I realize there are debates as to the particulars: "floppy" issues versus trade sales, a changing reading demographic, marketing concerns, formidable new competitors, etc. But in the end I think it comes down to these eight reasons.
You need to capture -- no, seize -- the imagination. Without doing that, none of the other factors are going to make a big enough difference.
"Scalped" may be a great book. I want to read the trades at some point. But what is so unique about "Scalped" at Vertigo that it couldn't be published at Wildstorm or Image?
See those eight properties? I could never picture them being handled quite the same way anywhere else. They had the "Vertigo" brand firmly stamped upon them. And that brand is about quality, uniqueness, edge...and maybe even an element of the iconic.
I mean, APE Entertainment puts out quality books like "Bizarre New World" and "Sullen Grey" that would look right at home in the Vertigo line. They put out books that look like what would happen if developing comics was more of dynamic brainstorm and less like an 18-month "refining process." S**t, if you miss "Sandman" and the like, go pick up "Sullen Grey."
For all I know, a company like APE could quietly be becoming the next Vertigo. Or there could be a few companies like that. Plus Image. And then what becomes of the Vertigo cachet? It becomes one in a line of comparable choices rather than an industry leader.
And then you have Zuda, DC's online venture. You know all that excitement over edgy new talent that Vertigo enjoyed 10, 15 years ago? That might be what Zuda is involved with right now! And then what is Vertigo's cachet? It is five steps away from being Paradox Press at this point.
Let's not forget Minx. Hell, I think Minx is more Top Shelf than teen manga. But it has legs (if you will excuse the pun). With Minx around, what happens to Vertigo's cachet? With CMX around, what happens to Vertigo's cachet?
And Grant Morrison is doing is Superman. Again -- what happens to Vertigo's cachet?
And Christ -- I got this giveaway Marvel MAX catalog the other day where it looks like they're really beefing up the whole line and making it more edgy and "alternative." So you'll have those books on the market as well -- many of them with a built-in character recognition.
As I said before, the critically-acclaimed "Scalped" might be a great book. But in order for Vertigo to regain its market lead in "adult" comics it needs iconic books like "Sandman," "Preacher," et al. It needs *stars*. And it needs new talent.
Or maybe it should try its hand at original graphic novels along the lines of what Top Shelf & Fantagraphics Press -- and Image! -- put out. Maybe their "goth" and "Brit" period is over. Maybe they should be printing books like Tom Neely's Ignatz-winning "The Blot" and First Second's "Laika."
At any rate, this is (or should be) a time for reevaluation, redefinition, and expansion for Vertigo. If I was in their shoes I'd:
1) Keep going to the "Indie" cons like MoCCA Fest and SPX and aggressively pursue new talent.
2) Go more Top Shelf/Fantagraphics/Oni/First Second and less Wildstorm
3) Either make a purposeful effort to restart the old properties that gave them such recognition -- Sandman, etc. -- or take some other DCU characters and Vertigoize them.
Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.