What was Suggested for Mature Readers?

The accepted progression, historically, is that the Mature Readers label evolved out of Swamp Thing’s lack of Comics Code and Sophisticated Suspense cover line, and that the title’s success led to a mini-line of Mature Readers titles created by British writers, and that became Vertigo. That’s not inaccurate. But it doesn’t tell the whole story. Grant Morrison, considered a Vertigo guy for at least a decade, didn’t have the label on Animal Man or the first 18 months of Doom Patrol. Meanwhile, there were other titles that proudly bore the label, from The Question to Green Arrow to The Shadow, starring characters and created by writers who would never be associated with the Vertigo line.

I can remember a few of those titles, mainly the ones listed above along with miniseries like Blackhawk and Skreemer, but I’ve found it hard to remember others and can’t find much by Googling. So I’m putting out an appeal to my loyal readership, which might be small in number but seems to have a knowledge of the 85-95 period of comics that puts mine to shame. Which DC comics were Suggested for Mature Readers? If you can remember any that weren’t part of the eventual leap to Vertigo I’d appreciate it if you’d tell me in the comments. The reward, apart from being the smartest fanboy on the block, is that I might write about them after I’m done writing about Crisis and Revolver. Whether that will motivate anyone, I don’t know…

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8 Responses to “What was Suggested for Mature Readers?”
  1. nieljacoby says:

    Wasteland by John Ostrander and Del Close with various artists may count, but I’m not sure if you’ve covered it already.

  2. Aman Withastrangename says:

    I’m a new reader so Im not sure if youve already mentioned Razorjack by Delano and Higgins. V for Vendetta was coloured and republished by DC pre vertigo, as a suggested for….Morrison also did a strip called ‘ A Glass Of Water ‘ for their Fast Forward anthology and Bolland worked on that slightly dodgy Camalot comic, both also ‘ Suggested ‘. What about over the other side at Epic, with the likes of The Last American and Marshal Law ?

  3. Aman Withastrangename says:

    …actually now that I’ve woken up the Delano / Higgins thing was called something like ‘ Worlds Without End ‘, not ‘ Razorjack ‘. I also remember there being a couple of Deadman specials and a series called The Weird at DC, both of which were ‘ Suggested ‘

  4. Good call on Wasteland; I’ve not covered it and haven’t read it, apart from the Harvey Pekar parody story I managed to download from somewhere.

    The miniature reprinted cover of Camelot 3000 #1 in my Brian Bolland covers book doesn’t bear a warning label. I think it was the first direct sales only comic? I could be wrong. And I remember the preview of World Without End but never read it. I remember seeing those Deadman comics too, were they the Mike Baron-Kelley Jones series?

    Thanks for your suggestions. I’ve thought about swapping sides to Epic: Marshall Law, Elektra Assassin, Moonshadow, Blood, The One… but I have to admit that’s probably all I know. I never read the flagship titles like Grimjack and Dreadstar. Or, to my shame, Groo. Are they worth it?

  5. Richard says:

    A few DC comics that were published for mature readers and written by authors not associated with Vertigo are: Slash Maraud (six issue series, 1987) by Doug Moench & Paul Gulacy; and Haywire (twelve issue series,1987) by Michael Fleischer and Vince Giarrano.
    Both are enjoyably trashy reads, indebted to straight-to-video style science fiction movies of the period. They are certainly not like anything released subsequently in the classic Vertigo mode, but worth a look all the same, even if not especially worth blogging about. Having said that, Haywire does touch on the mental health issues that would later come to typify the themes of Vertigo comics, albeit slightly and flippantly.

    You mention Blackhawk in your post. Howard Chaykin also wrote and illustrated The Shadow: Blood and Judgment for DC in 1986. That was definitely suggested for mature readers. I think, like Blackhawk, it was edited by Andy Helfer. As far as I can remember, or tell from further reading, Helfer was responsible for ushering-in a more mature feel for certain post-Moore/ pre-Vertigo titles and series. His career at DC may provide an avenue for enquiry.
    I think what makes these series interesting from a modern perspective is that they betray the accepted wisdom that it was an entirely ‘British Invasion’ that brought-about sophisticated, ‘adult’ DC comics.

    Hope that’s of interest! Great blog, by the way.

    Richard

    PS. Just remembered: Twilight was a series edited by Helfer, written by Chaykin, and published under a pre-Vertigo ‘Suggested for Mature Readers’ banner. It was a dystopian ‘Elseworlds’ style series about DC’s cosmic characters and featured fantastic art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.

  6. Tristan says:

    The John Ostrander-written, 1992-launched series of ‘The Spectre’ did NOT carry a mature readers label, a fact I recall because it became a subject of ongoing debate on the letters page. It was frequently gory, dealt with ‘ripped from the headlines’ adult themes of sexuality, racism, warfare, etc. and definitely fit the Swamp-Thing/Animal Man pattern of humanizing a formerly one-note lead and/or revising the nature his origin without altering anything that had been previously ‘seen’ by readers, but for some reason it fell into the same category as any Batman or Superman title.

    I know I’m not really giving an answer of the type you solicited, but it popped into my head that it’s odd position would actually make it a really interesting run for you to dissect, maybe even including the letters page debate, as it sort of challenges the whole dichotomy established by the ‘mature readers’ label.

    • I had The Spectre in my head as a Mature Readers comic and checked out cover after cover waiting for the label to appear, which it never did. Never read it so had no idea that debate was going on. I’ll look it up, thanks for telling me.

  7. vertigology says:

    So I have been collecting these. There are two Deadman two issue miniseries, The Question, Gilgamesh II, Green Arrow, Wasteland, The Shadow, Twilight, Camelot 300, Vigilante, Batman The Killing Joke, Tailgunner Jo, Mister E, Mighty Love, and Blackhawk.

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