NEW YORK — Vertigo Comics has long cultivated its reputation as home to the odd, unusual and unsettling.
Its characters — the Sandman, Skinner Sweet and the Preacher, among others — and titles have provided a refuge for readers hungry for concepts that avoid the trope of heroes versus villains, spandex and other elements of more traditional comic book fare.
Shelly Bond, who has been with the edgy and popular imprint that has published “Sandman,” “DMZ” and “The Unwritten,” among other titles, since 1993, replaced former senior vice president — and longtime friend and colleague — Karen Berger, who stepped down in March after nearly 20 years at Vertigo.
At the same time, Will Dennis was promoted to group editor at Vertigo and Mark Doyle was promoted to editor.
During Berger’s tenure, the imprint produced numerous titles beyond the traditional superhero and villain archetype, and Bond was there, working with Berger.
“Some people have said that I have been waiting for this moment for 20 years and, I think, they’re right,” said Bond, who got her start in comics as an editorial assistant at Comico in the late 1980s, hearing about the opening while living in Philadelphia.
“I am so ready to bring in some new blood and new bravado and just continue to show the masses that comics are the most essential part of pop culture,” she said.
Being part of DC Entertainment, and by extension, Time Warner Inc., the opportunities for expanding beyond the printed page are legion, a notion not lost on Bond and others.
“We want to kick down the barriers between what comic books can be and what popular culture is,” she said. “I think, now more than ever, we’ve got that opportunity to work in different mediums.”
Bond said the imprint, whose current and coming titles include Bill Willingham’s “Fables,” Scott Snyder’s “The Wake,” Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s “100 Bullets: Brother Lono” and the upcoming graphic novel “Fairest: In All the Land” won’t play it safe.
Bond said Vertigo will “go to the edge” and “push the boundaries” of what it means to scare and illuminate readers with new work from Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III in a nod to the 25th anniversary of the Sandman, too.
“That’s always been my (method of operation) ever since I stepped inside the door” at Vertigo, she said. “We’re not afraid to go to the edge and to push the boundaries of what it means to scare someone in the 21st century. I think that’s what makes Vertigo so unique. We’re not afraid of political and social pressures and problems and situations. I think that makes our books that much richer and I think that we’re the imprint that takes those very concepts and adds the gravitas to make a compelling story.”
Bond said Vertigo finds itself with a cornucopia of new talent, tales and stories.
“Now is the greatest time for us to actually broaden the scope, and I think what you’ll see is that we’re not only going to defy the standards and confines of traditional genre fiction, but I think we’re going to redefine the industry standards because we’re going to really go deep and dark into areas of psychological horror, dark fantasy, action adventure and even next-wave science fiction and mythic fiction,” she said.
One of those pursuits is the resumption of Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson’s “Astro City,” a not-so-traditional look at superheroes that’s been on hiatus for three years and resumed this month under the Vertigo imprint.
“‘Astro City’s’ known for being a sophisticated book for mature sensibilities — mature in this case meaning that it appeals to older readers, not that it needs to be limited to them — and as such, it fits the tone Vertigo’s built up over its history quite nicely,” Busiek said in an email. “And I love the way Vertigo keeps its backlist in print and available, so long-running series are accessible to new readers from page one, issue one, volume one, whatever.”
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