Vertigo Comics titles considered the best or most underrated
I prefer to categorize the works on my lists according to their genre, content, or historical period, rather than the brand under which they were published. There are few better candidates for an exception to that rule, however, than Vertigo, the legendary imprint of DC Comics. Founded in 1993 to house adult-oriented comics penned by the “British Invasion” writers under the direction of visionary editor Karen Berger, it has evolved into a symbol of refined creator-owned comics on the US market. It is difficult to overestimate Vertigo’s importance in the contemporary comic book landscape, as well as its lasting influence over popular culture at large. While I share the consensus view that the imprint became a shadow of its former self after the departure of Berger in 2013, I still find it difficult to accept that it no longer exists since its dissolution in 2020.
I have special fondness for Vertigo’s early years, and I still get a sense of something special and magical whenever I look at the covers from that period. The releases of that time were dominated by dark fantasy or supernatural storylines with psychological depth, a penchant for formal experiments, and a typically 1990s postmodern sensibility. Vertigo of the later eras cannot be summed up in a single formula since it has opened its doors to diverse genres and creative approaches. I will only comment on its “adult” or “mature readers” designation, which is frequently associated with more daring themes and overall sophistication. While typical Vertigo titles were smart, inventive, and often weird, it is worth remembering that they still stood apart from the underground, alternative, or artistic comic scenes; although they rarely featured superhero-style action, they were fun and engaging, and just a tad pulpy. The fact that they weren’t that highbrow was an key component of their success formula.
A popular pastime of Vertigo fans on internet forums consists in pointing out that certain comics that at some point were published with a Vertigo logo on the cover are not proper Vertigo comics. This is due to the fact that, aside from the “Vertigo originals”, many titles were only reprinted under the Vertigo label. First and foremost, this applies to “proto-Vertigo” releases: pre-1993 DC runs that were either edited by Karen Berger, or simply similar in tone and content to the core works of her future imprint. Furthermore, many of the more recent comics were transfers from other imprints or publishers, often becoming Vertigo titles only in collected form. I’m afraid I was not orthodox enough to purge my lists from the supposed Vertigo impostors; if my sources mentioned a particular comic as a Vertigo publication, I simply included it in my data.
Given its prolific output, it’s no surprise that Vertigo’s publication history is full of hidden gems and unfairly overlooked minor masterpieces. Unfortunately, many of these cult classics are now difficult to find, even in reprinted or digital form. To help make them more discoverable, I based my list not only on the “best of” and “crowd favorite” sources, but also on articles and forum discussions about mostly forgotten Vertigo comics. I took the same approach when compiling my list of mainline DC Comics, which I recommend as a more mainstream supplement to this one.