Earlier today Kevin linked to all those images of Before Watchmen that BuzzFeed had posted after their visit to the DC offices, but if you’re less curious about the project and are more curious as to what the inside of Dan DiDio’s office looks like (spoiler alert: comics!), they took a bunch of pictures of DC’s working environment as well. Click on over to see the reception area, the giant mural depicting several DC characters by different artists, and the offices of Will Dennis, Mark Chiarello and DiDio.
Spurred by DC Comics’ upcoming Watchmen prequels and its prolonged legal battle with the heirs of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, iZombie writer Chris Roberson announced last week he would end his relationship with the publisher following the release of his Fairest arc — only to have the company decide his “services were no longer required” for the Fables spinoff. The developments triggered substantial discussion, and debate, online, so it’s perhaps to be expected that Roberson would be brought up over the weekend to DC Comics Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee during the Before Watchmen panel at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.
Asked by moderator Geoff Boucher how, as a creator, Lee reconciles Roberson’s comments about DC’s position on creators’ rights, the Image Comic co-founder replied, “I don’t know the writer, Chris [Roberson], and so — you know, it certainly would have helped if I could have talked to him or if he would’ve reached out to me. It seemed odd to me — as a creator, I would not publicly state I have a problem with the company that’s paying me to do work for them and I’m going to quit after I finish this one project. It would seem wise to me to wait until you finish that project to voice that complaint.”
DiDio was more terse in his response, saying, “As far as I’m concerned, he made a very public statement about not wanting to work for DC, and we honored that statement.”
“See,” Lee joked, “now that’s the line that’s going to run.”
The great strength of DC’s superhero line is its heterogeneity — that is, its history of bringing together different genre-based roots and different storytelling approaches. However, as the shared-universe model came to dominate superhero serials, DC’s various high sheriffs have tried to impose various kinds of order on these disparate perspectives. Starting in the Silver Age, the infinite Multiverse organized characters broadly, for example by generation (Earth-Two), publisher (Earth-X, Earth-S, Earth-Four), or special category (the Crime Syndicate’s Earth-Three, the Zoo Crew’s Earth-C). Crisis On Infinite Earths consolidated a lot of that, The Kingdom’s Hypertime sought unsuccessfully to reincorporate it, and 52 compromised with a scaled-back set of parallel Earths. Today, the New-52 setup still has a Multiverse, but the main DC-Earth has scaled back its superheroic history dramatically.
Details aside, though, each of these cosmological structures is an attempt to bring some deeper meaning to DC’s superhero line. Put simply, for a long time DC’s superhero books weren’t about something, whereas Marvel presented a “world outside your window” in which superpowers came with their own sets of problems. Thus, from the post-Crisis 1980s until the end of Flashpoint last summer, DC was arguably “about” superheroic legacies, and had no small success putting new faces with old names.
And again, those details are not especially germane to today’s post. Instead, I want to talk about the nature of DC’s various traditions, the extent to which those traditions should guide the publisher, and whether DC’s superhero books can, collectively, ever really be “about” anything.
Internet | Sandman co-creator Neil Gaiman joined with Trent Reznor, Aziz Ansari, OK Go and 14 other members of the creative community in signing an open letter to Congress against the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act. “We fear that the broad new enforcement powers provided under SOPA and PIPA could be easily abused against legitimate services like those upon which we depend. These bills would allow entire websites to be blocked without due process, causing collateral damage to the legitimate users of the same services – artists and creators like us who would be censored as a result,” the letter states.
Warren Ellis and Fantagraphics have also come out against the bill, while Peter David, who is against the bill in its current form, takes aim at those who “endorsed the piracy, supported the piracy, enabled the piracy, felt their own actions weren’t piracy, and now refuse to accept the consequences of their own actions.” ComicsAlliance has posted an editorial against the bill and rounded up webcomic reactions to the blackout. [NeilGaiman.com]
Publishing | Jennifer de Guzman announced that, after 10 years, she has left her position as editor-in-chief of SLG Publishing: “My decade SLG was, I suspect, like no other decade anyone has spent working anywhere. I had great co-workers and got to work with fantastic creators, all of whom I will miss very much. (Though because this is comics and a community like no other, we will always stay in contact.)” [Possible Impossibilities]
Retailing | Chris Powell, current general manager and chief relationship officer for Texas-based comic chain Lone Star Comics, has accepted the newly created position of executive director of business development for Diamond Comic Distributors. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund board member will start his new position in March. [ICv2]
During the promotional push for DC Comics’ “New 52″ relaunch, executives stressed steps were being taken to prevent late-shipping titles. We’ve already seen evidence of that commitment in the use of fill-in artists and some creative assists, but now it looks as if one of its titles is missing a beat — and it’s the biggest title the company has.
Justice League #5 was scheduled for release Jan. 18, according to the Previews catalog as well as the publisher’s own website, but recent information from Diamond Comic Distributors suggests it won’t make that date.
Although a late title clearly isn’t unheard of, this one is intriguing for two reasons: first, because it’s the flagship of DC’s “New 52,” and second, because the creators involved, writer Geoff Johns and artist Jim Lee, are also company executives who, at least indirectly, oversee the line editors whose responsibility it is to make sure books ship on time. It’s important to note the reason for the lateness can’t be connected to Johns or Lee; the blame could fall on any step of the production chain.
Peppered with questions over the past few months about the status of Wally West in DC’s New 52, The Flash collaborators Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have professed a fondness for the character, and even teased that he would crop up at some point.
But in a just-posted interview with Comic Book Resources, the co-writers revealed they’ve submitted a Wally proposal to DC. The problem is, the publisher doesn’t seem to be in a rush to reintroduce the former Kid Flash turned Fastest Man Alive.
“The pitch is on Dan [DiDio's] desk,” a laughing Manapul tells CBR. “Let’s see if he finds it! That’s really all there is to say!”
However, when contacted by CBR, a DC representative said there are no plans for Wally West at this time.
Buccellato addressed the Wally Question on his blog in August, shortly before the relaunch: “We often get asked that very fair question, and we wish we had an answer that would satisfy. But the simple truth is we don’t. Our book is about Barry. We are focusing on Barry. And there is nothing we can say to put Wally fans at peace. Sorry, guys. I really am. And we are not bothered when we are asked about Wally. It’s okay to ask us … I’m glad there are people out that that feel so strongly about The Flash. Unfortunately, there is no new information to impart. I can’t tell you why there is no Wally.”
He did offer some speculation, though, centering on Wally’s origin being dependent on Barry Allen, and Warner Bros.’ interest in a Flash movie featuring the latter version.
Check out the CBR interview with Manapul and Buccellato for details of their plans for The Flash.
Crime | About 50 protestors were arrested in Tunisia for an attempted arson attack on the offices of Nessma TV after it screened Persepolis, the animated adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s celebrated autobiographical graphic novel. The protesters claimed the animated movie offends Islam. All political parties in Tunisia, including the country’s main Islamic party Al-Nahada, have condemned the attack and expressed their solidarity for freedom of the press. [Variety]
Digital comics | Warren Ellis looks at the current options and sees webcomics as a broadcast, out there for free and bringing in new readers through notifications, links and solidarity, whereas digital comics services like comiXology (or even Marvel’s subscription) service are closed systems, more like a shop with comics on the shelves. That makes a difference in building an audience and also in the pacing of the comics, because webcomics can better accommodate the more decompressed storytelling that Ellis prefers. Lots of interesting nuggets among the ramblings. [Warren Ellis]
DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio triggered a minor crisis of his own Saturday when he announced on Facebook that, “after further review, there have been no Crisis events in the New DCU.”
The proclamation sent blogs and message boards into overdrive as fans grappled with the ramifications of no Crises — no Infinite Crisis, no Final Crisis, and no Crisis on Infinite Earths, the 1985 “maxi-series” whose impact was so profound that DC history became defined by “pre-Crisis” and “post-Crisis,” comics’ answer to B.C. and A.D.
But clearly in the universe of the post-Flashpoint New 52 there was a Final Crisis, as Bruce Wayne “died” — or, rather, he was hurled back through time — and was temporarily replaced as Batman by Dick Grayson. There are undoubtedly other loose threads that are best not picked at, but that’s the one that springs immediately to mind. It’s one of the pitfalls of leaving the continuities of some characters, like Batman and Green Lantern, essentially intact, while sending dozens of others back to square one.
Noting the tumult his announcement created, DiDio returned on Sunday with clarification. Sort of: “For those in crisis over Crisis, let me clarify. The topic of Crisis was much discussed among the editors and talent working on The New 52. With so many characters and histories restarting, major events like Crisis are harder to place when they work for some and not for others. (that was one of the problems coming out of the original Crisis). While we are starting aprx five years into our heroes’ lives, we are focused on the characters present and future, and past histories will be revealed as the stories dictate. Yes, there have been “crisis” in our characters lives, but they aren’t exactly the Crisis you read before, they can’t be. Now, what this means for characters seen and unseen…… well, that’s the fun of The New 52, infinite stories, infinite possibilities, with the best yet to come. [...] P.S. that’s the last time I try and answer a Facebook question before rushing out for dinner.”
That should clear things up! Right?
(via DC Women Kicking Ass)
“Somebody asked me if we’re going to use recap pages. I said, ‘I don’t know, if we’re just on issue one, if we need a recap page we’ve probably screwed up our mission.’ My goal is never to have recap pages, but I understand the people’s desire. I always call the recap page lazy writing, because I always felt that it always gave someone an easy way to do an essay about what’s going on in the book, rather than what’s going on in the storytelling. So I think we’d rather try to find a way to make our stories as dramatic as possible, so we don’t have to rely on things like that. That being said, if it does make sense for the particular time, if you’re building to something major, then we’ll use every tool at our disposal to make these books as accessible as possible.”
– DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, discussing the approach to characters and storytelling
in the company’s heavily promoted line-wide relaunch
DC Comics Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee sat down with the folks at ICv2 recently for a wide-ranging interview about the state of DC. With DC’s New 52 launching Wednesday, the interview comes at a particularly auspicious time. Here are some highlights:
Comics sales: DiDio says overall sales in the direct market are flat, but periodicals are softening, because people are shifting to trades, converting to digital or falling out of the market entirely because of the lack of interest or money. Lee brings up piracy as a possible factor as well. On the other hand, despite the problems at Borders, mass-market graphic novel sales are up.
Prices: DiDio’s take on rolling back the cover price to $2.99:
While we didn’t show increased sales because of it, I believe that we didn’t have the level of erosion that would have occurred if we had decided to push our books to the higher price point.
So, it didn’t make things better, but they would have gotten worse without it. Lee chimes in that $2.99 is a better price for bringing in new readers, and he adds an interesting point:
… the history of comics has been one of price inelasticity, where fans could not be induced to buying something at any price, and yet were willing to pay a very hefty price for books that they absolutely love. It’s not necessarily the best or healthy approach for the industry. We should really have a situation where being able to hold the price points down should show benefits in sales.
I think what he’s saying is that they can’t force people to buy something they don’t want, even if they price it cheap.
The New 52: Really, this topic has been beaten to death at this point, but if you’re just back from a vacation at the North Pole, DiDio provides a nice, quick summary of why they are bothering: The characters were dated.
Event fatigue: Are readers sick of complicated multi-series crossovers? DiDio sticks his fingers in his ears and says, “I can’t hear you!” Well, not exactly:
Ahead of the release on Wednesday of Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1, signaling the beginning of its line-wide relaunch, DC Comics has kicked off a promotional assault in the mainstream press to sell “The New 52″ to a broader audience. While USA Today, with a circulation of 1.8 million the second-largest newspaper in the United States, looks to be the hub for coverage, DC has also reached out to publications like the New York Daily News, the New York Post and the Boston Herald. Here are the highlights so far from the 11th-hour push:
• USA Today takes a broad overview of the relaunch, talking with DC Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee, Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, and a couple of retailers. “There are plenty of angry customers over this,” says John Robinson, co-owner of Graham Crackers Comics chain in Illinois. “I’ve heard the usual ‘I can’t believe they’re doing this,’ ‘They’ve betrayed us,’ etc. I’d say about 60% to 70% of those protesting the loudest will still end up buying the stuff. There’s just too much hype and interest — even the haters are curious.”
• The newspaper also hones in on the publisher’s new same-day digital strategy, which debuts Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET when Justice League #1 will be available for purchase digitally. Hank Kanalz, senior vice president for digital at DC Entertainment, acknowledges the challenges of getting the initiative off the ground: “Some books are working really far ahead of schedule, some are down to the wire, and it’s just a matter of coordinating and about overcommunicating. We have to make sure it goes off without a hitch, which is why we’re not sleeping right now. We’re going much wider to a mass audience than ever before, so it’s a matter of making sure we have everything ready to go.”
Education | The Center For Cartoon Studies’ Schulz Library in White River Junction, Vermont, was damaged over the weekend in flooding caused by torrential rains from Hurricane Irene. According to CCS Director James Sturm, volunteers called in Sunday night were able to remove about 70 percent of the library’s collection and move the remaining materials to higher shelves. However, he indicated to Tom Spurgeon that the building itself may be a loss. [The Comics Reporter]
Publishing | Jim Shooter, former editor-in-chief for Marvel Comics, shares the story of how DC Comics almost licensed the publishing rights to their characters to Marvel in the mid-1980s. Obviously the deal never happened, which Shooter said was due to a lawsuit by First Comics alleging anti-trust violations. [Jim Shooter]
Creators | Gail Simone discusses her upcoming work on Batgirl and Fury of Firestorm. [TFAW]
Justice League #1 has garnered initial orders of more than 200,000, DC Comics tells the Los Angeles Times, with another six titles from the publisher’s much-discussed September relaunch each surpassing 100,000 copies.
That figure will make DC’s new flagship title, by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, the bestselling direct-market comic of 2011 — Marvel’s Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #160 now has the honor, with about 168,000 copies — and the first since January 2009′s Amazing Spider-Man #583 to break the 200,000-copy mark. (In case you’re wondering, that was the issue with the Barack Obama variant cover, which sold more than 350,000 copies.)
“Fan interest is huge — much of it positive, some negative, and some very cautious,” Gerry Gladstone, co-owner of Midtown Comics in New York City, tells the newspaper. The LA Times also unveils Jim Lee’s variant cover for Action Comics #1 and Ethan Van Sciver’s variant cover for Batman #1, both of which you can see below.
The sales numbers are the lone bright spot in an article that paints a grim, if not necessarily inaccurate, picture of an industry in which sales have slipped 7 percent this year alone. The relaunch is billed as “part of a two-pronged strategy to try to revive its moribund business and draw newer, younger readers” — the other prong is apparently the publisher’s digital initiative, but the story’s unclear on that front — but the overall tone of the LA Times piece reads “Hail Mary pass.”
“The truth is people are leaving anyway, they’re just doing it quietly, and we have been papering it over with increased prices,” Co-Publisher Dan DiDio says. “We didn’t want to wake up one day and find we had a bunch of $20 books that 10,000 people are buying.”
With at least seven titles selling more than 100,000 copies — retailers have until Monday to adjust orders on the first issues of such high-profile series as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and The Flash — DC will be able to trumpet “The New 52″ as a success, with the publisher dominating Diamond Comic Distributors’ Top 10 in September. Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 could very well be the sole Marvel title on that list.
But to truly gauge the success of the relaunch, DC (and the industry) will have to look further down the Diamond chart to see how fringe titles that don’t benefit from mainstream recognition or marquee creators — books like Men of War, Demon Knights and I, Vampire — perform. Will the New 52 be an instance of the publisher’s top-tier books selling like gangbusters, while the other 35 or 40 struggle for an audience? And, just as important, where will those top-tier titles stand at Issue 4 or Issue 6 or Issue 12?
Update: The LA Times’ Company Town blog now lists the six other DC first issues that have have pre-orders higher than 100,000 copies: Action Comics, Batman, Detective Comics, The Flash, Green Lantern and Superman. None of those is a surprise, although Aquaman, with the fan-favorite creative team of Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis, certainly seemed like a contender for The Flash‘s spot.
DC Comics took a few on the chin at Comic-Con International and in the week that followed as attendees at their multiple “New 52″ panels asked them over and over again, “What happened to all the women?” Sean posted about one panel in particular earlier this week; you can see more color on it over at The Beat, as Heidi was there, and on ComicsAlliance, where Laura Hudson lays out a thoughtful post on the subject.
Yesterday DC Comics responded with a post on The Source by co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee:
Over the past week we’ve heard from fans about a need for more women writers, artists and characters. We want you to know, first and foremost, that we hear you and take your concerns very seriously.
We’ve been very fortunate in recent years to have fan favorite creators like Gail Simone, Amy Reeder, Felicia Henderson, Fiona Staples, Amanda Connor, G. Willow Wilson and Nicola Scott write and draw the adventures of the World’s Greatest Super Heroes.
DC Comics is the home of a pantheon of remarkable, iconic women characters like Wonder Woman, Lois Lane, Batgirl, Batwoman, Catwoman and Supergirl as well as fan favorite characters like Black Canary, Katana, Mera and Starfire. We’re committed to telling diverse stories with a diverse point of view. We want these adventures to resonate in the real world, reflecting the experiences of our diverse readership. Can we improve on that? We always can—and aim to.
We’ll have exciting news about new projects with women creators in the coming months and will be making those announcements closer to publication. Many of the above creators will be working on new projects, as we continue to tell the ongoing adventures of our characters. We know there are dozens of other women creators and we welcome the opportunity to work with them.
Our recent announcements have generated much attention and discussion and we welcome that dialogue.
Jim Lee & Dan DiDio
DC Entertainment Co-Publishers
DC has a reputation of having a “duck and cover” approach to controversy, so I have to say I’m a bit surprised and pleased that they would put out an official statement. Good on them — now how about opening up the comments on The Source so you can start a dialogue again with fans?