DC has announced that all of its content will be organized and marketed under three, age-specific labels -- DC Kids, DC and DC Black Label -- starting January 2020. The new labeling system will result in imprints like Vertigo, DC Zoom and DC Ink being retired. Current titles under these imprints will be absorbed into one of the three labels.
Rumors of DC Vertigo’s impending retirement began circulating over the past months, though details were scarce. Vertigo was founded in 1993 to house DC’s more mature titles, such as The Sandman, Preacher and Fables. Over the years, the brand has undergone several relaunches, the most recent taking place in 2018 as part of its 25th anniversary.
DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio explained that one reason for the imprint's "sundowning" had to do with keeping up with changing times. Much of the content the imprint was created to house (like drug use, nudity and explicit violence) have become more acceptable for mainstream audiences.
“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,” DiDio said in a statement. “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.”
The switch will not negatively affect creator-owned comics, DC Co-Publisher and Chief Creative Officer Jim Lee promises. Current and future creator-owned titles will simply be absorbed into the new labels, their placement determined by the particular project's targeted reader age range. Vertigo's Sandman Universe line, for example, will continue, but will no longer display the Vertigo label on their cover.
Each new label is broken up into age categories. DC Kids is for children between the ages of 8 and 12. The DC label is appropriate for anyone over the age of 13 and will remain DC’s primary universe of characters. DC Black Label is intended for readers over the age of 17 and contains suitably graphic subject matter.
“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,” Lee said. “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."