Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Dream Trades: The Complete Vertigo Visions

In preparing to write up a review of Matt Howarth's The Downsized last week, I spent some time bouncing around the Internet looking up his bibliography. I knew he had written and drawn a miniseries for the short-lived DC sci-fi imprint Helix entitled Star Crossed (which I unfortunately never been able to find all three issues of in a back-issue bin), but was surprised to hear that he also worked on Justice League comics and a Dr. Thirteen comic.

After some searching, I discovered the Justice League comics were a few issues of the first volume based on the Cartoon Network series, Justice League Adventures, and he only wrote them, as opposed to writing and drawing them (I wouldn't mind read a JLA-drawn Howarth story though; I've mentioned it before, but I think he's an ideal creator for some weird Green Lantern Corps comics, based on his Keif Llama sci-fi space comics). The specific issues are #9 and #29 if you're interested in hunting them down.

The Dr. Thirteen comic was one he both wrote and inked, with Michael Avon Oeming providing the pencil art. What would Howarth's inks look like on top of Avon Oeming's art? I have no idea, but I'm dying to find out. This was a 1998 comic, Vertigo Visions: Dr. Thirteen, part of a line of one-shots DC's mature readers imprint would occasionally do featuring little-used DCU characters.

It's strange and even a little frustrating in our current everything's always available environment, when just about everything you could hope to read can be found in a trade paperback collection somewhere, to run across something like this and realize you can't just buy the trade version of it.

That got me thinking about the Vertigo Visions line, and wondering if it might be something DC might collect anytime soon. The term was last used in 2000, as the title of coffee table art book collecting cover images and other artwork done for the imprint, but between 1993 and 1998, it was used to brand one-shots featuring, in addition to Dr. Thirteen, The Phantom Stranger, Dr. Occult, Tomahawk, and Brother Power, The Geek.The Phantom Stranger hasn't really been a DC star in a long time, but he's a perennial guest-star and cameo-maker throughout their entire DCU line. Dr. Occult has been popping up with rather regular frequency since the end of the nineties as well, and while Dr. Thirteen had his moment in the son not so long ago in Architecture and Mortality by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, his daughter continues to be a player in the DCU. I can't recall the last time I saw Tomahawk—was there a scene in Robinson's JLoA, perhaps?—but Brother Power was the unlikely co-star in a recent-ish issue of J. Michael Straczynski's The Brave and The Bold (and he also appeared in an issue of the far superior comic, Batman: The Brave and the Bold).

I think the creators involved would be more likely to move trade collections than the characters, though.

In addition to Michael Avon Oeming, big name creators Ed Brubaker, Eric Shanower, Michael Allred and Guy Davis were among the creators involved on these various specials. You don't see their names much in comics anymore, certainly not as often or with as much excitement as Brubaker's, but writers Alisa Kwitney, Rachel Pollack and artist Tom Yeates were also among the creators. (Would "By Ed Brubaker, Michael Avon Oeming, Guy Davis, Eric Shanower and others" in solicitation text lead to a bunch of pre-orders, I wonder...?)

Each issue was 56 pages, so I guess we'd be looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of 340 pages, which is probably prohibitively huge for a trade collection, and splitting it into two volumes might also halve the appeal of such a project. (I'm looking at the page counts on The Grand Comics Database though; maybe they count ads?)

Well, I'd buy a huge trade collecting all of these between a single set of covers, for whatever that's worth, DC. Now, how many more would you need to sell to turn a profit?


Johnny B said...

I've got 4 of the six; I didn't pick up the Drs 13 and Occult issues. As I recall, the Tomahawk issue was very well done, but I've always been in the tank for Yeates art and was jonesing for Timespirits at the time anyway. The Geek issue was a little disappointing, but Allred did a nice job on art. The Prez special was kinda dull, as I recall.

That Phantom Stranger take was an odd one for sure; rather than the rather suave PS we get most of the time, this one dressed in brown, with that odd flat hat and his clothes seemed to be tattered throughout. It was explained at the time as sort of an alternative Stranger, Vertigo-ized if you will, and this portrayal was referenced to a lot in the next few years, as I recall. Heck it was Guy Davis on art, so it was good for that if nothing else.

Jacob T. Levy said...

I liked the idea of these more than the execution. The Dr 13 one was terrible, and the Stranger one was interesting and experimental, but not entirely successful.

Nick Ahlhelm said...

Strangely enough, over the years I've managed to buy or read every single one except that Dr. 13 issue.

Honestly I don't think any of them stood out enough to make them a good investment on DC Vertigo, but in the issue of completeness, I would appreciate it.