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DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson Discusses the Bi-Coastal Move [Interview]

DC Entertainment stunned the industry today by announcing that the company would undertake a major restructuring — but not the one that everyone had been expecting. Contrary to widespread rumors that said the company would be moving its entire operation to Los Angeles, DC announced that the publishing arm would stay in New York City, while the rest of DC Entertainment – particularly movies, television, and video games — would head to LA, a move that is expected to lead to 20% layoffs according to the LA Times. (Updated: According to a DC spokesman, that statistic was not given by Nelson, and has not been confirmed by DC.)

ComicsAlliance spoke with DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson about how the company made the decision to move, how it will impact your comics, and what the restructuring means for Vertigo, Wildstorm, and DC Direct.

ComicsAlliance: Is this bi-coastal shift something you’ve been thinking about since you came on board at DC Entertainment?

Diane Nelson: Right. I’ve been looking at the organization since I came on board in September of 2009, but the really thoughtful analysis began in earnest when I hired Dan [DiDio]. Jim [Lee], Geoff [Johns] and John Rood in February of this year. We’ve taken the time since February to look carefully at the business and how we want to organize it for the future, and today is the beginning of the process of implementing it.

CA: The big rumor circulating about the restructuring was that the entirety of DC Entertainment, including DC Comics, was going to move west. Was that something that DC Entertainment seriously considered?

DN: We considered every practical, reasonable scenario. We looked at that; we looked at a lot of things. But the rumors were nothing more than that. We arrived at this decision formally about a month ago, and we have been working carefully to make sure that we communicate it to our employees in a way that respects them.CA: The biggest question for fans is always how changes in business are going to affect their comics. What if anything is this restructuring going to mean for the way that comics are made, compared to the way the process currently works?

DN: What we think we’ve done with this plan is acknowledge a lot of things that have been working incredibly well in the past and set them up for more success in the future. So anything that’s been working in how we publish our books or now our digital publishing initiative will continue, we’ll build upon it. And if something wasn’t working as effectively as it might have, hopefully we’ll address that as well. But I’m not sure where the concern would come from… or how it would impact our output or our product.

CA: How much was the decision shaped by the input that you got from people on the comics side like Dan, Jim and Geoff?

DN: It was absolutely shaped by cooperative effort of my executive team and many of the people here at DC along with our partners at Warner Bros. There were no preconceived notions when I came in… We all bring our own perspective to something like this, but it’s gotta be a lot more rigorous in analysis than just what our impulse is.

CA: What do you see as the advantages of keeping the publishing arm in New York and moving the entertainment arm to Los Angeles?

DN
: A few things. The plan was designed to acknowledge the legacy of what’s great about DC – the comics, here in New York – so part of that is the culture of publishing that exists in the city, and part of that is the operational aspect of the company, and part of it is the people who have done their jobs here well for so long, and wanting to respect and protect that. What we’re also acknowledging by having a stronger Los Angeles presence is that our growth and success is going to come from our ability to bring the characters to more people through film and television and video games. So we want to be able to work really closely with our partners at Warner Bros. We had a few key priorities that we thought about, and one of them is maybe ironically DC working more collaboratively and effectively together within itself. So there’s a real onus on Dan, Jim, me, Geoff and John Rood to make sure that we’re present in the DC office and the LA offices, and that the teams in each feel a partnership with their colleagues in the other office. We want editorial to see what we do in other media, and vice versa.

CA: The two DC Comics Co-Publishers, Dan DiDio and Jim Lee, are already based on the two separate coasts. Do you see this shift more clearly delineating their roles in terms of the two arms of DC?

DN: Dan, as he has for the past 9 months, has an emphasis on the book publishing portion of the business, and Jim has had an emphasis on where we go with digital publishing as well as a lot of other areas. So those emphases will continue, but we all feel a personal and collective responsibility to stay connected and work effectively together. Dan and Jim are Co-Publishers, so that means that they are separately and together responsible for our total publishing program. And that include both book [publishing] and digital.

CA: We had a big announcement about Wildstorm today; are there any other plans for restructuring on the publishing side, perhaps with Vertigo?

DN: We’re trying to do it all at once, and as thoughtfully as possible. This is all we intend for the foreseeable future.

CA: After Wildstorm closes, it’s going to be folded into the DC Comics Digital team. Does that move signify anything about the bigger picture of digital at DC Entertainment?

DN: The establishment of our digital publishing and production operations in Los Angeles signals how important digital is to the future of our company, and everything underneath that supports that point of view, but I wouldn’t necessarily think that the Wildstorm office has any direct correlation with that.

CA: I was also curious about DC Direct; how will the restructuring affect that side of the business?

DN: As with all the specifics, I can’t really get into that.

CA: What do you see as the biggest challenges to the formally bi-coastal business setup?

DN: The biggest challenge will be making sure each office feels consistently and deeply connected to the others, but I have no doubt we can do that. The bigger challenge is how do we make sure that we protect and build the physical book business and our retail partners at the same time that we’re growing the business in all these other areas.

CA: The changes are slated to finish by the end of 2011; how soon will they begin?

DN: In the next few weeks, as soon as we get through all of the individual conversations and give all of our employees a chance to consider their own situation, and then we’ll start the transition.

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