Now that some of the dust has settled on yesterday’s big Warner Bros. announcement — press releases have been issued, top executives have been interviewed — we can at least begin to get a picture of the new DC Entertainment.
Here’s what we can piece together so far:
• DC Entertainment is essentially a new company under the Warner Bros. Entertainment umbrella designed to more effectively and aggressively make use of — or “exploit,” if you will — the DC Comics characters in television, movies and other media. That’s long been viewed as a weak point in the DC-Warner Bros. relationship.
• This new company will be headed by Diane Nelson, who’s been president of Warner Premiere since the direct-to-DVD division of Warner Home Video was established in August 2006. A graduate of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications, Nelson was director of national promotions for Walt Disney Records before joining Warner Bros. in 1996. She’s perhaps best known for supervising the management of the lucrative Harry Potter movie franchise since 1999.
In addition to her duties as president of DC Entertainment, Nelson will continue to oversee Warner Premiere and the studio’s interests in Harry Potter. She’ll report to Jeff Robinov, president of Warner Bros. Picture Group. (As president and publisher of DC Comics, Paul Levitz reported to Alan Horn, president and COO of Warner Bros. Entertainment.)
• As part of the corporate restructuring, Levitz has resigned as president and publisher of DC Comics, a position he’s held since 2002. (He served in editorial and executive positions, ranging from assistant editor to executive vice president, since 1973.) Levitz, whose stints on The Legion of Super-Heroes in the 1970s and ’80s are regarded as high points for the property, has been named as the new writer of Adventure Comics, replacing Geoff Johns. He’ll also act as a consultant to DC Entertainment, initially helping Nelson to better understand the publishing business and to “get a team in place.”
“The longer term thing is to be available as both a creative consultant and a consultant on those things in the business that have mattered most to me — how we treat the talent and what the relationships are like there,” Levitz tells Comic Book Resources. “That, I think, will vary project to project.”
• DC Comics, Nelson says, “will remain intact” as a publishing company within DC Entertainment.
“DC has been a publishing company, but I think it has the potential to do more,” Nelson tells The Los Angeles Times. “I come into this not as a comic-book fan per se but someone who knows Warner Bros. and how to bring value to the DC properties.”
• Although Nelson will be president of DC Entertainment, a successor for Levitz will be sought to serve as publisher of DC Comics.
“I don’t presume to have that expertise and I will very much want to find someone to whom Paul can pass the mantle, as it were,” she tells CBR. “My role is much more, as my background indicates, about how do we take DC and treat it carefully and productively across our company. That’s what I’m looking forward to doing. I have a whole lot of experts at DC Comics who will help me understand the creative and fan communities and so forth.”
• That’s right, Nelson doesn’t have a background in comics — something she acknowledges. And, yes, she’s a woman (not a “girl,” as Sharon Waxman suggests).
“I prefer to be known as an executive rather than a girl,” Nelson tells Waxman. “It’s not gone without comment in the blogosphere. But I have to tell you, I’ve been really encouraged by the commentary in comic book world. … But I’m the first one to admit, I’m not by my nature a comic fan. It’s not what I’m bringing to the party. We have so many experts who will remain the cornerstone of DC Entertainment. What I bring to the party is a skill at moving properties and brands through Time Warner as a company.”
• That said, under Nelson’s supervision Warner Premiere has produced the DC Universe Original Animated Movies, including Superman: Doomsday and Justice League: The New Frontier, and motion comics such as Watchmen and Batman: Mad Love.
• Contrary to message-board speculation, the restructuring isn’t a direct response to last week’s big news that Disney will purchase Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. (International corporations don’t — and generally can’t — move that quickly.) But it did change the timing of the Warner Bros. announcement.
According to Nelson and Barry Meyer, chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment, discussions had been under way for nearly a year, with details set to be unveiled in January 2010 — the beginning of DC Comics’ 75th-anniversary celebration. With so many questions about the Disney deal and the possibility of greater competition, Meyer tells The New York Times, “it would have been disingenuous for us to suggest that we had not been thinking about it.”
• Also, the restructuring isn’t a result of the sales and reception of the Batman: Arkham Asylum video game, which was released all of two weeks ago. Seriously?
• Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment appear to be holding off until the first of the year to announce new comics-related additions to their television, film and video-game slates.
• So, um, who has more characters, DC Entertainment or Marvel Entertainment? “When we saw Marvel deal I posed the question,” Nelson tells Waxman. “We’re not sure how they got to that number (5,000). The answer was — if you factor in the alternate universes, there are an infinite number of characters.”
When pressed, Nelson admits DC’s character library is larger: “We have reason to believe it’s even bigger than Marvel.”