What We Know & What We Still Want to Know1 of 12The news that DC Entertainment will move their publishing office to Burbank in 2015 has already gotten the comic industry talking. But the announcement also leads to many questions and, at this juncture, a few answers.
Here are five answers we feel pretty confident about at Newsarama — but also five questions we're still asking — now that we've digested the news about DC's move.
ANSWER #1: ON A FAN LEVEL…IT DOESN'T REALLY MATTER!2 of 12The DC Comic you just read was likely written by a guy in Los Angeles, drawn by an artist in Brazil, and colored by someone in Houston. It might have been printed in Quebec, Tennessee, or Virginia. You bought it via your iPad, or at a comic store at the strip mall three miles down the road from you. Those L.A. to Brazil to Houston steps? They were all pushed through the Internet, thank you very much, Al Gore.
All this said…comics is already a globally scattered process. It does not change the reader experience, the fan experience or the end consumer experience that there’s an editorial office in New York, Burbank, or Walla Walla, Wash. Chances are if you dig Batman< and Scott Snyder today, you’ll dig Batman and Scott Snyder tomorrow. The view outside the editor’s window won’t really matter.
ANSWER #2: ON A TALENT LEVEL…IT DOESN'T REALLY MATTER!3 of 12The overwhelming response from the creative community in the wake of DC’s announcement hit two major points: First, great sympathy for the real people—not costumed characters!—who would be faced with very difficult moving, career and family decisions; and second, “it really doesn’t matter where I email my script.”
Again, comics are written and drawn all across the globe. Several DC editors are already located in Burbank, and you’d be hard-pressed to try and figure out which book might have a New York or Burbank pedigree. A few freelancers wryly observed that they just gained three hours worth of end-of-business-day deadline room. By and large, that will be the only effect on a talent level.
ANSWER #3: IT IS A FULL BREAK WITH THE PAST4 of 12Paul Levitz was involved with DC Comics from 1972 through 2009. He started as—his term—the “house fan” at age 16 doing odd jobs, and ended as the company’s president and publisher. In his time, Levitz clung to tradition. He loved the fact that Detective Comics’ numbering reached into the 800s, and looked forward to an issue #1000. DC staffers often got Friday afternoons off in the summer, an old-line New York publishing tradition. He looked out for freelancers, befriended retailers, helped industry organizations (like the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the defunct-once-he-left Comics Code Authority), and won award after award from his peers (including the prestigious Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award and Dick Giordano Humanitarian Award).
But since Levitz’s departure in 2009, his sacred cows have been led to slaughter. Old numbering was replaced with new #1s for every title. Watchmen was long the “third rail” of DC Comics publishing, not to be touched, but the after-Levitz years meant the publication of Before Watchmen. It can be easily argued that the move to Burbank is the long-drawn-out fall of the “other shoe dropping,” and the last vestiges of Levitz's DNA being scrubbed off the company.
ANSWER #4: DIGITAL FIRST IS REALLY FIRST5 of 12Digital-first comics are produced in DC's Burbank office right now. And the cooperation between the Digital office and the New York office has been "friendly" yet "separate." (And quite frankly, a few of the freelancers who spoke to Newsarama that write for DC Digital say one reason they do so because they like the West Coast office despite sometimes having issues with the New York one.) Will digital and print editorial be in one office now that they're office mates? That would seem to make sense. If so, it might be a positive change, because digital and print will be more in sync; but it will become a negative if New York's perceived editorial issues spread to a West Coast department that has become known for its heretofore creator-friendly approach to freelancers.
ANSWER #5: RIVERSIDE DRIVE IS THE NEW HOT SPOT6 of 12If you’re looking to schmooze up an editor in search of a job or want to see if you can overhear a creative conversation between a writer and editor, Don Cuco is a Mexican restaurant lunch fave for the Warners crowd, mere steps from Warner Bros. Olive Ave. gate. After hours, some of the DC staffers already bend elbows at Timmy Nolan’s, the Irish pub in Toluca Lake. And the Bob’s Big Boy is world famous for its semi-official Friday night classic car shows and namesake burgers. The commonality? They’re all on Riverside Drive, and all less than one mile from DC’s soon-to-be new headquarters.
QUESTION #1: WHAT TOOK THEM SO LONG?7 of 12Among all the reactions from professionals, there was one phrase that kept showing up — "it's not a surprise." Ever since Warner Bros. acquired DC, there have been rumors that the company would move, but we can't help remembering one specific opportunity they passed up: In September 2010, the recently formed "DC Entertainment" moved several of the New York offices to Burbank — not the print comics folks, mind you, but anything involved in digital and multi-media content. So we couldn't help thinking… why didn't they just move them all in 2010?
At the time, the division's President Diane Nelson said something about not wanting to make changes "in haste," and that seems to be the reason it took a few years before the New York offices made the move in full. So the good news is… this isn't a decision that was made without Nelson and Warner Bros. at least making an attempt to allow DC to function in two separate offices (which they apparently determined wasn't working … at least optimally).
Plus, also on the bright side, they've moved DC functions from New York to California before (pretty recently, in the overall scheme of things), so they probably have a good system in place for the relocation.
QUESTION #2: COULD THIS IMPROVE BUSINESS <i>INSIDE</i> THE OFFICE?8 of 12Perceived issues with the way DC's NY editorial office sometimes communicates (or allegedly, doesn't communicate) among its editorial staff — and to its freelancers — have become fairly well publicized in recent years. Yet people behind the scenes tell us communication is a strength in Burbank — and that Diane Nelson runs a pretty tight, upbeat and efficient ship. Might the communications from DC editorial improve (at least in the eyes of the outspoken critics) once it catches the vibe from the Burbank office? Will the fights between creators and editorial (some of which have been all-too-public lately) be reduced under Nelson's watchful eye?
Of course, the real reason for the New York-to-Burbank move is to, as Nelson put it, "centralize DCE's operations." Previously, the folks in Burbank dealt with all the stuff about DC that wasn't print comic books. Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns worked with networks and filmmakers who wanted to use DC characters, and the Burbank staff existed in the world of screens — whether it was video games, online content, movies or TV. Completely separate was the department that actually printed comic books. (To give a real-life example, the Burbank-based brainstorm sessions about pitching a "Booster Gold" TV show to the Syfy network took place without the folks who were actually deciding what Booster Gold was doing in the comics these days.) That all changes now. But what does that mean?
Will characters who are making waves in Hollywood get more immediate attention in the comics? Will concepts that are being developed for print get a concurrent introduction in a TV show? Will fans see more character-related cross-promotions and shared marketing efforts between Warner's multi-media entities? It's hard to know what the outcome will be, but we have to assume that Nelson believes the ability for one department to just walk down the hall and chat with another department will have a positive effect.
QUESTION #3: WHO WILL MAKE THE MOVE, AND WILL THEIR JOBS CHANGE?9 of 12Many of the industry professionals who have reacted to the news about the move have voiced hopes and concerns about the editorial shake-ups that will most certainly follow. Not only will some editors decide to quit DC so they can stay in New York, but it would make sense for the change in scenery to inspire other changes in responsibility. That means new people will probably be overseeing each comic's creation. Of course, there's always a danger that quality will suffer when the people who know what they're doing aren't in the same jobs anymore. But there's also a potential for new ideas and fresh approaches that are better. Let's hope it's the latter.
QUESTION #4: DOES THE EXECUTIVE STRUCTURE CHANGE TOO?10 of 12God forbid we should come anywhere near to starting a rumor like the one that was rapidly spreading on the Internet in 2008 that Dan DiDio was going to get fired. (Besides, the rumor was totally bogus -- he was never in any danger.) But the executive staff that was put into place at DC Entertainment in January 2010 will have been there five years when the move is made to consolidate to Burbank. We can't help thinking that could make for an opportunity for a review of the current executive staff design — and possibly a few tweaks of some kind. After all, the responsibilities of the two "co" publishers on two coasts would inherently change when there are no longer two coasts, right? (But to be clear — that doesn't necessarily mean anyone's going to be shown the door, particularly since some editors won't make the move to Burbank, which should allow titles to change and the editorial hierarchy at DC to amicably shift.)
QUESTION #5: WHAT HAPPENS TO THE SUPERMAN PHONE BOOTH, THE DC ARCHIVES AND THAT GIANT CHARACTER MURAL? (AND CAN WE BUY THEM?)11 of 12It may not be the most pressing question for New York staffers (who are choosing whether to accept a cross-country relocation), but beyond the great people who work in DC's New York offices, there are also some really cool artifacts housed at 1700 Broadway. Anyone who has visited the DC offices has seen the rather large mural depicting DC characters — and it's just heartbreaking to think of the office's next tenant painting over it. Equally disheartening is the idea of Superman's Phone Booth sitting in a dumpster out back. Can these things be moved? Or saved somehow?
There's also the famed DC archives, where back issues of almost every DC comic ever printed are filed and preserved behind locked doors. Does the digital age mean these are no longer needed by the publication? (Hello, eBay!) Or will the precious, priceless comic books make the move to Burbank as well — protected in a temperature-controlled trailer for the trip? (And if so, can we ride in the back of the truck with a flashlight?)
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