sandman-overture-1-cover-neil-gaiman-jh-williams-iiiWhile superheroes put the bacon on the breakfast plate at DC Comics, DC’s non-caped comics as a rule don’t do so well.  Their Vertigo line includes fantasy, horror and speculative fiction outside of the publisher’s mainstream lineup, and they’ve had difficulty building an audience and developing new properties.

This fall DC is hoping to pump some new juice into the Vertigo line with six new series,  premiering from October to December. The most anticipated project, “The Sandman: Overture,” a mini-series by Neil Gaiman, will begin on October 30.

Vertigo was introduced as a label in 1993, and focused on new talent and the kind of alternative stories that wouldn’t work in the regular superhero vein.  The new series keep this idea going.  One title is Hinterkind, by Ian Edginton, which focuses on a post-apocalyptic world in which the creatures of myth and legend have returned.  Another is The Discipline, by Peter Milligan, an erotic thriller about a woman at the center of an shadow war that spans eons.  This is definitely a cape-free zone.

Vertigo has been struggling for a while.  In March, Vertigo’s founding executive editor Karen Berger left her position for greener pastures, and the Vertigo titles have struggled for audience share.  Saucer Country, a series about politics and alien abductions in the Southwest began in March of 2012, and just wrapped up its run in April with an estimated sales of fewer than 57,000 copies.  To put this in perspective, Batman did 132,100 copies the same month.

Neal Gaiman’s Sandman predates the Vertigo imprint, but it joined up in 1993 and became one of its biggest sellers, winning award after award and accolades from reviewers and fans alike.  Gaiman’s most recent novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, was published by William Morrow just last month.  Sandman has the launching pad for Gaiman’s career.

“The most peculiar thing for me about returning to ‘Sandman’ is how familiar it all feels,” Gaiman said.  But about the attention it was all getting: “When I was writing ‘Sandman’ from 1987 to 1996, I never had the feeling at any point that approximately 50 million people were looking over my shoulder scrutinizing ever word.” He has about two million followers on Twitter that he didn’t have then.

For the six-issue The Sandman: Overture, Gaiman is teaming up with illustrator J.H. Williams III.  It will be published every other month and will alternate with a special edition of each issue, which will include more of the artwork (because of translucent word balloons developed by the letterer Todd Klein), as well as behind-the-scenes commentary and character sketches.

Another of Vertigo’s new series, The Dead Boy Detectives, is due out in November.  It features two ghost detectives named Edwin and Charles,  introduced in Sandman No. 25 from 1991.

In a world of caped heroes and heroines, masked and spandexed, it’s easy to forget that comics goes beyond that narrow scope and definition. The Vertigo imprint is vital lifeblood for comics as an art form.  We can hardly wait to see the new books in this very needed and very timely move by DC Comics.

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