So what’s going on at DC Entertainment, anyway?

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supermanchained So whats going on at DC Entertainment, anyway?If there’s one topic occupying the water coolers and drink-ups of the comics industry these days, it’s “Just what the heck is going on at DC ComicsEntertainment? Where is the new publisher?” After investigating and talking to our most trusted sources, we’ve been able to come up with a fairly definitive answer: NOBODY KNOWS. Or at least no one who knows is beyond the most inner circle of Opus Dei.

But you don’t need the investigative skills of Robert Langdon to see that the great uncertainty is taking a toll on DC, morale-wise, anyway. Paul Levitz stepped down and Diane Nelson stepped in at the beginning of September, meaning things have been on hold for five months. That’s a loooong time to have things “on hold,” which is what everyone internally and externally have been told…over and over and over.

While increased attention by the studio is definitely being paid to DC’s movie prospects — see the just announced Superman reboot by Chris Nolan and brisk progress reports on the Green Lantern film — the comics side is caught up in a state of limbo. One victim thus far: DC’s 75th Anniversary.

As we were reminded by one insider the other day, in February 1935, New Fun Comics #1 was released, the first comic book issue of all-original material, published by the company that evolved into the DC Comics of today. While the occasion is being marked at Bloomingdales with some apparel, and the Legacies series, inside DC, we’re told, there’s been nothing: “Not a word. Neither cake, nor card, nor mention on The Source blog. It’s as if DC Comics is trapped in limbo or the Phantom Zone.”

The task of finding a new publisher for DC—someone with publishing chops, business sense and some feel for the characters–is clearly one that has proven daunting for the Diane Nelson team. Just what they (meaning Warners top brass) had in mind when they put Nelson in charge and rebranded DC Entertainment isn’t clear — it seems they were surprised when Levitz decided to step down. Wildstorm’s Hank Kanalz may have been considered for the job, but he wasn’t keen on uprooting his family to move to the east coast. And so…the hunt has gone on.

Another uncertainty is DC’s perpetually looming move to the west coast. Getting the DC superhero brain trust closer to the studio has been a move long considered, and one that Levitz successfully held back for years. While we’re told some of DC’s top execs have been asked to think about whether they’d like getting their coffee at Priscilla’s instead of the Bagel and Bean, and a move has been threatened widely internally, it’s still not a done deal.

With all these distractions, getting out all those comics every month still has to go on, although sometimes clumsily. You might file the Joe Casey Superman/Batman business, under this. It seems Casey, writer of both 2001’s “World at War” crossover, and a current Superman/Batman story that ties up all the loose ends from that series, questioned both whether there were any loose ends, and whether marketing a tie-in to a nine-year-old story was the best way to go about things. The matter got more play when the above thoughts were left out of a CBR story (since emended)–a typical comics newssite preview piece so rarely being a container for the actualities of the making of a book that the writer just didn’t seem to know what to do with it. Casey’s thoughts were aired in both a Bleeding Cool story and a much longer explanation in an interview with Tom Spurgeon:

At the end of the day, I don’t “object” as much as I look at it and feel like certain retailers, certain readers are going to be turned off from even sampling what I think (I hope, heh) is a pretty fun story because the branding is such a turn off. Obviously, DC can sell their books whichever way they choose, and with the “Blackest Night” books they’ve done a pretty good job of it… but when it’s also something that I’ve worked hard on, something that’s got my name on it and something I can get tagged for, I’m going to have an opinion, especially when asked. I was asked, I answered.


Casey, a member of the Man of Action studio which created the cartoon franchise hit Ben 10, has the independent means to talk about such things — a luxury most creators don’t — and points out the elephant in the room:

As much as it’s good fun talking about all this stuff now, these are not things that keep me up at night, Tom. It’s still a fascinating, disingenuous, ass-kissing industry and if people knew the basic, day-to-day operating chaos of their favorite companies, they’d shit a brick. Or fall over laughing. And in those rare moments when even I’m too depraved to fit in, I just turn around with the guys in my company and sell another TV show or whatever. It’s almost comical, and certainly ironic… by finally becoming part of the mainstream entertainment landscape, the comics industry has managed to actually minimize itself in a way that I find imminently exploitable.


With all the uncertainty and questions hanging over DC, it’s hard to blame the hard-working and talented folks there for letting a few things slip through the cracks. Take this official DC web listing for the Superman 80 Page Giant:

A thrilling collection of up-and-coming talent tackles Superman and the heroes of Metropolis! Packed with guest stars galore including Bizarro, Lois Lane and many more, these timeless tales of The Man of Steel are destined to thrill!

* Superman
* 32pg.
* Color
* $5.99 US


When an 80-page giant has only 32 pages…you’ve got problems.

Comments

  1. bad wolf says:

    Hank Kanalz, the co-writer of Youngblood #1? That was their first choice?

  2. Ken B. says:

    That was a nice (but depressing) look at the comics industry from Casey.

  3. mpneeb says:

    Puppy Dog,

    Hank Kanalz has successfully kept Wildstorm running for most of the past decade. Not too many reasons for him to NOT serve as Publisher for DC.

  4. Well, that Legacy post also mentions a new Who’s Who and History of the DC Universe. The only thing missing from a repeat of 1985 is a Crisis analog, and one could argue that Morrison’s Multiversity is similar. (To be followed with a Watchmen analog next year?)

    That said, DC has plenty of time to get their marketing scheduled. Mileposts:

    First Siegel/Schuster = October 2010
    Detective Comics = March 2012
    Superman = June 2013 (Perfect time for a “national holiday”)
    Detective #27 = May 2014
    Flash/Hawkman = January 2015
    Captain Marvel/Spectre = February 2015
    Green Lantern = July 2015
    Justice Society = Winter 2015
    World’s Finest = Spring 2016
    Aquaman = November 2016
    Wonder Woman = December 2016

  5. I figure DC Entertainment is fnally going to let it’s comic book division die out. They’ll publish nothing but reprints and occasional trades for regular old bookstores. After they go, Diamond will no longer be able to stay in the comics distribution business. Marvel/Disney will then try with self distribution of a few flagship titles before leaving monhly publishing altogether. It’s the endtimes, but it could lead to the dawn of a new age for indie books.
    Chriswell has spoken!

  6. Sadly, DC cannot cope … when Marvel created its “exclusive” partnership/purchase of Heroes World, DC could not sit back and conduct business as usual. They formed an exclusive agreement with Diamond, the second domino which really hurt the industry.

    Now, Marvel has been purchased by Disney. DC personnel are scurrying around frantically. They would sell out to a big movie company, except that DC is already owned by Warner Communications. So, what to do? What business maneuver can DC copy at this point? What can they do to say, “Oh, yeah? Take this!” Perhaps accept Marvel returns?

  7. Nate Horn says:

    @mpneeb

    I can think of a few reasons to not name Hank Kanalz publisher and they’re all based on Wildstorm not being successful. Sure, video game companies pay for a couple thousand comics to hand out as promo items, but those comics could be created by an off-shore staff for *much* cheaper. Wildstorm is a money sink and needs to be one of the things to go once Warner figures out how they can maximize the profits from DC Entertainment. I still maintain video games are a growing market ripe for harvesting the IPs owned by DC Entertainment. (For example, are there any DC iPhone games, Wii Ware games, or XBox Live games? If not, why not?) Also, the production of the content of the comics themselves should be moved off-shore so the costs can be reduced as well as maximizing profits made from exploiting digital delivery systems in the future.

  8. Jim Caldwell says:

    FWIW, they’ve taken notice and updated their Superman 80-page Giant solicitation.

  9. There’s always some give to deciding when these Golden Age anniversaries are, but the DC dates looks firmer than the Marvel one. We took a look last year at when New Fun #1 shipped when someone found a letter from editor Lloyd Jacquet saying it was Jan. 11, 1935:

    http://blog.comichron.com/2009/09/when-first-dc-comic-hit-stands.html

    With these kinds of anniversaries, of course, you can pretty much claim the whole year for whatever you’re planning. So there’s time for a cake yet.

  10. With the exception of Green Lantern / Blackest Night, DC Entertainment is a shameful, hideous mess.

    Their movies, their comics, DC Direct (which can’t complete a product line after over ten years in business AND 2x showcased a product (at Toyfare in 2002 and 2005) like the Dr Fate Helmet that they never solicited to this day — uh-dur).

    Really, company executives at the top should be ashamed to put their name on the DC Film or Comics Masthead because all it does it display to consumers that:

    THESE are the people who just don’t have a clue. And who says stupidity doesn’t pay should read the masthead because DC pays quite well for idiocy…

    Seriously, it’s a shame no one at Warners or DC can chew gum and walk at the same time. If they did, the whole DC line would be emulating Green Lantern.

    But they don’t and that’s because DC Entertainment is lead by Bozo’s like Dan Didio and the Gentleman Ghost Publisher.

    PS. I wouldn’t be so quick to applaud Hank Kanalz for keeping Wildstorm going. Why someone should be rewarded for keeping a line going when no one is buying is the prime reason for DC’s shameful and amateur output.

  11. Ray Benton says:

    It funny how many people who have never worked for DC Comics think they know what has gone on behind those doors.

  12. Brett says:

    I don’t think anyone really needs to work at DC to ‘know’ what’s going on.

    Their product output speaks volumes, a direct reflection of everything that’s going on ‘behind closed doors’.

  13. ephraim says:

    FYI—it’s “bozos”, not “Bozo’s”…

  14. Glenn Simpson says:

    Brett – just curious – what is it you think that DC is doing with Green Lantern that they are deliberately not doing with other books?

  15. Nate Horn says:

    @Ray Benton:

    If you can’t criticize a public company’s performance, then I don’t know how you evaluate your financial portfolio.

  16. Ray Benton says:

    You can be critical all you want – what I find amusing is when an individual is “blamed” for not doing or doing something in a major corporation when there may be many internal obstacles preventing that from happening. Like what Wildstorm is or isn’t doing – believe me just keeping their head above water when you are handcuffed is a major accomplishment. Could things be better there and at DC overall – of course and I too am critical of them, but understanding how corporate America works makes me understand them.

  17. Army of Dorkness says:

    “what I find amusing is when an individual is “blamed” for not doing or doing something in a major corporation when there may be many internal obstacles preventing that from happening.”

    More reason not to “sell out” in the first place. On the other hand, there’s more reason to sell out because if you don’t the corporation will just crush you and then buy you for much cheaper afterward. It’s the American way. And as well all know, that’s one of the things Superheroes used to fight for.

  18. Brett says:

    @Glenn Simpson

    Many editors, writers, artists and fans have complained for YEARS that the Hal Jordan Green Lantern is old and stale; outdated and irrelevant, so much so that DC replaced the HJ Green Lantern with someone else, Kyle Raynor who lasted in the book almost for a decade… that is until someone felt that Kyle was stale and irrelevant and replaced him.

    It is exemplary of DC’s long standing position that characters are like milk: after a time, they go stale and need to be replaced. As such, DC spent years not only replacing but horribly mutilating many consumers favorite characters:

    Firestorm, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Blue Beetle, Legion, Teen Titans (the worst of the worst — who would have believed 25 years ago, Titans was a best seller!). Think of each character as a brand that have been badly stained because of their multiple redo’s over time.

    But the success of the Hal Jordan Green Lantern proves that characters don’t go stale, creators and editors do.

    Instead of replacing the character, replace the whining creator or editor, who is really yapping as a result of their own creatively bankruptcy because they can’t come up with a good enough story for said character.

    But DC (like other companies) doesn’t like to replace creators or editors; they keep giving the same sloppy amateurs work and the result is a line that resembles unprofessional fan fiction which just about descrubes 90% of DC’s output.

  19. bad wolf says:

    mpneeb–Okay, Wildstorm average sales, from Marc-Oliver’s DC sales column:
    6 months: -17.6%
    1 year : -22.9%
    2 years : -53.5%
    5 years : -53.7%
    That is not a CV i would be bragging about.

  20. Brett says:

    By the way, when I say they don’t like replacing creators, that doesn’t mean they don’t move a certain creator off a book — they do, they just move said amateur someplace else where they can work their own brand of reverse magic on another characters book.

    Thus DC becomes a carousel of sloppy unprofessionals, soiling every horse they ride… who then turn and blame the horse for being wooden and stale.

  21. Henrik Andreasen says:

    My bid on a new publisher is Jimmy Palmiotti, who has all the qualities nedeed. The next few weeks/months will hopefully tell us if I’m right or wrong.

  22. Alan Coil says:

    Brett said:

    “I don’t think anyone really needs to work at DC to ‘know’ what’s going on.”

    Isn’t that a typical online response?

    “I don’t need to know anything to know something.”

  23. mark b says:

    I think they should hire me as Publisher.

  24. Oh Alan,

    Is that your best?

    Why not post about the topic, DC Entertainment instead of posting about the people posting on the topic.

    Small people talk about other people.

    Big people talk about ideas.

  25. And before anyone goes and says talking about Hank, Dan and others is talking about other people, the topic is DC Entertainment and by placing their names on the label credits, they ‘become’ DC Entertainment and what consumers associate with the brand.

    Which, back to topic, is why in the state DC is in, the smartest thing for anyone to do is to keep themselves off the brand so they aren’t associated with the mess this once great company has become.

  26. well, interesting reading all this this morning.

    Thanks for the vote as publisher Henrik. appreciated.

    Working on two steady characters right now…Jonah Hex and powergirl and having a blast.

    Brett, you might enjoy one of those books.

    What I get from all of this is that there will always be changed made and characters rebooted to see if there is an audience for them. Its the way this stuff works…and yes, some work, some dont. Agree when it works, they shoule really look at why.

    Personally, I enjoy genre comics and think D.C. has more than any other publisher right now…war, horror, westerns, crime, sci-fi, and so much more. More than anyone else…and I admire them for keeping that going.

  27. I already read Jonah Hex. For me, it’s in the 10% of ‘professionally’ published comics by DC. It also compelled me to buy the figure by DC Direct.

    Power Girl is a bit more difficult because the Terra mini-series left a very bad taste in my mouth. It’s a series I believe was unnecessary as it dilutes and diminishes the original, one of the most compelling characters I’ve ever read. It also goes back to what I was saying before about unnecessary character redos and replacements that more often than not don’t go over well. Maybe I’m more of a discerning consumer, but I have a hard time patronizing the work of a creator whose choice of work assignments I found to be questionable.

    But that’s just me, nothing against Amanda personally and I know you two are pretty tight but the Terra fiasco is still too fresh in my head to have any desire to sample Power Girl.

    But, you can also add me to the list of individuals who believes Jimmie would be an excellent candidate for publisher. He certainly has the business chops (Ash and Painkiller Jane) and most important, more important than anything else, he understands best how to communicate effectively with consumers — he doesn’t look down on them and always appears positive.

    That’s something very essential because consumers associate the business leaders directly with the brand.

    DC needs to be more conscious of it’s image; become welcoming and friendly to consumers because when you have a leader who publically slanders their readers, the entire brand suffers because many will avoid products simply because its leaders stains the brand with the dumb things they say in public and the dismissive, condescending air they have about the very people who keep them in business.

  28. I’m not going to pretend I know what DC’s ‘leaders’ are saying about their fans but I will say this:
    As long as they’re not lying, I really don’t care what the ‘leaders’ have to say.
    If they say most of their biggest critics are some of their most devout buyers and it turns out to be true, then who’s hurt by them saying that? Quesada has been dismissing online criticism for years and that hasn’t hurt Marvel’s sales.
    As for the accusations of condecendation, let’s face it, society in general is condescending of grown men in their forties reading comic books orginally created for children. I wouldn’t expect much “friendliness” from corporate execs.

  29. Leslie says:

    Superman movie is still in limbo even after the false reports of Goyer doing a script and Nolan “mentoring” the next film.

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