A lot of think pieces are beginning to come out about the DC upheaval — it’s beginning to be clear that the initial feelings of relief after the first press release were about as accurate as the “We dodged that one!” feelings right after Katrina passed through. As expected, Tom Spurgeon lays out Twelve Initial Questions I Have About DC’s Publishing Moves Announcements and it’s very thorough. Tom writes from the distinct perspective of someone who isn’t immersed in day-to-day DC Kremlinology and yet comes to many of the same conclusions. (As a Manhattan-based writer, when I say “word on the street”, I sometimes mean it quite literally.) Some of the questions he asks I’ve answered here — I’ve been told by multiple sources that the main reason that the entire DC comics operation wasn’t moved was economic: it simply would have cost too much. With that in mind, a lot of the non-answers for keeping publishing in NYC becomes clearer. I do like his totally right field theories that it might have something to do with more favorable freelancer laws and jurisdictions for various lawsuits underway though.
“The Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which reviews cases heard in the Southern District of New York, has well-developed IP jurisprudence that is generally regarded as owner friendly. The Ninth Circuit, which includes California, is commonly seen as somewhat less predictable and more plaintiff friendly in regard to IP,” Trexler wrote in respond to my inquiry.
Two ideas that Tom comes around to in his piece are that 1) The statements that things were going so well that there’s no need to change anything doesn’t hold up:
Even the fabled people skills of the new executive team — an all-time A-list talent handler and three veteran industry new executives, two of which are working pros — seem to have been employed in a way that’s only riled further one of their most profitable, long-time authors and not exactly sent scores of creators scrambling from another company towards a seat in the Hall Of Justice. There’s also Tuesday’s news. Shutting down imprints may make sense from an organizational standpoint and may make the future a brighter one, but it also seems to be an implicit criticism of how things are being done right now. It should go without saying, but no imprint gets closed because it’s awesome and it performs wonderfully. So what am I missing? What is the reason for any enthusiasm in staying this particular course, even its roughest outline?
DC Comics is still not fixed, and has a lot of work to do. Three imprints shot down in six months. Are there new ones in the offing?
2) Spurgeon also dissects the entire rollout of the news and finds it bizarre. From DC’s servers going down to Ben Fritz-gate, it’s been a very, very curious news cycle. But read the whole piece.
As I said a few days ago, I have no desire to add to the misery that people go through during layoffs by adding speculation and rumor to the bonfire. One of my former co-workers at DC had a status update on Facebook this week that read just “WHY????” and if that isn’t heartbreaking, I don’t know what is.
Meanwhile, mops of opinions are beginning to swab down the deck, starting with David Brothers on the way forward in a piece called “Why WildStorm, CMX & Zuda Got the Axe and What It Means for the New DC Comics” that points to the things DC has been doing right since all the changes began a year ago:
This new, streamlined DC Comics has two focuses. DC Comics is responsible for maintaining the stable of DC Comics-owned superheroes and serving as an idea farm for Warner Brothers to exploit in other media. This means generating good stories, yes, but also characters and ideas that can be used in cartoons, movies, video games, and more. The fact that Geoff Johns has been working closely with the team behind the upcoming film “Green Lantern,” the organized roll-out of the new Aqualad in “Brightest Day” and “Young Justice,” and the hand of DC creative talent in games like “Batman: Arkham City” suggest that this is a formula that works, and will be employed for the foreseeable future.
Also before we move on, Andy Khouri’s personal account of what WildStorm meant to him is essential reading, for better and worse:
Superman was dead or dying. Batman was breaking. The Ultraverse was… Ultraversing. But regardless of how good or bad the classic superhero stories were at the time, all the excitement was with Image Comics, through which Jim Lee presented his WildStorm Universe. More than any of the other Image partners and their respective product lines, WildStorm was an ambitious and ultimately successful attempt to create a new superhero-esque mythology. For many of us, Lee and his collaborators were the first to present a world of superpowered men and women who didn’t necessarily wear costumes and who didn’t necessarily fight for the good of all mankind — or at least, not in the traditional sense. While the WildC.A.T.S. did defend Earth from the alien Daemonites, the success of the WildStorm Universe had more to do with shadowy government conspiracies and covert black-ops than it did with truth, justice or the American way.
It also had a lot to do with Caitlin Fairchild’s breasts.
It’s pieces like this that prove the “Forty-year-old virgin” theory of comics readership obsolete. Back when the early Image comics were coming out, they were often decried as pablum for teenagers, and even though they were, they did help breed a new generation of comics readers. What DC Entertainment/Comics does from here on out will definitely help decide if these readers remain engaged with their publishing ventures.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.