Karen Berger, executive editor of DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint and its director since the critically acclaimed comics imprint began in 1993, is stepping down and will leave the company in March 2013. The subject of much speculation since DC Comics’ reorganization during 2009-2010, Berger will “assist in the transition to a new leadership team,” according to a release from DC Entertainment, before leaving the company.

DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson praised Berger for her “commitment and dedication to Vertigo, its books and its incredibly talented team of staff and creators. In Vertigo she leaves a legacy to which we remain committed and on which we intend to build for the future. She will always be a deeply valued and respected member of the DC family.” DC Entertainment is planning a celebration in 2013 to mark Berger's 33 years at the company

While Berger has been with DC Comics for more than 30 years, she’s best known for her stewardship of the Vertigo imprint, which became known for publishing highly regarded nonsuperhero genre stories by a host of acclaimed writers, in particular from the U.K. Under Berger, Vertigo published Neil Gaiman (Sandman), Alan Moore (V for Vendetta), Grant Morrison (The Invisibles) and Garth Ennis (Preacher), in addition to such celebrated (and bestselling) Americans as Brian K. Vaughan (Y the Last Man), Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets), Bill Willingham (Fables) and Scott Snyder (American Vampire). During her leadership at Vertigo, the imprint was known for publishing award-winning genre and literary comics works. In many ways, Vertigo and Berger helped to usher in the current era of original graphic novel publishing focused on a far wider range of genres beyond the super hero category, in turn attracting a broader range of readers and media attention to the comics medium.

However, in the wake of DC’s 2009-2010 reorganization—and the departure of former DC publisher Paul Levitz, who originally hired Berger—as well as much tighter oversight over its publishing program by Warner Bros., DC Entertainment’s parent company, there has been much speculation over the fate of the imprint as well as Berger. DC Comics’ successful The New 52—a 2011 relaunch of its superhero universe—not only spurred increased sales of periodical superhero comics but also drove sales of digital comics and graphic novels as well as bringing new readers into comics shops; but it also sparked further speculation on the fate of Vertigo.

However, Vertigo appears to be hanging on and new leadership—said to be chosen with Berger’s input—is likely to be appointed shortly. Among the candidates likely to take over from Berger—“the veteran staffers” mentioned in the press release—are current Vertigo editors Shelly Bond, Mark Doyle and Will Dennis. According to the release, Berger said that “she is ready for a professional change and is looking forward to pursuing exciting new opportunities.”

“I've been incredibly proud to have provided a home where writers and artists could create progressive and provocative stories that broadened the scope of comics, attracting a new and diverse readership to graphic storytelling,” said Berger. “I'd like to thank all the many immensely talented creators who have helped make Vertigo into a daring and distinctive imprint and I’m grateful to everyone at DC Entertainment and the retail community for their support and commitment to Vertigo all these years. It’s been quite an honor.”