Harras and Berganza talk about DC’s September

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harras berganza Harras and Berganza talk about DCs September

[DC is starting a larger roll-out of interviews with various key personnel in their September relaunch; today’s subjects are editor in chief Bob Harras and executive editor Eddie Berganza. With only a brief period available for the interview, we tried to get to some of the thinking behind one of the boldest moves in comics history.

THE BEAT: I am going to start with the most super basic question of all: Why are you doing this? What was the inspiration? How come?

HARRAS: One of the things that happened when Eddie and I stepped into these jobs, and started speaking to fans, is we spoke to people who love these characters. We really wanted to spread the love and get the most people excited and involved in comics that we possibly could. We wanted to create a party and invite people to the party and get people involved in Superman, Batman, the Flash Wonder Woman, Green Lantern…In a lot of ways this grew out of those early conversations.

BERGANZA: And it’s just creating accessibility. It’s a party but for too long I think we were having too much of an exclusive party. Now we’re opening the doors for everyone. There’s no velvet rope, just come on in. There’s no bouncers who are going to throw you out. We want you in there, dancing!

THE BEAT: That sounds great! It’s still a pretty drastic move though. Did you feel that starting over with #1s for everything was the best way to do this? Did you consider keeping some books at the old numbering?

201106150319 Harras and Berganza talk about DCs September
HARRAS: Because we’re fans and we take these very seriously, everything was very carefully considered and discussed with everyone at DC. This is a big, big program for us and everyone was involved. But I think the guiding factor was what can we do to make people really come in and get excited about our characters? Really join what we’ve got and experience what superhero comic books and what DC has to offer in the biggest broadest possible way. And in a lot of ways we’re looking forward and embracing the future and saying come on in and be part of DC. That’s really how it all grew.

THE BEAT: There have been many comments out there that it is kind of the same creative teams that were doing it before. I’m wondering what specifically are you doing to make sure that new readers are getting the message that this is a whole new thing to get into?

BERGANZA: It’s the same names but it’s a mixture of old and new. Even on talent you know, the names are landing in a lot of unexpected places. For new fans they don’t know one person from another so they are going to experience it all as new.

HARRAS: One of the things is we’re having a little more diversity of genre within the line of books. We have Westerns, we have the horror line with I, Vampire. We’re trying to expand what we do to people who may not pick up a superhero book. They may be more intrigued by this DC Comics which we haven’t done in a while.

THE BEAT: What storylines are continuing from the old continuity?

BERGANZA:A Death in the Family” counts. Blackest Night and Brightest Day will continue. That is definitely in the canon. And you have The Killing Joke and Identity Crisis.

HARRAS: Again, we looked as everything as we began planning out this process and we looked at events that were important to the characters’ lives and had an impact on their lives and storylines going forward. That was part of a long conversation. Everything was about characters: what was important to individual characters and to history and, more important, to their future. That is why this is a very, very careful process. Eddie and his team worked very hard to create a timeline for this event that would guide writers on what was important and what we would use going forward. This is a very well thought out process with people who love these characters and want to present them for a wider base.

THE BEAT: Have you created a bible for how the DC Universe exists now? Is there a chart where it starts from?

BERGANZA: Yeah this is what Bob was talking about: a timeline we’ve created, that’s a living breathing artifact. Again, certain things are set but we want to have room to grow from and create new history.

THE BEAT: Did you think at all about the 1958 reboot that Carmine Infantino and Julius Schwartz implemented as a guide? Was it an inspiration?

HARRAS: I think everything that has come before has been an inspiration. Eddie and I are fans of these characters are important to us. That’s the guiding force to how do we present these characters in the best possible way.

BERGANZA: The world is more and more accepting of the superhero as a valid genre. It’s up to us to make it as accessible as possible.

THE BEAT: I know you don’t want to play favorites but are there any of the approaches you want to single out that you are particularly proud of or you maybe went in a direction that people are really going to get a kick out of?

BERGANZA: You don’t want to pick favorites but there’s stuff that within the genres has been interested. For me it’s bringing back Resurrection Man and presenting it to a whole new audience in a broader sense There are things like I, Vampire which as a vampire fan, I love, and the art is looking great—it isn’t just guys in costumes. That’s what excited me about this. It’s not that if you don’t like superheroes you’re done; we’re offering a cable channel of variety.

HARRAS: And I don’t have any favorites but what I’m really loving is seeing the pages come in and reading stories, seeing the energy grow and grow. That’s one of the most satisfying things we’ve both experienced. Seeing the artists and writers communicate this, and we’re going to do great stuff. I mentioned that we have editorial meetings about September and all the editors come in with the pages of their books, and they’re so proud saying “Look what I’ve got here,” and the other teams say “This is what I’ve got’ and there’s a sense of…

BERGANZA: Friendly competition–

HARRAS: –and excitement. That’s what you hope for the most, excitement that has been growing day by day.

THE BEAT: There has been a lot of critics of the event era and in a way that’s what got us here today. There were so many events that were tied in, they did seem very new reader unfriendly. And one of the criticisms of the event era was that it was very editorially driven. Are you finding creators are more involved in this process? Is this a way to get creators more involved?

HARRAS: I think the creators are incredibly involved and incredibly excited about this. It’s one of the most enjoyable aspects of this. I’m copied on a lot of email between writers and artists talking about what’s happening and they are starting to see how they are involved and excited and hope readers will be thrilled by September. Again, it’s just that kind of energy we’re looking for.

BERGANZA: They are on the ground floor of something very unique. There have been #1s but there have never been #1’s right across the line, and it’s also day and date there are a lot of cool things happening at once.

HARRAS: And a lot of things that look towards the future all at once.

THE BEAT: Is there anything editorially that is affected by day and date?

BERGANZA: It does allow us to do different genres that go beyond superheroes. The idea of doing a western is very cool. The idea of doing more horror titles like JLA Dark and a Frankenstein [above] book is cool.

THE BEAT: What about holding the line at $2.99? What’s the pricing strategy?

HARRAS: We are definitely holding the line at $2.99. 48 of the 52 titles will be $2.99—that’s something we are very proud of and something we are definitely holding the line to.

THE BEAT: Moving forward, I know we’ve barely got through this, obviously there’s a huge 2 week lead up and everything has been written, there’s been endless speculation. Is there anything you can say about how this is going to rollout after the 52? What is the next phase? Is that in motion now?

BERGANZA: We can definitely say that September is just the beginning.

HARRAS: We are looking forward from September on. It’s about all of our characters being presented in the most exciting way possible.

THE BEAT: This is a very bold new move with new genres and new people—after the sales charts came out yesterday people were talking about how at the top was softer but the bottom was stable, so the audience is broadening even though it isn’t giant numbers. Is there any internal research or numbers that you have looked at in terms of supporting this or what kind of audience you are going to reach?

BERGANZA: We’re looking more at the platform. It’s reactive in the way that looks at all the different ways you can experience comics. That’s what we were looking at.

HARRAS: We were looking at how the world is changing and how we can embrace that change and how people are actually getting their forms of entertainment.

THE BEAT: So it was more just gut level common sense? Which is a great way to go, by the way.

HARRAS: We’re in the creative end of things so that’s what we concentrate on.

THE BEAT: Okay just to wrap up…is there an internal name? What should we call this?

HARRAS: Right now, I’m calling it September. That’s how I label it in my mind.

Comments

  1. Al™ says:

    Great questions!
    Their answers were what I have been accustomed to hearing: staying on message and selling the ‘sizzle’.
    I like the $2.99 price point. We’ll see what we see in September.

  2. I wish they had said more to address the pool of creators involved in the relaunch. I don’t know that the focus on characters rather than creators works these days, at least for very long, and I hope the new readers don’t read mediocre material first and lose interest.

    I’m puzzled why some of DC’s best talent is on obscure books that the newbies are unlikely to try (e.g., Demon Knights, Animal Man, All-Star Western) while creators who tend to drag books down (in terms of either commercial or critical success, or both) were given high-profile assignments. Not every book fits either extreme (see Morrison on Action Comics, Azzarello on Wonder Woman), but enough do that I’ll be reading a lot less DC soon. I’m not sure whether they care given I’m not the target audience for this relaunch.

  3. Ricardo Amaral says:

    My take (and reading their answers on CBR and Newsarama)? It was very rushed and they are still figuring out what to do. If chronology is decided on “gut feeling”, we are just doing Infinite Crisis all over again.

    What lasts is: this was a marketing ploy to bring a lot of attention to DCU (all new #1s!) and to deploy the digital initiative (still the biggest news of them all).

  4. Great interview, Heidi… thanks!

  5. So that’s three of these interviews I’ve read now and none of them contain anything more than empty PR. Was there a mandate from DC not to ask any difficult questions before being granted the interview?

  6. Keyser says:

    “Blackest Night and Brightest Day will continue.”

    Are they kidding??? How long does that crap go on?

    “HARRAS: We were looking at how the world is changing and how we can embrace that change and how people are actually getting their forms of entertainment.”

    Translation: we are clutching at straws in desperation.

  7. >>>Was there a mandate from DC not to ask any difficult questions before being granted the interview?

    No but it’s pretty clear what you are going to get from the git go. Eddie and Bob are professionals and talented editors that have a lot of respect for, but these kinds of interviews are all about getting out a corporate message.

    Every interview I’ve done with a DC publishing figure for the last three years or so has included a publicist on the line or in the room.

    By contrast, when I interviewed Axel Alonso soon after he was named EIC, he was at home waiting for his son to come home from stickball.

    The former method is by far the more prevalent in corporate climes, though, so it’s not unusual.

  8. Synsidar says:

    From the interview:

    BERGANZA: It’s the same names but it’s a mixture of old and new. Even on talent you know, the names are landing in a lot of unexpected places. For new fans they don’t know one person from another so they are going to experience it all as new. [. . .]

    BERGANZA: We’re looking more at the platform. It’s reactive in the way that looks at all the different ways you can experience comics. That’s what we were looking at.

    HARRAS: We were looking at how the world is changing and how we can embrace that change and how people are actually getting their forms of entertainment.

    It’s unfortunate that they didn’t talk about market research. How many millions will DC Entertainment be spending to pursue new readers? Market research is what practically any business would use to justify the investment.

    If all the genres were equal, Westerns would be fine, but the Western genre is very small in the publishing world. Whether DC goes after book readers who like Westerns, comics readers who can be entertained by Westerns, or both groups, sales are gong to be small.

    The absence of big names among the creators is surprising, given the importance of name recognition. What will DC’s ads be touting?

    One of the continuing differences between DC and Marvel is that DC gives second-tier and even third-tier characters more series than Marvel does.

    I hope that this relaunch succeeds, for the sake of the overall market, but the editors seem to be hoping and praying.

    SRS

  9. thequestion says:

    i’m excited about the new titles and the chance to read them on my ipad. but a major impediment (if i’m understanding things correctly) is storage. The app only allows storage of 500mb worth of books…then what?

    if i can’t have a way to permanently store and backup the digital version of my books then the digital venue won’t work for me. anybody know what the deal with storage is?

  10. I’m curious what effects this relaunch will have on DC’s trade/hardcover backlist. Take Red Robin and the new Teen Titans, as an example. Will the new status quo make the entire Robin/Red Robin paperback run irrelevant? Right now it’s easy to say to a reader, “You want to get Tim Drake’s backstory? Here are all the trades with Robin or Red Robin.” Besides things “still in canon” like Brightest Day/Blackest Night, I’m interested in DC editorial’s opinion on how retailers are expected to sell suddenly-out-of-continuity trade paperbacks, and if they’ll release a comprehensive list of what they’re saying still constitutes “canon.”

  11. Snikt Snakt says:

    So are these two guys just the dancing monkey to John’s & Didio’s organ grinder?!?

  12. Andrew FH says:

    This is the second DC editor interview I’ve seen that says they’re keeping Killing Joke as canon. I’m really curious as to what that means, given that they’re making a Barbara Gordon Batgirl book.

  13. It’s hard to see so many of the relaunches drawn by people I don’t know or are from generic foreign studios. I’d rather see marcus To, Nicola Scott and Jamal Igle than so many novices. At least they can go to cons and talk to fans. Or some more veteran artists who’ve made monthly deadlines before. I just haven’t built up trust with these new artists, and so much of this relaunch is built on trusting DC.

  14. Abhay says:

    Great interview, so great that I want to join in. Here are my answers.

    “I am going to start with the most super basic question of all: Why are you doing this? What was the inspiration? How come?”

    My inspiration was hope and children, and dancing to Beethoven, the C&C Music Factory, sunshine, rainbows, a mother quietly weeping in joy watching her blind son graduate valedictorian from an inner city high school, the first member of his family to go to college. Comic books.

    “Did you feel that starting over with #1s for everything was the best way to do this?”

    I love DC fans, and DC fans know that they’re loved, by me, and that I’m accessible, but also, I’m excited by all the new people who will share in finding me accessible, and loving, in a field of flowers, beauty, sharing.

    “What specifically are you doing to make sure that new readers are getting the message that this is a whole new thing to get into?”

    All of the new people will not know that they’re reading old creative teams. They’ll think they’re reading brand new creative teams. They will think that Scott Lobdell recently erupted from his mother’s womb, wanting only to share his newfound excitement for life and comics with them. And also, cowboys.

    “What storylines are continuing from the old continuity?”

    All of them. Every single one. Also: none of them. Our conversations have been so exciting, but there’s also been sharing.

    “Have you created a bible for how the DC Universe exists now? Is there a chart where it starts from?”

    We made a chart, and placed all of human knowledge onto that chart. On April 19, 2011, the chart became self-aware.

    “Did you think at all about the 1958 reboot that Carmine Infantino and Julius Schwartz implemented as a guide?”

    I thought about that, but I also thought about candy, running through spinklers, eskimo kisses, accessible things that are also new and sharing-esque.

    “Are there any of the approaches you want to single out that you are particularly proud of?”

    I get a kick out of the excitement that I see in e-mails about September, and handwritten letters about September, calendars that feature the month of September. My answer to this question is not so much something that can be expressed in words– just the sound of trumpets. Just imagine the sound of trumpets.

    “There has been a lot of critics of the event era and in a way that’s what got us here today. There were so many events that were tied in, they did seem very new reader unfriendly. And one of the criticisms of the event era was that it was very editorially driven. Are you finding creators are more involved in this process?”

    Instead of answering that question, let me tell you more about the excitement because sometimes, I’ll be sitting in my chair at work, and feel a wind in my ear– it turns out its one of my employees, blowing into my ear. Is that technically a violation of our Employee Handbook? Yes. But in September, our Employee Handbook will transform into a garden, one in which everyone will be allowed to plant lettuce.

    “Is there anything editorially that is affected by day and date?”

    Cowboys.

    “What about holding the line at $2.99? What’s the pricing strategy?”

    We are holding the line just fine, pal o’mine– it’s why I shine, and why R.L Stine and I shall dine on steak and wine, and also, accessibility and cowboys.

    “Is there anything you can say about how this is going to rollout after the 52?”

    We are looking forward from September on. It’s about all of our characters being presented in the most exciting way possible.

    “Is there any internal research or numbers that you have looked at in terms of supporting this or what kind of audience you are going to reach?”

    We were looking at how the world is changing and how we can embrace that change and how people are actually getting their forms of entertainment.

    “So it was more just gut level common sense? Which is a great way to go, by the way.”

    We’re in the creative end of things so that’s what we concentrate on.

    “Okay just to wrap up…is there an internal name? What should we call this?”

    Right now, I’m calling it September. That’s how I label it in my mind.

  15. OtisTFirefly says:

    My favorite part is all of the “We start fresh! Completely accessible! No convoluted story lines to confuse newbies! No complicated backstory! blah blah blah”

    ….and IN SIX MONTHS, WHEN IT’S ALL NOT FRESH, NOT-ACCESSIBLE, CONVOLUTED AND CONFUSING… then what???

  16. Louis Lane says:

    >they’re keeping Killing Joke as canon. I’m really curious as to what that means…

    I think it means the Joker shot Barbara Gordon, and then she got better.

    LL

  17. Al™ says:

    @Abhay: hilarious blending of the real and the visionary! Thanks for sharing!

  18. Synsidar says:

    A sad aspect of the interview was the focus the two had on the characters. Their beloved characters are everything. That attitude is fine for a ten-year-old who’s only a consumer, but not for the people who actually create and publish the stories that the characters appear in. Making the quality of the stories secondary to the thrill of experiencing the characters again invariably results in junk.

    That’s why close-ended stories are inherently better. Write the best story you can at a point in time, creating the characters and the other elements as needed, and then go on to the next one. If you can think of several stories at one time involving the same characters, that’s great!

    I hope the ad campaign isn’t based on getting new readers attached to the characters.

    SRS

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