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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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“Justice League: The Snyder Cut” Is (Actually) Being Released: My Thoughts, My Hopes, And The Implications

It’s happening.

It’s really happening.

After years of hashtags, billboards, and incessant curiosity, it’s really happening. The fabled “Snyder Cut” of 2017’s “Justice League” is going to be released. Near as I can tell, this is not a joke. It’s not some wild rumor that some renegade trolls concocted. This is real. According to major entertainment news outlets, including The Hollywood Reporter, this is going to happen.

Zack Snyder’s original vision for “Justice League” is coming out in 2021 exclusively on HBO Max, the latest entry to the streaming wars, courtesy of Warner Brothers. I doubt those outside devoted fans of comic books and superhero movies understand why this is such a big deal, but as someone within that circle, I can assure you that this is big.

Rather than explain the whole story, I’ll just cite The Hollywood Reporter, which does a commendable job of summing up the issues. If you need more information on the story of this mythical cut of an otherwise forgettable movie, Forbes also did a decent rundown of the timeline.

THR: Zack Snyder’s $20M-Plus ‘Justice League’ Cut Plans Revealed

In the time since its release, something unusual happened: A growing movement of fans, rallied by the hashtag #ReleasetheSnyderCut, had called, agitated, petitioned — even bought a Times Square billboard and chartered a plane to fly a banner over Comic-Con — for Snyder’s version to be released. And on the film’s second anniversary, the hashtag had its biggest day ever — with even the movie’s stars Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck adding their voices on Twitter.

So here, the morning after, was their agent saying that Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures, was acknowledging the movement, and more importantly, was willing to accede. “This is real. People out there want it. Would you guys ever consider doing something?” was what Emmerich was asking, Zack Snyder recalls.

The answer to Emmerich’s question, a whispered-about secret for months, was revealed Wednesday when Zack Snyder confirmed, at the end of an online screening of his 2013 movie, Man of Steel, that his version of Justice League was indeed real. And that it will be coming to HBO Max, the WarnerMedia digital streaming service launching May 27, and is expected to debut in 2021.

Now, I have my share of opinions about “Justice League” and Zack Snyder. I actually saw the theatrical version of “Justice League” when it came out. While I gave it a respectable review, I don’t deny that the movie has its flaws. I’m not an overall movie buff, but even I could tell that the movie was heavily edited. There was definitely a vision and plenty of potential, but a lot of it got lost on the cutting room floor.

In its current form, Justice League” is one of those movies that gets less compelling with age. You can see it once, have an enjoyable experience, and completely forget that experience within weeks. It’s not a movie that you can re-watch and feel engaged. It’s just too bland and sanitized.

Snyder’s cut of the movie promised to be different. He had a much different vision, but couldn’t realize that vision due to a family tragedy that tore him away from the project. Now, we’ll get to see the essence of that vision.

Personally, I’m curious. I’m not curious enough to shell out money for yet another streaming service, but I’m certainly interested in what Snyder had planned for this movie. A big part of that curiosity stems from Snyder’s history as a filmmaker whose vision tends to get lost on the cutting room floor.

This has happened to him multiple times before and for other superhero movies. There were a lot of heavy criticisms levied against “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and some of those criticisms were valid. However, the longer and more complete Ultimate Edition of the movie directly addressed some of those flaws. I honestly think the movie would’ve done better if that edition had come out.

A far more notable example, in my opinion, involves Snyder’s take on “Watchmen.” That movie is somewhat polarizing among fans, although I personally liked it. However, this movie has multiple extended cuts, including a director’s cut that Snyder himself says is most consistent with his vision for the film.

That’s actually the version I own on blu-ray. I think it’s an underrated gem among superhero movies. It’s more complete, concise, and compelling. It better encapsulates the essence of “Watchmen” and the story it tries to tell.

It’s because of these instances that I believe will help Snyder’s cut of Justice League.” History shows that he can tell a great story, so long as the critical details aren’t cut out in the final edit. Granted, editing is a core aspect of finalizing a movie. It’s necessary to get a movie to within a reasonable time-frame for a movie-watching experience. Not everyone wants to sit in a theater for four hours unless it’s something J. R. R. Tolkein wrote.

Snyder’s desire to tell a larger story seems to get away from him. In that sense, it might be a good thing that this isn’t coming out in theaters. Instead, it’s coming out on a streaming platform that people can consume at their own pace. People already consume hours on end of old shows. Consuming a four-hour movie isn’t quite as daunting. Just look at “The Irishman.”

This is where I feel the larger implications of this announcement may come into play. A non-insignificant reason why Snyder’s movies keep getting chopped up into something that doesn’t do well with critics or fans is because they’re so long. His efforts to tell a bold story just don’t fit within that reasonable two to three hour time-frame for a movie. Movies like “Watchmen” reveal that those stories can be compelling.

Beyond the story, the impact of the Snyder Cut could extend beyond Justice League,” superhero movies, and the movie-making process as a whole. This is where I believe there could be larger implications that will likely impact future movies, including those that don’t involve superheroes.

For decades, there has been this idea that movies have to operate within certain restrictions. For the most part, there’s merit to those restrictions. Movies beyond three-and-a-half hours just aren’t feasible for a general audience or their bladder. A trilogy like “Lord of the Rings” was a rare exception, but could never become the norm.

Thanks to streaming platforms like Netflix and HBO Max, this may no longer be the case. Now, there’s a new method for releasing these movies. The current global pandemic, as well as the recent success with direct-to-streaming releases, will further raise the importance of those platforms.

With these new tools and emerging trends, why should movies be confined to the limits imposed by movie theaters? Why can’t there be a four-hour Justice League” movie? Why can’t there be a five-hour Avengers movie? Why does any movie have to be chopped up and edited to such an extent that it loses important aspects of its plot?

The Snyder Cut could make the case that those restrictions need not hinder a bolder vision. There’s still a place for the kinds of popcorn movies we see in theaters, but why not also invest in a place where a movie like Snyder’s cut of “Justice League” can also exist?

The world of movies, media, and story-telling is changing. Regardless of how the Snyder Cut ends up being in the eyes of fans, its impact could be far greater. Hopefully, it leads to bigger, bolder, and better stories. It may not always warrant the cost of another streaming service, but it opens the door to so many possibilities.

Time will tell. Hopefully, we’ll see if the wait was worth it in 2021.

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