Rumors of Vertigo’s demise have proven to be true, as DC Comics has announced a rebranding of its content into three age-specific labels: DC Kids, DC and DC Black Label. The Vertigo imprint will be “sunset” at the end of the year, along with the DC Zoom and DC Ink labels.
“We’re returning to a singular presentation of the DC brand that was present throughout most of our history until 1993 when we launched Vertigo to provide an outlet for edgier material,” said DC Publisher Dan DiDio in a press release. “That kind of material is now mainstream across all genres, so we thought it was the right time to bring greater clarity to the DC brand and reinforce our commitment to storytelling for all of our fans in every age group. This new system will replace the age ratings we currently use on our material.”
Here’s what will fall under the three labels:
- DC Kids will focus on readers ages 8-12 and offer content created specifically for the middle-grade reader
- DC, focusing on ages 13+, will primarily be the current DC universe of characters
- DC Black Label will focus on content appropriate for readers 17 and older
Vertigo, which was launched in 1993, has published some of the most creative and well-regarded comics over the course of its history. As of late, though, it has struggled, with series like Border Town being cancelled due to the writer’s behavior and Second Coming moving to Ahoy Comics. Safe Sex, another comic announced in that same wave as Border Town and Second Coming, has already found a new home at Image Comics. While it is sad to see the imprint that published so many great titles wither, there are plenty of other places publishing this sort of material now — Berger Books and Black Crown, headed up by the two women who were the most synonymous with Vertigo during its history, being the obvious examples. DC has been doubling down on Black Label projects lately, which have all featured their company characters, so maybe they’re more interested in finding the next Dark Knight Returns and not the next Fables or Y: the Last Man these days.
The DC Zoom and DC Ink news is more surprising at this point, as both labels seem to be getting cut off at the knees just as they’re trying to jump into a race for those YA/kids comics dollars that other publishers and titles have been winning for years now (I know my own kid is way more interested in Dog-Man than Batman). But I also would have to look up past news stories to tell you which label was aimed at which age group, so maybe the brand doesn’t matter as much as the material — of which DC still has a lot of in their plans.
“What we’ve done here is apply an ages and stages organizing philosophy that will strengthen what we’re already doing well, whether that is our move into the young adult and middle grade audience or our long track record of success with creator-driven pop-up lines,” said DC Publisher and Chief Creative Officer Jim Lee. “We will also continue to publish creator-owned projects, and will evaluate and assign to the appropriate label to help our fans find the best books for their interests. These new labels not only bring greater consistency and focus to our characters, but they also open up a wealth of new opportunities for the talent working on our books.”