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#300778 - 02/27/03 12:54 PM DAN DIDIO PART TWO: MORE ON CHANGES AT DC
Heidi MacDonald Offline
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Registered: 04/18/99
Posts: 1465
Loc: New York, New York
DAN DIDIO PART TWO: PICKING UP SPEED IN THE DCU

By Heidi MacDonald

Continuing our conversation with Dan DiDio, the new man in charge of the DCU. In the first part, DiDio talked about reexamining characters, and addressed some rumors. In the second part, he answers the question many have been asking: Will DC Ultimize – that is reboot their best known characters with simpler continuity to draw in new readers?



THE PULSE: Any thoughts about "Ultimizing"?

DIDIO: That's a great question, because when I first got here, that was the catch-all answer. 'Oh yeah, the books don’t work? Let's make Ultimate books out of all our characters.' And Paul said, rightfully, no. Why should we make one book supposedly better while we have four other books that will be put in a light that says they are not working as well? And the reality is, by not making Ultimate versions of our characters, but trying to improve our characters as we do them now, we win bigger. Because what happens is I've got four books of Batman that sell better. I've got four books of Superman that sell better, rather than just one book off in the corner somewhere. And if you look at the scorecard of how things work Ultimate-wise, as opposed to how we do business, the success of Jim Lee and Jeph Loeb on Batman far exceeds any success they achieved from ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN or X-MEN. The sales difference between a regular X-Men book and an Ultimate book is smaller than what we had in the difference with Jim Lee and Batman.

It goes back to your other question. The idea is to get the best talent to tell the best stories. That’s all it is.

THE PULSE: I guess you could say it's Ultimizing the potential.

DIDIO: At the end of the day the Ultimates will be another continuity line with the characters. Right now they're having a lot of success because they're telling a lot of classic stories but once you run out of those classic stories then you've got to be telling new stories. Or you go to second tier stories. Neither of those will have the same impact that you have retelling the stories that people remember most.

THE PULSE: One of the things the Ultimates line does address is the difficulty for new readers to break into reading the comics.

DIDIO: You know what? Go back to Jim and Jeph's BATMAN. For those people who were out there reading BATMAN we found a way to get back to the core of the characters and give them the stories they wanted to see. It's very hard to achieve that level of success and there's not that many characters you could do it with, but that goes back to your question about Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. These are the characters we should be doing it with.

THE PULSE: Are there any other characters you will be prioritizing?

DIDIO: [Laughter] You know, somebody misquoted me: we're trying to set up tentpoles which we can build mini-franchises around. We've had a lot of success and Bob Schreck has done a great job with the Bat-group in building franchises around Batman so that all the ancillary characters can pull some of the success of the main books. We're gong to try to do that around Superman, we're going to try to do that around Justice League and also Justice Society. There's a lot of untapped potential there and what we've got to do is put a finger on the pulse of the fandom a little bit and see what people are reacting to. From our standpoint at DC we have to react a little bit faster and give them what they want.

THE PULSE: Let me ask you this – in all the news last week it came out that DOOM PATROL had been cancelled and there was a huge outcry about that. It is a very difficult time to market comics right now. Even DOOM PATROL though the sales were low, had a lot of interest…

DIDIO: There's a lot of interest. And DOOM PATROL is a weird spot for me. That's one of my favorite books too.

THE PULSE: It seems in pushing a lot of books, they're pushed at the same level. Is the tentpole a way to modulate that?

DIDIO: Each one has to have its own unique voice. That's important for these books. If you have a unique voice and it's accomplished the goals we've set out for it, we'll probably be more lenient sales-wise because we feel we're achieving certain goals. DOOM PATROL is one of those rare beasts that had a creative voice, but it had to be a commercial book as well. It was sort of neither fish nor fowl.

THE PULSE: Do you think it could have been made commercial, though?

DIDIO: Possibly. Possibly. Again we're at a [difficult] point. You have to understand, where we plan to allocate or really direct our resources and to bring attention and notoriety and drive additional sales to books that are at a certain level, the amount of reward we receive or increased sales doesn’t really equal the amount of time and energy put into it. At times we really need to identify what we think is working about those books, and find a way to help relaunch it with a renewed title or take the team and put it somewhere else where we think we're going to get more benefit.

You know, one of the things I really liked about DOOM PATROL was the artist, Tan, and you can be sure that we're going to be finding work for him, and actually in some ways hopefully growing our sales and him in the process by putting him on something much more high profile that will allow him to get the attention and recognition he deserves.

THE PULSE: You've mentioned the approval process at DC is very slow, and that's a problem. How much progress have you made on that?

DIDIO: We've made a lot of progress. What we did is we took a little bit more of a pitch style that I had in animation. We have all the prime players in the room: the editor who's pitching the books, myself, Rich Bruning and Terri Cunningham in with Paul [Levitz, DC Publisher and President], and we sit there we chat about it right then and there. We're trying to get the talent to spend less time polishing and building up a pitch, but really coming down and giving us one or two pages about the core concept of the story they want to do. In the end, if we feel strongly about it, we bring it into the room, we discuss it, and we can either approve or pass on the project right then and there. But all the time and energy that the talent spends in building in project should be spent after the project is approved, not prior to it, because I don't want to waste somebody else's time or have them misled that they're building something that might actually go forward if there's a problem with the initial core concept.

THE PULSE: I guess a corollary to that is that DC, as a company, has a rep that they don't take a lot of risks. Do you think that's accurate? Is it something you're trying to improve?

DIDIO: The idea is understanding what your limitations are and playing to your strengths. Risks are only risks if you don't know why you're taking them. So if we're trying to do something that might be deemed risky subject matter or a direction which seems bizarre or different for any one of our characters, we're going to do it because it's been fully thought out. It's been fully explained, everybody's on board and they know where we're going with it, and we know what we're trying to accomplish by doing so. That's how we're able to diversify our characters and really bring the different voices to it. It's not a question of doing something that's change for change's sake, but really understanding the reasons why we're doing it and the motivations and what we're trying to accomplish.

THE PULSE: So there must be a reason for change?

DIDIO: Absolutely. Realistically speaking, to use Vertigo as a perfect example. SANDMAN, ANIMAL MAN and SWAMP THING, those were all changes, and they were radical changes and they ultimately wound up creating an imprint because it was creating a tonality that you could build other books off of. We want to go back and examine the characters – sorry I keep repeating myself! – but back to the characters, back to the form, what makes them unique, what makes them special, what makes them work why are people drawn to them, and then open up the world around it and really try to find a way to build on that.

And in doing so risk is involved because you always have the risk of pissing people off.

THE PULSE: Well, I always say that Stan and Jack, when they were creating the Marvel Universe, they were 'Ultimizing', or 'Vertigizing' some characters that had been around for 20 years.

DIDIO: In the very year that Stan kicked it out, he took characters that were from the 1940's, the Human Torch.

THE PULSE: Sure, and Captain America.

DIDIO: And Sub-Mariner came rolling out the door again, and they used Angel and Kazar…all those characters were things he was pulling out of the drawer from 20 years earlier.

THE PULSE: I was going to ask you about writers making their own books returnable [such as Ed Brubaker and Geoff Johns]. I guess that really does speak to the difficulty of launching something in today's market. There seems to be a lot of frustration.

DIDIO: It's really about partnership. With the talent doing what they do, and it's a very strong gesture on their part to show their belief in what we're doing and their understanding of the difficulties of the marketplace.

For a creator to say something like that, they realize that DC isn't really throwing their books to the wind with the hope that somebody will find them, but the reality is that we're all faced with troubles and we all have to face these troubles together. In some ways, we have to address these issues with our retailer partners. On the other side of the coin, we did a saturation test and we're offering limited returnability on some books, hopefully that might overcome some of the fears of the retailers.

THE PULSE: The limited returnability is another huge change.

DIDIO: We're doing it on a limited basis as a start where we think help is most needed. That's a program that I think Paul and Bob [Wayne] really initiated and pushed forward, then when it was explained to me I thought it was a very smart, aggressive approach to dealing with the retailer and I think it's much smarter than limiting or pulling back what they can order.

THE PULSE: I was just at Toy Fair and everywhere I go there was Hulk products, including a Hulk reading light.

DIDIO: A bit of an oxymoron.

THE PULSE: Well, I bring that up because Warner Bros has been having a bit of problem getting another Superman or Batman movie off the ground. Do you think that's a consideration or problem for what you do?

DIDIO: Let me tell you something that's fun for me. My background has been 22 years in television and now my sole interest and my sole responsibility is in publishing. Anything that has to go in the media is all gravy, but whether it happens or doesn't, the only thing I'm concerned about is putting the best books on the shelves right now. Which is an incredible challenge for me, because all my muscles are attuned to media, but now what I'm trying to do is really get a sense of what we have to do in the publishing world, and what I have to do to put out the best books that sell as books.

If a movie comes, great, that helps. If it doesn't, you know what? We've still got to put out Batman, we've still got to put out Superman, we've got to put out all our characters and we've got to find a way to make them work as comics. And if anything else comes out and helps us great, but they have to be able to stand on their own.

THE PULSE: Okay, here's my big final wrap up question: What are you most looking forward to?

DIDIO: I'm looking forward to the first books that come out where I think I was able to implement some sort of change, or books that come out where I was involved in the early parts of the development process. I look forward to seeing the talent I brought in really start to flourish within DC and start to put out the things that people get excited about. That gets me jazzed. Once we get to that spot, then it's the idea of getting to a place where we feel we've done the best job we can and we're going to ride it as long and as hard as we can.

THE PULSE: Is there a timetable?

DIDIO: Personally, I'm an impatient lad, but I do know the limitations of the publishing business, and I'm starting to learn the time frame. I think, realistically, we're going to start seeing a little more aggressive improvement in the overall quality of our books as we come into the summer. I think by the time we reach next year we're going to have a really strong plan in place, and I think by the time we're a year and half out we'll be exactly where we want to be and we're going to be the #1 company again.
_________________________
Oh boy, sleep! That's where I'm a viking!

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#300779 - 02/27/03 01:06 PM Re: DAN DIDIO PART TWO: MORE ON CHANGES AT DC
Rob Staeger Offline
Member

Registered: 05/17/01
Posts: 218
Loc: Philadelphia PA
It's good to see this kind of confidence. I'm looking forward to this summer's books, to see the beginning of what DC's cooked up.

(Heck, I'm just looking forward to this summer, period! Snow, snow, go away...)

Rob

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#300780 - 02/27/03 01:26 PM Re: DAN DIDIO PART TWO: MORE ON CHANGES AT DC
arthur pendragon Offline
Member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1089
I thank Mr. DiDio for giving an interview where he addressed many issues that seemed to have been avoided for some time at DC. I wish him the best of luck in turning the ship around and giving Marvel a run for their money.

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#300781 - 02/27/03 01:39 PM Re: DAN DIDIO PART TWO: MORE ON CHANGES AT DC
A.N.Onymous Offline
Member

Registered: 01/21/03
Posts: 71
Loc: Nexus of Realities
Quote:
DIDIO: Personally, I'm an impatient lad, but I do know the limitations of the publishing business, and I'm starting to learn the time frame. I think, realistically, we're going to start seeing a little more aggressive improvement in the overall quality of our books as we come into the summer. I think by the time we reach next year we're going to have a really strong plan in place, and I think by the time we're a year and half out we'll be exactly where we want to be and we're going to be the #1 company again.


Finally, the slumbering giant awakens! It should be real interesting to see how it all plays out.

Who will be on top this time next year?

Marvel, with the Jemas/Quesada WWF-style good cop-bad/cop hype-the-flavor-of-the-week-and-ignore-titles-deserving-of-promotion approach...

OR

...DC, with DiDio's well thought-out plan to revitalize the various titles/characters by cutting to the core of their respective unique attributes, and matching titles/characters with creators best-suited to tell their stories.

Hmmm. I wonder... wink

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#300782 - 02/27/03 01:47 PM Re: DAN DIDIO PART TWO: MORE ON CHANGES AT DC
Dave Farmer Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/26/02
Posts: 11
Mr. Didio sound like he has the vision and enthusiasm that his new position will require. I hope that he'll look at limiting titles for the flagship characters though. I'd also like to see something in the form of monthly reprints of classic DC stories, or maybe something bigger in format, like the Marvel essentials. Something a little easier (less expensive) for new readers to pick up. Us old die-hards have no problem shelling out for the hardback archives.

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#300783 - 02/27/03 02:12 PM Re: DAN DIDIO PART TWO: MORE ON CHANGES AT DC
World Famous J. Triangles Offline
Member

Registered: 06/23/01
Posts: 284
Loc: Brooklyn, NY 11003
Quote:
Originally posted by A.N.Onymous:


Finally, the slumbering giant awakens! It should be real interesting to see how it all plays out.

Who will be on top this time next year?

Marvel, with the Jemas/Quesada WWF-style good cop-bad/cop hype-the-flavor-of-the-week-and-ignore-titles-deserving-of-promotion approach...

OR

...DC, with DiDio's well thought-out plan to revitalize the various titles/characters by cutting to the core of their respective unique attributes, and matching titles/characters with creators best-suited to tell their stories.

Hmmm. I wonder... wink


Easy. Marvel. DC's boring.
_________________________
World Famous

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#300784 - 02/27/03 02:26 PM Re: DAN DIDIO PART TWO: MORE ON CHANGES AT DC
Kevin T. Brown Offline
Member

Registered: 05/09/02
Posts: 630
Loc: Chicagoland
With the recent "announcements" of THUNDER Agents, Firestorm and the return of Empire, DC is definitely raising the bar. Compare what DC has coming out this year in terms of new books to Marvel. With the exception of 2 or 3, DC beats them all.

DC has:
Astro City by Kurt Busiek & Brent Anderson.
H-E-R-O by Will Pfiefer & Kano.
Empire by Mark Waid & Barry Kitson.
Teen Titans by Geoff Johns & Mike McKone.
Outsiders by Judd Winick & Tom Raney.
THUNDER Agents by Marc Andreyko, Manuel Garcia & Jimmy Palmiotti.
Firestorm written by Mike Carey.
Fallen Angel by Peter David & David Lopez.
SOLO by various creators like Bruce Timm, Walter Simonson, Michael Allred, Adam Hughes, Paul Pope, Richard Corben, Tim Sale, Jill Thompson, Brian Bolland, JG Jones and Kevin Nowlan.
The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke.
Plastic Man by Kyle Baker.

While Marvel has:
Namor by Bill Jemas, Andi Watson & Mizuki Sakakibara.
Venom by Daniel Way & Francisco Herrera.
Sentinel by Sean McKeever & UDON studios.
Human Torch by Karl Kesel & Scottie Young.
Mystique by Brian K. Vaughan & Jorge Lucas.
Inhumans by Sean McKeever & Matthew Clark.
Quest by Andi Watson & Yuji Iwahara.
Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan & Adrian Alphona.
Crew by Priest & Joe Bennett.
New Mutants by Nunzio DiPilippis, Christina Weir & Keron Grant.
Wolverine: Snikt! by Tsutomu Nihei.

Quite a number of new books there... Personally, in comparing the 2 lists, I think DC has the better of the 2. Unfortunately, Marvel may win out because people will blindingly buy the new books only because "it's Marvel".

I think DiDio's attitude in trying to get the best out of his product is perfect for DC at this time. So far it looks like it's going to spill over into the line. Here's hoping for continued success! I definitely like the direction DC is headed with him at the helm.

Now what are the odds of getting John Romita, Jr. on a Batman title?????
_________________________
The floggings will continue until morale improves. ~ anonymous

Why can't people with closed minds come with closed mouths?

Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.

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#300785 - 02/27/03 02:33 PM Re: DAN DIDIO PART TWO: MORE ON CHANGES AT DC
Rob Staeger Offline
Member

Registered: 05/17/01
Posts: 218
Loc: Philadelphia PA
Quote:
Originally posted by A.N.Onymous:


Finally, the slumbering giant awakens! It should be real interesting to see how it all plays out.

Who will be on top this time next year?

Marvel, with the Jemas/Quesada WWF-style good cop-bad/cop hype-the-flavor-of-the-week-and-ignore-titles-deserving-of-promotion approach...

OR

...DC, with DiDio's well thought-out plan to revitalize the various titles/characters by cutting to the core of their respective unique attributes, and matching titles/characters with creators best-suited to tell their stories.

Hmmm. I wonder... wink


As much as I'm pulling for DC, I don't think it's that black and white. Both Marvel & DC sometimes ignore titles deserving of promotion. Resources are limited, so they have to use them where they think they'll do the most good. Doom Patrol was (and is) a good book that may or may not appeal to a wider audience. Supergirl is an even better example -- it was winning back readers as it was cancelled. A stronger push might have helped it stay afloat.

On the other hand, what you're saying DC is doing doesn't sound all that different from what Marvel is doing (in some cases). It's just that Bill & Joe's presentation style doesn't make it seem like a "well thought-out plan," when in fact it may be (or it may not -- heck, I'm not in their meetings!) Marvel is doing some very nice things with their flagship concepts (and not just in the Ultimate line), and I doubt it's completely happenstance. Spider-Man, New X-Men, Hulk, and Daredevil are all books that have strong creative teams and are laregly focused on the character's basic appeal.

Rob

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#300786 - 02/27/03 02:40 PM Re: DAN DIDIO PART TWO: MORE ON CHANGES AT DC
randdickson Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/11/02
Posts: 25
Loc: Waterford CT
Nice comparison of books coming out tween marvel and DC. The problem I see with both lists is that generally, they are all old idea's being re-hashed again.

Both marvel and DC are having a hard time getting new product out the door. This may be cause it's just us old folk who are reading their books and we want are old familiar faces but .....

I'm not sure if either company is going to be a clear winner in this battle. In fact, they may find themselves looking over there shoulder at CrossGen which seems to be appealing to younger readers. .... eventually all of us old Justice League/Fantastic Four fans are going to be on social security and no longer able to afford these books and if Marvel/DC can't get more younger readers involved in their books .... they may both become footnotes in history.

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#300787 - 02/27/03 02:43 PM Re: DAN DIDIO PART TWO: MORE ON CHANGES AT DC
jr223 Offline
Member

Registered: 10/03/01
Posts: 40
Loc: toronto, ontario, canada
Hmmm this was a good interview
I might buy one DC title in a given month, but usually find that nothing has really changed character wise in there books still the same old thing.
I hope all the best for Dido, and would like to see DC give Marvel a run for there money and mine, but it just sounds like the same old DC nothing new nothing exciting.

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