Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday Linking (And Some Thoughts)

A quick post today about a major shake-up in DC Comics' editorial offices. It happened earlier this week, but I honestly didn't hear about the news until yesterday, mostly because I've been sequestered in an office with a pretty strict, no Internet policy.

Which is fine, because there's a ton of work that needs to be done (and not to mention, there's a ton of things I need to learn how to do), and the days manage to fly by on their own.

But, when one has a comics- and geek-related blog that needs to be updated on a daily basis...well, not going on the Internet much during the week works in opposition to said blog and all the necessary updating.

And that's my way of "apologizing" (Tiger Woods-style) for missing the news this week that DC has named Jim Lee and Dan DiDio Co-Publishers of DC Comics and writer Geoff Johns is now the comics division's Chief Creative Officer.

You can read all about it on DC's blog, where they issued the following press release. There are also follow-up posts by Diane Nelson (head of DC Entertainment), Jim Lee and Dan DiDio, and Geoff Johns.

But by far the coolest link today is from the New York Times , and their story from yesterday about the shift at the company.

So, what's my take on the matter? (Because, really, we're way more important than the Times!) Well, my initial reaction brought to mind an old baseball saying--a "bullpen by committee" is a euphemism for "you have a bad bullpen."

So the whole, "Co-Publisher" thing rubbed me the wrong way. I took it as DC higher-ups basically saying to Dan DiDio, "listen, we appreciate your services here, and we acknowledge some of your more successful ideas, but, really, we think you need help."

Fans have grown increasingly tired of DiDio recently, and as comics fans tend to do, some have gone overboard--online and even at conventions--in expressing their displeasure.

I'm the first to admit that there's a huge amount of DC stuff over the past five years that I have either no zero interest in, or I tried and flat-out hated. But there are certainly things that worked, and generated huge sums of money for the company.

I think the best way to summarize DiDio's years as Executive Editor is to bring up his proposal for the All Star line, which resulted in what can basically be seen as a microcosm of DC's efforts over the past half-decade or so.

When the All Star line was announced by DiDio, fans were promised fresh takes on major characters by the very best creators in the business, without the chains of continuity to bond their stories. And what did it quickly turn in to?

All-Star Batman and Robin.

Which, while it sold incredibly well, and generated tons of heat early on in its run--thanks a great deal to Frank Miller's insane take on Batman--the book has completely fallen off the tracks, and we haven't seen a new issue in well over a year. I think it's actually closer to two years, now.

And, unfortunately for everyone involved, it's become a running joke in the comics industry.

On the other hand, the All-Star line spawned arguably the best Superman story of the past couple of decades in Grant Morrison's brilliant and thoughtful All-Star Superman . That book won Eisner Awards, thrilled fans old and new, and sold by the boatload.

As with most things at DC over DiDio's time in charge, the All-Star line was hit-or-miss--literally--and, while it brought great acclaim, it also brought unending mockery from fans.

Only DC can live within such a strange dichotomy.

But, after reading up on this whole restructuring thing, it appears that DiDio will remain in charge of print media, while Jim Lee will be at the helm of DC's digital future. And that makes sense, since Lee is the chief player involved in DC's huge online role-playing game, which is highly anticipated in the comics and gaming communities.

Of course, that game seems to be in perpetual delay mode, but hey, that's DC for ya.

The biggest and most comforting move in this whole thing is the bump-up given to Geoff Johns--the man who has steered the DC ship recently and elevated the publisher in the eyes of many to an actual competitor of Marvel's (you know, one capable of fighting back), and not just the "number two" entity in the industry.

Many fans online (and in stores) have made the comment that they wish Johns was bumped up to Editor in Chief, and put in charge of all the books.

And my answer to that has been, if he does that, he won't be able to write as many books. And that would be a crime, because, man, does this guy know how to do super hero comics.

Also, I think that, if Johns wants the Big Chair some time down the road, it's his. It'll be a matter of whether he wants to deal with everything that comes along with the title, though. After a career of writing comics and dealing with fans and the weirdness of a weird industry, who knows if he'll want that.

For now, I think this is all very positive stuff for DC. I feel bad for Paul Levitz (the former publisher), because he seems like a genuinely good guy who just loves the medium, but I'm glad that DC realized a change was in order.

Comics are moving forward on a daily basis--both in content and in distribution--and DC has lagged behind Marvel when it comes to change in their line on both fronts. Keeping DiDio is a sign that DC likes what's come before, but bumping Johns up and handing over the digital reins to Jim Lee show that the company is now looking to the future.

And that's a good thing.

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