Sunday, February 21, 2010

Vertigo gets off to an early start

DC Comic's "Vertigo" imprint didn't launch until 1993, but the seeds for the line had been in place since the early 1970s. DC had experimented with more mature titles (i.e., "not superheroes") a few times, with such books as Swamp Thing, The Shadow, Jonah Hex and their assorted mystery/horror anthologies. For a lot of reasons (such as the the national paper shortage, changes in editorial staff, etc.) the company had a hard time keeping any new book in print for more than a dozen issues, so many of their best books were also their most brief.
One of the best comics the company published in the 1070s was the Denny O'Neil/Mike Kaluta interpretation of The Shadow (it also featured some occasionally uncredited assistance from Jeff Jones and Bernie Wrightson.) It was a no-nonsense interpretation of the William Gibson pulps, with The Shadow portrayed more like an underworld boogeyman than a costumed adventurer. Kaluta left the book after a few issues, with the remainder completed by the likes of Frank Robbins and the much-underrated E.R. Cruz. The series even featured the first meeting of The Shadow and The Avenger, something that pulp fanboys had wondered about for decades. They'd meet again in the late 1980s, during the controversial — and hilarious — run on The Shadow by Andy Helfler and Kyle Baker (anther prototype series for Vertigo.)
After a dozen issues, though, DC pulled the plug. O'Neil said he was never offered a reason for the book's cancellation and had every reason to believe it had sold well (at least well enough to continue publication.) The O'Neil/Kaluta stories were collected in The Private Files of The Shadow, a hardback that has been out of print for many years (and will likley remain so, seeing how the comic rights to The Shadow are about as popular as Chris Brown right now.)

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