Heroes & Villains Combs Through The Valiant Universe and Bids Farewell to Vertigo

It’s a light week this week which is a-ok! I have to admit that I’m a little let down that Clark Kent didn’t hang dong last week in Superman: Year One like Batman did in Batman: Damned…but there are still two issues to go. There’s still plenty of comic book stuff to talk about so let’s get to it.

Valiant HandbookValiant Universe Handbook: 2019 Edition
Various (w/a)
Valiant

Well, this is timely since last week I was bemoaning my painful lack of knowledge on the state of the modern Valiant Universe. I’ve always been a sucker for a good reference guide, whether it’s a Marvel Universe Handbook or a Star Wars Essential Guide To. There’s just something I find endlessly entertaining about the condensed information contained in these sacred tomes. Now that I think of it, I do recall lusting after the Encyclopedia Britannica commercials back in the pre-internet days.

Anyways, if you’re a Valiant newbie like me that can’t tell a Harbinger from a hole in the ground, these books are for YOU. Bargain priced at $3.99 for 64 pages you’re more than getting your dollars worth. It’s just so…dense. Which is great!

The handbook also contains suggested reading for each entry which I appreciated. It’s certainly going to help me assemble a reading list so I can get up to speed with Shadowman.

So Long Vertigo

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The big news of last weekend was that DC’s Vertigo imprint that’s been around since time immemorial (1993) will be going away next year. It’s not entirely shocking since rumours of the imprint’s departure have been circulating for quite a while now but it still stings. Vertigo did so much for me in the early to mid-’90s and it ended up shaping my comic reading habits for the rest of my life.

In the end, Vertigo was still a small yet important cog in the larger WB corporate machine and the machine most likely decided it wasn’t viable as a brand anymore. I’m trying really hard to remember the last Vertigo book I bought and I’m coming up with nada. It was nice knowing that Vertigo was still out there, fighting the good fight and keeping it weird from inside the machine. But now everything will now be DC…DC forever, and ever, and everrrrrr.

Instead of joining in on the Vertigo wake that seemed to dominate my social media feeds, I took action and went and raided some dollar bins to see what vintage Vertigo weirdness I could unearth. Much like an old-timey prospector, I struck newsprint gold in the form of a Vertigo preview book from 1993 which gave sneak peeks of either new Vertigo books or running titles that were getting re-branded under the imprint. There’s a fantastic piece from Karen Berger that kicks off the book followed by 2 or 3-page excerpts from the upcoming titles.

The thing about the Vertigo books that always spoke to me is that they were all unique. Many people point to Sandman, Preacher, or Hellblazer as the quintessential Vertigo book but I’d argue that there was no such thing. For me, everything I ever picked up from Vertigo was different than the last title I had sampled. Some misses but more often than not they were big hits for me. As I entered college in the latter half of the ’90s my weekly pull list was a murderer’s row of Vertigo and other indie books and I had left my previous local comic shop for one run by a kindly hippie who stocked the store with every small press book I could dream of (he went out of business in a year).

In attempts to mirror the success of Vertigo, DC launched a sci-fi themed imprint named Matrix, which quickly got changed to Helix due to it sharing a name with some long forgotten and not at all influential movie. Helix quickly went away and some of the books got absorbed into, you guessed it, Vertigo. I’m not quite sure, but it may have been Vertigo’s absorption of Transmetropolitan that really made Warren Ellis’ name stick for me. I ended up snagging the last two issues of Transmet from the dollar bin as part of my celebration of Vertigo.

Additionally, I snagged some Animal Man, Doom Patrol and one or two other books bearing the stamp that had long become the stamp of quality for “mainstream” indie books. A lot of those books still hold up insomuch as they’re just as out there now as they were twenty-plus years ago. Vertigo and the contributions of each of its creators, no matter how great or small, legitimized non-superhero books as a viable option for myself and so many others.

I’ll never forget it.

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