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DC Executive Roundtable: Dan DiDio, Jim Lee, Geoff Johns, and John Rood

The comics blogosphere ignited yesterday morning with the news that DC Comics had not only announced its new publisher, but that the role would actually be filled by two people: current Executive Editor Dan DiDio, and high-profile comics artist Jim Lee, who also worked as an Editorial Director with DC’s Wildstorm imprint.

That wasn’t the only announcement, however; Geoff Johns, the superstar writer whose work on books like “Green Lantern” has steered the larger direction of the DC Universe over the last several years, was named the Chief Creative Officer of DC, and John Rood was named Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Business Development.

So what do all these changes really mean for the company — and the comics? How will this affect DC imprints like Vertigo and Wildstorm? Will the new roles for Jim Lee and Geoff Johns have any impact on DC Universe Online? We talked to DiDio, Lee, Johns, and Rood to find out.

The new executive team at DC has come out of the gates energized and ambitious, adopting the motto “no fear” and setting their sights on taking the #1 position in the industry from rival publisher Marvel Comics. DiDio and Lee are now at the helm as Co-Publishers, a joint position that was spearheaded by DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson as an opportunity to combine the skill sets of both men “and what we brought to the table both as individuals and as a group,” said DiDio. “I think it sets up a really good [system] of checks and balances,” said Lee.

The day-to-day responsibilities of the DC office will primarily fall to DiDio, as Lee — like Johns — will be commuting to DC’s New York City offices from the West Coast. While the jobs of the two Co-publishers will overlap at times, Lee says that “some of us will have more authority or governance over one imprint or other. I have a lot of interest in digital comics and that digital space, and I’m going to be working closely with John Rood in marketing that.”

The mention of digital comics is an intriguing one, particularly after the recent announcement of the iPad, which some are touting as a potentially pivotal new platform for comics. DC’s only foray into the digital realm right now is its Zuda webcomics, and while the company had previously shown little interest in digitizing print titles, this reluctance seems to have fallen away with the changing of the guard.

In his post on The Source, Rood also spoke about DC’s interest in expanding into digital comics, promising that “you’ll soon see us at DC Entertainment making big news in Digital, in the short- and long-term, from mobile strategy to a suite of publishing products,” even calling it a “sacred obligation” of the company to release their content “across all platforms that matter to you.”Rood also confirmed that as he takes on the role of Executive Vice President of Sales, Bob Wayne will remain in continue in the position as VP of Sales, and that Wayne would be “a crucial part of what we’re doing.” But the changes are going to leave at least one position empty; DiDio’s advancement to the position of Co-Publisher also means that the company is down an Executive Editor, a role that will need to be filled later down the line.

DiDio put a great deal of emphasis on the importance of the Vertigo imprint as the company moves forward, calling Vertigo “absolutely essential” and praising the strength of the Vertigo brand under Executive Editor Karen Berger. “Part of the way that we’re going to grow the business in different markets is through our imprints like Wildstorm and Vertigo,” said DiDio.

Johns, who recently scripted an episode of the “Smallville” TV show and has worked as a consultant on DC-related films, says his new role at DC will expand upon his work both inside and outside of comics. “I’m going to be… shepherding a lot of characters and stories from all our comics into all kinds of different media, whether it be video games, film, toys, everything.”

While both Johns and Lee have played significant roles in the development of the upcoming “DC Universe Online” MMORPG, their new positions aren’t going to impact the game, as their work is largely completed. “I’ve written most of my stuff for the game. We’ve already been working on this for some time. Most of it’s been finished for a while now,” said Johns.

And despite an intense workload that includes not only his new responsibilities but also writing “Green Lantern,” “Blackest Night,” “The Flash,” and the upcoming “Brightest Day” and “Batman: Earth One,” Johns says that he doesn’t plan to slow down when it comes to writing comics. “I’m just going to be doing exactly what I’ve been doing the last few years. I’ve been working both inside and outside of comics, and I’m going to keep doing that because I love them and I love being a part of all this. So, yes, I’ll continue to be a workaholic. Maybe I’ll start drinking coffee, though.”

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Want to read the full transcript for yourself? We’ve posted it below:

ComicsAlliance
: How did the decision come about to create two co-publisher positions, rather than a single publisher?

Dan Didio: The decision was made and promoted by Diane Nelson. When she was assembling the whole concept, she really looked at our complementary skill sets, and what we brought to the table as as individuals and as a group. And she figured out that this is a way to really lead a charge in regards to building DC Entertainment publishing, not just including the traditional business role of a publisher, but more along the lines of trying to make this a creative engine for the company.

CA: How will the co-publisher positions break down for the two of you in terms of your responsibilities or focuses?

DD: Right now we’re actually sharing the same chair! [laughs] I think that’s a start.

Jim Lee: I think there’s going to be some overlap, obviously, in that we’re going to be overseeing all the imprints that make up DC Comics. Some of us will have more authority or governance over one imprint or other. I have a lot of interest in digital comics and that digital space, and I’m going to be working closely with John Rood in marketing that. On a day-to-day level here at DC, it’ll be more Dan because he’s here physically every day, and I’ll be commuting in from the west coast. Really, Diane chose us because we have very complementary skill sets, and we have a lot of overlap in our editorial tastes. We’re going to use that to strengthen the existing line and add some really cool books to the existing imprints.

DD: Geoff Johns will also be a key creative officer involved in a number of directions that will be taking place, not only in the DC Universe but also in all the other imprints as well. And what I like to say, and I can’t say this enough times, is that between Jim and Geoff we have two of the strongest creators in the industry today at the top of DC Entertainment and D
C publishing leading the charge creatively, and hopefully leading us back to a leadership position in the industry.

CA: What kind of effect do you think the movement of top creators into top executive positions will have, and how do you see yourself fitting into that dynamic, Dan?

DD: It’s interesting for me because in an unofficial capacity both Geoff and Jim have already been involved in those areas. They’ve been instrumental in leading a charge in terms of visual style for the DC MMO, and Geoff has his fingerprints on virtually every character in the DC Universe right now. His infectious enthusiasm and creativity have allowed us to elevate everything that we work on. Between the two of them, I really see them moving our characters and products forward.

JL: I think it sets up a really good [system] of checks and balances. If you had to reduce each us to one entity, you might say “artist,” “writer” or “editor,” but it’s honestly more complex than that. The fact that we have worked so long and well together gives us a lot of confidence about how we will working together in the coming years.

Geoff Johns: We’re just going to be improving on the successes that we’ve had in the past several years.

CA: Geoff, you had a fair amount of creative influence in the DC Universe as already; how will this new role be different for you?

GJ: It’s an expansion of what I’ve been doing as far as working with Dan on the DC Universe for the last three years, and pushing it to new levels, especially this year with “Blackest Night.” I’m going to be building off both what I’ve been doing inside and outside of comics by shepherding a lot of characters and stories from all our comics into all kinds of different media, whether it be video games, film, toys, everything. But I see my role in this as working alongside people I couldn’t respect more under the leadership of Diane. I see it kind of like the Justice League.

CA: In your letter this morning, Dan and Jim, you mentioned plans to “reinvent DC Comics.” What is the reinvention going to entail?

JL: Well, like we said there, first we’re going to have some dialogue about what it means, and that’s something that we’re going to do internally. The results of that discussion will define exactly what the reinvention will mean. But there definitely will be reinvention in the DC Universe and the DC imprints.

CA: What kind of an impact are these charges going to have on the Vertigo and Wildstorm imprints?

DD: The Vertigo brand is very strong under Karen Berger’s leadership, and what we want to do now is hone the message… Part of the way that we’re going to grow the business in different markets is through our imprints like Wildstorm and Vertigo. Vertigo is absolutely essential.

John Rood: We’re so excited to embrace the imprint and the great characters and franchises.

CA: John, you’re going to be moving into the role of Executive Vice President-Sales; what’s that going to mean for Bob Wayne as Vice President-Sales?

JR: Bob Wayne is going to be a crucial part of what we’re doing.

CA: Geoff and Jim, you’ve both done a lot of work on the upcoming DC Universe Online game; how are your new roles going to impact that?

JL: I actually think that it makes things easier now, because we’ve been working on the game together.

CA: So this transition isn’t going to have a negative impact on the game?

GJ: No, not at all. I’ve written most of my stuff for the game. We’ve already been working on this for some time. Most of it’s been finished for a while now.

CA: Because of the emphasis within DC Entertainment on growing the business particularly in the realm of TV and film, what’s that going to mean for DC Comics editorially? Will you be tailoring or creating more content with film and TV in mind?

JL: The key thing is really synergy, and that goes both ways — from comics into film and vice versa. What I’ve been able to do so far and something I really believe in the fact that these characters and stories can be a hit with a huge audience, whether we’re talking about something with superheroes or something from our other imprints like Vertigo. It’s not going to be one leads the other; it’s going to be both.

CA: Geoff, I know that you’re a workaholic, and stepping up to an executive role is going to mean a heavier workload. Will you have to reduce your work on the writing side of things? How do you see yourself balancing your executive role your and creative role?

JR: I’m just going to be doing exactly what I’ve been doing the last few years. I’ve been working both inside and outside of comics, and I’m going to keep doing that because I love them and I love being a part of all this. So, yes, I’ll continue to be a workaholic. Maybe I’ll start drinking coffee, though.

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