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What’s Next for DC Comics Following the WarnerMedia Layoffs?

August 12, 2020 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
DC Comics Jim Lee

Welcome back! I’m Steve Gustafson and if you enjoy discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. Each week we cover something in the industry and I always enjoy your input in the comment section below.

Previously on…

Last week we asked Is Comic Book Continuity Necessary?. Here’s what some of you had to say:

Robert Stewart: “We’ve argued this on my podcast. I, for one, am I huge fan of continuity. I want things to MATTER. If there’s no continuity, then ultimately nothing matters, and then… why am I getting invested in any of it? Why even bother having a shared universe? Just keep all the characters separate then. If nothing matters to anything else, why do Superman and Batman even have to co-exist?

I am not saying there is no place for Elseworlds or What Ifs or what-have-you, but I want the core books of Marvel and DC to matter and be impacted by what came before them. I want Spider-Man #206 to matter, in some way small or large, to Spider-Man #357.

(I also want renumbering to never have been a thing, but… oh well)”

Lurkndog: “I like some degree of continuity, but that also requires strong editorial control. You can’t have new creative teams coming in and throwing out a character’s entire concept, or killing off major characters, or basically breaking all the toys.

If you want to tell those stories, there are outlets like Elseworlds or What If? that let you do it without destroying the mainline status quo.

I don’t want parents to have to explain to their kids why Spider-Man is dead. There should always be a Peter Parker Spider-Man book for kids to enjoy.

I prefer the “rolling continuity” approach where the heroes are pretty much always the same age, and there is reference to recent events, but the background stays constant. Uncle Ben always died a few years ago, Batman and Superman have always been active for about ten years, and are still in their athletic primes.

Unfortunately, strong editorial control, with the ability to tell a writer “No you can’t destroy Themiscyra” seems to be a lost art these days.”

Derek Smith: “During Marvel’s Civil War, then editor Bob Harras commented on a fan finding continuity problems. He basically said Marvel didn’t care what happened years ago, because they believed that long-time fans that remembered these things were not their prime source of revenue, rather it was an ever-revolving door of fans that would stick around 1-3 years before leaving.”

Solomon Grundy: “Isn’t “Marvel Time” really only 15-17 years in their actual continuity? Kinda like Bart Simpson still being a kid. Pretty obvious, but here is the thing. Hard to hold on to characters that are 50-60 years old (unless its religion i guess lol). Society has changed in ways where the characters need to go along with the changes. Hard to compare the Batman of today to the Batman of the early Detective Comics, or the 1960’s batman…they could almost be considered different characters.

As long as the writing is done well and the main tenets of characters are kept (Bruce Waynes parents killed sticking to the batman example), then it should be fine.”

JoeBloe: “No. There is nothing to be gained through imposing a ‘canon’ to anything but the most superficial character traits of comic characters. Writers and illustrators should be given complete freedom to explore characters and story lines from every conceivable angle in isolated series… oh wait, that is already happening.”

Benjamin Kellog: “When I was collecting the DC Giants from Walmart, several continuities were pulled from (mostly Post-Crisis, New 52, and Rebirth). The consistency among them all didn’t matter much to me (although juggling four or five current/former Robins was quite a feat) as much as whether or not they had good stories I was interested in (which was more or less yes every time). I’ve had the pleasure of sampling stories from practically every decade of comics without much worry for whether it all made sense together, and I see the same continuing for the rest of my natural life. Bottom line: story and characterization are the bricks, continuity is the mortar. Either way, you’ve got a pretty good building.”

Ken Wood: “I used to care a lot more about continuity than I do now. When you have multiple writers tackle the same characters with different missions over years and decades, things are going to get messy. I’ve learned that I care more about characters staying in character than I do about continuity. And, while both would be nice, I’ve learned neither are guaranteed. Just go after the writers you enjoy and try to stay clear of those you don’t.”

Borealis: “Comics died as a viable business when they abandoned continuity. Marvel’s downfall can be traced to 1990 when they essentially ditched continuity and focused instead on big artist names instead of stories that made sense with what had gone before. Since then, sales have plummeted. Back in the 1980s, an average X-Men issue would sell a hundred thousand copies; today, that number is a pipe dream for any book, no matter the event or the character. And since there are no long-term consequences in any story, there’s no point in reading them to see what happens next.”

D2Kvirus: “While there shouldn’t be a slavish adherence to everything that has come before, especially considering that the longer a comic goes on the more likely it is that characters introduced halfway through the run are potentially going to trip over each other in the continuity, in terms of the main character they absolutely need to keep the continuity set in stone

For example, Bruce Wayne’s motivations stem from seeing his parents murdered by Joe Chill, and while Chill’s motivations have changed at various times – initially a mugger later a hitman, or sometimes he spared Bruce as he wouldn’t kill a child while others it was only because he heard the police descending upon the scene – his parents’ deaths at the hands of Joe Chill remain canon…in the comics, anyway”

Jeyh: “I think its good and you just have a to find a good point to pick up reading at. I haven’t read in a few years but last time I was, it was just as AvsX was ending with the multiple X teams splitting and doing their own thing. It was easy enough to follow with All Nex X-Men, X-Men, Uncanny X-men, and Uncanny X-Force, but it does start to add up. I went back bought the X-books before that I needed to catch up and then the big help to follow things, the internet! A quick wiki read will certainly help you. While comics can be complicated I think having a friendly start point really helps new readers, I want to go back and read Superior Spider-Man as I understand the premise behind it. As a casual fan guess only thing I can be knocked on is not truly knowing about Miles Morales, he is Spidey in another dimension and rather popular but don’t hear about the others in that universe. . Maybe I’m just a Marvel homer but it seems easy to understand than everything they do in DC with the multiple-crisis and speed force timechanges they go with.”

Thank you to everyone who commented!

This week we ask…

What’s Next for DC Comics?

I’m going to start off asking a favor. Please don’t use this news as an excuse to bash DC or the people that work there. I get that it’s easy to point your finger at a publisher you don’t like or don’t agree with but a number of good, creative people lost their job and this news isn’t good for the industry as a whole.

As you might have heard, the majority of staff of the streaming service DC Universe has been laid off, as has editor-in-chief Bob Harras and multiple other executives on the publishing side of DC. It was a dark Monday for many as WarnerMedia’s layoffs impacted a number of high-level figures at DC, reported The Hollywood Reporter.

Among those said to have lost their positions besides Harras are 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.

The majority of the staff of the streaming service DC Universe has been laid off, even though this wasn’t surprising as WarnerMedia made no secret that it was shifting its focus to new streaming service HBO Max. “DC Universe was DOA as soon as the AT&T merger happened,” said one source.

DC Direct, the company’s in-house merchandise and collectibles manufacturer. The division closed after 22 years, another move that was rumored when Warner Bros. Consumer Products began taking a more active role in DC merchandising.

So what does this mean? First, while this is bad news, ignore the doom and gloom headlines saying DC is dead. That’s hardly the case. While it’s never good to have massive layoffs, DC comics is still a viable and valuable creative outlet for Warnermedia. Streamlining things can go either way but it might be a little bit of time before we know how things play out.

A more focused marketing plan and team is a good thing. You can bet that exec’s are looking at multiple angles are know that there is still money to be made with the most recognizable superheroes on the planet.

But bottomline, it’s never easy to see someone lose their job who had passion for the industry. People not statistics. DC comics will survive but the real question will be in what form?

What are your thoughts on the layoffs?

That’s all the time I have. See you next week!