Comics Industry Reacts to KAREN BERGER's DC Departure
Karen Berger: Everything Vertigo
The news last night that legendary editor Karen Berger would be leaving her position as Executive Editor and Senior Vice President at Vertigo shocked the comic book community. At one point in the evening, "Karen Berger" even showed up on the U.S. top trends for Twitter.
Newsarama contacted several creators in the comics business to find out what influence Berger had on their careers and the comic book industry:
The first time I met Karen was in London, and it was before Vertigo existed. She gave me one of the most valuable pieces of advice I ever received, as a creator. When I told her jokingly that I was "looking for the big break", she said (giving the comment more consideration than it deserved) that there was no such thing as the big break. "If you're going to make it at all, mostly it's via a long series of little breaks, and it's a lot better to think in those terms." What she meant was that you should never think of anything you do as just a stepping stone to something else. Every story, every commission, matters. I took those words to heart - and also the fact that she bothered to stop and talk to me at all. My published work at that point amounted to four-fifths of nothing.
Vertigo is the house that Karen built, and it's a house where I've felt totally at home for a decade and a half. Someone described the imprint as the HBO of comics, which I think is a pretty fair comparison. For a long time there was nothing like it anywhere else. Now there are half a dozen indie publishers out there who took their inspiration from Vertigo and use similar publishing plans and approaches, take similar risks. The template has spread. That's Karen's legacy, I guess, and it's hard to think of a better one.
There was a point that I would have quit reading comics were it not for Karen Berger and everything she was building at DC and Vertigo.
And then, years later I had the good fortune to not only work with Karen, but get to know her as a friend.
Like so many others, I owe a huge part of my career to Karen. She's an inspiration. I wish her the best of luck in whatever comes next!
I think Karen Berger's career, at Vertigo and before, is one of the single biggest individual contributions to the comics medium. She's one of the all time greats. And I suspect she's not finished yet. On a personal basis, I can't thank her enough for Saucer Country. She's brilliant, precise, warm and kind, a word which for me is the greatest possible praise.
To understand Karen Berger's contribution to comics, think of every Vertigo title ever released and then imagine them not existing. No Sandman. No Y:The Last Man. No Fables. No Transmetropolitan. No Swamp Thing. Are you feeling it yet? No Hellblazer. No Lucifer. No Pride of Baghdad. No Preacher. No Scalped. Thankfully we do not have to live in such a horrifically barren comic book landscape, and we have Karen Berger to thank for it.
Well, I had never really gotten to work with Karen, we kept having near-misses until just recently.
But I will say, while a lot of editors are fighters, Karen remains a damn Viking. She planted a flag on new territory, she built a shining castle on a hill, and she filled it with the fiercest warriors and artisans and some truly impressive drunkards, as well. She and her talented crew built what few others even imagined was possible.
Karen made comics that you were proud to show to people who didn't get comics and nine times out of ten, the skeptics would come back and ask for more. That's a rare gift.
I don't mourn her leaving, she'll do something amazing wherever she lands. But I definitely celebrate her history and can only hope that legacy continues to inspire.
Karen Berger ranks with Stan Lee and William Gaines as one of the most influential editors in the history of American comics. I first became familiar with her name in the 80s as the editor of titles like Amethyst, Swamp Thing, and New Talent Showcase. By the time Sandman launched when I was in college, I already recognized Karen’s name as a hallmark of quality, and when the Vertigo line was launched a few years later, it immediately became one of my life goals to write something published under her Vertigo banner. And, of course, I became an ardent reader of virtually everything Vertigo published in the years that followed. (During a stop on the “Spin Across America” Tour, I was lucky enough to win a black denim jacket with the Vertigo logo embroidered on the back in the colors of the American flag, which I wore constantly for the next ten years.) I am tremendously proud to have been part of her legacy, however small. And I for one cannot wait to see what she does next!his blog)
Well, now the news has broken about legendary Karen Berger leaving DC and Vertigo. Karen has been absolutely inspirational for a very long time with DC, bringing to all of us some of the finest comics ever to come out of that company, and helping to spearhead an industry changing defying imprint with Vertigo. Comics have always been diverse but Karen really helped in that definition during a time when pretty much the dominant genre involved spandex, much like the trend is now. But Vertigo became the industry leader in presenting comics for people who wanted more than shiny costumes with superpowers. Karen’s efforts became a beacon for creators to look toward a different comics future landscape, paving a way for acceptance of new bolder ideas.
I find the timing of her departure from DC to be sadly ironic, in that next year when Karen says her final goodbyes to the company it will also be the 25 year anniversary of Sandman, one the titles that sort of started the whole thing (to which there is a brand new Sandman project on the way for this anniversary that I’m to start illustrating very soon). Sandman issue 1 was published in October of 1988 but dated January 1989, which helped lead to the formation of Vertigo under Karen’s direction, next year will bring the 20th anniversary of the legendary imprint. Having known Karen for many years and doing a few things for vertigo here or there, I had long been looking forward to working with her at a much closer level on this new Sandman project. So while excited over Sandman, its become bittersweet as her
involvement will be going away. I’m a bit uncomfortable over it, actually. But it is what it is. I know I will not help but think of her that first day I put pen to paper, on that very first page Karen will be there in spirit.
I was also seriously disappointed when I’d heard about the demise of Vertigo’s Hellblazer recently announced, in favor of transitioning the lead character into the DCU entirely, not an idea I’m overly fond of. As a longtime reader of Hellblazer it was disheartening. I felt as if Vertigo was beginning to slowly be sucked dry, it’s life’s blood drained away. And with the departure of Karen Berger I have to admit that I’m feeling even more disheartened. And speaking as bit of a fan here, not an industry professional, I’m feeling torn between a struggle of anger about some things and rather optimistic for what the future may hold for Karen, and in turn for us as readers. As a creative editor Karen has something to say, always has, and I’m certain her voice will rise up out of the din and resonate with something new. And when that voice does sound, in whatever form that may take, I know I’m there to listen.
Comics needs Karen Berger!
I should add: Vertigo should be a legacy and continue, showing that Karen’s contributions remain valued.
Karen was a legend to me before I started at Vertigo, someone responsible for many books that made me want to write in the first place. I had the highest respect for her. Then, at Vertigo, I worked with her as an editor, and she became even more inspiring to me. Her dedication to getting new voices and great stories out into the world, the care and skill with which she guided her projects - she's been a true mentor and again, an inspiration. I've also been lucky enough to call her a dear friend, and while I'm sad I won't see her in the offices, I know I'll see her again soon. I love her, and I wish her all the best in her new ventures.
From the time I first became aware of Vertigo comics, probably 1995 or so, that was what I aspired to, to be a Vertigo creator and be a part of that rather exclusive and elite group. Karen always made me feel welcome and valued. She is one of those people who work so hard behind the scenes so that everything on the surface appears effortless. I can't even imagine how many people in this industry, women especially, she's inspired. There will never be another Vertigo, I believe, ever, and part of me hopes they just retire the name along with her exit, because without her I'm not sure it means anything.
I've been talking to so many people in the last day or so about this, and I find its impossible to overstate her accomplishments and influences. I have no idea if she'll still be working in editorial or media, or will retire to some warm beach somewhere. I hope she writes a memoir, the story of Vertigo. Whatever it is, I wish her the best. I wouldn't be anywhere in comics without her doing all she did.Simon Oliver
The best ideas and concepts are the ones that we can't imagine not having been there all along.
There was a time not so many years ago when any mention of comics meant largely one thing, and what Karen and later Vertigo was a big part of was helping to take the medium a step away from that thing and into new and exciting directions. For that, all of us who have been given the chance to work in the medium are in her debt, and I for one look forward to seeing what she does next.Tony Bedard
I had the good fortune of spending a year working in Vertigo Editorial before I started writing full-time, and I got to watch one of my heroes, Karen Berger, do what she does best. The stable of creators she cultivated over the years and the books that flourished under her editorial leadership are legendary. I know from working both sides of the desk that being an editor is an art form unto itself, and Karen's in a class by herself. Her vision and her ability to find and nurture talent created the most respected and sophisticated major imprint our industry has ever seen. That didn't happen by accident. That's down to her. And, y'know, I think she's not done yet.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!