Beginning in the late 1980s, DC Comics, the world's largest publisher of heroic fantasy—otherwise known as superhero comics—began to publish a very different kind of comic book. The house started by publishing Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, a thought-provoking and troubling monster comic that was not aimed at kids. DC also launched Neil Gaiman's bestselling Sandman series and began publishing artists and writers such as Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis and Rick Veitch in graphic-novel format.

The success of these creators led to the launch of DC's Vertigo imprint in 1993 and, according to some, transformed American comics publishing. "We realized that our readership was getting older and we needed to do something outside of the superhero category," explained Karen Berger, Vertigo's founding editor. "We wanted to do intelligent contemporary fiction in comics form."

The Vertigo imprint is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2003. These days, the comics marketplace is much more attuned to the kinds of books Vertigo began publishing in 1993.

Vertigo publishes about 25 books a year. "Writers like Moore and Gaiman were ahead of their time," said Berger.

To mark the anniversary, Vertigo will publish Gaiman's Endless Nights, a much anticipated anthology of Sandman stories illustrated by an international roster of star cartoonists. The house is also publishing an updated version of Sargent Rock, the classic war comics series, illustrated by its original creator Joe Kubert and written by Eisner Award winner Brian Azzarello. The house is also publishing At Death's Door, a manga work aimed at female readers, written and illustrated by Jill Thompson, another Eisner Award winner.

"It's been a great ride. We're picking up great sales in the bookstores and the future of comics looks brighter than ever," said Berger.