Shakeup at DC!


It was just a bit over a week ago that the big news broke about Disney buying Marvel Comics, and now there’s another big shakeup.

Time Warner, which has owned DC Comics for decades, has announced that they’re going to restructure DC, and Paul Levitz, DC’s publisher and president, is stepping down, supposedly so he can focus on writing comic books again.

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (WBEI) has created DC Entertainment Inc., a new company founded to fully realize the power and value of the DC Comics brand and characters across all media and platforms, to be run by Diane Nelson, it was announced today by Barry Meyer, Chairman & CEO, and Alan Horn, President & COO, Warner Bros.

DC Entertainment, a separate division of WBEI, will be charged with strategically integrating the DC Comics business, brand and characters deeply into Warner Bros. Entertainment and all its content and distribution businesses.  DC Entertainment, which will work with each of the Warner Bros. divisions, will also tap into the tremendous expertise the Studio has in building and sustaining franchises and prioritize DC properties as key titles and growth drivers across all of the Studio, including feature films, television, interactive entertainment, direct-to-consumer platforms and consumer products.  The DC Comics publishing business will remain the cornerstone of DC Entertainment, releasing approximately 90 comic books through its various imprints and 30 graphic novels a month and continuing to build on its creative leadership in the comic book industry.

In her new role, Nelson will report to Jeff Robinov, President, Warner Bros. Pictures Group, in order to best capitalize on DC Entertainment’s theatrical development and production activities and their importance to drive its overall business with each of the divisions of Warner Bros.

Nelson will bring her expertise and more than 20 years’ experience in creative brand management, strategic marketing and content development and production to ensuring DC Entertainment’s dual mission of marshalling Warner Bros.’ resources to maximize the potential of the DC brand while remaining respectful of and collaborative with creators, talent, fans and source material.  Additionally, Nelson will continue to oversee the franchise management of the Harry Potter property, which she has done since 2000, and also continue to represent the Studio’s interests with the author of the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling.  Nelson will segue from her post as President, Warner Premiere but maintain oversight responsibilities of that division.  (An executive succession plan for Warner Premiere will be announced shortly.)

Paul Levitz, who has served as President & Publisher of DC Comics since 2002, will segue from that role to return to his roots as a writer for DC and become a contributing editor and overall consultant to DCE.  This transition will take place as expeditiously as possible without disrupting DC’s business operations.

In his new role, Levitz will be called upon for his deep knowledge and more than three-decade history with DC Comics, both as a comic creator and an executive.  Besides serving as a writer on a number of DC Comics titles, he will be a contributing editor and consultant to DC Entertainment on projects in various media. 

Okay, that’s a LOT of corporate marketing-speak (and there was a lot more that I cut out, too), and corporate marketing-speak is designed to say as little as possible while looking like you’re saying a lot. Basically, all this says is: Levitz is out, Diane Nelson is in, and Warner’s is kinda tired of getting their butts whupped by Marvel’s movies. There’s a lot they’re NOT saying. Sure, we have no idea what really went down, but as they say in the blogosphere: Would it be irresponsible to speculate? It would be irresponsible not to!

First, there’s not much question that this all went down because of the Disney-Marvel deal. The Warner bigwigs opened up their business section one morning, read about Disney’s big purchase, and said, “Hey, don’t we own a comic book company, too?”

At that point, research was done into one of Warner’s smallest properties, and someone came up not happy with what they saw. It would be nice if they said, “Holy cats! They cancelled Blue Beetle?! Teen Titans has turned into a murder parade?! They’re relaunching old characters and then abandoning them again?! These comic books are crap!” But ya know, like Disney, Warner’s almost certainly doesn’t care about comics. Comics are small fry. Movies and video games are where the big money is, and for the past few years, DC’s comic book movies have been, except for “The Dark Knight,” an unrelenting parade of suck. And even then, the pace of production has been ploddingly slow. Marvel had a huge hit last year with “Iron Man,” and they’re already filming the sequel. DC had an even larger hit with “The Dark Knight,” but they haven’t even started pre-production work on a sequel. To be honest, this was probably more about lighting a fire under their film division than it was about comic books.

…except for Paul Levitz. His resignation — and I have little doubt that this was a “resign-or-else” resignation — would not have happened if this was all about movies, ’cause Levitz isn’t in charge of making any movies. It looks to me like Levitz was pushed out because one of the higher-ups at Warner’s didn’t like something about how the comics side of the business was being run. It could’ve just been “Wait, why are Marvels comics more popular than ours? We’ve got Batman, dangit!” But that’s not certain — maybe someone at the top actually reads comics and is tired of seeing DC publish bad comics.

Now what does this all mean for us funny-book fans? With Marvel, I’m figuring Disney won’t care to interfere with the comic book side of things, but I’m not sure that’s the case with DC. Getting rid of the publisher means someone wants some changes made.

If we’re lucky, maybe Dan DiDio will get shown the door, too, and maybe DC’s books will see some improvement.

If we’re not lucky… Well, Diane Nelson doesn’t seem to have any prior experience in the comics biz — it’s all movies, brand management, and marketing. And I think we’ve all seen far too many marketing-driven comics to expect good things on that front. It doesn’t take too great a stretch of the imagination to see that DiDio might actually be very, very happy about this new arrangement — he may be afforded more power than he ever was before…

No Comments

  1. Brian Disco Snell Said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 8:05 am

    …and Warner’s is kinda tired of getting their butts whupped by Marvel’s movies…

    You know, everybody says that, but is it really true?

    Dark Knight outgrossed Iron Man and Hulk combined, and was critically acclaimed.

    The other “hit” Marvel movies? Ghost Rider? Punisher? Yeah, Warner’s envious of those turd blossoms…

    Sometime’s I think all our “inside baseball” knowledge of the many movie project starts & stops colors our view a bit. Just because Warner has been back and forth 40 times on Wonder Woman and JLA movies doesn’t automatically mean Marvel is cleaning their clocks. But Warner also is being careful to keep crap Ghost Rider off the screen.

    Based on what’s actually appeared on screen, it’s Marvel 2, DC 1…but DC’s 1 out-earned and out-esteemed Marvel’s by a fair shot. That’s hardly Warner getting their butts whupped.

  2. Scott Slemmons Said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 8:19 am

    On the other hand, Marvel’s “throw everything out there and hope for a hit” method is at least getting Marvel’s properties on the screen. DC spent almost a decade trying to reboot the Superman franchise and ended up with a turkey, and they’ve spent longer than that trying to make a Wonder Woman movie, and they haven’t even gotten that far.

    “Ghost Rider” and the Punisher flicks were piles of crap, sure… but it made more money than DC’s made by letting their incredibly iconic and marketable properties languish in development hell.

  3. Sado Said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 10:34 am

    I’m with Scott: Marvel is at least throwing…stuff…at the wall and seeing what sticks. They’re making the most of their properties.

    DC really hasn’t, except for Batman and an attempt at Superman…kinda. Their forthcoming projects (Jonah Hex and Green Lantern) are promising, but they have iconic characters they’re not using.

    Maybe I just wanna see the Question have a movie…

  4. Kenny Ketner Said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 11:42 am

    Warren Ellis claimed on his Twitter that the DC reorg was pending for a long time and had nothing to do with Marvel-Disney…

  5. Scott Slemmons Said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 1:26 pm

    Warren Ellis is known to be a wicked, wicked man! Do we dare trust his information?!

    (please don’t hurt me, warren ellis)


  6. RAB Said,

    September 11, 2009 @ 12:21 am

    My interpretation of Paul’s resignation is slightly different from yours. I have no inside information on this…but it seems to me that if the publisher of DC Comics is now going to report to the newly-minted president of DC Entertainment, for Paul to remain would have meant he was accepting a demotion. That he wasn’t named to the job Diane Nelson now holds means this was as far as he was going to go in the corporate structure. This is the sort of thing that makes business types decide to “move on to new challenges” or “spend more time with their families” or “finally write that novel” or “teach.” I sincerely doubt it had anything at all to do with the comics themselves, or that anyone above Levitz at Warner has read more than one or two comic books in the past few years, if that many. (Levitz awkwardly and embarrassingly having to stay on to show Nelson how a comic book company works shows precisely how little Warner cares about that side of things.)

  7. VoodooBen Said,

    September 11, 2009 @ 12:28 am

    “Ghost Rider” and the Punisher flicks were piles of crap, sure… but it made more money than DC’s made by letting their incredibly iconic and marketable properties languish in development hell.

    Amen, brother!

    Does anyone here really think DC gives a golden goosecrap if a WONDER WOMAN movie stays close to the source material or not? Do they think that DARK KNIGHT grossed a kagillion dollars because it respected the fans of the comic? Of course not – after DK’s opening weekend, there was open talk of Warner’s re-booting the SUPERMAN franchise with a darker, more realistic edge – ’cause that’s what the kids like, apparently.

    Warner Bros, for whatever reason, has been dragging their feet when it comes to filming their most marketable properties. If it was because they cared about the quality of adaptation, Joss Whedon wouldnt have been dropped from WONDER WOMAN in exchange for a spec script, David Goyer wouldnt have been politely asked to leave his FLASH project, and the guy that suggested Joel Schumacher helm the SANDMAN adaptation would have been laughed out of the room. (Thankfully, nothing ever came of that particular idea, but it very nearly happened.)

    Marvel has made a lot of movies, getting their characters and their brand to the public in a way that DC just hasnt been able to match. Yeah, DARK KNIGHT made a boatload of cash, and everyone got to light cigars with hundred-dollar bills for a bit – but go up to a person on the street and ask them if they know who the Flash is. Ask that same person about the Incredible Hulk. I’m willing to put down money that the brand awareness is going to fall squarely in The House of Ideas’ favor. And long term, you just can’t buy that kind of publicity.

    As for the DC debacle…Im sorry to see Paul Levitz go. He’s done a lot of good for the industry as a whole over the past ten+ years as the head of the company, and he genuinely cares about comics – a word the new girl didnt bother to mention once in her written introduction to the company. DC may be putting out some awful comics at the moment – maybe Levitz should have had a firmer hand on Didio’s leash – but the fact remains, he’s helped shape the better aspects of the industry for a while now (he was key in developing DC’s extensive and prodigiously re-printed trade catalog, and was instrumental in growing Vertigo as an imprint, just to offer a couple of examples), and losing him WILL, for better or for worse, affect the industry as we know it.


  8. GregS Said,

    September 11, 2009 @ 5:19 pm

    Looking at the last few years (rather than just 1?):
    “Successful” Marvel franchises:
    Spiderman, Iron Man, X-Men (and Wolverine if you wanna separate)

    “Successful” DC franchises:

    “Arguable” Marvel franchises:
    Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four (and then any other Marvel movie)
    “Arguable” DC franchises:
    Superman (are there any other DC movies?)

    I see at least 3 “power” franchises for Marvel (and the X-Men & Spiderman brands each have at least 3 movies, and Iron Man is working on a second). DC has 1 (and only the two recent movies altho both were incredible performers).

    Even on the “meh” brands (altho Hulk is debatable), DC STILL only has 1 to Marvel’s 2 (or more if you count the “flops”) and both of THOSE (Hulk and F4) have at least TWO movies to Superman’s 1.