It's been 25 years since DC Comics first founded the Vertigo imprint with the desire to release more adult stories, unfettered by censorship. Vertigo would publish both company-and creator-owned comics, giving creators free rein to work in DC's huge sandbox of characters.
This made Vertigo a critical and financial success in its earliest years, with new takes on classic DC heroes leading to some of the best creators in the industry bringing their original stories to Vertigo. Today we are going to take a look at some of the best series Vertigo published over the last 25 years, and see how they rank against each other as the 10 best Vertigo series of all time.
Jason Aaron and RM Guéra's Scalped first released in 2007 and followed Dashiell Bad Horse as he returns to the fictional Prairie Rose Indian Reservation in South Dakota and gets sucked into an undercover FBI agent's quest to bring down the corrupt Tribal Sherriff. The series ran for 60 issues and sees Dash come up undercover in "The Rez" while also trying to solve his mother's murder.
Guéra's artwork is brutally realistic and Aaron plots scenes with some heavy violence, but instead of glorifying the criminality seeded throughout Prairie Rose, Scalped shows the very real costs involved to a community stuck between both sides of the law. While not always intentionally political, Scalped drew inspiration from the real-life case of native rights activist Leonard Peltier.
9 SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING
Vertigo's origins as a more adult imprint for DC Comics to explore their own characters allowed creators the opportunity to reach a more adult audience without dealing with the Comics Code Authority. Saga of the Swamp Thing was one of the first examples of Vertigo's new adult-themed line of comics and remains a fan-favorite series that redefined the character.
The series was originally released to capitalize on the release of Wes Craven's 1982 Swamp Thing movie, but it wasn't until mostly unknown writer Alan Moore took over the series with Stephen Bissette that it's popularity began to rise. Saga of the Swamp Thing dove into the mystical elements of the character and launched a number of other DC-based Vertigo titles, like...
The character of John Constantine may be a little more mainstream now thanks to the live-action appearances of Matt Ryan as the supernatural con-man on Constantine and Legends of Tomorrow, but his first appearances came in the pages of Saga of the Swamp Thing before starring in Vertigo's longest running series, John Constantine, Hellblazer.
Hellblazer served as a Vertigo proving ground for writers like Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison, Andy Diggle, Peter Milligan, and many more. Hellblazer basically launched the incredibly popular occult detective genre, and the character of John Constantine has survived the various Vertigo reboots to exist as the DC universe's resident magical scoundrel.
Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson's cyberpunk dystopic Transmetropolitan released under DC Comics short-lived science fiction Helix imprint but was moved to Vertigo following the cancellation of the other Helix titles. Transmetropolitan takes place in the near future and follows retired journalist Spider Jerusalem and his "assistants" as they attempt to bring down a corrupt President.
While the series works as a satire of politics, fame, and the media, it also touches on a few too many real issues that some are even calling prophetic in nature given today's current climate. Transmetropolitan ran for 60 issues and has even been published in an Absolute edition, giving fans many ways to enjoy Ellis and Robertson's fan-favorite series.
Created by Bill Willingham with art by Mark Buckingham, Lan Medina, and Steve Leialoha, Fables brought fairy tales to life over 150 issues, numerous spin-offs, and even a best-selling video game adaptation from Telltale Games called The Wolf Among Us.
Fables follows the residents of Fabletown, all characters from legends and folklore that are actually real, survivors from a destructive event that exiled them to our reality. It sounds layered because it is, and the depth of the characters and the world created by Willingham makes Fables a must read for any Vertigo fan.
5 THE INVISIBLES
Grant Morrison's creator-owned The Invisibles stars a covert resistance force who are fighting against the alien enslavement of an unsuspecting human race. The Invisible College recruits a young man into their organization who may be the savior of humankind and set out about trying to stop the prophesied apocalypse on Dec. 22, 2012.
It's hard to really describe Morrison's mind-bending series, but if it sounds a little like The Matrix, there are definite similarities there. Add in a heavy helping of conspiracy theories, metaphysical experiences, time travel, and magical experiments, and enjoy your time inside Morrison's mind in the 90s.
4 100 BULLETS
Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso's 100 Bullets started with an interesting premise; a government agent-type begins handing out a briefcase with a gun and 100 untraceable bullets that will shut down any police investigation. Inside the case was also evidence and information on someone who wronged the case holder in the past. A briefcase full of justified revenge with no consequences.
Of course, there was more to the briefcase, and more to the recipients of the briefcases, as readers would learn over 100 issues. Azzarello created and killed some of the best characters of his career, and Risso's art made each issue a glorious and sometimes gory treat. 100 Bullets sits high in Vertigo's roster and should be on any comic fans must-read pile.
Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's Preacher is easily one of the most popular Vertigo titles, both when the initial series released in 1995 and more recently with the TV adaptation on AMC bringing further recognition to the fan-favorite series. Preacher sits high atop many best hits lists, Vertigo and beyond.
Ennis and Dillon's grand tale follows former preacher Jesse Custer after he is possessed by an angel/demon hybrid called Genesis, and gifted with the Word. He uses his newfound ability to travel the world on a quest for God, alongside his former lover Tulip and new best friend Cassidy, an eternal Irish vampire. That brief description should be more than enough to entice any new readers.
2 Y: THE LAST MAN
Y: The Last Man follows the adventures of escape artist Yorick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand, the last two male survivors left on Earth following a virus that immediately wiped out males across the planet. Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra's post-apocalyptic tale explores a world without men, what wiped them out, and how humanity will survive without men.
Yorick is at times one of Vaughn's best characters but also his most frustrating, and his defiant survival in the face of the many threats he faces in the male-less world captivated readers and earned the series three Eisner awards. A live-action TV adaptation is currently in production from FX.
Neil Gaiman's reimagining of DC's Sandman character had little to nothing to do with the Golden Age Wesley Dodds character (though he was later explored in Sandman's Mystery Theater), but Sandman introduced Morpheus, the God of Dreams, and created new worlds stacked on top of the DC universe, causing a unique blend of comic and fantasy that created a dedicated fanbase.
Morpheus and siblings like the fan-favorite Death and the rest of the Endless existed within a surreal fever dream that introduced a number of lasting characters that still turn up occasionally in the mainstream DC universe. The initial series ran for it's planned 75 issues and was followed by a sequel series that released under the DC Vertigo relaunch in 2018.
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