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Tuesday, April 29, 2014 

What kind of caped crusade is Warner Brothers on for DC?

The Wall Street Journal wrote about WB's continuing attempts to compete with Marvel's movies, now resulting in an attempt to build their own DC movieverse. But after reading this, I'm not sure just what kind of audience they want, or vision:
More than a decade ago, a young Warner Bros. executive fretted that the studio's DC Comics unit might lose a generation of young fans if it didn't catch up to rival Marvel in the business of making superhero movies.

"We're not going to let that happen," declared Kevin Tsujihara, then-executive vice president of business development, in 2003.
But it did. They lost a whole generation of fans, both older and younger, back in the 1990s thanks to all the publicity stunts DC was pulling, like the Death of Superman, Emerald Twilight and Zero Hour, and it made no difference if Kyle Rayner was a generation removed from Hal Jordan; judging from how low sales fell by 2000, even younger readers clearly got tired of Green Lantern. Poor writing, disinterest in bookstore sales and crossovers were a prime factor in their gradual loss of audience.

And why do movies count, but not the comics? Why should the audience be worried about movies when there's many once well regarded titles and characters out there being abandoned to people with no idea how to market any of them?
Hollywood's advantage in an age when anyone can make a YouTube video is its ability to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on movies or TV shows featuring well-known characters with established fan bases. In success, those often spur sales of toys and other products. With thousands of superheroes along with more offbeat fare from its Vertigo line of fantasy, sci-fi and crime comic books, 90-year-old DC Comics provides Warner rich fodder.

Warner Bros. has struggled, though, to integrate DC into its operations for many years. Over the past decade, the head of DC has reported to four different executives. Although comic-book sales were falling while the value of superheroes in movies and other media skyrocketed, the unit was run by a New York-based publisher.
This is confusing. They're worried about fitting DC into their movie operations better, but whatever point they're trying to make here, they don't seem interested in telling anyone how sad it is that they've failed to appeal to wider audiences who read books, nor that bad writing precipitated the decline.
In 2009, a long-promised revamp began with the appointment of Diane Nelson as president of DC Entertainment, based at the studio's Burbank, Calif., headquarters. A marketing executive with no background in comic books, Ms. Nelson made her name managing the studio's biggest franchise of the prior decade: Harry Potter. [...]

Although she oversees the small but profitable comics business, where digital publishing has become a priority, Ms. Nelson's focus is coordinating a studio-wide DC strategy.
What's so profitable about a business whose receipts pale horribly next to films? Plenty of lesser titles even got cancelled thanks to their failure to provide good writing or promotion. And if she's got no prior experience in marketing comics, then it's clear she's not qualified. Certainly not if she doesn't care enough about the comics to recognize why the current trend of poor taste running through them is only ruining it all.
DC's chief content officer, Geoff Johns, is tasked with keeping track of it all. A fan-favorite comic-book writer who is the T-shirt wearing geek to Ms. Nelson's polished corporate player, Mr. Johns consults on scripts, visual designs and even titles across the company.

Colleagues say his approach is less nitpicky than his predecessors', with one recalling the time when DC staffers in New York asked an animation executive to change a script because the villain Man-Bat wouldn't be physically strong enough to carry the Penguin (the Batman foe) on his back.
Yeah, his colleagues say, but what does the readership say? Judging by how low every title he's written of late sells, it's clear not many are impressed, nor have they remained long enough to care. For the millionth time, it's insulting and sad how a mainstream paper describes Johns as a "fan-favorite", when he's already proven anything but that. With people like him around injecting their repellent visions into the comics, it should be pretty obvious why DC is failing, and if he's allowed to supervise the movies, as he did with Green Lantern, it shouldn't be a surprise why more movies could end up backfiring too.

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Thanks for posting, although at this point, I don't know how it is possible to get the corporate agendas out of DC. They are destroying the whole company in terms of its creative legacy, although they think they are laying the foundation for a new era. It's frustrating and painful to watch for all long-term fans and creators who really get it.

Is there such a thing as a Marvel or DC fan anymore? Nobody cares about the comics. Comic-wise, the're little more than dead meat for Disney and Warner to fill their coffers with. And what happens when the comic movie bubble bursts? Will they keep releasing stuff forever, beating it into the ground like a certain other Disney property?

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  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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