While the appointment of superstar artist Jim Lee andDC Universe senior v-p and executive editor Dan DiDio as copublishers of DCComics didn't come as a shock, it certainly wasn't expected. Since WarnerBrothers moved to assert more control over its comic book publishing franchise lastSeptember by naming former Warner Premiere president Diane Nelson president ofDC Entertainment, the new parent entity of DC Comics, succeeding longtime DCComics president Paul Levitz, there has been intense speculation over who wouldbe named publisher.
Nelson called the new co-publishers "a creative 'dreamteam,' with accomplishments and talent unrivaled in the business. Thisannouncement continues and underscores DC's legacy as the ultimate destinationfor creators. "
And Lee isn't the only star creator now working inmanagement. Geoff Johns, one of DC's hottest comics writers, was named chief creativeofficer. Johns has worked on everything at DC, from the Flash, Superman, TeenTitans and Justice Society to his latest hit crossover superhero series, Blackest Night. In addition Nelson alsonamed John Rood, a former senior executive at ABC Family, was named executivev-p, sales, marketing and business development, and Patrick Caldon, formerly anexecutive v-p for finance and operations at DC Comics and Mad magazine, wasnamed executive v-p, finance and administration.
Not only did the company decide to go with two people torun DC Comics, but two of the best known figures in comics in the respectiveroles. Nelson has acknowledged that she has limited experience in comicspublishing--an arcane business even when compared to the eccentricies of the traditionalbook industry--and there had been some speculation that a traditional bookpublishing figure might be appointed. Instead, DC Comics will be led by twovery experienced comics professionals.
And while not exactly the odd couple, they are a studyin contrasts. While Lee is a critically acclaimed artist and a wildly popularfan favorite who has drawn bestselling comics series for both DC Comics and itsarch--rival Marvel Comics--from X-Men and Punisher War Journal at Marvel to Batman:Hush and Superman: For Tomorrow at DC--he also has a history as a publishingentrepreneur. Along with a group of star Marvel artists, Lee left Marvel tocofound Image Comics in 1992, a comics house that has grown into a majorpublisher of independent comics. Lee is also the founder of WildstormProductions, a line of his comics at Image that grew into separate publishing linethat Lee sold to DC Comcs in 1998 when he left Image in 1998. Since then he's beeneditorial director of Wildstorm while continuing to work on high profilemini-series (like All Star Batman and Robin) and oversee the DC Universe Onlinemassively multiplayer action videogame being developed by Sony.
In his former position DiDio oversaw the editorialproduction of all the DC superhero characters from Superman and Batman to GreenLantern, the Flash, and Wonder Woman--a demanding position in a comicspublishing world where fans often respond vehemently when they don't like theways in which their favorite characters are portrayed. While DiDio hassometimes received harsh words from some corners of the DC readership, he hasnevertheless presided over some of the most popular story lines and bestsellingcrossover series in recent years.
Asked in a phone interview, how the copublishingposition will function, the two copublishers said that they will be travelingback and forth between DC Comics' offices in New York and the Wildstorm officesin La Jolla, California, looking to keep both offices on the same page. "We'rehonest with each other and we have overlapping responsibilities and that willhelp us oversee our lines," said Lee. "If there is any disagreement it will bethe good kind of disagreement without any of the power grabbing stuff. We'vegot complementary skill sets." DiDiosaid, "We will be traveling back and forth between New York and California workingto integrate the operations of Wildstorm and DC in New York. We're committed tomaking this work."
Of course this will only continue to fuel speculationthat DC Comics may move its editorial offices to California to be closer toWarner Bros., its parent company--although all parties at the interview abruptly declined torespond to a direct question on that subject. Nevertheless, it really is a newday at DC Comics. Nelson and her new management team are facing a new comicsmarket transformed by the impact of Hollywood and a succession of hit films basedon superhero comics books that has racheted DC's historic rivalry with MarvelComics--now owned by Disney--to new levels of competitive intensity in both publishingand film.
In addition, over the past 15 years, the traditionalbook market has grown in importance for comics periodical publishers like DC asrevenues from book-format graphic novels begin to equal sales from traditionalcomics sold through the comics shop market, also called the direct market.Asked about the role of book format comics and the importance of both thedirect market and the general bookstore market in DC's hardcover and trade paperbackpublishing plans, Rood said, "the book market is crucial. All the new media andthe new lines of businesses we initiate do not diminish the importance of ourtraditional business in the direct market or the book business."
"We'll continue to grow sales in the book market andthe direct market," said DiDio. "We're not going to do anything to lose any ofthe momentum we already have in the book market."