DC Comics ‘Streamlines’ Its Operations With Significant Layoffs and Departure From Comic Books

Matt Rourke

 

Massive corporate shake-ups at the parent conglomerate mean the book publisher is left with little support.

Between the focus on the new streaming landscape and the corporate takeover of its parent company, DC Comics is finding itself in a position of lessened import, and as a result, some big changes in its structure are underway. Following the acquisition by AT&T of Warner Media, DC’s parent company, there has also been the release of the HBO Max streaming service. This is a Warner venture meant to place the company in the same league as Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, and the other majors.

As a result, DC is looked at with little regard in this new environment. The Warner Media CEO declared there would the move to  ‘’streamline decision-making’’ at DC, and this meant that more than just staff cuts were to be expected. More than say, pencilers and illustrators being let go, there were major positions eliminated in the DC hierarchy. This wholesale adjustment is said to be a reaction. CEO Jason Kilar stated, ‘’These changes are largely about me feeling very strongly that where a media company should go in terms of the future is to orient themselves as a consumer-oriented company.”

This is resulting in large part from the merger. Last October, the AT&T CEO declared that there are no sacred cows in reference to its various holdings, and it was declared they were very willing to monetize what they described as ‘’non-strategic assets’’. You can say this is where DC Comics found itself listed, given the company delivers only 0.02% of the conglomerate’s annual revenue. 

Also seeing significant truncation of its framework is DC Universe, the independent streaming platform where original programming has been produced. It is easy to see that the new HBO Max has created overlap, and already some of the properties from that service have been moved. ‘’Doom Patrol’’ and other titles run concurrently, or exclusively now on HBO Max, and ‘’Stargirl’’ has become the property of the CW Network for broadcast television. 

The layoffs have included executives, the Editor-in-Chief, Bob Harris, and roughly one-third of its editorial staff. Possibly the most eye-opening statements came from Kilar. 

These changes represent prioritizing three different things. Number one, a consumer orientation far more than a wholesale orientation. Number two, going direct-to-consumer. And number three, going global.”

What this means is almost chilling for DC fans. The restructuring shows that the digital lineup of content will continue, as will an emphasis on graphic novels, as opposed to the regular books. This was tipped off to one comic book journalist, Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool, who notes that the company is prioritizing digital and bookstore releases over those for the comic book shops. This represents a major shift in the direction of DC Comics.

While there remains the possibility of the new parent selling off DC as an insignificant revenue generator it seems unlikely, at least right now, to take place. The DC stable of characters is a significant source for both Warner Brothers studios and Warner television, as well as being a needed source of content for the new streaming service in order to position itself to be competitive with Disney+, where so much Marvel content is housed.

But regardless of this need for the properties in the DC vaults, it is appearing as if the comic book fans are going to be the ones who are left wanting by the time the digital dust settles.