DC reorganizes and lays off three VPs

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Amid flying rumors all day, it’s been confirmed that DC Entertainment has undergone a huge reorganization, with three VPs laid off and DC Collectibles removed to Consumer Products.

Among those gone SVP of sales trade marketing John Cunningham, SVP Art Director Mark Chiarello and VP of  consumer marketing Eddie Scannell. The moves were part of general layoffs around WB Consumer Products, all overseen by  Pam Lifford, WB’s President of Global Brands and Experiences. At WBCP about 10% of the staff was laid off, THR reports.  DC’s layoffs amounted to 3% of their 240 person staff – seven people in total.

DC has been reorganized into three divisions: Editorial, to be overseen by SVP and EIC Bob Harras;  Publishing and Manufacturing under Alison Gill, SVP Manufacturing & Operations; and Publishing Support Services, a new division that will be run by Hank Kanalz whose new title will be SVP Publishing Strategy & Support Services.

You can read a memo sent to staff by Lifford below but a few quick takes on this:

While, as usual, the easiest suspicion on the layoffs were the removal of publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee, that move would have been superficial at most. I’d been hearing for months that entire departments at DC were under scrutiny, and that is indeed what has happened, with DC Collectibles – an independent unit that was distributed to the Direct Market –  being shuffled into Consumer Products, and the entire sales and marketing team reorganized.

The new set up is planned to focus on publishing, with the direct market getting a shout out. However the removal of Cunningham and Chiarello seems fairly dire. Cunningham, a 13 year DC veteran, succeeded Bob Wayne as the main vision for DC’s publishing plan in both the book world and the DM. Chiarello is known as one of the sharpest creative eyes in the business, and impacted the look of DC’s products in innumerable ways. I’m sure both will find new positions as soon as their severance packages and non-competes allow.

While on first blush this is a direct hit on publishing, I’m told both Cunningham and Chiarello had the kind of salaries that are a homing beacon when downsizing. Still, neither can be replaced.

Kanalz is a WB veteran and goes even further back to his days at Wildstorm, Jim Lee’s Image Comics label that was purchased by DC in 1999.  In fact he’s the “other guy” in those famous Image Founder photos.  Kanalz’s name is one that used to be in the mix quite a bit in the Comics Hot Stove League, but faded after the move to the West Coast in 2015. But he was always waiting in the wings, and those rumors just took longer to come to fruition.

I’m already hearing concerns about DC’s revamped sales and marketing staff, as well as the fate of Vertigo, Black Label, Zoom and Ink. Also DC’s 240 person staff to put out products that sell 25,000 copies is math that anyone might ponder.

While this is all developing, my Heidi sense is tingling. To quote Pam Lifford “We recognize there are other groups across DC who are not fully dedicated to supporting the publishing business and, therefore, are not directly addressed in today’s news.”

Any change in the status of the Big Two is going to have a huge impact on the already shaky Direct Market. ComicsPRO is going to be lit!

Below, Lifford’s staff memo as reported by THR.

Today has been a challenging day. We have made organizational changes across DC that we believe will help to strengthen and evolve the division for future success. With these changes come difficult decisions which we take very seriously.

We recognize and appreciate that all of our employees have made considerable contributions to our business and that it is difficult to lose colleagues, many of whom have been here for a long time and have made an important impact on DC. We thank them for their hard work and dedication to DC. As always, we are committed to taking care of our employees and will be as thoughtful as possible with those who are impacted by these changes.

Together with Dan and Jim, and the executive team, we have spent time assessing DC’s business, as well as the comic book publishing landscape. DC is going back to its roots of delivering epic stories with our world-class characters, stories and brands. Being a premier house of storytelling will never go out of style and we intend to ultimately super-serve our existing fans, while providing new compelling content that engages and excites even more fans around the globe. Rest assured, the direct market will remain at the heart of our business – and will continue to be one of our greatest strengths.

The new streamlined structure is focused on creating, delivering and supporting a robust publishing operation that will allow DC to be nimble, navigate an industry in change, and thrive. As we communicated today, we are forming three distinct work streams – Editorial, Production & Manufacturing and Publishing Support Services.

•  Editorial will continue to be run by Bob Harras, SVP & Editor-In-Chief, who will now also be responsible for new initiatives and global publishing, editorial scheduling, and art direction

•  Production & Manufacturing will continue to be run by Alison Gill, SVP Manufacturing & Operations

•  Publishing Support Services is a new business unit consisting of all departments that support the sales, marketing and promotion of our books, and this will be run by Hank Kanalz who is taking on additional responsibilities as SVP Publishing Strategy & Support Services As a result – DC Collectibles and its team will be part of the Consumer Products Toy team moving forward.

We recognize there are other groups across DC who are not fully dedicated to supporting the publishing business and, therefore, are not directly addressed in today’s news. As The Global Brands & Experiences structure continues to develop, I look forward to sharing more with you as that evolves.

Many of you will have questions and in the coming days you will receive more information from Bob, Alison and Hank about their teams. Together with Dan and Jim, I will be hosting Town Hall meetings Thursday on the individual floors to discuss these changes and provide more insight. 

Thank you again for your support, hard work and loyalty to DC. Each of you are incredibly valued and I look forward to seeing you tomorrow afternoon where I will do my best to answer any questions.

Pam

25 COMMENTS

  1. Ink and Zoom are just getting started. DC announced both lines last February at ALA-Denver, and the first titles are hitting shelves soon. Those aren’t in jeopardy (yet), and probably won’t be, since those titles are aimed at the “other Direct Market” of school and public libraries, which is even more lucrative than the comics Direct Market.

    I’m sorry to hear of these firings. Within five years, someone should write a book about the “DC Diaspora” of both executive talent, and the withering of Vertigo when Warners rewrote the boilerplate contracts and encouraged creators to migrate to Image and other publishers.

    What of DC Entertainment, and the third man, Amit Desai?

  2. “we intend to ultimately super-serve our existing fans” is the potential death-knell of the Direct Market in 9 words.

    Everything here sounds like “we intend to double down on stuff that isn’t working right now”…. which “terrifies me” is probably an under-expression.

    The livelihoods of thousands of people are turning on these decisions.

    -B

  3. It’s always sad to hear of downsizing/reorganizing since it means real people losing real positions or status in their careers. I hope the impacted people find a good landing spot. As far as I’m concerned as a comics reader though, I say do whatever it takes to focus on quality and dependable periodical comics. I have hope that changes in the corporate structure will make the company more responsive to market forces. I rather enjoy my DC comics, and the last thing I want is the business structure weighing down their ability to tell me good comics stories. If anything is going to affect my reading, it’s poor art or lazy writing.

  4. the more bullshit titles a person puts in front of their name, the more worthless they are, and it sounds like everyone involved at DC, even the ones staying, LOOOOVE their shmoozy titles. This will not end well.

  5. The fact that Harras is still there after the way the Eddie Berganza issues were handled is an insult to all women who work in this industry.

  6. Ink, Zoom, Black Label – all of these imprints were pretty exciting and looked like they would help DC expand beyond the direct market and reach bookstore audiences. With Cunningham and Chiarello out, it looks like these are going to be sadly neutered.

  7. I think the worries that DC is going to hit another downturn is becoming more likely. Pam Lifford leadership gives the impression it is focused on short term goals and perception. Black Label has some great potential, both creatively and financially, but then DC panicked after Damned.

    Cunningham being let go before Ink and Zoom launching in full is something I can see hurting DC more than anything. Since I would be shocked if they just don’t let them wither on the vine, with the rational the markets they are aimed at (libraries and schools) are limited revenue streams compared to the direct market.

    It sucks that people lost their jobs, but honestly this is just another step in the slow erosion of the Big Two’s publishing divisions. Hopefully everyone survives when they ultimately cave-in on themselves.

  8. “DC’s 240 person staff to put out products that sell 25,000 copies is math that anyone might ponder.”

    This is the biggest point of all. This is a business, and business isn’t exactly booming. They have got to find ways to put content in front of a diverse potential customer base.

    As someone pointed out yesterday, the Aquaman movie has made more money in a few weeks than the entire DC comics operation makes in a year. If you run a conglomerate, where would you put your resources?

    DC’s TV and movie successes demonstrate that customers want this content. They either aren’t seeking it out, don’t know where to find it, don’t want to pay $4 for a 10-minute read, don’t like what they see, or something else, maybe a combination of all of it. There’s a lot that needs fixing.

  9. Is anyone really shocked now that AT&T owns Warner? I would expect a lot more cuts across the board at DC over the next 2 years as AT&T focuses on trimming it’s huge debt load.

  10. “…supporting a robust publishing operation that will allow DC to be nimble, navigate an industry in change, and thrive.” is a great business speak way of saying: “moving resources and headcount away from product categories that are trending downwards”

  11. Yeah, good storytelling never goes out of style. Now if only DC could actually tell a good story maybe their sales would go up.
    I get it. DC is owned by Time Warner which is owned by AT&T, which are super Left-leaning companies, but do we really have to have agenda-driven comic books? What about those aforementioned good storytelling comic books? Do comic book protagonists now have to be an anti-heroes, flawed characters, or have a token LGBTQRSTUVWXYZ character in it to pass editorial review? Apparently the answer is more often yea than nay. I mean, sometimes I have difficulty telling if this character is actually the hero or the villain! Maybe I’m being superannuated or just too simplistic.
    Meanwhile, in a span of 30 years, DC has run the comic book business into the ground. With ever-changing continuities and continual reboots ad nauseam, new readers can’t keep up and old readers like me just don’t care anymore.
    Now DC/TW/AT&T is in a quandary. They must make a profit to satisfy their stockholders but they’ve run off most of their long-time customers and prospective customers. What else is left? It would take something on a monumental scale–like resetting the DCU back to the pre-COIE universe–in order to bring me back into the sphere of comic fandom and spend my hard earned dollars on DC Comics again.

  12. very interesting. my company said similar things about a legacy product line that had reached its peak growth. They’ll still keep it around at a high quality level, but will no longer invest in innovation, upgrades, trying to build more marketshare etc. Still a valued piece of the portfolio that generates real money, it will be pushed to second tier status for as long as it’s profitable. Focus is on investing in newer products/categories that have more upside.

  13. “This is the biggest point of all. This is a business, and business isn’t exactly booming. They have got to find ways to put content in front of a diverse potential customer base.

    As someone pointed out yesterday, the Aquaman movie has made more money in a few weeks than the entire DC comics operation makes in a year. If you run a conglomerate, where would you put your resources?”

    That’s the problem. Without good comics you don’t have material to produce good movies and TV. No one would watch a Aquaman movie if there weren’t comicbooks with Aquaman, and in fact many problems of DC in the movies can be traced to problems in their publishing division.

    Even if comics books per se are not selling that does not mean that they are not profitable.

  14. “Focus is on investing in newer products/categories that have more upside.:

    The other place you see this is in TV, where established shows get shunted to a new time slot to make way for the hot new series…which often crashes and burns in less than one season.

    Mike

  15. 240 does seems like a lot of people for the number of comics DC publishes. Also kind of interesting that a few years ago the layoff stories at DC said they had 250 employees and were laying off 20% and moving some to California (before they moved the whole company west). So did those layoffs just never get around to actually happening, or did the number gradually creep up again over the years?

  16. “Also DC’s 240 person staff to put out products that sell 25,000 copies is math that anyone might ponder.”

    The problem is that they’re in Burbank. They’re are lot of places in America where the cost of doing business would probably be half of what is of doing business in Southern California or NYC – but Warners wants them close by so they can better exploit the IP. If you take this to logical conclusion, how long until comic book publishing gets greatly reduced because AT&T sees it as an unprofitable nuisance?

  17. Chiarello had SOLO, Batman Black and White and Wednesday Comics, plus he was directly responsible for Darwyn Cooke having a comics career at DC.

    He has good judgement, this doesn’t make any sense to let go of someone who made money in the long term (I’m assuming). Black and white statues are selling right?

    I’m personally catching up on comics via my public library. I can’t afford to buy most titles because they come out every two weeks! – and that is the real problem

  18. “DC is owned by Time Warner which is owned by AT&T, which are super Left-leaning companies”

    —hahahahahahahahahaha!!

    There is, apparently, no bottom to the brainless idiocy streaming from the right wing in this country…

  19. This isn’t much of a surprise. I read that when AT&T bought Warner, their first question to DC management was: “Why are you still PRINTING things?”

    “DC is owned by Time Warner which is owned by AT&T, which are super Left-leaning companies”

    Yes, longtime Warner director-star Clint Eastwood is definitely on the far left …

  20. This is the same AT&T that shut down Filmstruck, the best cinephile streaming service. I won’t be shocked when they shut down DC’s print operations, so they can focus on movies, TV shows, videogames and streaming.

  21. I guess there’s a difference between ‘making a good profit’, and ‘not going broke’. For most comics-people, living the dream, being able to eat and having a place to live while not going broke would be enough. For business-people, this would be a waste of resources.
    Most people on this site see the inherent good in comics existing for their own sake, and understand how good comics can in the long run lead to profitable movies. They see it as art. The business people just see fuel for the engine. If they already seem to have plenty of old fuel, why produce more fuel with little additional profit? Just use the old fuel. Problem is; one day you’ll run out of old fuel, and without alternatives, you’ll be stuck (WARNING: Leftist Propaganda!) Seeing how current business in general still seems hell-bent on destroying the environment, why should we expect AT&T to act any different?

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