For DC Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee, Tuesday's announced changes by DC Entertainment are "difficult," but the pair is "confident" they are the right moves for the company's future.
"On an emotional level, as founder of WildStorm and co-creator on some of these characters, it was difficult," Lee said of the WildStorm imprint's demise at the end of the year. "But I knew [the characters] were returning, and returning, hopefully, a better way than they left. So that part was not difficult."
WildStorm, the publishing company-turned-imprint that Lee founded in 1992, will no longer publish comics at the end of December.
The announcement of the imprint's end came on the heels of Tuesday's news that DC Entertainment will move the company's digital and multi-media operations from New York to Burbank, where DC's parent company Warner Bros. is located. The company also announced that webcomic imprint Zuda, which had already ceased its online operations, will no longer be a print imprint.
DiDio said he will stay in New York, continuing his focus on DC's editorial division, while Lee will stay on the West Coast, with his focus on video games and digital. The multi-media division's move to Burbank will mean that Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns will stay on the West Coast, where he already works out of Warner Bros.' offices.
"Part of the reasoning behind this announcement was to better integrate the various businesses DC does with the businesses that Warner Bros. does," Lee said. "And by being in the same physical location, we get maximum efficiency, and, I think, ultimately, we best represent the characters in other media. Before, it used to be handled at a very arms-length distance, New York to Burbank. But now, with Geoff Johns in Burbank and with other multi-media elements there, we'll be able to best represent the DC Universe characters as they are adapted for other media."
The future of the editorial staff at WildStorm is still not clear, nor have specific personnel changes been announced related to the New York office relocations to California. DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson told Newsarama Tuesday that staff changes would be announced soon, including promotions, relocations and layoffs.
"What's happening with the office, you're talking about real life people and real life futures, and that's something that's difficult for anyone to deal with," Lee said. "There's a lot of history there, and we're making our way through it.
"I really do feel that WildStorm, as integrated into DC Entertainment in Burbank, will have a brighter future," he added.
Current runs on WildCats, The Authority and Gen 13 will conclude with their December issues. The mini-series DV8 and Welcome to Tranquility will continue into the new year, reaching their planned conclusions.
The WildStorm characters themselves, including fan favorites like Midnighter and Grifter, are taking a "break" until they can be brought back under the DC banner. The co-publishers indicated they and Geoff Johns had "a lot of exciting plans" for the characters when they come back as part of DC.
"It's a ways off," Lee said of the characters' planned return. "I don't want to mislead any WildStorm fans. At the same time, honestly, I think taking a bit of a breather on them and then re-energizing them with some new focus and direction will be very good for those characters. I feel very confident, as co-creator on a lot of those properties and characters, that this is a very good creative move for them."
The co-publishers would not say whether those characters will be integrated into the DC Universe with characters like Superman and Batman, although DC has had recent experience absorbing characters from universes like Red Circle and Milestone. Plus, DiDio described the WildStorm characters using language that certainly leaves open the possibility of their integration into the DC Universe.
"What I find most exciting is that, even though we're resting these characters for the time being, these characters are really integral to what DC Comics is all about," DiDio said. "They have a style, they have a tonality and they have a feel that really don't overlap with any of the characters we have in the DCU currently.
"So by bringing those characters in, working them in with the rest of the line, I think really helps grow and expand the line," he said. "But more importantly, we don't feel the redundancies. We really feel the process that everything is growing, and growing in a way that makes everything better."
WildStorm is also well-known for publishing other non-superhero comics, including successful titles like Red and Ex Machina. According to Lee and DiDio, those types of comics will still be welcome at DC, although they may work better with the company's Vertigo imprint, which will continue.
"We're going to be sitting down with Karen Berger, because she's so important to the voice of Vertigo and the direction of Vertigo," DiDio said. "So we want to sit down and talk about what works best for the imprint, and move in that direction."
"We'll be looking at it on a title-by-title basis," Lee added. "Obviously, we weren't able to loop in the creators of these books prior to this announcement, for obvious reasons. But that's part of the transition work ahead of us. At WildStorm we really prided ourselves on being one of the most creator-friendly organizations out there, and we'll continue in that fashion and take their input on the best way to move forward with all of them."
DiDio said that while the move to California does not include publishing, the overall strategy of DC Entertainment can be felt in editorial as the company focuses on primary characters and how to best exploit them across multiple media.
"We put a lot of energy behind characters like Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash and Wonder Woman, and what we want to do is make sure every character receives the proper treatment," DiDio said. "We want to make sure we're building books for success. We don't want to just put them out with the hope that people find them, but build them out with a strong sales and marketing plan behind them to be able to give them the proper push, to make sure we exploit them across multiple media, to exploit them in digital, and to make sure we give everything the best opportunity to succeed."