When DC Comics announced the death of its Vertigo comic book line, it was a tragic day for fans who grew up reading the adult-oriented comic books produced under that banner. For over 25 years, Vertigo proved that comic books could be works of literature, with comics like Sandman winning all kinds of awards over the years.
From horror comics to fantasy series and even superhero books that bucked the trends of men-in-tights to create stories that were deep, intellectual, and even meta, Vertigo functioned as a label that everyone knew would deliver no matter the genre or topic. Here is a look at 10 of the most important characters Vertigo introduced to the DC Universe.
Dream of the Endless is the lord of dreams and, along with his siblings, is one of the most powerful entities in the universe -- above even the gods. When Neil Gaiman took on the Sandman comic book series, he introduced Morpheus as a being kidnapped and imprisoned by a cult who launches the series when he escapes and begins to rebuild his realm.
The books go back and forth in time, takes breaks to tell very personal stories, and never loses focus of the end-point -- the eventual death and rebirth of Dream himself. If anyone in Vertigo proved that comic books were more than just pulp entertainment, it was Morpheus.
9 SKINNER SWEET
Most people know Scott Snyder from his work on Batman in DC Comics. However, before he began to reshape the world of the Caped Crusader, he took a stab at reshaping what we know about vampires. Snyder wrote the series American Vampire for Vertigo and introduced Skinner Sweet into the DC Universe.
In Snyder's world of vampires, they are the ruling class behind-the-scenes. They ruled the Wild West, Hollywood, and the world of business. However, Skinner Sweet was a unique vampire that always showed up and ruined their plans, an evil sociopathic creature who becomes the first American Vampire.
From the pages of Sandman comes Dream's sister in the Endless, Death. Each member of the Endless is unique and memorable in their own rights. But, none of them, Dream included, comes close to the brilliance of Death. Instead of painting Death as a scary creature dragging the dead into Hell, Neil Gaiman utilizes brilliant irony.
Death is a cute and perky goth woman who shows up after someone dies and helps them deal with the fact they are dead. She then leads them to their place in the afterlife peacefully and respectfully. Out of everyone introduced in the pages of Sandman, no one stands as tall as Death.
Lucifer was the ruler in Hell in the pages of Vertigo's Sandman comic books. He was the leader of Hell for 10 billion years, controlled the demons there, tormented dead humans, and led the war against Heaven. 10 billion years gave him time to grow bored, and he finally kicked everyone out of Hell, locked the doors, and turned the keys over to Morpheus.
Lucifer then retired to Earth, moved to Los Angeles, and opened a piano bar. The character ended up transposed to television in the Fox, and later Netflix series titled Lucifer, but while that was a police procedural series, the comics were much more theological and geared more towards Sandman-styled storytelling than anything.
It is hard to pick one character from the brilliant Vertigo series Fables, so all of the characters fit into this spot. The series is what shows like Once Upon a Time should have looked like. All the characters from classic fairy tales had to flee their lands when a being started slaughtering them and taking over.
The Fables set up shop in New York state and created their own neighborhood, which was cloaked so humans could not see or bother them. The series also flipped characters on their heads, with examples being Snow White as the headstrong leader and Bigby, the Big Bad Wolf, as the local law in town.
5 JESSE CUSTER
Preacher gave Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon a chance to cut loose in their R-rated ideals. Vertigo gave the Punisher creators a chance to show what they could do with no restraints, and they did not disappoint. Jesse Custer was a small-town Texas preacher who one day found a force that escaped Heaven called Genesis flying into his body, killing everyone in his congregation.
Jesse then teamed with his old girlfriend, who became a hit-woman, and an alcoholic vampire named Cassidy, to try to find out why God abandoned Heaven, try not to die at the hands of the Saint of Killers, and battle an evil Christian fundamentalist who wanted to destroy the world to start it over in his own image.
4 YORICK BROWN
One of the most surprising critically acclaimed series for Vertigo was Y: The Last Man. The comic focuses on Yorick Brown, the man the title references, the last human male left alive with his pet Capuchin monkey Ampersand, the only other male mammal who did not die.
Yorick's mother, a high-ranking government official, sends a woman to protect her son, while everyone wants him to use for their purposes -- or to kill him to ensure no man is left alive on the planet. The series lasted 60 issues and will become a television show, premiering on FX.
3 THE INVISIBLES
The Invisibles is a team, rather than an individual person, and is an example of what Vertigo sees when creating a team of crimefighters in its world. It is no surprise that this strange and eccentric series was created by Grant Morrison, with various artists joining him along the way. The Invisibles is right up Morrison's alley.
The Invisibles is a secret organization that battles oppression and they do so in just about any way imaginable, from magic to time travel and from meditation to just physically beating the crap out of evil. With most of humanity enslaved without their knowledge, it is the Invisibles that stands as Earth's last hope.
2 ANIMAL MAN
The case of Animal Man is an interesting one. For one thing, the character of Animal Man is not one that Vertigo introduced to DC Comics. Constantine and Swamp Thing are not on this list because they were DC characters that moved to Vertigo, characters that thrived outside of DC's central universe.
Animal Man is different. When Vertigo added Animal Man to their ranks, the original Buddy Barker died and resurrected as an animal avatar. The issues kept numbering from their DC days, but Animal Man became a horror comic book and was nothing like his DC Comics' days. Animal Man ended up as one of Vertigo's top comics.
1 SPIDER JERUSALEM
Moving as far away from superheroes as imaginable, the character of Spider Jerusalem originated in Transmetropolitan, a comic book series set in a dystopian future where dirty, corrupt politicians led the world into decay and decadence. Spider was a journalist who sought to expose the truth.
Spider himself was loosely based on the real-life gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, and he set out to fight the corruption of two straight U.S. Presidents, while himself becoming a popular and beloved superstar thanks to putting himself in front of all his stories. After 60 issues, Spider's story came to an end, and Transmetropolitan remains one of Vertigo's greatest comic book stories.