It’s been a year of change for DC Comics, with the publisher reducing its direct market-specific titles while continuing to push into new spaces, including mass market retail and stories that appeal to young readers. At New York City Comic Con Thursday, DC publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee held their annual Meet the Publisher panel, detailing their ongoing efforts to move in this direction.

The duo led with talk of DC’s 100-page giants, which are essentially in the process of jumping from being Wal-Mart (or Target? I forgot how that deal worked…) exclusive, to being available at both Wal-Mart and in comic book stores. The newsiest part of this was Jim Lee revealing that he was doing an 8-page story with writer Brad Meltzer that meshes Batman with a true story of a war hero. Moreover, DiDio stressed that those comics were an avenue to getting people from the wider culture (who love superheroes, be it in movies or whatever medium) involved with DC heroes.

“The reason why we do these books and why we have so much fun with them,” DiDio said, “is they really are built to be entry points for everyone to find our characters and to learn more about them.”

That same goal ties into the publisher’s ongoing focus on original graphic novels for the YA and middle grade set. Lee and DiDio celebrated that effort’s first breakout hit — Raven by Kami Garcia and Gabriela Picolo — and talked about how excited they were to get into the growing young comics reader market, as they did at DC publishers panels at both WonderCon and SDCC this year (a lot of this panel sounded familiar to me, after having attended both of those as well…I know, I need to think about my choices).

Another major change in DC world this year was the shuddering of its long-standing Vertigo imprint and the reduction of MAD Magazine (more on that in a minute), both of which the duo addressed. The talk of Vertigo came during a re-iteration of info about the forthcoming Hill House line of horror books, which, let’s face it, could have been Vertigo titles if launched a few years ago. Lee noted that the reason Vertigo was put to rest was DC wants to consolidate its marketing efforts behind a unified DC brand. When that move was made, it was billed as the end of all imprints, but with Hill House (and Young Animal and Wonder Comics and Jinxworld), imprints live on at DC, but they’re all imprints the publisher classifies as pop-ups, tied to a singular creative leader (a Gerard Way, a Joe Hill, or a Brian Michael Bendis).

“Pop-up imprints are something we’ll continue to do until the creators are done with it,” Lee said. “When they’re done with it, we’re done with it.”

Vertigo’s viability in the market place had probably suffered in recent years too, contending as it had to with the rise of a massive wave of new smaller publishers putting out creator-owned books, many of which were clearly influenced by classic Vertigo. But I digress.

The result, they hope, is that DC will be more nimble with its offerings.

Oh, and MAD Magazine will live on, DiDio said, just not at newstands.

“Where we stand with MAD is we basically pulled the magazine off the newsstand,” DiDio said, “primarily because the newsstand business has been extraordinarily difficult for all magazines, not just MAD.”

MAD will now be available through the direct market and via subscription, and it will not have as much new material as it once did, relying on a larger amount of reprints, which will be branded as classic MAD.

Finally, the DC publishers also dropped some hints about where the main continuity DC universe comics are heading, noting that at NYCC’s DC Nation panel (which is happening tomorrow), there will be news about their efforts to foster a more coherent DC history and continuity, which is a project (or something) that DiDio first tipped in July at SDCC.

In response to a fan question about whether James Tynion IV will continue writing Justice League Dark come January, when he takes over as writer of the main Batman Title, DiDio basically said no.

“We’re looking at the entire line right now,” he said. “So, you’re going to see some changes in who’s doing which books.”

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