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October 30, 2013


A Few Initial Notes About DC's Announcement They're Moving The Rest Of Their Publishing To Burbank

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You can find plenty of primary coverage of DC's announcement they'll be moving the rest of their publishing operations to Burbank through our clearinghouse for links here. Here are some rambling-style thoughts as I continue to play catch on what's out there.

* my primary thought this morning is that there are a lot of people at DC Comics' New York office that have a difficult decision to make about whether or not to take job opportunities in California. My heart goes out to them. It's not easy to make a decision to move cross-country, even when you love what you do. While comics probably has more people than a lot of industries that are at their jobs because of their jobs and don't really care where that job is, there are plenty of folks in those offices that are there because DC is in New York, even more with spouses and family whose companies aren't moving their jobs across the country, and even more that are probably fond of where they live just the way we all get fond of where we live. I wish them all the luck in the world in the decisions and outcomes that lie ahead, and hope that their present employer ably supports them.

* judging from the first round of news reports, it's the historical aspect of it that seems to present itself most clearly and powerfully. By the time DC moves, they will have been in New York in a significant capacity for almost 80 years. We have a very tough time in comics marking just how impressive some of these business runs are, I think because for most of us what we initially love about comics has been around since before we were born and is presented in a way that indicates it is never leaving. But an 80 year run for a business in Manhattan is an amazing thing. So it's part of New York history that goes west, too, not just comics history.

* there is probably something to be said for this being a New York business story more generally, in terms of the high cost of renting office space in Manhattan and the relatively high salary demands put upon those that choose to take a comics job in that area. If you point out that Time Warner is still going to have a significant presence in the city and that LA is hardly Davenport, Iowa in terms of cost-of-living, you kind of push back against those notions. Still, if Time Warner sees an advantage in moving a portion of its businesses out of the city because of something about the city, that's something to pursue, I'd say, if I were covering New York news.

* there was some weird pushback on Twitter, I hear, from industry members upset that Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool ran word from a supposed higher-up at DC that the news was coming in a gossip item that preceded Diane Nelson confirming through CBR in the story that officially broke it. A couple of interesting things here, although this is really inside baseball nerdy journo internet-era stuff: I don't consider running a gossip item breaking a story, ever. I'm surprised that DC reacted so poorly to a gossip item about something that was massively rumored that they felt they had to comment, but then again, I don't understand DC's strange relationship with Rich Johnston and his Bleeding Cool site more generally. I also don't think Rich did anything wrong running the item of gossip as gossip -- except perhaps I think he had enough to make an actual story out of it. But seriously, while it's too bad if employees find out on Rich Johnston's site or through CBR that their company is about to do something they haven't told them about yet, I think that's on the company to 1) tell their employees stuff, 2) have enough internal discipline to not have people leak stuff to gossip columnists. Barring eminent danger to someone, or detecting something in the leaker's agenda that would make my site a tool of someone else rather than a facilitator of the best and timeliest information I have, I would have run that same piece Jonah did, and I would have run a stronger version of what Rich had.

* I don't buy the through-line that this automatically means that DC is going to downplay or even eliminate comics publishing. Moving the offices doesn't set this in motion: the vast changes in paper publishing and the way that other media serve DC's properties is what would have set that in motion if it comes to pass, with a secondary contributing factor of the collective practices of DC Comics over years and years. But you could definitely see this as a potential precursor to changes in how they approach publishing. For instance, while they say they are offering jobs in the new location to everyone, that doesn't mean that DC will necessarily staff the same: they may be counting on some reduction in workforce through the natural attrition one might expect through a move like this. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I think there are implications 10-15 years down the line as people join DC in the natural course of things that are more LA-oriented than NYC-oriented: I think the culture of a city has something to say about the immediate talent pool, even for companies that recruit nationwide. So DC does change here. Whether they also change in a scary or alarming way for the future of DM publishing as we know that, I think that's a different track of events.

* It's probably worth pointing out that in a practical sense there's no reason to expect changes book to book: I believe some comics are already edited out of the west coast offices, and I don't think you can tell which ones. Most creators have a virtual relationship to the company, and this won't change their relationships at all.

* this is a general boon to Los Angeles as a comics town. If nothing else, the comics shops in Burbank, North Hollywood and other neighborhoods in that general area are going to see additional customers. You should never discount that -- I've had multiple retailers in the area talk to me about what a boon the newer customers were when DC moved a big chunk out west earlier.

* I do think it's sort of humorous -- darkly humorous, mind you, and not humorous at all I'd imagine for those in the mix of it -- that DC has to negotiate a big story thrust upon them by one of their own highers-up in a week where it was going to be all Sandman all the time. Those stories run on completely different tracks, of course, and there will be no lack of press for the Gaiman/Williams III book because of this story.

* the comics industry story this reminds me of most is King Features shutting down the production part of its business and moving that part of what it did to Reed Brennan back in... must have been between 1997 to 1999. I think those moves have since allowed that company to negotiate the horrors of the newspaper industry's recent freefall and sort-of recovery in a way they would have been less prepared to had they not changed the way their company functioned. So it might be interesting to see if there are advantages to DC Comics in terms of how they operate in the future, and not just in the linear way of cutting costs and people moving from one point to the next.

* I'm old enough and sentimental enough that I do feel the historical thing, again, the idea of DC and Marvel being in the same city and getting to visit DC's offices and everything. I'm glad I got to see a couple different versions of their New York offices. Although if you're fond of a "Big Two" rivalry, I would think that barring massive changes in their approach in publishing DC being in a different city potentially heightens those contrasts.

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posted 8:20 am PST | Permalink
 

 
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