Jim Lee Says DC Is “Still In The Business Of Publishing Comics”
by Erik Amaya
It took several days, but DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer and (for now) DC Comics publisher Jim Lee is finally addressing the layoffs at DC Comics.
The long-time DC executive spoke with The Hollywood Reporter in anticipation of next week’s DC FanDome. And, in doing so, addressed rumors and concerns raised when WarnerMedia laid off roughly a third of DC Comics’ executive and editorial ranks.
Despite this contraction, an event which will like become known as the Second DC Implosion — the first taking place 42 years ago when DC cancelled a third of its titles — Lee assured the site that “We are still in the business of publishing comics.”
Of course, it should be noted that comics can exist outside of comic books.
Nevertheless, Lee said the comics company has a role in generating material for other parts of the WarnerMedia empire. “The organization leans on us to share and establish the meaningful elements of the content that they need to use and incorporate for all their adaptations,” he explained.
That said, Lee also mentioned DC Comics’s publish slate will decrease as it looks at “the bottom 20 percent, 25 percent” and titles actively losing money.
Lee also discussed interim editors-in-chief Marie Javins and Michelle Wells, moving away from Diamond Distributors, AT&T’s rumored dislike of comic books, and his own status as publisher; to which he offered a simple “yes” when asked if he still retains the title.
He also mentioned the coming of a general manager — reportedly from the world of esports as WarnerMedia’s overall strategy is tied to a digital future. Lee did not name this person or if their esports background is true, but said the general manager, who will start work in September, will deal with the operational aspects of publishing.
“[This person] has a wealth of marketing experience, global partnership experience, general business development experience,” he added.
Lee also admited DC Universe’s original scripted content is migrating to HBO Max, but everyone knew that was going to happen. Apparently, there is a plan to keep the comics library available, but details are still being worked out.
To a certain extent, it is the interview industry watchers needed a few days ago. But it also reminds us of the sort of answers former publisher Paul Levitz would give when asked about DC’s relationship with the old Time Warner corporate structure. As with all the other pushes to digital content distribution, it is clear DC’s physical media will evolve into boutique items strictly aimed at collectors. To a certain extent, direct market comics were already serving that sort of audience — but the march is toward an even more niche item. Think vinyl record collectors. There is money to be made in such a venture, but it remains to be seen how willing AT&T will be to see that sliver of profit balanced against the gains in its digital platform. Lee himself admits DC will be more of a digital first company in two years’ time.
What that means for the direct market and the retailers on the ground is … well it reminds us of the contraction which occurred when Marvel nearly went bankrupt in the 1990s. The business and the medium survived, and ultimately grew, but there will be a lot of heartache in the short term.