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September 27, 2010

Bob Harras Named DC Editor In Chief

DC has named comics industry veteran Bob Harras to the position of Editor In Chief, VP DC Comics it was announced today. Harras has been the Group Editor for Collected Editions at the company. PR here.

While the position of Editor In Chief at DC was last held by Jenette Kahn, it's probably safe to say that Harras will find his own role within the company more than that he will take on a Kahn-like role at the mainstream comics publisher. The PR has his initial job description as "Harras will oversee editorial for DC Comics, DC Universe, MAD Magazine and Vertigo and will be based in New York City, reporting directly to the Co-Publishers." There's no reason they couldn't name other people to other positions as they work their way through the decision-making process and what to do with individual employees, but at least one hire of this size and scope was expected.

Harras was Editor-In-Chief at Marvel Comics from 1995 to 2000, when the company was wracked with problems and liabilities owing to a financial crunch caused by the purchase of affiliate companies at price points beyond anything they could safely maintain, straight-out lifting money away from the company, and a distribution crisis caused in great part by Marvel's decision in 1994 to exclusively distribute through regional business Heroes World. Since leaving Marvel he worked briefly as a freelance editor at WildStorm and then at his current position at DC. That current position would make him familiar with every aspect of the line and hands-on experience with the people working in each group, so it seems like that would be a potentially effective stepping-stone to a supervisory position. Harras was also involved with the "Who's Who"-type efforts DC was doing, which would make him up to date in terms of the IP the company has available to it.

If I remember my Marvel editors correctly, and I may not, Harras ascended to the Editor-In-Chief position after the unsuccessful, Balkanized group-editor phase. His big claim to fame within Marvel at the time was as the group editor for the X-Men titles during their "sell 18 billion copies" run as clear market leaders within that industry, with an undercurrent of industry reputation that 1) he was not afraid to move away from that title's first generation of creators in favor of a newer, younger group, and 2) a bit later than that, he managed to keep the sales momentum of those titles going even with the Image talent drain. Harras is also a writer, having done a long stint on The Avengers title back before assuming the Marvel EiC role. If I remember right, his Marvel books as Editor-In-Chief favored interesting, younger writers on some of the secondary titles, which is a traditional way mainstream comics companies build relationships with talent.

The writer Warren Ellis speaks well of him here. There's an old, longish interview with Harras here, which makes me wonder if he was the first person to hold writer's conferences for specific groups of mainstream comic books. Probably not.
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