REVIEW: "DC Universe: Rebirth" #1 Makes the Future of DC Comics Look Genuinely Bright
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.
“It is important, but it’s not the driving factor. The driving factor for me is having DC as one company together ourselves. Our ability to work more collaboratively with the whole studio is certainly a benefit. I believe everyone in DC will feel more a part of Warner Bros in the best ways. But it isn’t about more of our people talking to the film and TV people.
This is not the corporatization of DC. It isn’t about folding DC into Warner Bros. We’re going to help DC feel like more of an important priority in Warner Bros.”
— DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson, addressing whether film, television and video-game adaptations are the primary reason for the recently announced move of DC’s publishing operations from New York City to Burbank, California. Since August 2011, the company’s film and television, digital, administrative and consumer-products operations have been housed on the second floor — 35,000 square feet of space — of The Pointe, a new 14-story office tower less than a mile from Warner Bros. Studios.
Students of DC Comics’ publishing history can probably rattle off at least a few editors from the company’s first few decades. Whitney Ellsworth edited the Batman and Superman books in the 1940s and ‘50s before becoming a producer on the Adventures of Superman television series. In the Silver Age, Mort Weisinger presided over an exponential expansion of Superman’s mythology, including all those varieties of Kryptonite, the introductions of Supergirl, Krypto and the Legion of Super-Heroes, and ongoing series focused on Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. Similarly, as editor of the Batman titles, Jack Schiff supervised one of the character’s most recognizable periods, filled with colorful mysteries and giant-sized props.
Of course, the phrase “Silver Age DC” is virtually synonymous with Julius Schwartz, who worked with writers Gardner Fox and John Broome and artists Carmine Infantino, Mike Sekowsky and Gil Kane on rebuilding DC’s superhero line. One could argue fairly reasonably that without them DC Comics as we know it today might not exist (and neither would today’s Marvel).
However, while Ellsworth became DC’s editorial director in 1948, Schwartz Schiff, and Weisinger weren’t in similarly lofty positions. Today we readers hear a lot about “editorial control” and the dreaded “editorial interference,” charges aimed largely at the men at the top: Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras, Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee and Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns. We hear a lot from them (illuminating and otherwise) about the general direction of the company. We also hear a good bit from various writers and artists, including Johns and Lee, regarding specific titles.
Nevertheless, on the management tier in between are the books’ editors themselves; and that’s the area about which I’ve become rather hazy. Therefore, I started looking through New 52 credits boxes, and supplementing this research through the Grand Comics Database, to see who was editing what.
As the finishing touches are put on Comic-Con International ahead of Preview Night, The Hollywood Reporter releases an interview with DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson that’s a blend of polite sidestepping of delicate or unannounced subjects — the departure from Warner Bros. of her boss Jeff Robinov, Man of Steel 2, the long-developing Justice League movie — and insight into how the media giant views the DC properties.
Naturally, given the outlet, much of the discussion involves film and television, with Nelson addressing why she thinks Man of Steel succeeded while Green Lantern didn’t, and why DC’s movie plans have been developing so slowly, the conversation veers a little closer to comic books when she’s asked what five characters she’d like to seen on the screen.
“Sandman is right on top,” Nelson responds. “I think it could be as rich as the Harry Potter universe. Fables. Metal Men. Justice League. And yes, I’m going to say it: Aquaman.”
Business | Following weeks (if not months) of rumblings, Warner Bros. has made it official: Jeff Robinov, the Warner Bros. Pictures Group president who oversaw the 2009 restructuring of DC Comics into DC Entertainment, will leave the studio following a reorganization that establishes a new leadership team: Sue Kroll, president of worldwide marketing and distribution, Greg Silverman, president of creative development and worldwide production, and Toby Emmerich, president and chief operating officer of New Line Cinema. It doesn’t appear as if Robinov will be replaced. DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson, who initially reported Robinov, presumably will answer directly to Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara; following a shakeup last month in the television and home entertainment division, Nelson reported to both Robinov and Tsujihara. [The Hollywood Reporter]
With Warner Bros.’ Man of Steel opening Friday, DC Entertainment has moved Superman front and center in the next phase of its “We Can Be Heroes” campaign to fight hunger in the Horn of Africa.
The “Superman Edition” on Indiegogo features an array of perks for contributors, ranging from an exclusive Superman Unchained #1 variant cover ($25) and a Jim Lee Superman lithograph ($75) to a Man of Steel poster signed by director Zack Snyder ($100) and a portfolio review with Jim Lee ($1,250).
The press release teases “once-in-a lifetime opportunities for $25,000″ and “a hometown visit by legendary DC Entertainment artist Jim Lee, who will paint larger than life, custom artwork on a 10×10 wall” — maybe they’re one and the same? — so expect many more perks to be added before the campaign’s end on July 8.
“The generosity from the fans of DC Comics during the Batman wave was outstanding and challenged us to create another wave of unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities,” DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson said in a statement. “The first wave of the campaign eclipsed its initial goal of $50,000 in just three days and ultimately raised more than $150,000 in less than six weeks. We continue to be overwhelmed and appreciative of our fans who are helping to make a difference in millions of lives.”
The Hollywood Reporter continues its industry power surveys with a list of the 100 most powerful women in entertainment that includes DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson at No. 49.
No stranger to Hollywood, Nelson was president of Warner Premiere and shepherd of Warner Bros.’ blockbuster Harry Potter franchise before being appointed in September 2009 as head of the studio’s newly formed DC Entertainment division, designed to better exploit the comic-book properties across all media. Five months later, Nelson named Dan DiDio and Jim Lee as co-publishers and Geoff Johns as chief creative officer; in September 2010, the company announced a “bi-coastal realignment strategy” that saw the closing of WildStorm and the move of business/administration and digital-content operations to a new office tower in Burbank, California, less than a mile from Warner Bros. Studios. It was under Nelson that DC launched its New 52 initiative and expanded its digital reach.
“She’s the gatekeeper for the entire DC brand, which includes films like The Dark Knight Rises ($1.08 billion in worldwide grosses) and such TV series as The CW’s new high-performing drama Arrow and various shows on Cartoon Network,” The Hollywood Reporter writes in its brief profile of Nelson. “Simply put, if you are a producer and you want to develop one of DC’s characters, you have to go through Nelson, 45. She also oversaw the relaunch of the entire line of DC Comics and created a plan for same-day digital comics on all platforms and partnering with Warner Bros. to develop new projects.”
Last week the trade paper named Robert Kirkman and Neil Gaiman among the 25 most powerful authors in Hollywood.
DC Entertainment’s new Burbank, Calif., headquarters isn’t quite Titans Tower, but it’ll do.
The Hollywood Reporter tracks down the building that, beginning in mid-August, will house the company’s film and television, digital, administrative and consumer-products operations: The Pointe, a new 14-story office tower at 2900 W. Alameda Ave., nestled beside Disney/ABC, and less than a mile from Warner Bros. Studios.
DC has a 10-year lease on the entire second floor, 35,000 square feet of space “valued at roughly $16 million.” Landlord Worthe Real Estate Group advertises a “lobby crafted from the finest building materials; sleek and sophisticated, modern patterned glass with rich, imported Italian marble and travertine, walnut ceiling, and unique waved wood wall system.” The building also boasts “10 foot floor-to-ceiling vision glass for panoramic view of city and mountains,” and “over three acres of picturesque plaza with mature shade trees, walkways and benches.” There’s also a health club and restaurant on the first floor.
Warner Bros. has set up DC with temporary offices at 3400 Riverside Drive, where some have been working since last year, presumably following the announcement in late September of the massive corporate restructuring that leaves the publishing division in New York City while consolidating the rest of the companies operations on the West Coast. WildStorm’s offices in La Jolla, Calif., as well as the imprint itself, were shuttered as part of the reorganization.
Although DC wouldn’t say how many employees will work out of the new space once construction is complete, it’s known that DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson will have an office there and at the Warner Bros. lot.
Wow, DC Comics has returned from the holiday break with a vengeance. On its multiple blogs and here on CBR, the publisher has unleashed a veritable avalanche of announcements and initiatives for 2011.
Topping the list is the announcement, first mentioned by DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson and then expanded upon by Jim Lee, that DC will be holding the $2.99 price point across its line for all standard format ongoing series from both the DC Universe and Vertigo.
Meanwhile, PR guru David Hyde unveiled the return of letters pages to DC’s comics, presumably in the place of the current DC Nation column. Letters will be collected from both snail-mail submissions and messages submitted to the publisher’s new DCLettersPage.com website.
Legal | Two Los Angeles men accused of selling counterfeit passes to this year’s Comic-Con International have pleaded guilty to theft and were placed on probation for three years. Farhad Lame and Navid Vatankhahan, both 24, were each ordered to pay a $750 fine, complete 10 days of community service and pay restitution to the victims.
Prosecutors say the two photocopied Comic-Con badges and sold them on Craigslist to people looking for last-minute memberships. They were arrested in July after two of their victims attempted to enter the convention using the counterfeit badges, which the women bought for $120 each. [The San Diego Union-Tribune]
Technology | Tech blog Chip Chick names DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson as one of its “Top 13 Women Who Impacted Technology in 2010.” [Chip Chick]
The one-time editor-in-cChief of Marvel Comics has been selected to reprise that role for the Distinguished Competition. Robert Harras has been named Editor-in-Chief, VP, DC Comics, overseeing editorial for DC Comics, DC Universe, MAD Magazine and Vertigo, and reporting directly to Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee. Harras had been serving as group editor, Collected Editions for the company.
The move comes at a time when DC is still feeling its way forward following the announcement that many of its non-print divisions will be moving to parent company Warner Bros.’ home turf of Burbank, Calif. — with up to 80 employee layoffs and relocations in the offing — while its struggling WildStorm and Zuda imprints are shutting down entirely. Of course, Harras is no stranger to tough times at a Big Two publisher, having presided over Marvel during its late-’90s bankruptcy.
DC had been without an official editor-in-chief since the departure of Jenette Kahn in 2002. As executive editor, Dan DiDio was mainline-DC’s de facto editor-in-chief, and the absence of such a figure since DiDio’s promotion to co-publisher was a much-noted aspect of the year since Diane Nelson was brought aboard as president of DC Entertainment.
As CBR’s Kiel Phegley notes, the announcement bears additional interest in that it appears to be the first time that “DC Universe” has been used by the company to refer to an imprint akin to Vertigo. DC’s shared-universe titles are obviously an institution dating back decades, but the newly official-seeming nomenclature may serve to distinguish these mostly-superhero titles from books that the DC line has inherited from WildStorm and Zuda.
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.
Ending a year of industry speculation and acute employee anxiety, DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson announced today that the company’s multimedia business operations — including feature films, television, digital media, video games and consumer products — and its administrative wing will be relocating to Burbank, California, home of parent company Warner Bros. Entertainment. DC Comics, DC Entertainment’s publishing division, will remain in New York City.
Meanwhile, in a separate post on DC’s Source blog, DC Comics Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee announced the company will cease to publish comics under the WildStorm banner as of December. The imprint’s WildStorm Universe titles will end (though its characters are promised to return), its licensed and kids’ titles will instead be released as part of DC proper, and its editorial team will be restructured and folded into the Burbank-based DC Comics Digital wing. Finally, the struggling Zuda imprint, which already saw its foundational website shuttered in July, will cease to exist after this week, its future titles to be released under the DC banner.
Stay tuned to Comic Book Resources and Robot 6 for much more on these developments.
In this afternoon’s “DC Focus: Geoff Johns” panel at Comic-Con International, DC Entertainment’s chief creative officer revealed that work has begun on a Suicide Squad video game.
Johns said the game, which is being developed by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, will be “hardcore violent.”
The studio’s video-game publishing unit has undergone dramatic expansion over the past few years, acquiring developers TT Games, Snowblind Studios, Rocksteady Studios and Turbine Inc., and in March announcing plans for a new game-development studio in downtown Montreal.
Following the critical and commercial success of last year’s Batman: Arkham Asylum, which sold a reported 2 million copies in its first three weeks of success, Warner Bros. announced it’s developing a sequel. It’s also working with Double Helix on a Green Lantern game that will be released along with next summer’s film.
DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson told Hero Complex it’s part of a push to put more DC characters in WBIE titles. (The new WB Games Montreal is expected to focus largely on the company’s comics properties.)
Although Nelson says that not all of the games will tie in to movies — for instance, Arkham Asylum had nothing to do with The Dark Knight — it seems likely that Suicide Squad title will be connected to the big-screen adaptation announced in February 2009.
Long has this rumor bedeviled industry watchers and anxious DC employees alike, and now it’s getting its first quasi-official airing in the mainstream press: An L.A. Times profile of DC Entertainment President and Chief Creative Officer (and superstar writer) Geoff Johns by writers Geoff Boucher and and Ben Fritz notes that DC may move its publishing wing, long a fixture in New York City’s comics scene, to Los Angeles.
The bomb is dropped almost in passing: “The biggest challenge for Nelson and Johns may be merging the cultures of the Warner lot in Burbank and the offices of DC, which are in Manhattan but may soon move to L.A.,” write Boucher and Fritz. If so, this would be the biggest fallout yet from the structural reshuffling at the top of DC that took place late last year following Publisher Paul Levitz’s retirement, and a sign that parent company Warner Bros. is deadly serious about integrating the publishing/idea-factory side of DC with its movie-making and entertainment empire.
To be clear, no official announcement has been made, despite expectations that Nelson and company would address the move — potentially life-altering as it is for the DC staff — sooner rather than later. And I’d guess that if an announcement’s in the offing, it’ll wait until the San Diego dust settles. But a transition from Gotham to Hollywood may well be in the works.
(Via Heidi MacDonald)