By Silkcuts 31 Comments
Is it worth starting a creator-owned project in Vertigo anymore? Vertigo is the only surviving experimental imprints DC Comics still has. Wildstorm is now dead, Paradox Press and Helix either are long forgotten or absorbed into Vertigo. Old series like The Crusades and Outlaw Nation have found new homes in reprints at Image, why because contract policies change over time with the evolving comic market. Some series are incompletely collected in Trade like American Century and Books of Magic, likely because of the idea Vertigo has that these are not profitable, so they are left abandoned.
Trade Paperbacks have become the norm that most Vertigo readers flock to. This Graphic Novel culture no longer buys Vertigo monthly comics at average, but it is the monthly sales that drive the industry still. In 2010, Air, Greek Street, Madame Xandau and Unknown Solider all were canceled. Some monthly sales were obvious such as Air and Greek Street, which doesn't mean they were bad books, it just means they were undiscovered by the mass population who only read the "safe" and "popular" books. Even the acclaimed Madame Xanadu and the award-winning Unknown Solider just didn't have the support to cement their place.
Vertigo has seemed to loose its identity. Image has become as cutting edge with books like Walking Dead and Chew. Old properties once Vertigo either forgotten or have found different homes. There was even a Vertigo Encyclopedia that has series missing, likely because the rights are no longer Vertigo.
One Flaw Vertigo has had over its life span is its lack of "Edge". Vertigo claiming it is "On the Ledge", but really all it was is they were a foot before the ledge. Vertigo has shown it has no spine with not reprinting Flex Mentallo, even with Grant Morrison's name attached. Vertigo as well lost a lot of respect with Hellblazer and Warren Ellis fans for originally censoring Hellblazer #141 "Shoot", taking over 10 years to finally print it. The Jonah Hex Vertigo series " Riders of the Worm and such" as well has never been reprinted, like Flex Mentallo, Vertigo doesn't want to upset the people the books parodied. Vertigo has simply lost itself. Wants to be edgy, but when too edgy it takes a step back.
I spoke to Greg Rucka at a Convention in Toronto over the Summer and asked why he doesn't release any creator owned work with Vertigo. His response "I hate their contract". My understanding the Vertigo Contract at that time was very controlling with rights, like movie deals have to be Warner or something like that. I don't know the page rates, I felt is was not polite to ask. I was reading an article and the contracts for Vertigo apparently have changed again.
The below is from Bleeding Cool and I did not write any of it and do not take credit for the below part.
I understand from a number of impassioned pleas by Vertigo creators that there has been a major contractual change instigated at Vertigo. And indeed I’m now told it will apply to all new creator owned series at DC, Vertigo or otherwise.
The most recent model saw creators working on a relatively lower page rate than work for hire (though the highest page rate in creator owned circles) and it was treated as an advance against monthly royalties – even if those royalties never paid out.
But previously the trade paperback and monthly comics payment dividends were separate – you were paid royalties on the collections from day one, no matter how the monthly series performed.
But now, if your book doesn’t make enough money as a monthly, they’ll won’t pay trade paperback royalties until it’s made enough money for the publisher.
But rather than affecting the lower selling books, it will probably affect all of them. The trade paperback clawback will kick in if monthly sales don’t reach 50,000 – which Vertigo books haven;t really seen since the Sandman days. It’s also possible that sales of trade paperbacks will never make enough to pay our royalties. And there are some current creators who depend on those royalties.
This won’t apply retroactively, those books are bound by previous contracts. It will only affect new projects going forward. From whatever date this policy actually came in.
This year has seen a number of underperforming monthly books cancelled at the company including Unknown Soldier, Air and Madame Xanadu. Future plans for a number of original graphic novels have been abandoned if the books were not sufficiently completed, involved editors have been made redundant, and Bob Harras has taking editorial responsibility for Vertigo with certain responsibilities away from Executive Editor Karen Berger. This was explained to me by a senior DC executive as being part of a financial rationalisation of Vertigo, the realisation that certain books have bled money for the company, without any likelihood they may make money for the company in the future. And they’d rather concentrate on the likes of The Unwritten and American Vampire. Well this looks like the next step.
DC/Vertigo have found it difficult to attract what used to be their stalwart creators after a previous change in contracts. The likes of Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, Ed Brubaker and others have chosen to take their creator owned books to Avatar, Image and Marvel, rather than give up half their media property rights. And now we have a new generation of Scott Snyder, Jeff Lemire and Brian Wood joining the semi-new generation of Bill Willingham, Brian Azzarello, Mike Carey and Peter Gross. But how will they react to the new deal?
A reduction of sales and orders across the board in the comics industry mean that more monthly comics at Vertigo are at risk from cancellation, unless the company can find a way to justify their publication to the beancounters satisfaction.
This new change may make it harder to keep some of the people they still have on board. But it may also keep some of their books in publication…
Okay, back to the point. The fans don't support Vertigo monthly and Vertigo knows this, yet the new contract seems like it traps creators now. If you are a new guy looking to make a name for yourself, Vertigo is scary if you can't make sales. Vertigo was once a place were writers could experiment; Grant Morrison for example has written most of his best work to date under Vertigo. But if sales suck why, would he ever leave Superheroes? I don't think I would sign a Vertigo Contract if it was offered to me....
50,000 units or the trade paperback royalties are affected? Come on... that is not fair. Writers and artist need to eat too. Vertigo is too busy repackaging Sandman and Preacher to even push older great series like Sandman Mystery Theatre or The Dreaming.
Vertigo needs to figure out what they want to do, make max profits or be the place were they can push boundaries. Only when they dare to be the best can they. It has been a long times since Vertigo had the status it did in the 90s. Food for thought, may be some readers need to cut back on some poorly written superheroes and read something different. It doesn't have to be Vertigo, but if Spider-Man is just going to have more Brand New Days and One Moment in Times, why not try an I, Zombie or a Sweet Tooth? Series like Greek Street is bigger bang for you buck when you factor in that you have to try to understand it like how Morrison's books were not always clear and look at him now.
I guess all I am saying is the industry is not healthy and it needs a change.