DC moves only part of bigger WB shake-up

twitter DC moves only part of bigger WB shake up0facebook DC moves only part of bigger WB shake up0google DC moves only part of bigger WB shake up0pinterest DC moves only part of bigger WB shake up0tumblr DC moves only part of bigger WB shake upreddit DC moves only part of bigger WB shake up0stumbleupon DC moves only part of bigger WB shake up0email DC moves only part of bigger WB shake up

new wb execs DC moves only part of bigger WB shake up
As we head into Day 3 of the Bi-Coastal Era of DC Comics, even bigger organizational changes were announced at Warner Bros. Short version: Time Warner head Jeff Bewkes announced that Warner Bros Chairman/CEO Barry Meyer would be staying on for two years (he had been rumored to be retiring before that) but studio head Alan Horn will be moving along in April 2011. Three men will fill a three-headed president role to replace Horn: Jeff Robinov, the movie guy, Bruce Rosenblum, the TV guy, and Kevin Tsujihara the multimedia/home entertainment guy.

Although this all seems far removed from the traditional comics business, it is all tied in, of course. Tsujihara once numbered DC among his responsibilities, and we all know Robinov’s interest in the division, including bringing in Diane Nelson to get DC up to speed. Nikki Finke has a chatty, catty history of the Bewkes/Horn relationship, but puts the comics movie situation in the forefront of why he is leaving:

Horn’s film division also was embarrassed by not nailing down the legal rights to Watchmen adequately. Mogul after mogul in Hollywood couldn’t understand how Warner Bros could even have started filming the graphic novel with 20th Century Fox still laying claim to the pic. And Watchmen looks like it won’t earn out with no domestic legs and no interest overseas. (Snarked one rival studio exec: “Now Alan is going to use Watchmen as justification to ban all R-rated films at Warner Bros.”) Which leads me to Horn’s biggest failure: leaving the most valuable DC Comics characters in movie development limbo for most of his tenure. While Warner Bros was paralyzed by indecision, chaotically starting and stopping work on scripts with DC characters, Marvel was exploiting the hell out of its characters with an ultra-ambitious film development slate. And now Marvel is part of the Disney marketing machine. Of Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Justice League, only Batman has a successful live action ongoing franchise. And Warner Bros is now embroiled in a fight for Superman’s film life with the rightsholders. And who knows how Green Lantern will turn out? But mining a minor DC character like Jonah Hex was last summer’s studio money pit.


At THR Kim Masters and Gregg Kilday also analyze how this went out, but don’t give the comics angle as much play. However, the overall picture emerges of just how important these superhero franchises are to the studio as a whole. The three presidents of WB recall the two editors-in-chief of DC Entertainment, Lee and DiDio, and also that studios love the three men go in, one man comes out scenario of executive development.

And the reality of the coastal split between DC divisions is also beginning to come into focus — see Kevin Melrose‘s excellent write-up for the best summation. While the first reaction was a sigh of relief, the bigger picture is that the forward-looking functions of DC are moving to closer studio control, and the publishing business might be left behind. Writer Tom Mason — himself no stranger to acquisition, as he was an owner of Malibu when it was sold to Marvel in the ’90s–has more:

I think lost in all the discussion and rundown of DC’s recent shift is that the biggest piece of the puzzle has yet to be explained or admitted to. Warner Bros. which folded DC Comics into a new company called DC Entertainment just a year ago, now took DC Comics out of that company and moved DC Entertainment – along with all of the money-making portions of the company – to the West Coast.

DC Comics, the comic book division, is now its own stand-alone entity. An island of old-school publishing left without its support network. This has been hailed as a victory for the comic book people.

It isn’t. It’s a wake up call.


Mason’s piece should be read in full, while we’re waiting for the sure-to-be-filled-with-great-metaphors write-up from Spurge. But one suggestion — that this will eventually lead to WB licensing out comics production of its characters — gets explored.

Meanwhile, what is going on day to day at DC?

Well, don’t expect to hear anything.

Employees going into their HR meetings are being asked to sign NDAs and will not be allowed to talk about their meetings until sometime next month. So lips are zipped. We’d guess this is so that people aren’t unnecessarily influenced by what is happening to their department mates. Or so they don’t blab to blogs. On the other hand, knowing what is happening to your department mates might factor in to your own job situation, so…it all sounds stressful. Very stressful.

In the absence of any actual information — given all of the talk about “things we can’t talk about yet” — are we getting set up for a big Lost-style reveal? Is DC Comics going to set off in a big space ark? Did Diane Nelson travel here from the past? Is Jeff Robinov dreaming the whole thing? Is Jim Lee really a seal?

The rest of the world will find out…some day.
201009231352 DC moves only part of bigger WB shake up

Comments

  1. Synsidar says:

    Being left behind in a move is better than being dissolved or sold.

    The logistical reasons for leaving DC Comics in New York would be valid, however successful the division was. Moving the offices to the West Coast would do nothing to improve the sales of (paper) comics.

    If the sales of comics are in an irreversible downward spiral, then licensing the characters to another comics publisher isn’t an answer either.

    Being left behind isn’t a reason, by itself, for an individual employee to feel bad. If he’s been doing the best job he can, but economic conditions and changes in buying patterns eliminate the market for what he produces, then he reorients and goes somewhere else.

    Millions of people across the country are experiencing the same fears and asking the same questions.

    SRS

  2. Rich Johnson says:

    “If the sales of comics are in an irreversible downward spiral, then licensing the characters to another comics publisher isn’t an answer either.”

    Comics are not in an irreversible spiral. Are they better off now than they were in the mid-1990s? I would say so. At that time Marvel was in bankruptcy, direct market stores were closing left and right and no one had a viable graphic novel being sold anywhere. Today Marvel has deep pockets in Disney, the direct market seems to be somewhat stable in the crappy economy and every comic book publisher now has a graphic novel publishing arm and books are in more outlets than ever before.

    The key is publishing good work. What Warner needs to remember is that the comics keep the character alive and in the eyes of the public. It seems that Disney gets that and yeah they bought the company in part for the lucrative licensing from the characters – but if it wasn’t for the comics the passion would be there for the t-shirt or the movie.

  3. Synsidar says:

    But if Time Warner doesn’t consider DC Comics successful — superhero comics not being a growing market worthy of further investment — then the current numbers aren’t good enough.

    What could a different publisher do with DC’s stable of characters to make comics about them more appealing to more people? That seemed to be the point of Mason’s piece: that DC and Marvel are trying to get more dollars out of a stable or shrinking number of readers. How many ways are there to tell a story about a serial character that stays unchanged over decades without repeating yourself so obviously that readers are driven away? Video games and licensed merchandise don’t have that problem, at least.

    SRS

  4. Dan Rodriguez says:

    >>>“If the sales of comics are in an irreversible downward spiral, then licensing the characters to another comics publisher isn’t an answer either.”

    Comics are not in an irreversible spiral. Are they better off now than they were in the mid-1990s? I would say so. At that time Marvel was in bankruptcy, direct market stores were closing left and right and no one had a viable graphic novel being sold anywhere. Today Marvel has deep pockets in Disney, the direct market seems to be somewhat stable in the crappy economy and every comic book publisher now has a graphic novel publishing arm and books are in more outlets than ever before.<<<

    The person you quoted said that comic *sales* were in a downward spiral. I don't know what sales were like in the 1990's, but I do know that comic sales are currently on the decline, and that they are no where near the highs of the 80's, or 70's (or 60's or 50's). You might argue that comics are becoming more ubiquitous in popular culture due to the rising influence of graphic novels, but sales are bad. Sales are really bad.

    I would agree with you that the downward spiral comic sales are currently facing is not irreversible. But it is none the less a downward spiral.

  5. Disney understands the value of comic books. Google [egmont disney] for starters. Disney already has two digital comics shops (UK, Italy) with more planned.

    As for Marvel and the never-ending battles in comics… Disney knows that there is a new audience every seven years. Same with comics. And those kids who grow out of cartoons? They eventually have kids and go see the cartoons again when adults. The same thing can happen with comics. (It did for me. When I went through my super-hero phase, it was Spider-Man, circa 1975. I didn’t read many comics as a kid, then got into MAD, then video games. In 1984, I got hooked again with symbiote Spider-Man.

    Hmmm… wasn’t Robinov the one with the Catwoman quote?

  6. Synsidar says:

    The question of what limits (superhero) comics from reaching a broad audience — is it the comics format, the content, or both? — might never be answered in the absence of a huge hit that breaks traditional barriers. Diane Nelson was involved with the Harry Potter franchise. She knows that the demands of reading prose didn’t stop millions of kids from enjoying the Harry Potter novels. So, what prevents comics publishers from having hits that approach the Potter series? Is it the skills and imaginations of the creators? The serialization? The belief that new characters don’t succeed?

    SRS

  7. Think Warners would not license a DC property outside the WB? Then what about this?

    http://www.harpercollins.com/books/Sandman-Neil-Gaiman?isbn=9780380817702&HCHP=TB_Sandman

    Yes, it is prose, but why didn’t Little, Brown publish it in 1996?

  8. Rich Johnson says:

    It always baffled me that DC didn’t have a master deal with Time Warner Books (now Hachette) when they were sister companies. Warner did a few novels but and Little, Brown published MAD books after Warner Books stopped doing the mass market books. Little, Brown published Chip Kidd designed book about Batman toys over the years and later on a book of masks.
    Because there was no master deal DC was forced to court dozens of publishers to do novels, art books, history books, etc. – I should know, for a while I was the one pitching the books tom other publishers. This system still exists, run by Steve Korte and before him Charlie Kochman.

  9. Synsidar says:

    There’s a lot to be said on how the approach the Big Two are taking to publishing comics limits the size of the audience. The difficulty DC had finding publishers for its book projects would be part of that.

    Back in the ’80s, when I read The Comics Journal and Amazing Heroes regularly, I recall that the turnover of the readership for Marvel titles was said to be about 80 percent in two years. If that is still the case, or even in the ballpark, that turnover rate would have a toxic effect, I think, on the attitudes of editors and writers toward their series. There’s little to be gained from making extra efforts to be creative, imaginative, or detailed if the editorial policy favors the illusion of change and restoring the status quo in a series through various means. Such a policy practically forces a “lowest common denominator” approach toward producing and marketing the material.

    The policy also makes “big” storylines inconsequential. In Marvel’s case, both “Secret Invasion” and “Dark Reign” could be erased with practically no effect on the Marvel Universe as such, because the conflicts didn’t change anything.

    When Douglas Wolk made his list of comics that should disappear, he wasn’t taking an elitist stance; he was just taking the same stance that movie and book reviewers take when they decry repetition and lack of imagination in the material. There isn’t a singly justification I can think of for knowingly, deliberately repeating yourself in material or taking readers in a long circle back to the starting point. “It’s my job!” isn’t one.

    SRS

  10. “the readership for Marvel titles was said to be about 80 percent in two years”

    Returning readership or new readership?

    And I don’t necessarily love everything in mainstream comics these days by any stretch, but I don’t think the shared universes of specious change is a de facto problem. I think it becomes a problem if the creators aren’t striving hard enough, but otherwise, and I make this connection a lot, continuity is just another Oulipo. It serves a constraint on the work, and a creator has the choice of looking at as restraining the work they do and narrowing the possibilities, or choosing to instead use that restraint as the touchpoint to explore the other possibilities the characters and the medium allows.

  11. Synsidar says:

    The problem I generally see in comics stories which violate continuity is that the writer wants to do a story that involves plot material that he thinks is good, but the character doesn’t fit it, so he alters the character to fit the plot, or, if he indulges in a retcon, the alteration of the character is the plot.

    Character-driven stories, in my experience, generally don’t have continuity violations because the writer is aware of the characters’ histories and is trying to appeal to a reader’s intellect. Honoring continuity is part of the story’s esthetic effect.

    There are comics characters, villains, particularly, who have been used so many times that they’re no longer actual characters with believable emotions and motivations. They’re just plot devices, schemers who exist only to give the hero something to fight against. Loki, Dr. Doom, Dormammu, the Red Skull — Magneto has flipped from bad to good to bad again so many times that he’s a human pendulum.

    After years of tracking Iron Man’s stories, I finally quit buying the Iron Man series because the repetition in the material had become unbearable. There’s no depth to the character, his company, or anything he does. There’s just the eternal split/conflict between the playboy millionaire and the technological genius who fights crime.

    Continuity is never a problem in writing superhero stories; rather, the problem is the practice of taking overused characters, who are popular because of their superficial appeal to new readers who aren’t bored with them yet, and building plot-driven stories around them. The results are anti-classics.

    SRS

Speak Your Mind

*