. The original Vertigo lineup had great stories and has left a significant imprint on modern comics. The following are the most representative and, I think, best books that were published under the Vertigo label.
Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire is an odd comic about a strange chocolate loving deer-faced boy seeking refuge from hunters. Yes, it really is that weird. But what saves it as a great comic story are the thoughtful and psychologically real depictions of the relationships it portrays. With a FMV of $260.00 in 9.8, the rumors that this will become a HULU streaming show is probably what’s keeping its value high. The last three eBay sales of certified 9.8 copies went for: $130.00 (05/08/2017); $299.00 (10/06/2018); and $225.00 (03/21/2019). While long term returns are very strong, there have been no sales over the last 12 weeks, and the trend in sales over the last year for the two 9.8 sales, as can be seen above, is negative at minus -24.7%.
Brian K. Vaughan wrote this dystopian futuristic sci-fi tale with help from Pia Guerra and others. Yorick Brown, along with his pet monkey Ampersand, seems to have survived a plague that wipes out every other mammal with a Y chromosome. The comic has been on and off the radar for a television adaptation, and may even eventually even be made into a show. No live action version will ever do justice to the comic, but then again we’ll always have the comic series. Also, the rampant speculation about its appearance in other media certainly hasn’t hurt its value. Currently a 9.8 graded copy has a FMV of $825.00. There were dips when buzz spread that the TV project was cancelled, but it is now apparently on once again!
Here’s a Vertigo title that has been turned into a live action series starring Dominic Cooper, Joseph Gilgun and Ruth Negga. Once again we see the Vertigo trademarks of interesting multi-dimensional characters, a sophisticated plot (this time dealing with faith and its place in society) and of course a great deal of weirdness. Currently the AMC show is between seasons – the third season ended on a cliff hanger and a great explosion. Favorably received by critics, the show has pushed up the value of the comic. In 9.8 grade, Preacher #1 can command prices of over $270.00, as a 05/15/2019 sale on eBay for $285.00 aptly demonstrates.
Hellbalzer got his start in another DC book that would eventually migrate over to Vertigo, the monster-horror title Swamp Thing. Eventually, the character of John Constantine became so popular that he got his own comic, and then his comic was brought under the Vertigo fold. Constantine, has now appeared in animated form, multiple live-action series and has been portrayed by actors like Keanu Reeves (on the big screen) and Matt Ryan on both the short-lived ‘Hellblazer’ tv show and as a recurring character on various CW series. This comic has held a steady value of between $150.00 and $200.00 in 9.8 graded condition. Returns over the last 12 weeks show negative -1.4% numbers on 9.6 grades after 5 sales. Long term returns are mixed but also trending negative.
The very first series ever published exclusively under the Vertigo label was the Sandman spin-off: Death: The High Cost of Living. Sandman itself, like Hellblazer, was originally a mainstream DC title that was simply labeled “For Mature Readers”, but it quickly became absorbed under the Vertigo brand and in hind site it was probably the most ‘Vertigoish’ of all the comics DC published.
The series, written by Neil Gaiman, is nothing short of an archetypal- literary tour de force. It exploits the comic medium to tell stories that reflect on universal human themes in a way that no other medium could have accomplished. There’s a reason why everyone mentions Sandman and then speculates on when this will become a movie or TV show. However, it really shouldn’t, as, much like the Watchmen by Alan Moore before it, the Sandman’s stories thrive as comic stories. Sandman #1 has a current FMV of $300.00 in certified 9.8. Long term returns are mixed with 2,282 copies listed on the CGC census. Over the last 12 weeks, only 9.4 and 9.0 grades have shown positive returns (after four and two sales respectively).