Crappy Halloween party may have doomed DC’s New York offices

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DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson finally spoke out about why DC had to leave its home of 80 years and relocate to the West Coast in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. She says it was “never optimal” to have two offices on separate coasts. And as an example she said,

Literally everything is more difficult. We had a huge Halloween party and a costume contest with the Burbank office and New York on a remote screen. We use all the best technology to make sure we’re remotely connected. But it still always falls apart. People feel disengaged.

That’s not a good way to run a company. When you have a creative business and ideas generated from people working together, I think you can work happier together.


Some party poopers would say that an unsatisfying holiday get together is a small tradeoff for keeping your job or your home, but, well, this is corporate America. While it seemed an unusually tone-deaf example by the usually savvy Nelson, you can see what she’s getting at—if you want to have a winning team you need to have the offense and the defense in the same stadium.

In addition, Nelson said that reducing staff wasn’t the goal of the move. “No, this is not about any kind of efficiency in terms of overhead or anything else. We’re offering everyone a chance to move. We have a very competitive package with all sorts of components in terms of relocation and other services. We’re doing everything we can to help people find it exciting.”

While downplaying the traditional New York freelance base—”I am 100% sure we can maintain the commitment to our business in the exact same way we have by having the whole operation here in Burbank”—Nelson pegged the “driving factor” for the move as, quite simply, unification. “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,” she went on. “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.” Nelson did mention “lease terms,” so the idea that the DC lease at 1700 ending got some support there.

Yesterday saw the beginning of the meetings at the DC offices that will lay out options for those who want to stay or go. It’s a tough decision and it’s not a fun week for anyone.

On a personal note, I went through this whole process a long time ago when Disney moved its magazine from, ironically, Burbank to New York. I was THRILLED to move! After I left, they moved magazines them back and forth between Easthampton, White Plains, New York and Burbank before deciding to layoff pretty much the whole department. The Mouse is a harsh mistress.

If nothing else, this is going to be a huge housecleaning for DC. There have been many veteran names mentioned by multiple observers as not making the move. For young folks without families it could be a good deal, although relocation packages are expected to have many levels. So…developing.

Comments

  1. john layman says:

    Next year’s Halloween party better be FUCKING AWESOME!!!

  2. This is a legitimate question: isn’t it fair to guess that a lot of the toughness and grit from D.C. is going to fade? The West Coast has a very different character. I can’t help but think that will eventually seep into a set of properties that have always felt, to me, very east coast.
    These are creative people and I know there creators are all over the place, but… it feels like just the location shift is going to be felt before long.
    There’s a reason Jay Leno tapes his coast in L.A. and Letterman does his in New York, you know? It gets in there.

  3. Blaming the move on the need for unification is a little disingenuous when the deunification was caused by Warner moving half of DC to California in the first place. It leads one to suspect that this was the plan all along. At the least, it must have been “plan B” in case the bi-coastal approach spoiled the office parties or something.

  4. Have these people ever been to Burbank? It’s a very boring place.

  5. gregory benton says:

    Regarding your aside, the Mouse IS a harsh mistress, but it’s excellent you got back here to the right side of town!

  6. john shableski says:

    I get the realities and necessities of having operations under one roof but it will be just weird to know that Gotham City and Metropolis are being replaced by the City of Angels.

    I agree with Brady Dale’s point: “There’s a reason Jay Leno tapes his coast in L.A. and Letterman does his in New York, you know? It gets in there.”
    Will it kill off DC? Probably not but it’s going to take a long time to adjust. Kinda like the length of time it took the Dodgers after they left Brooklyn…

  7. I think this idea that creative people need to be in an office in order to generate ideas will wash itself out within one generation.

  8. Snikt Snakt says:

    Move the DC offices to the moon for all the good it will do, it won’t change the fact that the nu52 is unreadable dreck…

  9. Bryan L says:

    “Move the DC offices to the moon for all the good it will do, it won’t change the fact that the nu52 is unreadable dreck…”

    My thoughts precisely.

  10. Torsten Adair says:

    I believe DC opened a Burbank office so that they could develop the media better. Kinda like when Stan Lee moved west to set up Marvel Animation, etc.

    Now they feel it will work better if everything is under one roof. And let’s be honest… how much revenue does DC publishing produce, compared to the media properties?

    Well, aside from the “Moisturising” mistake in the first Batman movie, locality doesn’t really have an influence on story.

    Look at all the cheery 1950s Batman stories which came from New York City!
    Or the dark Nolan films which were developed in his garage in Los Angeles.
    (And which were filmed primarily in Chicago and Pittsburgh.)

    Or let’s consider that Metropolis was originally inspired by TORONTO.
    You know… the Bizarro New York City.

    Part of me does hope that the grittiness does fade a little.
    The problem with taking superheroes seriously is that they have to be serious. Frankly, the DC Universe should be even bloodier than it is.

  11. Another thing about NYC…the cost. Those offices in Burbank will cost 1/4 of what they do in New York. It is why I live in Florida. Even Brooklyn got insane with cost of living.

  12. Does anyone know what happens to MAD magazine’s staff? They are in the same building with DC (and officially part of it, but pretty much disconnected). Are they moving too?

  13. I don’t see the move impacting their books at all. Many freelancers live outside New York. Most, actually, and it’s not as though this move changes anything for them. To expect that a move to the West Coast will make their comics more “laid back” is naïve. And unlike TV shows–we don’t see working environments in the comics themselves. I’ve lived in California most of my life and it has had ZERO effect on my work. Although, admittedly, I’m not in Burbank.

  14. Yep, MAD will move, too. I know that their staff was in meetings yesterday as well, because it meant one of their folks cancelling a planned visit to my library.

  15. Tommy Raiko says:

    Jesse Post: “I think this idea that creative people need to be in an office in order to generate ideas will wash itself out within one generation.”

    Even if that’s true, many if not most of the staffers working in that office are surely not in what might be considered creative, idea-generating positions. Sales, marketing, project/process management, production, etc.: all that is the kind of work that has to get done to run their business, and might just be the kind of work that, it’s deemed, actually benefits from co-location in a single location.

    Still, employers allowing staffers to work out of various locations is of course becoming more common in businesses (though I’d wager that even employers that allow staffers to live/work in various locations still require a lot of travel for face-to-face in-person work time, so there’s a bit of a trade off…) but I’m not sure if I’d bet that the impulse for consolidation is just one generation from being fully extinct.

  16. New York has got to be one of the only places a person can move from that makes California look like a money saver. I miss California for the land and the weather, but I don’t miss the cost of living.

  17. The decision to move was made before NYCC, had nothing to do with a Halloween Party. It has always been a question of WHEN, not IF. I’m wondering how soon they switch over to all digital for the monthly books and how many monthly titles they keep.

  18. Jeff Osgood says:

    First DC Throws away over 77 years of history and contiuity to launch their crappy ” New 52 ” which is nothing more than a poor man’s version of Image Comics . Now they’re moving all of their offices to Burbank, Ca.? Buy, they really are kissing Jim Lee’s ass, aren’t they ?

  19. There is something to be said for having the entire company in the same time zone. Whether everyone needs to be present for ‘show and tell’ is another question.
    Friendly stories aside, let’s not kid ourselves. This is all about selling creative properties to movie developers.

  20. @Tommy — From what I understand, most of the management and business units had already moved, so this one largely hits the creative side. But all those sales and marketing and accounting people won’t be in offices soon, either; that will just take a couple more generations.

    The current crop of 30-something middle managers like me learned the internet as adults, and will be open minded about it when they become management. The following generation came of age with the internet and have already embraced working everywhere all the time on their phones and iPads. It’s not just about formally working from home, but drawing less of a distinction between work and everything else you do, a distinction that an office really accentuates.

  21. Kurt Busiek says:

    >> Or let’s consider that Metropolis was originally inspired by TORONTO.>>

    Cleveland.

    Toronto as well, to a degree, but to a lesser degree.

    Toronto has been assiduous in claiming that Metropolis is based on Toronto, largely because Shuster was born there and the newspaper Clark worked for was originally called the Daily Star, but the early stories are full of references to Cleveland — from Cleveland being named as the setting in ACTION #2 to the Star’s offices being in a building based on the Ohio Bell building to a story where Superman takes on lax traffic safety enforcement at a time when lax traffic safety enforcement was a Cleveland scandal.

    The Daily Star was certainly named after the Toronto Daily Star, and there were other Toronoto influences on Metropolis. But there were more Cleveland influences, from the start. And then New York became the main influence very early on.

    kdb

  22. Kurt Busiek says:

    >> Now they’re moving all of their offices to Burbank, Ca.? Buy, they really are kissing Jim Lee’s ass, aren’t they ?>>

    Right, because moving the company to where the Warner Bros. structure can oversee it directly — something that involved uprooting Jim’s Wildstorm offices and moving what was left of them to Burbank, too — must be about pleasing Jim, not about the big movie company owner.

    Seriously, if the move was to please Jim, they’d have moved the company to San Diego. But they’re moving it to where the person who hired Jim as co-publisher is located, not to where Jim lived.

    kdb

  23. Shit!! Now I’ll NEVER get my original Hawkgirl pages back!!!

  24. Sick of the same old crap says:

    She references words like ‘being engaged’ and ‘working together’ -Last time I checked DC is part of a multi-national company in the USA during the early 21st Century = so the only thing they are capable of doing is 1. Making sure their employees have a grueling commute to and from work, 2. Enable and perpetuate an environment that obsesses on who is ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’, 3. Enable and perpetuate obsessing on how to be subversive and abusive toward others different from oneself, 4. Make sure profit and cost savings are a priority over health, family, and livability.

    DC moved to the West coast – so what, regardless of which coast they are on they are just like Marvel. If there is any “house cleaning” being done, it needs to be aware that all they are capable of doing is perverting the sequential medium into little flimsy booklets filled with advertisements, speculations about alternative covers, and homo-erotic power fantasies based up stories set to comply with christian conservative red scare tactics (the comics code authority).

  25. Profit says:

    Hey, as long as everyone is willing to pay going on $4.50 for a comic book -they could relocate to the moon for all I care. Wow, $4+ dollars for predictable stories that are about naked men with colors spray painted on their bodies -wow, and people pay money for that… Gee I wonder what will happen next. I know! = the price will go up, and the predictability and lameness will stay the same!

  26. Outsourced says:

    Hey, this makes DC closer to the Indian time zone, so that great! I am an American so that means I live for multi-national corporations to out-source my job to India. Yaaay for DC, they get to be in a closer time zone for cooperating with India, instead of America. How long until all the writers, artists, and editors are all from India?

  27. Brian says:

    I’ll also chime in that the new 52 books are the reason why I’m not readying *any* DC Comics anymore. Great jumping off point. I tried a few series, but I just hate having to relearn continuity again and again (like Marvel Ultimate books).

    Too bad for the old timers that won’t be making the move. However, isn’t it pretty simple for pages and stuff to be scanned and emailed around? I thought that was pretty much how it was done these days. I’m sure people can fly out to the west coast once in a while for the story meetings or what have you. The people who are really getting screwed are the lower level people that made the NY office run. The admin types. They’ll be redundant in CA, where they likely have their own staff.

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  1. […] to Burbank, California DC to lose grit as it moves from New York to Burbank, California. A crappy halloween party convinced the leaders of DC to consolidate their offices with Warner Brothers. The corporate BS […]

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