The Dark Underbelly of the DCU
Lately, there’s been a lot of news and discussion about the DC rooted titles that make up what I’ve always thought of as the “Vertigo Universe.” Here’s an article about DC Main reclaiming Swamp Thing (and other DCU originating concepts, possibly even one of my personal favorites, The Books Of Magic star Tim Hunter.) This spouted lots of conversation on forums, with some people scared that the Vertigo titles would lose their charm (long running Hellblazer, in particular) and others excited that many new stories could be told that previously weren’t possible. Here’s one such thread over at the CBR forums.
Swampy Is Coming Home
Personally, I’m in that second camp. My absolute favorite stories from Swamp Thing involve his interactions with DCU characters. The crossover with Batman in Gotham is amazing. Likewise, his Superman crossover (the one by Moore, not the one with Solomon Grundy pictured) is really something.
Madame Xanadu, a currently running Vertigo title, is already firmly rooted in the DCU – the stories are love poems to the rich history of DC’s magical and strange universe.
I personally think that the editorial separation of some titles was a mistake. Swamp Thing hasn’t exactly flourished outside of the rest of the DC Universe. While Constantine has maintained a steady run in Hellblazer, no one has been able to use him for a cameo – even when his particular brand of snark could have added a lot to many magical DC events. No one says the tights and capes have to show up in his titles – there are plenty of DCU titles that don’t feature superheroes all the time – but just because he disdains them doesn’t mean their interactions wouldn’t be entertaining.
True, a book like Lucifer, although a sequel to Gaiman’s Sandman, doesn’t really need the DCU to function and reads just fine on its own. However, it’s packed with easter eggs for the DC fan who is paying attention – and this move could free up many of the awesome characters created for that book to be used in relevant story arcs. I’m not concerned about contradictions with DCU mythology – I think it’s been made abundantly clear that DC has room for a flowing canvas of deities and magical systems. Lucifer has even made appearances in DC titles like The Demon.
Does it make sense that The Demon is a DCU character but Lucifer isn’t? Not in this age of comics for mature readers. A book can have a warning on its cover and still be part of the DC imprint. There are a lot of titles currently running that deal with themes more intense than the average Vertigo book from ten years back.
And finally, I think Vertigo will be just fine without their DC rooted books. It’s been kind of confusing for consumers that some Vertigo books interacted inside this strange DC mix while others were totally separate. Vertigo has established itself as a purveyor of fine creator owned and self contained content. It’s received critical acclaim and good sales (especially on the collected editions) with titles like Fables, Transmetropolitan, The Invisibles, Y: The Last Man, etc. I think that’s the direction it should continue to go in. Wildstorm has become almost as convoluted and continuity heavy as the main DCU – Vertigo can continue to be the place for content that can be picked up at book one and read straight through.
What’s The Verdict?
Anyway, that’s my take on it. Since characters like Swamp Thing, Tim Hunter, Cain and Abel, and hopefully even the Endless, will soon be showing up in more books – I think all of their adventures should be folded in. I’ve read almost every DC rooted Vertigo book and I can’t think of any that have more contradictions than your average DC Bullet marked title.
However, I want to see what you think. After answering the poll, feel free to elaborate on your thoughts in the comments!