Can DC Comics be #1 in the market again? Is Blackest Night key to the publisher's future? We asked new DC co-publishers Dan Didio and Jim Lee, as well as new DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns.
Congratulations on the new positions, but how does "co-publisher" actually work? Who's handling what, and what are the responsibilities of a DC Publisher in general?
Jim Lee: It's interesting. I've been reading message boards and [seeing] people speculating on who would be a good publisher, and, yeah, people have a very different definition of what that means. I think for us, the tradition has been changed so that Dan and myself can really focus on the creative [side] of editorial. Really, looking at all the different editorial imprints and making sure that they are well-serviced, and that we produce the best possible books from each line. That means, working with talent, securing new projects, working with the editors to make sure that the books are on time and have the best writers and artists possible; it means working with Geoff Johns on overall creative direction and big events on editorial. It's sort of like being the uber-editor to all the editors, but there's more to it than that. It's also looking at outside licenses, so there's a business component to it, as well as a marketing component. What's really cool is that, the team that comprises this element for DCE, we have five people in this executive team and we have finance and we have marketing and we have Geoff as Chief Creative Officer, and we have the co-publishers, so we're not doing anything in a vacuum. We're really doing it with the advice and co-development with marketing and with Geoff's department.
Dan Didio: I want to say that, just because my primary responsibility up to this point was with the DC Universe and Jim's was with Wildstorm, it's not just about those imprints. We are really expanding and working in conjunction with all the imprints at DC with one publishing goal, which is to be the number one publisher. Not only in regards to sales, but we want to be able to grow the business, grow the market, but at the same time, be the premiere stop for creators to come to bring their work. We truly believe that DC, and DC Entertainment, is the best place to be if you're in the business of working in comics right now.
Lee: The digital space is obviously going to be an important one for us going forward, and it's one that I have a keen interest in, and I'll be working with John Rood - who's in charge of marketing, sales and business development, in figuring out what is the right vehicle for us as we move forward in that space. There's more things on our plate than we could obviously wish for, so we're kind of picking and choosing which ones we want to lead on, and working together on a number of different ones. We're able to work that way because we've been known each other for a long time and there's mutual respect for each other. There's no ego there, we're very honest and forthright with one another, and we have very matter-of-fact dialogues, and it's been really great just talking about the direction and the future of DC.
Didio: One of the great things about working with Jim on this is that, I remember when Image Comics launched [Lee was one of the seven original partners in Image Comics in 1991]. I remember how it really set the industry on its ear, and how it helped redefine and re-energize the whole business. I know Jim was instrumental in so many things that were spearheaded over there, and his inside knowledge is going to be extremely beneficial to us as we really try to reinvigorate and re-energize everything that we've been doing here.
It feels like this is happening at a very good time for DC, with Blackest Night and Brightest Day re-energizing the fans, in terms of the DCU line...
Didio: Yeah, Blackest Night and Brightest Day are just two key ways that this company has benefited from the creative leadership of Geoff Johns. Geoff really took Blackest Night and knew it, was able to explain it so that the key concept went not only into the comics, but the toys and so many other areas that really made it what it was. It's our goal that Geoff will be able to bring that same energy to everything that DC is publishing moving ahead.
That was where I was going, is Blackest Night going to be a model for everything going forward, in terms of not only the presentation within the comics, but also the marketing and tying into other media?
Geoff Johns: Yes, to a certain extent, I think Blackest Night was successful as it was because I worked with everyone at DC [editorial], and [merchandise department] DC Direct and sales and marketing and everyone, and everybody rallied together for Blackest Night. The fact that DC Direct had the toys coming out while the series was coming out, everything was in sync. The synergy in-house was terrific, and the idea is to bring that synergy throughout all of DCE, including films, TV, animation, video games and everything beyond. But Blackest Night is a great example of how it can all go right.
Didio: And of how strong this medium can be when you take a really strong direction, a clear voice, and play it across multiple mediums. And that's something we're looking to do... But not solely do. There's so much of what DC is, and DC is built on diversity. DC is built with very unique voices in the different imprints, and that is something that we're going to build on.
Johns: Blackest Night is just an example of how we approach one project, a big event within the DCU. But approaching everything else, it'll be with the same kind of support, but [in terms of tone], it'll be very diverse.
Something that I'm seeing a lot of, especially in [DC Entertainment] Diane Nelson's statement about these appointments, is the idea that DC should be the destination for comic book creators... Is that an idea that is focused around comics only? What if one of your creators comes up with a pitch for a television series, a toy idea or a movie?
Didio: We are truly driven by content. For us, we want to be able to build and strengthen any content that we feel can be exploited across multiple mediums. One of the things that I enjoyed about [Jim Lee's imprint] Wildstorm when I first arrived here was the Cliffhanger line, and how it gave such a voice to so many creators with their own particular stories. We're hoping that we can continue to build individual strong creative voices where they work best, and at the same time, bring those voices to our characters where they work best.
Johns: To your point, though, it all starts in comics. We're not going to go outside and do random movies or toy ideas. It all starts in comics.
Didio: As co-publishers, our main concern is the publishing line.
What should we be expecting to see from DC over the next year or so? Is there an immediate goal you're looking to reach?
Lee: There's nothing concrete in terms of digital media, but translating that into other media, that's Geoff Johns' charge and I think that's definitely going to be a big part of it, too.
Johns: You'll be hearing more and more about, not only inside comics, but outside comics, what we're up to during the year.
Lee: Our ultimate goal is to become the number one publisher. None of this really makes sense if we're just going to keep the status quo. We just announced this this morning, but now we're going to sit down with everyone here at DC and discuss how we're going to achieve that. That's definitely our top priority.