It's something DC fans know well: "No fear."
That's the mantra handed down by Diane Nelson, president of DC Entertainment, as she appointed a new executive team for the company. "We got our mantra from Diane: No fear," said John Rood, the company's new executive vice president of sales, marketing and business development.
The executive spoke with Newsarama along with Jim Lee and Dan DiDio, the new co-publishers for DC Comics, and Geoff Johns, who is taking on the newly created position of chief creative officer. The team talked a lot about changing DC in a way that will integrate the company's comic book characters across multiple platforms under the umbrella organization of DC Entertainment and its parent company, Warner Bros.
"What we have right now is an assemblage of one of the best writers, and the best artists in the business leading the creative charge across not just the DCU but all imprints, and aligning their skills and knowledge and abilities," DiDio said. "I think what you're going to see is a real expansion and growth and change in people's understanding of our characters and the value of our brand."
The position of co-publisher will not only divide responsibilities, but will also be separated by coasts, since Lee is staying in California where he currently oversees WildStorm in San Diego, while DiDio will stay at the DC publishing offices in New York. The offices are already on two coasts, Lee said, with Warner Bros. being located in Burbank, Calif., and there are currently no plans to change that.
"Overall, we'll be working closely together guiding all the different imprints, working with the various editors of DC Comics as a whole," Lee said. "Day-to-day, Dan will be handling more of that workload, as he's already based in New York City. I'll be coming in for the key meetings, and obviously we'll be keeping in touch through email, video, and conferencing."
One of the main goals of dividing the job of publisher in two is to try to improve communication between editorial and all other areas of DC Entertainment, Lee said.
"I think the potential for the universe both inside and outside of comics is going to be more fully realized as we go ahead," DiDio said.
Johns, who said he'll be "flying back and forth between L.A. and New York like I always do," said his job is not really about overseeing actual editorial content but is "more broad than that." He said he'll work with DC characters not only in print, but in TV, film and other products.
"It's kind of like what I did with Blackest Night across DC Entertainment," he said. "It's working in the DC Universe as I have been, on a little bigger scale, and then across the other imprints. But also, really, doing what I've started to do with Justice League Unlimited or Smallville or working on Green Lantern now, taking the characters outside the comics and shepherding them into other media, like film, TV, video games, toys... and bringing a synergy and consistency that DC hasn't really had before.
"My goal is nothing less than to have the DC Universe be the most popular mythology in and outside of comics in the world," Johns said.
Lee will take a lead role on the future of digital comics for DC. "I'm going to have a lot of publishing work ahead of me in the digital realm, working with John Rood in marketing, as we develop what the DC digital comics experience is going to be like," Lee said, "but that can't happen independently of print publishing, and we really want to make it one seamless whole, so that's where a lot of my efforts will be going."
The co-publisher said the company isn't ready to announce any official date for their digital comics launch, but he specifically mentioned the success of the Apple iPad as something he'll be watching closely.
"It's something that we're aggressively researching and exploring, and obviously, there's a lot of other determining factors that will play into any release, like when the iPad comes out and how heavily it's adopted," Lee said. "There are a lot of things going on in the digital space. Nothing has really panned out yet, but we are in the mix, and it's going to be a big part of our business going forward."
Bob Wayne will continue in his role as vice president of sales and marketing, and Rood said the direct market side of the publishing business will continue to play an important role in his job.
"We look forward to more individual dialogue with retailers," Rood said, "so they can share our excitement, because this will only make their business bigger and easier."
DiDio's former position of executive editor has yet to be filled, although he said all editorial positions are currently being examined by the new executive team. "Right now, this is about setting up the executive team, and at this particular time, that's where our focus is," DiDio said. "In the course of time and over the next month or so, we'll be reviewing the staff and how we fill the position going forward. We have such incredible talent at the top of the masthead now with Jim and Geoff, and it's important to figure out how we fill out from there."
But with the changes toward integrating the DC characters into different media, Rood said the entire executive team has the firm belief that comic books can't get lost in the shuffle.
"Look no further than the executive team announcement to demonstrate how much Diane believes in the comics art form for the future of the entirety of DC Entertainment," Rood said. "The content, the creativity, the intellectual property, all the synergy fodder -- whatever you call it, it all begins and ends with comic storytelling. And we're not going to go into new media or new categories of products just to be there. It has to be organic to the comics DNA."
Johns said that although he'll be more and more involved in bringing DC characters to film, TV and other media, he and other executive team members want to also promote the future of comics themselves.
"You've got a team here that loves and comes from comic books. That's what we do. Everything grows from there. All of us want comics to continue. We want to go pick up comics every Wednesday. And I want to sell them from my store," Johns said with a laugh, referring to his co-ownership of a store that sells comics. "I think everybody here is really committed to comics as we know them, but we just want to make sure we push them to the next level in the right way."
Since Lee and Johns worked together on the DC Universe Online game and are now working closely on the DC executive team, they said there's a chance the writer and artist could work together on a comic book.
"It would be like the old Reese's commercial where the one guy had chocolate and the other guy had peanut butter," Lee joked. "If by accident we run around a corner and smash into each other, and my art falls into his story and his story falls into my art? Then it's a distinct possibility."
"Whatever it is, I'm hungry for it now," DiDio laughed.
"I would say... the eight ball says the chances are pretty good," Johns said.
"Diane didn't bring these talents into the executive team to just be executives," Rood added.