Jim Lee Says DC Is Still Committed to the Business of Publishing Comics

Jim Lee Says DC Is Still Committed to the Business of Publishing Comics
Jim Lee in 2019. (Photo: Dave Kotinsky, Getty Images)

After massive layoffs that wracked DC Comics, it was, honestly, somewhat of an open question.

Talking to Hollywood Reporter, Jim Lee, DC’s Chief Creative Officer and Publisher, emphasised that DC Comics will continue operations even after heavy rounds of layoffs saw the firm lay off 20 per cent of its staff, touching on the value of the comics industry to Warner Bros. and AT&T (the big corporate owner behind Warner Bros. and DC both now) at large and laying out some more clarity about what operations would look like going forward.

“One hundred per cent, it is still the cornerstone of everything that we do,” Lee said, about publishing comic books. “The need for storytelling, updating the mythology, is vital to what we do. The organisation leans on us to share and establish the meaningful elements of the content that they need to use and incorporate for all their adaptations.”

This latter point — that the broader media organisation used the publishing of DC as grist for the mill of more profitable adaptations, and that this in and of itself justified the existence of DC Comics — was one Lee returned to later, saying, “Comics serve a lot of different purposes and one of them is it’s a great way to incubate ideas and creating the next great franchises. We want to continue that. Why would you want to stop that? Why would you want to stop creating great content that could be used across the greater enterprise?”

Massive Warner Layoffs Gut DC Comics, DC Universe

The merger between AT&T and Time Warner into another monolithic media megacorporation has seen a massive wave of layoffs targeted primarily at Warner Bros. this week. One area hit hardest overnight was DC Entertainment, with reports of huge swathes of staff at both DC Comics and DC Universe laid off.

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Lee, however, did clarify that the reduction in staff would absolutely mean a reduction in the volume of work published by DC.

“That said, we will be reducing the size of the slate,” he said. “But it’s about looking at everything and looking at the bottom 20 per cent, 25 per cent of the line that wasn’t breaking even or was losing money. It’s about more punch for the pound, so to speak, and increasing the margins of the books that we are doing. It was about aligning the books to the franchise brand content we’ve developed and making sure that every book we put out, we put out for a reason.”

For anyone concerned about the degree to which mainstream comics nowadays are used as a pipeline to build franchises, this might indeed be fairly worrisome, as it sounds like that tendency is going to be heightened at DC going forward.

Later in the interview, Lee also said that the transition away from using Diamond as a distributor has been one that’s been valuable for the company.

“Not only has [the transition] exceeded our initial expectations, but the size and strength of the business is that same level or higher than pre-COVID,” Lee said. DC now uses two distributors, UCS and Lunar, in place of Diamond, a step toward breaking down the monopoly Diamond has long held over the print distribution side of the comics industry.

He also confirmed, outside of DC publishing, that DC Universe original content, as many have expected, would be migrating to HBO Max. So there’s that.