Is is worth starting a creator-owned project in Vertigo anymore?

Posted by Silkcuts (6040 posts) - - Show Bio

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.

Contractual Changes On Creator Owned DC Comics

Submitted by Rich Johnston on December 20, 2010 – 8:00 am

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.
- Silkcuts
#1 Posted by Amegashita (3601 posts) - - Show Bio

  I'm beginning to see a pattern in your blog posts =P.  As for your message, I agree things need a change.  As for what, there is a lot I can mention, I'll have to later though, since I have a few minutes before I head for school.

#2 Edited by johnny_spam (2182 posts) - - Show Bio

This news made me nervous as Hell when I first saw it yesterday it will make it harder for new stuff to start up at Vertigo. Pretty much it sounds as if more fans were reading these books it would not be in the situation it is in now and now it seems Vertigo's future is in the hands of monthly buyers. I wonder how this will affect other books non Vertigo at DC Kurt Busiek has a series in development of his own design as well as Astro City still Tony Harris has some book in development even now it seems DC is interested in publishing a non DC character.

#3 Posted by Asymmetrical (23748 posts) - - Show Bio

I guess this explains why there's been no new ongoings launched or even hinted at since I, Zombie last May...and since DC is no longer allowing their character's to be used at Vertigo, is this how it's all going to end? one by one we'll watch as another series is cancelled (or ended naturally in the case of say DMZ or Jack of Fables)...there's only eleven titles left and even Unwritten and American Vampire won't last forever...this blows. 
The 50,000 units a month thing is also ridiculous, why not make the number 200,000 units a month? Fables only gets 20,000 units a month and even the first (and I believe most successful) issue of American Vampire only sold a little over 30,000... 
I'll just have to get lost in my old Vertigo books (thankfully there are enough of them) and no longer have to worry about committing to ongoing monthlies

#4 Posted by Silkcuts (6040 posts) - - Show Bio
@johnny spam:  I hear ya Johnny Spam... This is bad news.  The contract does not promote new talent, only the vets like Morrison can profit on a deal like that.
I also find it interesting that Wildstorm seemed to be split between both the main DC imprint and Vertigo seemed to inherit ABC.  Vertigo getting ABC makes sense, since I know it that contract "DC Comics" of any form is not allowed to show up on the book.  It was the only way Jim Lee could get Moore to stay with the deal.  May be Busiek has a similar deal? or Harris?
@aztek the lost: Yeah duder, Vertigo is hurting... Even the young guns... will they stay? Is it worth it?  Its not like they can get Stephen King to co-write every new series.....
So within the year, 4 canceled series, 2 new series, a lot of layoffs and now a contract that discourages writers new and old.  Berger even was striped of some power... not eve Bond got that power from her.  Instead of giving former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Bob Harris his job, they should of convinced Axel Alonso  If they are going to promote Marvel Talent, I rather the Devil I know.
Vertigo can't die if DC wants to keep ABC, since in the contract they need a place to print it without having DC on it, but please tell me that DC cares enough about Vertigo to acutally try to change the conditions to promote more talent and series?  I love Alan Moore, more then most on the Vine, but Vertigo is more then Moore... sorry was that a pun?  Not sure not intended.  Vertigo was a growing ground were young talent could try things no one else was trying, it looks like the old Vertigo edge became Avatar...  I don't know how this contract will effect the imprint, but I know that they have been getting progressively worst, such as what I mentioned with Rucka.  
I just hope DC realizes this is a bad deal and it hurts the imprint even more.
#5 Posted by Silkcuts (6040 posts) - - Show Bio
@johnny spam said:
" even now it seems DC  is interested in publishing a non DC character. "
I knew Martial Law was being pushed to be reprinted, I can't remember for sure but I was under the impression it was Image who won the rights.  Now Marvel wants it?  Its been a while since I read the random Martial Law minis and Prestiges I have but the series was nuts.  I think it would be weird it being reprinted for DC Comics.  Then again the main DC imprint has had Ronin and Mighty Love.  
I don't think DC and Vertigo have a business strategy
#6 Posted by johnny_spam (2182 posts) - - Show Bio

Yeah I do not think DC wants to end Vertigo they promote older stuff allot almost as much as Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns this was really just a bad idea on how to justify it's existence with supposedly a shrinking comic market and DC and Marvel streamlining things something was going to get hurt.  
It's not the same thing but another sign is that it seemed that even Marvel superheroes less popular one would be getting mini series and not ongoings it is a bad sign they need to get new people into comics and use anything in their arsenal including Vertigo books getting better exposure.  
And you are right it is great for young talent even Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder got DC superhero work because of their Vertigo work I would think they are not happy with this news. Or some could work as a Vertigo writer have one successful series then decide to do another Brian K Vaughn said that he had something at Vertigo Who knows if or when that will happen and Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Russo also had another Vertigo book in development.

#7 Edited by fenixREVOLUTION (921 posts) - - Show Bio

I wasn't aware of this, but 50,000 for a monthly that isn't a mainstream super hero book, seems a bit outrageous truthfully. I still follow most of the Vertigo titles that are out there now, but really don't want to see the imprint end, but this new contract can't look appealing to writers, especially when they can go to Image who has been racking up hits with their creator owned series. This is sad news. 
Also, OP mentioned Greg Rucka, I'd love to see him do more creator owned stuff, but I'm happy seeing those books come out of Oni.

#8 Posted by Silkcuts (6040 posts) - - Show Bio
@johnny spam: With the new contracts will we see new BKV or Azz? I hope so.....
#9 Posted by Silkcuts (6040 posts) - - Show Bio
@fenixREVOLUTION said:
" I wasn't aware of this, but 50,000 for a monthly that isn't a mainstream super hero book, seems a bit outrageous truthfully. I still follow most of the Vertigo titles that are out there now, but really don't want to see the imprint end, but this new contract can't look appealing to writers, especially when they can go to Image who has been racking up hits with their creator owned series. This is sad news.  Also, OP mentioned Greg Rucka, I'd love to see him do more creator owned stuff, but I'm happy seeing those books come out of Oni. "
Your right, why work in Vertigo if elsewhere the contracts are better?
Image alone has Walking Dead, Chew and now Morning Glories.  All three get more internet buzz then the most of the newer Vertigo series.  Fables is really the only safe series. 
I miss Rucka, too bad he is gone from the mainstream.  Oni treats him good, I don't know who sells better for them, O'Malley or Rucka?
#10 Posted by Darkchild (42026 posts) - - Show Bio
@Silkcuts: @GREED EPIC WIN 
@s much @s i @bsolutely loved the old school Vertigo for wh@t it published. the new d@ys nd new kiddies running it hve run it into the ground
#11 Posted by Silkcuts (6040 posts) - - Show Bio
@Darkchild:  I think the new guys are good, but the market has changed and Vertigo has not changed financially to keep the quality the same.  Even vets like Matt Wagner and Peter Milligan can't seem to keep series from getting canceled.
#12 Posted by fenixREVOLUTION (921 posts) - - Show Bio
@Silkcuts: Exactly, Image and its creator owned series have really blown up, the only downside to Image is the delays on certain series. I like Fables and I do hope it is truly safe, I don't want it to go anywhere, but I think if it got bad enough, Willingham would have no problems at all finding a home at another label. But with taking all of the DCU characters away from Vertigo, things for Vertigo look grim, as much as I wish they didn't. I doubt we'll even see a Madame Xanadu series at DC for sometime, if at all.
It's tough to compare Rucka to O'Malley, since Rucka generally does monthly series, where O'Malley does graphic novels that release once a year or so.
#13 Posted by Silkcuts (6040 posts) - - Show Bio
@fenixREVOLUTION:  Vertigo won't let fables go, not like Wildstorm and the Boys, Fables had way too many years invested into it.
The delays help the series stay a float I guess, since for Image I am sure "the graphic novel" is factored into their business plan.  Vertigo knows the graphic novel is the medium that matters to them, but some how they can't find that balance.
#14 Posted by fenixREVOLUTION (921 posts) - - Show Bio
@Silkcuts: I agree, I doubt they would, but should the Vertigo label fold, which I hope does not happen, do you think they would slap the DC logo on Fables?  
I'm sure you're right, Image probably relies much more on graphic novels than Vertigo does or wants to. I do hope that with enough negative backlash from readers and mostly creators not wanting to come to there label they'll rethink this strategy and try again.
#15 Posted by Silkcuts (6040 posts) - - Show Bio
@fenixREVOLUTION:  Vertigo can't fold because it is needed legally to print Alan Moore's ABC stuff.  AS for its cutting edge ways, looks like it is evolving away from it and scaring off talent.  Fables will be a DC property, no need for it to go else where.  I am not sure if Berger is fighting for us or for her job?  I am glad Hellblazer is still around, I got worried the series would end at #275 (the wedding).
#16 Posted by Asymmetrical (23748 posts) - - Show Bio
@Silkcuts: You know, you have a tendency to pile on the bad news about Vertigo, it really sucks (that there's no good news, not that you're throwing out bad news)...I'm starting to feel like if DC and specifically Vertigo (although it's hard to deny the fact all this sh!t at DC has only hit the fan in the wake of the power shift) is going to debase itself like this time and time again and go against everything that made it good in the first place, I'd rather they just shut it down now and good comics find themselves a home elsewhere. I love Vertigo (the comics) extremely and that will never change, even the comics hitting shelves now are all great...but it's the politics behind-the-scenes that are tainting my thoughts on what I associate with Vertigo. I don't want to remember the imprint as it is now and seems to be headed, I want to remember it as those people who were really passionate about making stories that made the medium better...I think the creators still want to do that, I think the comics have still been "On the Edge/Ledge"...Vertigo Crime, Daytripper, House of Mystery #25, The Unwritten #17, Sweet Tooth #18...maybe it's just me, but I feel like comics from Vertigo are still fresh and different, trying new things and the like...heck, I think if Karen Berger were to break off from DC with her passionate editorial staff like Bond, Dennis, Rufino, (Pichetshote =/), etc. that Vertigo would still be what it was and moving forward. I think DC is just tired of being #2...I mean let's be honest here, they are called the Big 2 but Marvel has a much larger portion of that pie and apparently Marvel demands much higher sales for your book that it not be cancelled (I remember someone saying that on the podcast) and 50,000 as I said before is obviously a joke...only 22 books in November pushed out 50,000 units...Thor (even with its movie) only got 49,000... 
Also is ABC officially going to continue existing but with Vertigo instead? Or is it just for the sake of reprints and stuff? Because I had asked earlier about the Absolute Promethea appearing as a Vertigo book in solicits...
#17 Posted by fenixREVOLUTION (921 posts) - - Show Bio
@Silkcuts: I would assume she is fighting for both, more for her job though, even though another publisher would be lucky to have her.  
@aztek the lost: I hope 50,000 is a joke, it's just a ridiculous figure, especially on an independent book.
#18 Posted by Silkcuts (6040 posts) - - Show Bio
@aztek the lost:  I know I have a tendency to bring the bad Vertigo news... its not my fault, I only have bad news to report and I report it as a way to inform the comfy superhero fans that they not supporting Vertigo, it is dying.
I hear what your saying it is the politics that suck right now with Vertigo, there is not much we can do.
All I know with ABC is that when Moore agreed to honor the contracts he made sure there was a clause that insures DC Comics's name is not printed on the book.  There is a decent amount of that hate for DC in the Alan Moore B-day book portrait of a Gentleman.  I was planning on reviewing it, so I acutally reread it recently and when Jim Lee sold wildstorm, Moore didn't want to screw his friends, so he made sure that ABC would not have any DC interference and not DC markings.  DC of courses got their fingers in his work again and he would leave with the black dossier as his last work for ABC.  As for stuff like ongoing Tom Strong, I would think it is now Vertigo, it would change continuity and I am assuming the contract is still valid that it can't bare DC on it.
#19 Posted by JonesDeini (3858 posts) - - Show Bio

If I was a new kid on the block I'd be talking to Image, especially after what I just read here.

#20 Posted by johnny_spam (2182 posts) - - Show Bio

Small update maybe not big at all but B Clay Moore said he has something in development at Vertigo and said that Rich Johnston does not always get his fact straight I am not sure what that means.

#21 Posted by pikahyper (14466 posts) - - Show Bio

I still don't get why DMZ is still going, its nowhere near as good as when it started and though I haven't read it yet I'm shocked Sweet Tooth is still going cause it really doesn't look that good.

#22 Posted by Asymmetrical (23748 posts) - - Show Bio
@pikahyper said:
" I still don't get why DMZ is still going, its nowhere near as good as when it started and though I haven't read it yet I'm shocked Sweet Tooth is still going cause it really doesn't look that good. "
I've definitely enjoyed later DMZ stuff over the original stuff...but the book is ending with #70, naturally, the reason I'm surprised its going is because of its sales but not because of quality, I prefer some of Wood's other work but DMZ has great moments and it wouldn't be fair to end it before we actually see what comes of all this
as for Sweet Tooth, it's a great book, Animal Armies is the best arc yet, don't know what doesn't look good about it though
#23 Posted by pikahyper (14466 posts) - - Show Bio
@aztek the lost:  I'm pretty far behind on my DMZ reading but you are right it does have some good moments, I have a feeling the only reason Vertigo has kept it going is cause Wood knew pretty early on how many issues total he wanted the series to be and he has done a good job sticking to it.
#24 Posted by Asymmetrical (23748 posts) - - Show Bio
@pikahyper: it just seems weird because some of the book's they cancelled last year had better sales, maybe Wood just does really well in trade? idk...I think Demo was his best work of 2010 though
#25 Posted by pikahyper (14466 posts) - - Show Bio
@aztek the lost:  I'm looking forward to that second mini of Demo, I got a while before I read it though, next week I should be reading the books that shipped 05-13-09 :P
#26 Posted by Asymmetrical (23748 posts) - - Show Bio
@pikahyper: ah, then might I recommend The Unwritten #1...magnificent series by the creative team of my favorite comic
#27 Posted by pikahyper (14466 posts) - - Show Bio
@aztek the lost said:
" @pikahyper: ah, then might I recommend The Unwritten #1...magnificent series by the creative team of my favorite comic "
Unwritten is in the pile, I'll get to it eventually lol, I did read the preview though, pretty wordy but it does look good.
#28 Posted by Pizawle (1080 posts) - - Show Bio

Sad as it is, it seems the ship is slowly sinking.

#29 Posted by Silkcuts (6040 posts) - - Show Bio
@Pizawle said:
" Sad as it is, it seems the ship is slowly sinking. "
Because of the legal issues with ABC, the only way DC can print Alan Moore's ABC books is under Vertigo, so Vertigo will always be around, but it is getting very shallow indeed.
#30 Posted by JonesDeini (3858 posts) - - Show Bio
Vertigo needs a renaissance of new titles
#31 Posted by Silkcuts (6040 posts) - - Show Bio
@JonesDeini: The Vertigo edge to the DCU died long-time ago.  Most fans are not as sophisticated as they were when Vertigo was its healthiest.

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