After The Bloodbath – The Start Of A New Two-Year Plan For DC Comics?

Today is the birthday of DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Jim Lee. Yesterday he was Publisher of DC Comics as well. His present seems to be that he still has a job. Yesterday, while working from home, a number of major DC Comics editorial figures were informed they were being made redundant, along with around 800 Warner Bros staffers, as part of a major downsizing and streamlining of the corporate media giants. Bleeding Cool covered the story as it emerged, from initial reports that the news was coming, the first reports of the impact it was having and a final article showing the extent of the impact. 

After The Bloodbath - The Start Of A New Two-Year Plan For DC Comics?
The official DC Comics logo.

Initial reports that Jim Lee was being transitioned out of DC Comics have however been scotched by well-placed sources early this morning, but it seems he is no longer Publisher, per se, but CCO, overseeing all aspects of DC, including Publishing. Executive Editor of Global Publishing Initiatives & Digital Strategy Marie Javins and Executive Editor, DC Children's/Young Adult Michele Wells will be taking the publishing role, reporting to Jim Lee as Chief Creative Officer, and Lee will report to Warner Bros President, Global Brands, Franchises, and Experiences Pamela Lifford. Reportedly, Javins and Wells are very different people with different priorities, so it is likely that DC will divide amongst the two. I am also told that these roles are 'interim' while Warner Bros makes further decisions. Nancy Spears, VP, Sales, is also being elevated at the company, alongside Michele and Marie.

There are also reports that a specific person with experience in eSports is being recruited for a general manager-style role, to replace the Editor-In-Chief and other senior editorial roles. Those names of staffers leaving DC include DC Editor-In-Chief Bob Harras, Executive Editor at DC Black Label, Mark Doyle,. Vice President, Global Publishing Initiatives & Digital Strategy Bobbie Chase. DC Editor Andy Khouri, DC Senior Story Editor Brian Cunningham, and SVP Publishing Strategy & Support Services at DC, Hank Kanalz, Executive Assistant to Jim Lee, Eddy Choi, International Publishing, Ad Sales & Custom Creative Studio, Sandy Resnick, Marketing Director, Sara Haskell, Director of Publicity (Publishing) Michael Shelling, VP of Marketing & Creative Services  Jonah Weiland, VP of Marketing & Creative Services and VP, Comic Book Specialty & Newsstand Sales Jim Sokolowski– a former victim of similar events at Marvel and DC Comics. None of these departures has been confirmed and it is also possible that other individual solutions may be negotiated – as seems to have happened with Jim Lee.

Bleeding Cool has been criticised by some for using the word 'bloodbath' in reportage, but, repeatedly, it is the word that DC Comics employee-after-employee has been using when talking to Bleeding Cool about this event. It is no coincidence that other reporters such as Heidi MacDonald and Asher Elbein repeated the same word – it's the one everyone involved has been using.

With so many staff leaving the company, around a third it is estimated, the continual production of comic books is likely to take a hit, but the graphic novel line, which has become more valuable to DC, is so far in advance of production, that no one would notice until well into 2021.

Because we also hear about what is described as a Two-Year Plan for DC Comics which will see DC Comics move to mass-market production through Walmart, the licensing of titles with editors moving to brand managers/approval roles, alongside a move from DC to digital serialisation and original graphic novels. Content will still be provided to the direct market but it will no longer be the priority that it (still) is at DC Comics.

It is also notable that the Collected Editions department at DC has seen a considerable winnowing, almost as much as DC Direct. Print collections of currently serialised work take a lot less to produce that the remastering, archiving and retrieval of classic work in new and appealing formats.

I understand that Steve Geppi may be trying to get what remains of DC Comics back to distribution through Diamond Comics, but there are other reports that distribution of print comics may go completely in house, and that UCS and Lunar was just the start, a trial run. But either way, Bleeding Cool made the comparison to the DC Implosion of 1978 that almost saw the publisher's first comic book Detective Comics cancelled. This time it's the Batbooks that are the safest, but everything else could be up for grabs. However, it has been pointed out repeatedly that a better comparison may be to the Marvelution episode of 1995 that saw Marvel Comics take their distribution in house and increase their line significantly- and the Marvel-cution that followed four days into 1996, which saw Marvel return to Diamond, many editors fired and the line rapidly reduced in size. It took until Dan Buckley arrived in 2003 to start and turn Marvel back around.

But it is also worth reminding folk that this event does happen periodically. The noughties saw a spate, October 2011 was a big one at Marvel, with a number of layoffs, 2014 saw eighty staff leave DC Comics as a result of the move to Burbank, and we had a run of redundancies last year at DC Comics,

What this is not is the closure of DC Comics. A major change, absolutely, and the comic book market is going to get another hit at a time it is least suited to be able to absorb, but just as with previous redundancies, it can lead to new comic book publishers setting up, a new swathe of talent for the rest of the industry to benefit from and a chance for DC Comics to focus on what it really wants. But it is also going to hurt a lot, and as someone who has been through similar, my deepest sympathies with all those affected by this. And if I can help, going forward, get in touch – richjohnston@bleedingcool.com. I won't tell a soul.

P.S. Michael Davis gets in touch to remind of a few months ago…

TODAY Friday April 24th Randall Stephenson, retired as CEO but becomes Chairman of the Board of Directors until to "ensure a smooth leadership transition" That is not good for DC Comics. Anytime a new CEO is named there's a MAJOR shakeup coming and if you're in the middle of some sh-t, you're among the first to be looked at. But there may be hope.

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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