Artist and DC Comics’ Chief Creative Officer Jim Lee responded to the persistent rumors that the comic publisher will either be sold or shut down by WarnerMedia to save some money.
The thinking is, as often addressed, that comics don’t sell anymore and the medium is passe so the company is liable to cut their losses there with little more than a shrug at readers and investors.
Lee not only denies this as “further from the truth,” but he also confessed to The Hollywood Reporter in an interview that also included senior VP and general manager Daniel Cherry III he’s had to resist jumping into the conversation when he sees tweets and headlines questioning the future and solvency of DC.
“Occasionally you will run across that article or tweet and I have to bite my tongue to not jump into the conversations,” Lee said. “It’s the furthest thing from the truth. If anything, it’s the exact opposite.”
Stressing the importance of publishing and canon, he added, “The comics that we publish, the core canon we establish in comics, is driving everything that we do across DC in [the] media. We are constantly referring to the characters as we build DC beyond the publishing world.”
The push beyond publishing has been in motion for the past few years and it has met with several setbacks between the massive layoffs at WarnerMedia that gutted DC and staff, and the downsizing of DC Universe to an app for comics while film and TV content was moved to HBO Max.
Lee called 2020 a “challenging year for everybody” but says they are in a better place a year later and touts Future State and Infinite Frontier as difference-makers.
“Part of what we’ve done in this year was [to] think about the infrastructure and the resources we have and where we want to place our biggest bets in terms of the publishing business going forward,” Lee said.
Cherry would add their focus is bringing revenue to DC, comic shops, creators, and those “who helped build this industry” while expanding globally – “tapping into other cultures,” as Lee put it – and being responsible to fans by putting them first.
“And responsibility is a big one as well,” said Cherry. “We talk about being ‘fan first.’ We do listen. We also listen [to] not just the core but the casual fan, and want to have product to meet them both.”
He then talked about visiting comic shops throughout his life and explained they are a community worth keeping vibrant while adding the future for the next generation is digital.
“And that also means responsibility to the community, and the comic book shop owners,” Cherry stated. “I spend time on weekends at comic books shops, that’s where I grew up.”
He continued, “And if you know anything about cultural trends, it starts with a community that is strong and rich and vibrant. And it’s our job to keep it vibrant and expand it through new channels. Mobile, digital, and global are really important for the next generation of fans.”
Cherry added further, “There are a lot of young fans who don’t have a history of going to comic book shops so how to meet them where they are? How do you build that bridge? It may be with content that is easiest to find, which is on their phone.”
Whatever that bodes for shops and the direct market, Lee swears “publishing is vital to our future” with the caveat “an influx of new voices, new characters, new points of view is vital to keeping the industry healthy and representative of current times.”
Despite the implications of those words and the trepidation the fandom has when they hear them, they don’t look at new avenues as alienating anyone or obsolescing a form.
“When you think of digital as an extension of the passion we have to the core market, it’s not a replacement [for] that physical book,” Cherry said. “It is a way to create an onramp. It’s a way to accelerate fandom.”
Warner’s coming merger with Discovery could be an obstacle to that when it finalizes in 2022 and THR notes it’s “an unknown X factor.” Lee, though, is unbothered, stating it was “business as usual” and that it “does not materially change anything.”
He and Cherry are encouraged by the sales of books since they changed distributors and by the growth and potential of DC Universe Infinite as “an engagement platform.”
Addressing the mass layoffs, Lee admits DC “can’t expect to do everything we did before” and has to be more judicious about what they invest in. However, he does think comics will continue to feed the pipeline of ideas to Warners.
“At the end of the day, you just don’t know what will become [a] big hit down the road,” he began. “It’s not always clean and predictable and that’s why you need a robust creative engine driving all this.”
Lee concluded, “These ideas can be used tomorrow or 5 or 10 years down the line. It’s part of the mission of injecting as much…cool and authentic content as possible. If there’s one unifying theme that is guiding us as we’re creating content, that’s it.”
So, after all that, do you buy what Jim Lee is saying or do you think he is giving the company line in the name of damage control? Tell us below.