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Upheavals At DC Comic: My Concerns And Hopes

Let’s face it. Pretty much every industry not associated with health care, masks, streaming media, and Zoom calls has been hit hard this year. That’s especially true for certain segments of the entertainment industry. Basically, if you’re a movie studio, a movie theater, a comic shop, or a mall, this year has been like 100 punches to the gut, jaw, and genitals by a crack-fueled Ivan Drago.

That’s how bad global pandemics are. They pull no punches and will hit anything that attempts to prosper, both directly and indirectly.

Those blows extended to the comics industry, as well. As a lifelong comic book fan, I certainly felt it. I haven’t forgotten the weeks on end of having no new comics to enjoy for the first time in over a decade. It was not a pleasant experience. As elated as I was to see New Comic Book Day return, I didn’t doubt for a second that there would be some lasting scars.

Well, now it seems some of those scars are starting to fester and the first one to feel the pain is DC Comics. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the entire DC Comics operation has been hit with major layoffs and restructuring. It’s still intact, but make no mistake. This is the single biggest purging of personnel from a major comics publisher since the mid-1990s.

THR: DC Comics, DC Universe Hit By Major Layoffs

Monday’s WarnerMedia layoffs have affected a significant number of high-level figures at comic book powerhouse DC, multiple sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.

Among those said to be losing their positions are editor-in-chief Bob Harris, senior VP of publishing strategy and support services Hank Kanalz, VP of marketing and creative services Jonah Weiland, VP global publishing initiatives and digital strategy Bobbie Chase, senior story editor Brian Cunningham, and executive editor Mark Doyle, who oversaw the rollout of the Black Label graphic novels. Jim Lee remains the CCO.

Roughly one third of DC’s editorial ranks are being laid off, according to sources.

Insiders also say the majority of the staff of the streaming service DC Universe has been laid off, a move that had been widely expected as WarnerMedia shifts its focus to new streaming service HBO Max.

I can’t understate how big a deal this is to the larger world of comics, but I don’t want to overstate it, either. This situation is objectively bad. There’s no way around it. It’s also not the definitive end of DC Comics. That’s a narrative I don’t want to fuel.

That hasn’t stopped some of the whiniest, dumbest segments of the comics crowd from claiming otherwise. I won’t name names, but they are affiliated with a certain movement in comics that has only become less credible and more insufferable with time. The box office return of the “Captain Marvel” movie is proof enough of that.

Don’t be fooled by what some asshole voices on social media claim. This restructuring is not because DC Comics had too much diversity. It’s more a byproduct of DC Comics having lost its sense of vision, scale, and identity. This is something that happens from time to time in comics. After a while, the whole line loses its sense of self and needs some revitalization.

I can say, as a longtime comic fan, that DC has become somewhat stale in recent years. Even before the pandemic, I felt as though it had lost momentum outside its mainstays. It has primarily been relying on the strength of Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Green Lantern, and Flash. As iconic as those characters are, they just can’t sustain the entire line.

There are many reasons for that. I think DC Comics, as a whole, hasn’t had a consistent vision since the days of DC Rebirth. It just got bogged down too much with competing visions, like DCeased and Injustice: Gods Among Us. It also endured way too many delays with its last big crossover event, Doomsday Clock.

The onset of the pandemic just exacerbated a problem that was starting to grow. As bad as things are now, there’s also an opportunity to set things on a better path. That’s my greatest hope for whatever restructuring DC pursues next. It still has plenty to build on. The success of the Harley Quinn show is proof enough of that. It’s just a matter of what form that will take.

That said, I do have major concerns. Comic lines have gone through upheavals before, but never during a global pandemic. This is uncharted territory for the comics industry, as a whole. This is not the era of newsstands and comic shops where top books could easily sell hundreds of thousands of copies. Paperbacks alone are not going to make this industry succeed.

Comics, in the current system, work best as a garden from which new characters, stories, and ideas can blossom. The fruits of that system can later become the basis for TV shows, movies, merchandise, and so much more. DC Comics already has a major media partner in its owner, AT&T. The structure is there. They just have to carve their niche into it.

I understand that’s easier said than done. Right now, a lot of factors are working against DC and the comics industry, as a whole. When all is said and done, comic shops may become much more diminished and trade paperback sales may dwindle to just a handful of titles. I’m not looking forward to that kind of status quo.

The ultimate setup may one day involve DC Comics just abandoning its publishing system, as a whole, and shift to licensing its characters to other companies, such as IDW. That’s very much a last resort, but one that may be more likely if DC can’t get its comics in order.

I want to be hopeful, but I’m also going to brace for the worst. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that things can always get worse and the things we love are always capable of succumbing to forces beyond our control. It’s a sad, nihilistic mindset, but one that a global pandemic tends to affirm. Only time will tell and I’ll be waiting with baited breath.

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How To Save The Comic Industry (In Four Easy Steps)

The comic book industry is in a state of crisis. I know you can say that about a lot of industries amidst a global pandemic, but the comics industry has been extremely hard hit. Shipments of new comics have ceased. Comic shops are likely to go out of business without that influx of new product. The industry that I’ve loved since I was a kid has never been this vulnerable.

It’s very depressing. I certainly have felt that after multiple weeks of no new comics. A handful of people, namely the whiny agenda-pushing loser types, have been talking doom and gloom about the comics industry for years. However, this hit has nothing to do with some overly political T-shirt that Mockingbird wore.

Even after the pandemic ends, this industry that I love will never be the same. It can’t go back to the way it used to be. This crisis has shown, among other things, that the current model that the comic industry utilizes just isn’t sustainable. It needs an overhaul of some kind.

I’m certainly not smart enough to know what that overhaul entails. I doubt few people are. However, as a long-time fan and follower of the industry, I have a few ideas. To keep it simple, here are four steps to saving the comic book industry in a post-pandemic world.


Step 1: Emphasize Quality Over Quantity

This is a simple metric. There are just too many books coming out all at once. However, this is a problem that predates the current crisis. It’s a problem that has lingered since the industry almost crashed completely in the early 1990s. It came down to simple economics. Publishers made too many books that not enough people bought. Even if they were only a dollar apiece, there’s only so much consumers can consume.

This is not a sustainable business model. Companies like Marvel and DC Comics grew the most when they were just publishing a dozen or so titles a month, with a few mini-series on the side. You could, conceivably, follow every major event in the Marvel or DC universe for less than $40, adjusted for inflation. That kind of easy access is what helped create the massive fandom that these franchises enjoy today.

That said, this isn’t the mid-1960s. The world is changed. Markets and consumer habits have changed. However, there’s still a place for comics in the publishing world. It’s just a matter of making those products more valuable. Books like DC’s Earth One series are basically single-issue graphic novels that tell a rich, complex story at a higher price and it’s worth every penny.

At a time when people are strapped for cash and looking for value, the comics industry is in a perfect position to tap into it. Make every comic count. Make every dollar feel like it was well-spent. It won’t just keep new fans happy. It’ll help create an entirely new generation of fans who are less inclined to go to crowded movie theaters.


Step 2: Embrace Digital (In A Novel Way)

This step plays directly off the first in that it embraces new technology. Decades ago, comics were easy to access because you could buy them at news stands and grocery stores. As a kid, I got most of my comics from the grocery store at first. They were easy and, much to my parents’ delight, cheap ways of putting a smile on my face.

These days, you can’t find comics in grocery stories. However, digital comics have grown a great deal and are more accessible than ever, thanks to companies like Comixology. Most comics are already released digitally on the same day they come out in shops. That’s great, but it’s basically just an extra convenience for those who don’t live near comic shops. That can’t be the extent of how digital comics impact the industry.

At the moment, digital comics are only a small part of overall comic sales, but they’re growing rapidly. In conjunction with that growth, the industry needs to embrace the other opportunities that digital offers. Services like Marvel Unlimited are nice, but they’re just giving us products that were already released. Why not give us something we can’t get anywhere else?

I’m not sure what that something is, be it a motion comic or something that sets itself apart from a traditional paperback. I’m not smart enough to figure it out, but digital offers so many rich opportunities. The first company to figure it out will make millions and entice a new generation of fans.


Step 3: Make Comic Shops More Than Comic Shops

I love comic shops. Some of my fondest memories have occurred in comic shops. I don’t want them to go away. However, embracing digital comics doesn’t mean the same as ditching these important brick-and-mortar structures. It just means changing their role in the overall comics infrastructure.

When I was a kid, there were two types of stores. One were the stores you could hang out in and the other were the stores in which the owners kicked you out if you lingered for more than 10 minutes. The future of the industry needs to embrace the former rather than the latter.

Comic shops can’t just be about selling comics and merchandise. Too much of that is online and relying on that model is doomed to failure. Instead, comic shops need to be part comic shop and part coffee shop. Make it a place where you don’t just browse the racks for new material. Make it a place where you can sit down with friends, get some coffee, get a snack, and enjoy comics in a communal manner.

Once comic shops are an experience again, people will visit them and not just because there are new comics to buy. If comics can become a popular hang-out once more, then they’ll have a place in a new market.


Step 4: Empower Creators (Instead Of Screwing Them Over)

As much as I love comics, I don’t doubt that it has engaged in some shady business practices. There are many stories about comic creators getting screwed over by major publishers. While every industry has shady practices, the comics industry relies too heavily on brilliant creators to screw them over.

While Marvel and DC have their Disney/WB overlords to please, they can’t just rely on being farms for intellectual property. There has to be a new and better way for compensating creators. Alan Moore may be a cankerous blow-hard, but he really did get screwed over when DC flat out broke their promise to him.

Broken promises always cost more in the long run, especially with respect to comics. It’s not enough for the publishers to just acknowledge the contributions of creators. They need to have a way to profit. It’s not impossible. Apple does it with their app store, creating a means for creative developers to profit from their creations while still making Apple billions.

When both benefit, everyone benefits. It’s really that simple.


I know the comics industry is undergoing rapid change. I don’t doubt I’ll be upset with some of those changes. However, I also understand that the industry needs to change in this increasingly chaotic world. These are just some ideas on how to go about it.

Whatever happens, I hope this industry that I love continues to thrive. I don’t know how, but I do know that a lot of people love it and they’ll find a way to make it work.

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Filed under DC Comics, Marvel, superhero comics