If you follow any of the big news sites, you will have heard the news – Warner Bros are laying off something like 800 employees from various divisions, with DC losing around a third of staff. Worst hit is DC Collectibles, which is being shuttered, while the DC Universe app team is also badly hit. The comics division is reportedly losing Editor-In-Chief Bob Harras, Global Publishing Initiatives chief Bobbi Chase, Senior Story Editor Brian Cunningham, Publishing Strategy Supremo Hank Kanalz and Executive Editor Mark Doyle, among others. Jim Lee steps down as publisher, but remains as Chief Creative Officer, acting as a liaison between DC and other WarnerMedia divisions. Heidi MacDonald of The Beat, who is doing a great job of reporting on the situation, says a new publishing chief is being brought in from the world of eSports, which is apparently a thing.
It seems that, as often happens, the people to go are among the best paid, which goes along with them being the most experienced hands… lower level editors seem to have survived what people are calling the DC Bloodbath.
I really feel for the victims of this corporate restructure. In a memo to staff before details began coming out, new WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, in messianic mode, made it sound like the coming changes were a wonderful opportunity. The lack of empathy for the people he was about to sack is as shocking as it is sad; good people who have given years to DC – Production Manager Jeb Woodard and Collected Editions Senior Editor Scott Nybakken have a combined 37 years – are losing their livelihood at a truly desperate time. These are people who could easily have followed corporate instruction as to how the company should be steered in future, but of course, it’s all about the bottom line.
There is some good news among the grimness, which I first saw at Bleeding Cool – Rich Johnston has been carefully following developments. He tells us that Marie Javins is going to head up DC Editorial, alongside Michele Wells. Javins went from Marvel colourist to editor, then took a few years off to globetrot. She was brought into DC temporarily a few years ago to oversee the Convergence event which filled the schedules for two months as the company moved from New York to Burbank. The creative success of the project – there really were some brilliant books, search this site with the Convergence keyword – resulted in her being kept on at DC, eventually becoming Digital Comics chief, overseeing some of the great weekly books I’ve been reviewing for the past three months.
I’ve previously argued for her to be DC Editor-in-Chief and I won’t be surprised if she makes comics lemonade from this very sour situation. The Convergence titles, deliberate throwbacks, yet have a freshness to them, showing that the likes of a traditional Marvel Family series and classic Superboy still have a place. The Digital books have continued in a similar vein, giving us stores with traditional trappings that somehow feel very Now.
Wells, whose Twitter account tells us she’s now VP & Executive Editor, has been in charge of DC’s Young Adult graphic novel line, and I’ve been very impressed by the likes of Zatanna and the House of Secrets and Anti/Hero. I’d love to see her get a few YA and younger comics on the DC publishing slate.
Sadly, the smart money seems to be on a period of retrenchment, a combination of WarnerMedia bigwigs not being interested in the comics – if it’s not streaming, it’s not there – and the comic sales not being impressive enough to demand attention.
And yet it’s still early days, with details to be settled and announcements to be made. Things that were believed – the closure of MAD! magazine and DC’s Creative Services division – have been officially contradicted. There’s the chance that some of the people said to be leaving will negotiate other roles.
What does seem very likely, given the promotion of Javins, is further expansion of the digital line. Pundits are also pretty sure there’ll be more collaborations with Walmart after the success of the DC Giants. That would likely mean a wider variety of material from DC Digital First to fill them, which would suit me as lately the likes of Flash and Aquaman have disappeared, with publishing wallflower Harley Quinn and her Birds of Prey filling the gaps. I’m definitely for more books being available at newsstands, at a better price point so more kids can try them, but I don’t want DC to ignore the Direct Market retailers they’ve worked with for so many years.
Rich Johnston is convinced there’ll be a culling of DC Universe’s print line, with what remains featuring a greater proportion of Bat-titles, because (insert ironic tone here) that is exactly what the comics industry needs to invigorate it.
Really, it’s a case of wait and see – as I write, the new publishing chief, apparently a man and due to start in September, hasn’t been named. It could be that he’s an eSports fan who also loves comics, and has a vision as to how to take DC Comics forward. Perhaps this new DC Implosion will result in a Big Bang of creativity.
Right now, my thoughts are with the ladies and gents who are losing their jobs. Heidi MacDonald says they’re on up to three months notice, which makes a nice change – don’t victims of corporate firings usually have to clear their desks the same day, before they’re escorted out of the building by Security? I wonder if any mischievous messages will make their way into comic books down the line… Anyway, good luck to everyone in finding a new job speedily, and the best of luck to the folk who remain at DC.
Meanwhile, what are your thoughts on events at DC this week? What do you think could happen, best and worst scenarios? How can DC recover from this ‘streamlining’? You’re smart, let’s hear your ideas!
UPDATE! The Hollywood Reporter now has an interview with Jim Lee, clarifying that Marie Javins and Michele Wells are currently ‘interim appointments’ and he’s still Publisher.