DC Universe may be no more and DC Comics will significantly reduce in size.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, nearly all the niche streaming service’s staff have been laid off as part of a wide-reaching restructuring of WarnerMedia. The primary intent: to focus the company’s energies toward HBO Max as its primary streaming product. The film studio, television production units, and even the consumer products division are being reorganized to reflect this re-centering of goals. There is also a secondary, shorter term goal of recouping financial loses sustained during the ongoing pandemic.
And while it always seemed DC Universe would be undone by HBO Max, the mass layoffs at DC Comics proved to be more shocking and devastating. Per THR, Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras, Senior Vice President of Publishing Strategy and Support Services Hank Kanalz, Vice President of Marketing and Creative Services Jonah Weiland, Vice President of Global Publishing Initiatives and Digital Strategy Bobbie Chase, Senior Story Editor Brian Cunningham, Executive Editor Mark Doyle, and one third of the editorial staff have been let go. Additionally, DC’s consumer products group, DC Direct, is shutting down entirely.
Meanwhile, publisher Jim Lee is said to be transferring to a different role within the company.
Of course, none of these changes have been confirmed by DC or WarnerMedia, but it is clear the DC Comics which existed last week will be drastically different going into the planned DC FanDome event in two weeks. But, you might fairly ask, how can FanDome go on when the comics company which inspired it is so greatly diminished?
Early rumblings suggest DC Comics will continue with an increased emphasis on the book market and digital distribution — a plan no doubt accelerated by the pandemic. And, of course, its library of characters and stories will continue to be of enormous value to WarnerMedia and AT&T, the telecom which bought the media giant last year for the expressed purpose of building a streaming service to rival Netflix, Amazon, and Disney+.
Nevertheless, the apparent gutting of DC Comics is a seismic event in the comic book industry and an emotionally difficult one. This is, in many ways, the nightmare scenario many fans of the company and its comics feared. For decades, it seemed DC itself toiled under the same anxiety and pushed the envelope just enough to never get noticed by forces higher up in the Warner hierarchy. But those people are long gone and there was no way to “hide” DC Comics from AT&T. This was, in some ways, inevitable.
But beyond that is what the comics scene will look like with a much smaller DC Comics driving people into comic book shops.
It will be interesting to see the remains of the company put on a brave face during FanDome. One can assume any publishing initiatives originally planned to be announced at the event will be shelved indefinitely. Well, that’s even presuming FanDome itself still goes on. While the WarnerMedia layoffs have completely altered DC Comics, the effects will be felt in other parts of the giant company and may change everything that was set to be announced during the 24-hour show.
As the situation develops, we’ll keep watching and thinking about the people we know at DC and Warner Bros. facing these layoffs.