Robot 6

The new Warner Bros., and the rise of DC Entertainment

Tied to last night’s official announcement of a Justice League movie, The Wall Street Journal takes another look at Warner Bros., comparing its superhero output to that of Marvel — that’s a familiar story by now — and, more interesting, highlighting the changing position of DC Entertainment within the media giant.

The studio in 2009 announced plans plans to better exploit its comics properties (across film, television, video games and consumer products) with a corporate restructuring that saw the creation of DC Entertainment, a new division overseen by Diane Nelson, a Warner Bros. veteran who headed up its direct-to-video label and served as shepherd of its Harry Potter franchise.

While declarations of DC’s importance to the studio became fixtures of interviews with Jeff Robinov, former president of Warner Bros. Picture Group, and Kevin Tsujihara, named last year as CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment, perhaps the most visible signs of the internal changes have been the move of the comics division from New York City to Burbank, California — a lengthy process that will be complete next year — and the recent dramatic increase of properties in development for television, from Arrow spinoff The Flash and Gotham to Constantine and iZombie.

Progress on the DC front, The Journal suggests, may owe much to the January 2013 promotion of Tsujihara, which ended a three-way race for CEO that “hampered [Nelson’s] efforts to work across divisions led by rival executives, according to people at the company.” Among the contenders was Nelson’s boss Robinov, who exited Warner Bros. following a June 2013 shakeup; with his departure, she began reporting directly to Tsujihara.

The newspaper notes that while Nelson “oversees the small but profitable comics business, where digital publishing has become a priority,” her influence is felt throughout the studio: In contrast to Marvel Studios, which aims for one, continuing narrative across film and television, Nelson encouraged the development of “diverse and even contradictory takes,” which allowed for one version of Batman in the upcoming sequel to Man of Steel and another in Gotham and another still in The LEGO Movie.

“It isn’t about a single approach to everything,” she tells The Journal. “It’s the right character matched with the right talent in the right medium.”

Perhaps just as telling is the approach taken by Geoff Johns, appointed in 2010 as DC Entertainment’s chief creative officer, who’s characterized as “less nitpicky” than his predecessors. To illustrate the point, an anonymous colleague relates to the newspaper:

… the time when DC staffers in New York asked an animation executive to change a script because the villain Man-Bat wouldn’t be physically strong enough to carry the Penguin (the Batman foe) on his back.

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“the development of “diverse and even contradictory takes,” which allowed for one version of Batman in the upcoming sequel to Man of Steel and another in Gotham and another still in The LEGO Movie.”

That’s an approach, I think, that many of us would feel should be used in the comic books as well.

Though how you can do that when you have a Chief Creative Officer is beyond me.

Saying Marvel has “one approach to everything” is a little reductive, since they’ve obviously encouraged different filmmakers to put a personal stamp on their movies, and used the superhero platform to expand into different genres. Sure, the unified narrative could theoretically limit them in several ways, but that novelty is one of the prime reasons they currently have the edge in the movie department. Politics, I know. If Warner has a revitalized interest in exploiting the various DC properties then they’re getting off to a later start but there’s no reason they can’t do great things. I suspect that the key will be in doing justice to the Vertigo titles, while I can see putting the Snyder/Goyer stamp on each superhero movie may have diminishing returns. (Creatively, at least… the money will keep coming in until the point is reached that “this time..MORE superheroes!” is no longer intrinsically exciting to audiences.)

The New(?) DC. With Harras, DiDio, Lee, and Johns?
Good luck everybody!

I call bullshit on this CEO. “diverse and even contradictory takes” sounds a whole lot like “we are just too lazy to try.” Tell us more how your strategy of doing nothing to manage creative is awesome!

Karl, how is letting people tell interesting stories with malleable characters “doing nothing to manage creative”? Why do they have to constrain their talent in order to manage them? And why limit the audience only to those who like whatever singular style you would have DC commit to?

So, more WB/DC stupidity. Ok gotcha

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