I don’t generally run rumors, but this one is too interesting not to talk about.
The Doomsday Clock for Comics involves a couple of different scenarios: Marvel and DC stopping publishing physical periodicals and going digital, or just giving up on new comics as their corporate overlords begin to wonder why they are publishing floppies at all.
Part of these scenarios – discussed for decades – involves Marvel and/or DC moving to the West Coast. This has been chewed over by the Comics Hot Stove League for years and years.
BUT, part of it came true. DC Comics did shut down their NYC office and move to the West Coast and at first they seemed to be a shiny, trendy toy in Diane Nelson’s portfolio, But with the Coming of the Telephone People (H/t The Ankler) the bottom line has gotten a lot more finite at AT&T/Warmer Bros.. Recent changes at DC seem to be the start of a complete realignment of the division, and the more DC head Pam Lifford talks about “the direct market” the worse it sounds.
Not too long ago I was lunching with a colleague who mentioned hearing a rumor that Marvel is also moving its comics offices to the West Coast. Since this rumor goes around like clockwork, I dismissed it at the time. But I did keep asking around.
I am told that everyone is whispering this now.
Is it true? Well, Marvel denies it. So it isn’t.
But it is CERTAINLY being talked about. Something is up.
Marvel’s current offices in Midtown NYC are fairly awful (although improved since I wrote that piece 8 years ago) so some would welcome new shiny offices. But, playing out the idea behind the scenario, it would also mean more oversight from Disney corporate, inevitable downsizing, and, quite bluntly, the end of the magical ideal of the Marvel Bullpen. It’s an ideal that Disney has used in promoting the whole Marvel Mystique in the MCU and beyond. But with Stan Lee dead, maybe no one needs that mystique any more.
If Marvel did move to the west coast it might not be so bad. Several of the DC staffers who made the move were really happy with it. In fact, Mark Chiarello always looks happier than I’ve ever seen him and…oops.
I’ve long said that I thought Disney would like the idea of a creative “Bullpen” to match the idea of a creative “animation studio” or “Pixar” – it fits into the whole Magical Kingdom schtik. Marvel’s publishing office is run so cheaply that it isn’t a huge expense – and the division is profitable. So not moving it makes a lot of sense.
Perhaps this all speculation over a move stems from the coming Disney+ streaming service, which will have a LOT of Marvel content, most of it reportedly coming from Kevin Feige and not the Ike Perlmutter aligned Marvel TV arm.
Maybe it’s just doomsaying because comics must be dying.
As usual, comics aren’t dying, comics will be fine, and they will survive whatever disasters in distribution befall us.
But between the prevalence of the West Coast rumor and DC’s cutbacks (supposedly more coming very soon), I would have to say that the Doomsday Clock for the periodical has moved several seconds closer to midnight.
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.