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DC Entertainment: What we know so far

DC Comics

DC Comics

Now that some of the dust has settled on yesterday’s big Warner Bros. announcement — press releases have been issued, top executives have been interviewed — we can at least begin to get a picture of the new DC Entertainment.

Here’s what we can piece together so far:

• DC Entertainment is essentially a new company under the Warner Bros. Entertainment umbrella designed to more effectively and aggressively make use of  — or “exploit,” if you will — the DC Comics characters in television, movies and other media. That’s long been viewed as a weak point in the DC-Warner Bros. relationship.

• This new company will be headed by Diane Nelson, who’s been president of Warner Premiere since the direct-to-DVD division of Warner Home Video was established in August 2006. A graduate of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications, Nelson was director of national promotions for Walt Disney Records before joining Warner Bros. in 1996. She’s perhaps best known for supervising the management of the lucrative Harry Potter movie franchise since 1999.

In addition to her duties as president of DC Entertainment, Nelson will continue to oversee Warner Premiere and the studio’s interests in Harry Potter. She’ll report to Jeff Robinov, president of Warner Bros. Picture Group. (As president and publisher of DC Comics, Paul Levitz reported to Alan Horn, president and COO of Warner Bros. Entertainment.)

Paul Levitz

Paul Levitz

• As part of the corporate restructuring, Levitz has resigned as president and publisher of DC Comics, a position he’s held since 2002. (He served in editorial and executive positions, ranging from assistant editor to executive vice president, since 1973.) Levitz, whose stints on The Legion of Super-Heroes in the 1970s and ’80s are regarded as high points for the property, has been named as the new writer of Adventure Comics, replacing Geoff Johns. He’ll also act as a consultant to DC Entertainment, initially helping Nelson to better understand the publishing business and to “get a team in place.”

“The longer term thing is to be available as both a creative consultant and a consultant on those things in the business that have mattered most to me — how we treat the talent and what the relationships are like there,” Levitz tells Comic Book Resources. “That, I think, will vary project to project.”

• DC Comics, Nelson says, “will remain intact” as a publishing company within DC Entertainment.

“DC has been a publishing company, but I think it has the potential to do more,” Nelson tells The Los Angeles Times. “I come into this not as a comic-book fan per se but someone who knows Warner Bros. and how to bring value to the DC properties.”

• Although Nelson will be president of DC Entertainment, a successor for Levitz will be sought to serve as publisher of DC Comics.

“I don’t presume to have that expertise and I will very much want to find someone to whom Paul can pass the mantle, as it were,” she tells CBR. “My role is much more, as my background indicates, about how do we take DC and treat it carefully and productively across our company. That’s what I’m looking forward to doing. I have a whole lot of experts at DC Comics who will help me understand the creative and fan communities and so forth.”

diane nelson

Diane Nelson

• That’s right, Nelson doesn’t have a background in comics — something she acknowledges. And, yes, she’s a woman (not a “girl,” as Sharon Waxman suggests).

“I prefer to be known as an executive rather than a girl,” Nelson tells Waxman. “It’s not gone without comment in the blogosphere. But I have to tell you, I’ve been really encouraged by the commentary in comic book world. … But I’m the first one to admit, I’m not by my nature a comic fan. It’s not what I’m bringing to the party. We have so many experts who will remain the cornerstone of DC Entertainment. What I bring to the party is a skill at moving properties and brands through Time Warner as a company.”

• That said, under Nelson’s supervision Warner Premiere has produced the DC Universe Original Animated Movies, including Superman: Doomsday and Justice League: The New Frontier, and motion comics such as Watchmen and Batman: Mad Love.

• Contrary to message-board speculation, the restructuring isn’t a direct response to last week’s big news that Disney will purchase Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. (International corporations don’t — and generally can’t — move that quickly.) But it did change the timing of the Warner Bros. announcement.

According to Nelson and Barry Meyer, chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment, discussions had been under way for nearly a year, with details set to be unveiled in January 2010 — the beginning of DC Comics’ 75th-anniversary celebration. With so many questions about the Disney deal and the possibility of greater competition, Meyer tells The New York Times, “it would have been disingenuous for us to suggest that we had not been thinking about it.”

• Also, the restructuring isn’t a result of the sales and reception of the Batman: Arkham Asylum video game, which was released all of two weeks ago. Seriously?

• Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment appear to be holding off until the first of the year to announce new comics-related additions to their television, film and video-game slates.

• So, um, who has more characters, DC Entertainment or Marvel Entertainment? “When we saw Marvel deal I posed the question,” Nelson tells Waxman. “We’re not sure how they got to that number (5,000). The answer was – if you factor in the alternate universes, there are an infinite number of characters.”

When pressed, Nelson admits DC’s character library is larger: “We have reason to believe it’s even bigger than Marvel.”

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Comments

24 Comments

Dude, all it takes is one videogame to start the dominoes falling!

Sharon Waxman should be really embarrassed for phrasing that question like that. Also, has she never heard of Jenette Kahn, who was Paul Levitz’s predecessor and whom Levtiz acknowledges as his “teacher” in his outgoing statement?

Speaking of that statement, if you contrast it with Diane Nelson’s incoming one, you really see the difference in point of view between these two people. Whereas Levitz’s is about relationships, craft, and the affection he has for DC, Nelson’s is full of sterile business-speak. This interview confirms the impression I’d gotten. Nelson doesn’t really care about comics; she cares about making money from comics properties. And since we all could benefit from making more money now, I’m hesitant to knock it. However, leadership that really cares about the product carries a lot of weight with comics readers, I think. It will be interesting to see who the new publisher is.

I’ve always enjoyed reading what Levitz has to say about the comics industry. I hope we’ll keep hearing from him.

The most interesting part is that the position of Publisher will be filled. I figured it would disappear in the restructuring. That’s going to be the next big announcement/controversy.

So who do you think will get the nod? Someone within DC Comics or the industry in general? Or someone from outside the industry?

I’d love an article about people who would be qualified for the job.

I want to see:

live action films including characters like Vixen, Black Lightning, John Irons, John Stewart, and the new Firestorm.. Cartoon series based on the new Firestorm.. also a big promotional push for the Milestone characters in video games, cartoons, and film..

Wesley: there must be a Publisher position filled, because DCE still has a publishing arm (DC Comics). If such position had extinguished, I would say it would be the end of DC Comics as a publisher and more like a library of characters kind-of thing (like Disney).

I’m just going to say what everybody has been thinking but no one has had the balls to say:

Diane Nelson is really hot.

What does the comics publisher at DC and Marvel actually do? I know DiDio and Quesada are in charge of things on more of the creative side. But I’ve never really been that clear about what the publisher’s job description really is.

JB – you know it, brother!!

I’m nominating Karen Berger for Publisher.

Cheers,

B

When pressed, Nelson admits DC’s character library is larger: “We have reason to believe it’s even bigger than Marvel.”

I’m surprised nobody has the numbers at their fingertips. But it makes intuitive sense that DC has more characters.

The simple explanation for what publishers do is that they have a broad vision for the publication direction and they hire and manage editors who are supposed to carry out that direction by doing the nitty-gritty — choosing artists and writers, project managing, etc. I’m not sure if that’s how it works at DC, but it’s the general model.

Who wants to start counting entries in the DC Encyclopedia and Marvel Encyclopedia from DK Publishing from a few years back?

Brian from Canada

September 10, 2009 at 3:46 pm

But counting DC’s library of characters is a bit skewed by how many repetitive characters there are out there: how different would Red Arrow be from Green Arrow in the eyes of the general public? And how many of them would resonate with audiences today?

“We have reason to believe it’s even bigger than Marvel.”

Pfft. Leave it to a woman to start comparing comic book peens. I kid, I kid. Hee hee…

“how different would Red Arrow be from Green Arrow in the eyes of the general public?”

About as different as the various Hulks/Goblins/Captain Marvels are from one another.

Matthew E said:

“I’m surprised nobody has the numbers at their fingertips. But it makes intuitive sense that DC has more characters.” {{more than Marvel}}

Nuh-uhh. Why, Marvel has 6 wolverines, 4 Hulks, 3 Punishers, etc. It all adds up. ;)

I think DiDio will be promoted to Publisher.

Well, it’s true that Marvel and DC have thousands of characters, invented over decades of publishing. However, not all of those have the same importance or marketing potential. I don’t think ‘Mazing Man is high on the list of DC’s possible adaptations… and the inexplicably dog-faced guy who was a supporting character in that comic, even less.

>> I don’t think ‘Mazing Man is high on the list of DC’s possible adaptations… and the inexplicably dog-faced guy who was a supporting character in that comic, even less.>>

You might be surprised. ‘MAZING MAN isn’t blockbuster movie material, but not everything needs to be to have value. As a TV cartoon, or a live-action sitcom on one of the family-oriented cable stations, it might turn out to be just what someone’s been looking for.

Lots of variety gives you lots of options, in a world where tastes change over time and there are lots of different outlets for different kinds of material. That’s why libraries like this are valuable — there’s breadth and depth to what’s in them. And stuff that might not have seemed valuable one year may turn out to have possibilities the next. One of DC’s teen-humor series (BINK’S BUDDIES, I think) has a character in it who’s an affable teenage vampire named Malibu, who loves surfing and the beach. That could be a sitcom, in this Twilight-riddled age.

The stuff that sells the best in comics stores is not necessarily going to be the stuff that sells the easiest to TV, movies and other places.

kdb

Kurt, well said. What I find funny about some of the internet talk this move has generated is the belief DC are behind Marvel in terms of output in film/TV. Which simply is not the case, as DC have produced better cartoons, (JLU), better DTV movies (with Wonder Woman being the best) and TDK became the 2nd biggest movie ever last year. Maybe Marvel make more money on their films/TV per project but the quality balance s in DC’s favour…this coming from someone who makes his Marvel in comics these days….

I imagine this movie is somewhat motivated by the fact th Potter well is dried up in terms of new material and Warners need new box office tentpolls for beyond 2010, beside the 3rd Nolan Batman flick…

Did Diane Nelson just tell us an infinite multiverse still exists ;)

To me this is a great thing for DC in general. They need to look into digital comics and fix the trade-paperback system. The writing looks to be on the wall for Dan DiDio. Once the new publisher comes in, I’m sure the first thing is getting his own Editor-in-Chief into the office and really look over the failings of the business. While DiDio makes sure his singles sell, he needs to realize TPB’s is where the real money is made and that’s why Marvel was doing so well while turning it into a billion dollar company through their movies.

kombayn, doesn’t DC outsell Marvel in the TPB market?

Syracuse University’s Newcastle School of Communications

It’s the Newhouse School of Communications.

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