Major changes are taking place at US publisher DC Comics, first reported widely on US-focused comics news sites earlier this week. At least one third of staff have reportedly been laid off, with some high profile casualties of the redundancies, bizarrely coming just two weeks ahead of DC Fandome, a major transmedia celebration of DC Comics and its spin-off films and TV shows.
The layoffs are part of a wider restructuring at parent company Warner Bros., caused in part by the entertainment company experiencing huge dips in profits due to the economic impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Warner Bros. has allegedly laid off approximately 600 employees in a major restructure.
DC Comics was directly affected by the Pandemic when comics shops in the United States – and here in the UK – shut down for nearly a month after distributor Diamond Comics announced it was shutting down due to safety concerns. DC ended the forced industry-wide shutdown when it announced it was working with newly formed alternative distributors, and later ended their exclusive distribution contract with Diamond in favour of these new distributors.
High profile losses at DC include Editor in Chief Bob Harras, senior VP of publishing strategy and support services Hank Kanalz, VP of marketing and creative services Jonah Weiland (the founder of comics journalism site Comic Book Resources, who joined DC in 2019), VP global publishing initiatives and digital strategy Bobbie Chase (who has helped spearhead DC Comics’ hugely successful push into YA and kids-focused graphic novels), senior story editor Brian Cunningham, executive editor Mark Doyle. Also reportedly laid off is Andy Khouri, who oversaw the rollout of the company’s Black Label graphic novels.
Jim Lee remains Chief Creative Officer, according to Variety “tasked with “overseeing creative of all DC-related growth in the company” and that the brand will be expanding – but in contrast, comicbook.com reports he has apparently been removed from his publishing role, instead now acting as a liaison between DC and other brands of Warner Media.
Bleeding Cool reports Marie Javins, currently Executive Editor of Global Publishing Initiatives & Digital Strategy, and Executive Editor, DC Children’s/Young Adult Michele Wells have been given leading publishing roles.
Comicbook.com also reported that AT&T, owners of Warner and DC, is looking to bring in a general manager “from the world of esports” to replace this lost editorial talent, indicating a grim prospect for the publisher, even as it continues to mine its decades of work for new film and TV properties.
Gizmodo reports that DC Collectibles, the merchandising arm of DC that creates action figures, statues, and other collector memorabilia based on DC properties that have been part of the company for over two decades, has been cut entirely. Hollywood Reporter notes the end of DC Collectibles was rumoured when Warner Bros. Consumer Products began taking a more active role in DC merchandising.
The vast majority of staff at subscription steaming service DC Universe, launched in May 2018, have also lost their jobs, as part of WarnerMedia’s shifting focus to capitalise on the success of HBO Max. “This was something expected and long feared as former DC Universe streaming exclusives like Harley Quinn and Doom Patrol made their way over to HBO Max,” James Whitbrook notes on Gizmodo, “in spite of Max’s continued haphazard relationship with access to Warner’s back catalogue of DC comics films.”
Confirmation of the layoffs, new roles and new mission statements from DC Comics initially sent to websites that DC describes as their media partners are expected soon. A DC spokesperson declined to comment to Hollywood Reporter on the changes when it first reported them on Monday,
The layoffs come less than two weeks before the planned 22nd August 2020 online event DC Fandome, which is set to showcase stars from DC’s film, TV and comic book worlds.
The latest redundancies follow other lay offs in recent times, as DC lost market share to rival Marvel Comics, including DC Comics publisher Dan DiDio, who was sacked earlier this year.
Mixed box office success for DC character inspired films hasn’t helped the comics company, with Geoff Johns stepping down as an executive from DC Entertainment. Johns remains a producer for Warner Bros. and co-wrote the screenplay for Wonder Woman 1984.
Having been victim to company implosions and wind ups more than once myself, those affected have my sympathies, some I’ve even worked with, albeit briefly, back in my Marvel UK days. This news is particularly hard in these already difficult times for laid off staff and their families.
• DC Comics News: www.dccomics.com/news