There’s a lot of sorrow in Batman’s Gotham City. But it may be worse in the real-life city of Burbank, Calif., home of DC Comics.
On Aug. 10, WarnerMedia announced layoffs of enormous proportions for most of its various arms and companies. Among those hardest hit were DC Comics; DC Universe, the streaming service; and DC Direct, the in-house manufacturer of DC-related merchandise and collectibles.
How bad is it?
According to the Hollywood Reporter, roughly a third of DC Comics editorial was let go, including Bob Harras, the editor-in-chief. At DC Universe, most of the streamer’s employees have been pink-slipped. At DC Direct ... well, it’s gone. Completely. After 22 years.
While the size of the bloodbath was unexpected, that it was coming was not. There had been signs. When AT&T bought WarnerMedia in 2018, speculation began immediately as to which areas the communications giant would downsize.
Recently, DC did do something dramatic and unexpected: In June it ended its contract with Diamond Comic Distributors Inc. and began distributing through two comic shops with large mail-order businesses. Inexplicable at the time, it seems likely now that this was the first step on the road to self-distribution.
With a third of its staff gone, DC’s output and market share will inevitably contract. It’s as if AT&T just doesn’t care what happens to its comic book arm.
Also, when WarnerMedia launched HBO Max, the immediate assumption was that somehow or other the company’s other streaming service, DC Universe, would be killed or merged. After all, HBO Max had more general appeal than the fan-oriented DC Universe, with its huge library of DC-related comics, movies, TV shows and cartoons. The service also aired original TV shows, both live and animated, as well as a news show titled “DC Daily.”
But “DC Daily” was recently canceled. And according to comicbook.com. “DC Universe quietly ended its subscription package to users” in July.
Finally, there’s DC Direct, home of DC-related statues, action figures, T-shirts, collectibles, etc. Its demise isn’t unexpected, according to the Hollywood Reporter, which said the move “was rumored when Warner Bros. Consumer Products began taking a more active role in DC merchandising.”
But DC isn’t the only publisher to suffer sudden contractions. In 1995, Marvel Comics contracted sharply when a distribution scheme went awry and the company was facing bankruptcy.
But of all disasters that have befallen a comics company, this one may have the worst timing. Because on Aug. 22, the publisher is running a 24-hour online convention celebrating all things DC. Called “FanDome,” it’s touted on DC’s website as a “first-of-its-kind, immersive global fan experience in nine languages, featuring exclusive reveals with our biggest stars across the DC Multiverse.”
So if you care about DC Comics movies, TV shows, comic books and collectibles, log on to DCFanDome.com on Aug. 22. And let’s hope it’s still a party, and not a funeral.