Even before he got into book publicity, David Hyde liked controlling the story. As a senior at Bard College he told classmates he was going into marketing, though he didn't exactly know what marketing was. “I felt it was best to have one story and stick to it,” he says, leaning back in his chair in the comfortable office he now has at DC Comics, where he is v-p of publicity. After more than 10 years in book publishing, five of those at the house that Batman (and Superman) built, Hyde is at ease, it turns out, sticking to the story he started for himself over a decade ago.
Moving to Colorado after college, Hyde, 34, spent a summer working for an environmental nonprofit before he got a job at the Tattered Cover. Although he didn't take the position with any lofty career goals in mind—his then-girlfriend/now-wife's sister worked at the famed independent—he wound up, as luck would have it, in the marketing department. While Hyde enjoyed talking books and handselling, he was most at home coordinating author events and working with the talent.
When David Foster Wallace visited for an event promoting Infinite Jest, Hyde spent the day catering to the notoriously shy author. Hyde hunted down a copy of a book Wallace was interested in reading—The Gift by Lewis Hyde—and grabbed an issue of Entertainment Weekly for the author, who wanted to read up on Ally McBeal but didn't care to be seen buying the magazine at the register. But beyond running errands, Hyde helped keep Wallace, who was known for being uneasy at large events, at an even keel.
Wallace's publicist, Jennifer Marshall, noticed the calming effect Hyde had on her author and suggested he come to New York to work in publicity. Not only did Marshall recommend Hyde for an assistant position where she was going to work, Vintage/Anchor, she also told him about the beauty of book publicity. “What Jen Marshall got across to me was that although the editorial process—the acquiring and editing—is the driving force behind the industry, [in publicity] you can impact a lot of change and really get a book you care about deeply on people's radar.”
After working with numerous bold-face names at Vintage/Anchor—Richard Russo, James Ellroy and Jonathan Lethem, among others—Hyde moved on to DC in 2003. Many in the business credit him as one of the people who's helped DC, a leading comics house, develop a serious reputation in trade publishing. Coming on at DC when he did, when people were starting to realize that comics aren't just for kids, Hyde took advantage of that cultural shift and hustled to get DC more mainstream coverage while helping the staff acclimate to publishing “traditional” books. (When asked about his accomplishments at DC, Hyde points to the regularity of the brand's coverage in the New York Times—a few years ago, he said, DC might get two stories a year in the paper; now, stories on DC run roughly every other month.)
But Hyde doesn't think of himself as a book guy who moved into the world of comics. A self-proclaimed comics fan, Hyde grew up during what he calls a “sweet spot” in comics history. His coming-of-age as a reader, which happened in the late '80s, dovetailed with the publication of some of the format's seminal works—Watchmen, Love and Rockets, Maus and TheDark Knight Returns. It was, as Hyde recalls, “an explosion of creativity.”
It's that unusual divide between serious student of publishing and giddy fan that makes Hyde such a good fit at DC. He's always paid attention not just to comics, but also to how they were covered. He is also someone who shifts easily from ticking off his New York Times story placements to his favorite part of the DC office tour (which he gives to journalists and others who come to the publisher's midtown Manhattan office): “I love ending on the third floor because it's the one that looks like Gotham City; there's this great romance to it. That, and I love turning on the batlight.”