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Some thoughts on DC’s new ‘executive management team’ [Updated]

by  in Comic News Comment

Like virtually every other comics blogger and fan, I’ve been mulling over DC Entertainment’s big announcement this morning of an executive management team to replace President and Publisher Paul Levitz.

As you can read at Comic Book Resources, the new team is: Dan DiDio and Jim Lee, co-publishers of DC Comics; Geoff Johns, chief creative officer of DC Entertainment; John Rood, executive vice president-sales, marketing and business development; and Patrick Caldon, executive vice president-finance and administration.

First, congratulations to all five. And now, some thoughts:

• Nobody won the DC Publisher Betting Pool — although, as Sean Collins points out, Variety alum Tom McLean, with his much-derided list of candidates, certainly came closest. Still, in all of the prognostication that’s gone on since September, when Diane Nelson was named as president of a newly formed DC Entertainment, no one predicted that the departing Levitz would be replaced by a five-person “executive management team.”

• Another possible surprise is that Nelson, former president of Warner Premiere and shepherd of the Harry Potter movie franchise, turned in-house for four of those team members. And the only “outsider,” the head of sales, marketing and business development, is a longtime colleague and friend of Nelson’s who worked for Warner Bros. Consumer Products before moving on to the Disney ABC Television Group.

Caldon, a longtime DC employee, stresses that, “Today’s announcement signals change, but change that comes with continuity.” True enough; it’s just not the change most were anticipating — and certainly not the kind of shake-up some were hoping for.

• The odds-on favorite, at least among pundits, was someone — someone — from the book industry or from the Time Warner empire. However, Nelson says she and Jeff Robinov, president of Warner Bros. Picture Group, were focused on “this specific combination of people” as early as mid-November, and that no candidates “other than this team were approached or considered seriously.” That makes the recent rumor about Barbara Marcus all the more perplexing.

• The naming of co-publishers just begs for comparisons to The Office, doesn’t it? (DiDio and Lee even issued a joint statement.) Jokes aside, the decision to shift from a single publisher to a five-person executive team is certainly ripe for a case study in a college management course.

• There’s probably also room for cracks about it taking six people (including Nelson) to fill the shoes of Paul Levitz.

• Tom Spurgeon characterizes the hires as “a very conservative set of choices by Time Warner, almost boring in fact.” Well, they’re definitely safe. But the division of labor tells us a lot about this new DC Entertainment and the desire of Warner Bros. to better exploit its comic-book properties. With Rood and Caldon seemingly handling the traditional “business” duties of a publisher, DiDio, Lee and Johns — longtime creative driving forces within the company, for good or bad — are free to better position existing properties for television, film and video games, and (possibly) spur the creation of new characters. Johns, who already has a hand in film and TV adaptations, revealed that as chief creative officer he’ll “lead the creative charge on bringing [DC’s ‘comic-book world’] to film, toys, television, video games, animation and beyond.”

“This team is designed first and foremost to show that DC Entertainment will be a creatively driven company,” Nelson told The Wall Street Journal.

• That said, should we expect some kind of promotion for Karen Berger, founder and longtime guiding hand of the Vertigo imprint? Sure, a publisher triumvirate may have been a little much, but I’m a bit surprised that Berger didn’t somehow figure into the “executive management team,” given Nelson’s stated interest in Vertigo. Maybe she’ll be promoted from senior vice president-executive editor to … whatever comes after that.

Update: Heidi MacDonald passes along word that Berger apparently will report to DiDio while Gregory Noveck, the senior vice president-creative affairs who ran point for DC in Hollywood, will answer to Johns. MacDonald also reports Richard Bruning, senior vice president-creative director and Berger’s husband, “is getting a diminished role at the company.”

• Who, if anyone, will succeed DiDio as executive editor of the DC Universe imprint?

Sean and others have pondered whether, under Nelson and this new management team, DC finally may move from New York City to Los Angeles — something that’s been rumored for ages. After all, Nelson and three of the five executives are West Coast-based (only DiDio and Caldon are in New York). Given the costs and logistics, it seems far more likely that we’ll see, in effect, “DC East” and “DC West,” with Lee and Johns remaining in California, at the center of the film, TV and video-game worlds.