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The latest DC Entertainment shakeups: What we know

DC Comics

DC Entertainment’s twin announcements on Tuesday — the division of operations between Burbank and New York, and the end of the WildStorm and Zuda imprints — was followed by a round of interviews that provides us with a fairly good picture of what the moves mean. Here’s what we know:

DC Entertainment’s “bi-coastal realignment strategy”: Despite the silly corporate-speak, this aspect of the DC announcements is, at least on the surface, the simplest to break down. The company’s operations related to business/administration, as well as multimedia and digital content, will relocate to “a Warner Bros.-managed property” in Burbank, Calif., while the publishing division will remain in New York City. The move is expected to be complete by the end of next year.

From there, however, the details get a little murky. Although the initial press release specifically mentions “consumer products” will be part of the move, neither DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson nor DC Comics Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee would say whether that was a reference to DC Direct, DC Comics’ collectibles division.

“I’m not sure what that would be referring to, exactly,” Nelson told Comic Book Resources, “but Warner Bros. obviously has a meaningful consumer products division and the part of DC that works closely with Warner Bros.’ consumer products are likely to be in the Los Angeles office, but you may be referring to DC Direct and you may be referring to other licensing initiatives and unfortunately right now I can’t get in to the specifics of that. I do think it would be fair to say that we’re looking for every opportunity to work more closely with the Warner Bros. businesses, consumer products is just one, and we are going to work more closely with them.”

Diane Nelson

Nelson also wouldn’t offer specifics about which departments are covered by the press-release term “administrative functions” — it’s a “catch-all phrase for a lot of departments that we’re still talking with,” she tells Publishers Weekly — or whether marketing and sales or publicity will be involved in the move.

In addition, there remains the question of the fate of the WildStorm offices in La Jolla, California. Between the end of the imprint (more on that below), the overall restructuring and the reported end of the lease in December, it seems likely any remaining functions will shift to Burbank and New York.

Lee, who launched WildStorm in 1992 before selling the company to DC in 1999, told IGN.com he’ll return to California today and Thursday to talk to the La Jolla staff: “… we have to be sensitive to the fact that we’re meeting with them one-on-one over the next couple days to inform them what’s going on. For them to find out further through interviews online wouldn’t really make sense.”

Layoffs: Although Nelson has confirmed the restructuring will involve layoffs, there’s a dispute over the Los Angeles Times report that “about 20% of DC’s roughly 250 staffers will lose their jobs.” A DC Comics spokesman challenged the statement, noting it didn’t come from Nelson. Indeed, it seems the company doesn’t yet have a clear picture of which employees will relocate and what positions will be cut.

When asked Tuesday by CBR how many jobs will be relocated or eliminated, Nelson said: “Unfortunately or fortunately I can’t go through that with you because what we’re beginning today is a pretty unique process of talking with all of our employees personally, one-on-one, over the course of the next few days to work with them on each of their individual positions. So there’s a spectrum of things that are happening for various employees – there are promotions, there are offers of relocation and unfortunately there are some layoffs to come. Until that’s all sorted and people have had time to consider their individual opportunities and we confirm all that, which will take us a few weeks, we aren’t going to be able to discuss specifics.”

Farewell, WildStorm and Zuda: On the heels of the restructuring news, DC announced the end of its Zuda and WildStorm imprints, one much sooner than the other.

WildStorm, whose star has faded in recent years, will come to a close in December as current versions of “classic” titles like WildCats, The Authority and Gen 13 conclude their runs. Miniseries like DV8 and Welcome to Tranquility will wrap up under the DC banner, which will also be home to the licensed video-game and kids’ comics.

Jim Lee

“I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy,” Lee told IGN. “I’m very proud of the 18 years we’ve been publishing comics. We had a lot of great concepts and a lot of great books. We created a lot of cutting edge material that defined trends for a long time. I think we definitely hit a rough patch and I think taking a break and reexamining the characters and concepts, and applying some fresh inspiration, would do the WildStorm characters a lot of good.”

The WildStorm characters will return, however — after a substantial break — as Lee, DiDio and DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns have “a lot of exciting plans” for them.

“It’s a ways off,” Lee told Newsarama. “I don’t want to mislead any WildStorm fans. At the same time, honestly, I think taking a bit of a breather on them and then re-energizing them with some new focus and direction will be very good for those characters. I feel very confident, as co-creator on a lot of those properties and characters, that this is a very good creative move for them.”

Zuda, DC’s three-year-old digital initiative, will be shuttered after this week, which doesn’t come as a surprise, given that its online presence closed down in July. No new material will be produced, but any titles that were set to be published this year by Zuda will be released under the DC banner.

So, what’s the status of Vertigo? “Six months ago, I was more worried about Vertigo than WildStorm,” Warren Ellis wrote. “Shows what I know.”

It’s likely a common sentiment, as plenty of people predicted the imminent demise of the 17-year-old mature-readers imprint in February, following the announcement of the company’s new executive team, and again over the summer with the editorial fiat calling for the return of DC Universe-originating characters like Swamp Thing. Yet here we are, with Vertigo as the Last Imprint Standing. That appears to be, in large part, due to brand recognition.

Dan DiDio

“One of the things [...] is that we realized DC Comics is the most recognizable name,” DiDio told Comics Alliance, “but we also have a lot of strength in regards to the Vertigo [brand] and MAD magazine. When you say Vertigo and you said MAD, you clearly understand what each other brands and imprints stands for. And we’d rather build each of those to be even stronger, with a stronger message.”

Lee and DiDio suggested that non-superhero concepts, or those like the recently concluded Ex Machina that don’t fit the traditional superhero mold, could find a home at Vertigo.

“We’re going to be sitting down with [Vertigo Executive Editor] Karen Berger, because she’s so important to the voice of Vertigo and the direction of Vertigo,” DiDio told Newsarama. “So we want to sit down and talk about what works best for the imprint, and move in that direction.”

What about creator-owned WildStorm titles? As we noted yesterday, writer Kurt Busiek, whose Astro City was among the last creator-owned comics being published by WildStorm, didn’t know what the end of the imprint will mean to his book.

Lee told CBR that DC is in discussions with Busiek about the future of Astro City: “It’s a creator-owned book, so his input is invaluable and essential. Until we have finished that dialogue — and of course we weren’t able to share all this with him before the announcement — we won’t be able to have an official statement on that.”

Warner Bros.’ superhero plans: Contrary to earlier reports, Nelson said the studio won’t be announcing its movie strategy for DC’s superhero properties within the next month.

“First, [Warner Bros. CEO Barry Meyer], by his own admission, was misquoted,” Nelson told CBR, “so we’re not going to be making that announcement in the next month, but we will be discussing a lot of our content plans before the end of the year. It won’t necessarily be exhaustive, and it will not be limited to a theatrical slate, but at the same time that we’ve been looking carefully at the organization, everyone’s been working very hard to keep the business moving in the direction we want – everyone in particular being Geoff Johns who has a lot of great stuff with our divisions. So, you will hear more about that before the end of the year.”

A lingering question: Seven months after DiDio’s promotion to co-publisher, there’s still no mention of who will succeed him as executive editor of the DC Universe imprint. Do these latest announcements make the position obsolete or more necessary than before?

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Comments

27 Comments

An end to Vertigo would likely put an end to my interest in monthly comics altogether. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen anytime soon.

I can’t see Vertigo going – Just look at their bookstore presence. They’re huge in that market.

Vertigo will be fine… But as far as the DCU goes, as long as Didio is in any way still involved I won’t buying many, if any, of their titles.

The fate of DC Direct most interests me out of all this.

There’s too many “maybes” and “I’ll tell you laters” here. This is supposed to be a presentation from a top-notch company? At the very least they should have figured out the answers to the obligatory questions -such as who was going to get laid off- were going to be *before* making the announcements. As it is the whole thing feels like a publicity stunt, a “We gotta say we’re doing something big too!”

As for the imprints, the only Wildstorm series I cared for was Astro City, and being creator-owned it’ll likely continue being published that way. Unless DC is dumb enough to let it go, then Marvel and Image will fight over it like dogs.

My only real fear here is that collapsing all the imprints into the standard DC universe will make it even grimmer than it already is. Keep Constantine and his ilk away from my superheroes!

Is lee going to absorb some of the blame for Wildstorm’s problems after his company’s repeated failed relaunches of several of those titles?

Actually there aren’t so many “maybe’s”. They have mentioned quite a lot and can’t talk yet about the rest. They could have waited longer but decided now was right because of all the people involved. Why do they have to say how many will be laid off. Instead they say they’re talking to each one first. That sounds right. Vertigo with DC next to it is a good bet. The movies are now a priority. Common sense people.

One real point of interest is DC Direct. They lost sight of what they really wanted to be. Far too many statues and figures of the same characters. How many Batman & Superman statues or figures does one need. Even Wonder Woman is flooded in the market. Also as far as figures they rarely ( never ) complete a team or series, just more artists series. Mattel is doing more. Dr. Fates helmet never came out ( I wanted one ) but it was a nice ideal( would it sell ?). The museum series is a good ideal but only Batman really stands out. Head busts nice. As a person gets older they want something different. If Randy Bowen got tired of doing repeat marvel statues would DC be open now to adding him to Direct ( because really the statue market is bad )?

Now what they should do is a series of lithos from their top artists ( Finch ) like Alex Ross did for the WB store, but a bit lower in cost. Limited artwork is big and why not take advantage. The smallville JSA picture would be a start. Anyway good luck to them.

Vertigo, monthly periodical sales aside, is the most successful thing DC has going, why would WB touch them?

I have to ask why people think DC needs an “executive editor” or “editor-in-chief” considering that Didio is still doing that job but with a fancier title. If an ee was appointed tomorrow, what would Didio do?

I for one am sad to see Wildstorm go. I’ve always dug the Wildcats and Gen 13. I really liked Authority and Planetary as well. I know that in the end they went dildos but still a sad face for me.

I really hope DC does not closing ABC’s publishing as well … sigh …

I guess I will have to wait a little longer for issue 2 of the Jim Lee and Grant Morrison Wildcats.

Ian said:
“If an ee was appointed tomorrow, what would Didio do?”

answer: whatever the hell it was levitz did.

As long as Vertigo remains untouched, and I get to finish off DV8, X-Files/30 Days of Night, and Fringe, the closing of Wildstorm doesn’t bother me.

Here’s an idea: revitalize Vertigo.

Step 1: bring back classic Vertigo titles.
* Doom Patrol
* Animal Man
* Swamp Thing
* Sandman

Step 2: bring back Vertigo-esque DC titles under Vertigo
* Starman
* Hitman

Step 3: take off the self-imposed handcuffs and give us mature versions of DC’s icons
* Superman
* Batman
* Wonder Woman

Step 4: give Wildstorm titles a home under Vertigo
* The Authority
* WildCATS
* Tom Strong
* Top 10

Yeah, none of that will ever happen. You gotta admit, if they did that Vertigo would explode.

They don’t know a lot of stuff for managers who say again and again that they thought everything through for more then a year…

I agree with Sijo: The most relevant and important story here is what will happen to the people being laid off and how many people fall under that category. I’m shocked by how many people lose sight of that fact, as if real, live people are subordinate to the fate of Midnighter or Grifter. On the other hand, I understand DC’s decision to speak to all parties concerned FIRST and the news will have to wait on that eventuality. That said, I think it’s pretty apparent the initial press release / subsequent story is pretty much only a half-story with a lot of unanswered questions.

As for the product WildStorm puts out, I’m not nearly as interested in how the WildStorm characters are used in the future as I am in how they will preserve the back-catalog. WildStorm’s back-catalog features some of the biggest works by the likes of Warren Ellis, Ed Brubaker, Mark Millar, and Brian K. Vaughan, not to mention the entirety of Alan Moore’s ABC line. Moore has had more American superhero comics published through WIldStorm than any other publisher. Add in a plethora of huge name artists during their formative years and it’s pretty apparent that WildStorm’s trade paperback program OUGHT to be preserved. Will all these old comics live on as TPB collected editions? They should. Will DC be able to get away with reproducing the mature-readers Eye Of The Storm imprint under the DC banner? Will re-branding these comics, many of which take place in an alternate continuity / universe, with a giant DC logo simply be confusing for new readers expecting Superman and Batman stories?

Also, I was hoping this Laura Hudson interview would clear up some of my questions:

http://www.comicsalliance.com/2010/09/22/wildstorm-closing-jim-lee-dan-didio/

But Lee and DiDio are rather vague and light on specifics. Wait and see, I suppose.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

DC and the rest of the comics industry are perishing because they are a disorganized, leaderless mess with no viable, consistent direction to follow into the future. This “big announcement” is probably nothing but a smokescreen to disguise the fact that they’re beginning the process of shutting down the new-comics publishing division of DC (which, like the rest of the modern comics industry, is a creatively worthless, financially unprofitable, directionally misguided disaster) and moving all the valuable segments of the company to California.

D. Peace: “The most relevant and important story here is what will happen to the people being laid off and how many people fall under that category. I’m shocked by how many people lose sight of that fact, as if real, live people are subordinate to the fate of Midnighter or Grifter. On the other hand, I understand DC’s decision to speak to all parties concerned FIRST and the news will have to wait on that eventuality. That said, I think it’s pretty apparent the initial press release / subsequent story is pretty much only a half-story with a lot of unanswered questions.”

The reason they can’t say who is getting laid off is probably because they don’t KNOW yet. That’s one of the things with a giant company move, and something I’ve experienced at my own work: there are going to be a lot of people, the people they really want to keep, that DCE is going to offer the choice of (A) a moving package or (B) a big, fat severence package. And some of those people will take (B), either because they don’t want to move or want to take the money and then run over to Marvel or some other publisher (“get while the gettin’s good,” in other words). For every A-list person that takes the severence package, they’ll offer another B-list person the moving package, and on and on until they figure out where every person ends up. They know they can’t take everybody so someone will have to be laid off, but until they talk to everyone, they don’t know who will be willing to make that move and who won’t. Who knows…they may not have to forcibly lay off anybody, it’s just too soon to know.

Wildstorm was the imprint for edgier superheroes, some so edgy they had to move to another publisher!

Perhaps a “Vertigo Heroes” line, similar to the “Vertigo Crime” imprint, would be a good idea. Actually, call it “Vertigo Realities”, allowing all sorts of stories to be told. (Biggest mistake DC ever made? Letting Disney purchase CrossGen for $10,000. DC could have instantly launched a line of alternative genres with an established readership.) Astro City is the keystone for this line, and backlist such as Doom Patrol and Transmetropolitan are the foundation. Licensed titles for a mature audience are published under the DC Comics line. This line can also slowly move the demographics lower. Vertigo already has a strong high school demographic (Sandman, Fables, Books of Magic). This line can slyly introduce “younger” titles, build up a backlist, and THEN spin-off a YA line. (Just like DC Comics spun off Vertigo using Sandman, Swamp Thing, and Hellblazer.)

As for the DC imprint, there needs to be two distinct lines: DCU, containing the classic superhero characters and multiverse, and DC Comics, containing everything else.

When the DC Comics titles are launched, make them day-and-date digital and paper, INCLUDING newsstand. (Just as you want a movie to open in as many markets at once so as to capitalize on publicity, so do you want comics to be EVERYWHERE when someone starts talking about them. Case in point: Kevin Keller. Comics shops got the issue of Veronica, it hit the news cycle, yet when the newsstands got it two weeks later, nobody noticed.) Most of these titles (such as the Johnny DC/Cartoon Network characters) have fewer comics shop orders, and are impulse buys. They’re stand-alone stories, age well, and can sit on a shelf for six months. A parent won’t worry about continuity or events, they’ll just grab a copy for their kid to read. Or someone gets curious and goes online.

My best to the staff at DC, and I am hopeful that we’ll see some amazing stuff in the next few years! (Why not?! Look at all the stuff that came from their Fiftieth Anniversary in 1985!)

Sawyer and Torsten Adair have some very good points. I could see them putting the Wildstorm universe (Wildcats, Gen13) in the Multiverse.

My big question is when does DC start a creator owned line?

I think DC not having their own “ICON” esk creator owned line is going to hurt them. How are they going to exclusively sign top notch writers/artists who want to have their own creator owned comics?

This may seem like a rearrangement of deck chairs on the Titanic, but I think it’s a significant trimming of the corporation as DC and Warner Bros position DC publishing for a changing future.

I see a leaner company and that’s pretty common now days. I also see a leaner company on the publishing side of comics. We all know that comics as a $4 floppy is not sustainable. But a leaner company maybe able to still keep the characters profitable and alive for movie deals and digital publishing.

My only concerns re: Wildstorm’s shuttering are as follows:

1. Busiek’s ASTRO CITY. It’s one of my favorite books.

2. The last EX MACHINA trade.

3. The current TOM STRONG & THE ROBOTS OF DOOM miniseries and the subsequent PLANET OF PERIL. I love Tom Strong and have enjoyed having him back but wonder if Alan Moore will allow the characters adventures to be published under the DC banner.

Roy of the Rovers

September 23, 2010 at 11:21 am

Imagine an Authority and/or Midnighter solo book from Vertigo by someone like Peter Milligan??

I do not mean to be snobby or stupid, I cannot see the point of the Wildstorm superheroes as straight-up, mainstreem spandex heroes, for them to work they need to be edgy (I hate that word actually) or quirky..or have that little extra that you cannot find in DC or Marvel books.

In the past DC, said Flash, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman would likely follow Green Lantern in terms of film development. Yet recently DC hasn’t said much about the films it plans to produce, yet because of what little they have said; I see a very bright future for the company.

Diane Nelson’s statements about not being caught in an “eternal struggle” with Marvel were very encouraging. She said, (no doubt following Nolan’s creative leadership), “no” they are not rushing to create a JLA film to compete with Marvel’s Avengers. DC content development, as Bruce Timm, Christopher Nolan and Martin Campbell’s development processes make clear, is not a slap dash enterprise to get every property visible regardless of the reputation director.

Marvel has taken almost unbelievable chances with its directors and properties. Yes Joss Whedon, Kenneth Branagh, Joe Johnson, and Matthew Vanaghn are all experienced yet none of them are a sure bet. So far sort of risk has not been DC’s strategy. They choose caution until capable authors are located. For those who are convinced by Marvel’s reckless yet prolific production slate, there should be reason for concern. Then again almost all of Marvel’s best properties are all in reboot. If any comics company is testing the general publics tolerance for the genre, it’s Marvel.

In terms of DC trendy experiments with less than capable hands have produced (Catwoman, Steel, Jonah Hex, and Watchmen) all of which were neither hits and in some cases were not well conceived at all. DC’s successes with the Batman franchise, 300, all of its animated features define the company’s excellence far more than its failures.

Fortunately this caution is why DC’s still has a wide and untapped slate of properties.

A Midnighter book by Milligan!! Sure, i’m in :-)

Yeah Wildstorm needs to be made up of stories with superheroes that aren’t simply about superpowers to work for me. Too bad Charest got a big head. That false start could have been a memorable run.

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