The DC Comics Executive Editor Interview Scorecard
You may have heard rumblings that DC is in the market for a new Executive Editor. Dan DiDio’s contract is up this year, and its common knowledge on the street that DC has been looking for a replacement. The last rumor I heard was that DC wasn’t happy with the candidates they identified to replace DiDio and are talking with him about a one year extension, while they do a more exhaustive search to find his replacement.
Why is DiDio on the outs? Far more creators either leaving for Marvel exclusives, starting to work with Marvel, or stepping back to concentrate on Vertigo work than there are creators coming in from Marvel. There’s a general negative buzz that’s been following most of DC’s editorial work (Green Lantern/Sinestro War being an example of an oasis of positive buzz, as opposed to, say, Amazons Attack). Sales have not been great, either. The best selling DC book that ships on a regular basis is currently Justice League, is estimated at a mere 85,785 copies in April, according to Comic Book Resources. It hasn’t crossed the 100K sales market since January. More strangely, Justice League really isn’t a buzz book, in terms of DC. Countdown, now that’s a buzz book. Salvation Run, that was supposed to be a buzz book. Countdown To <insert title>, those are supposed to be the spine of the DCU. Alex Ross collaborating on a Kingdom Come sequel, which should be a buzz book, were it not for Countdown distractions (there’s that negative buzz again), is only good for second place.
Could there be better marketing? Sure. But the mass audience is not as open to sampling DC wares as Marvel, and that’s got to boil down to dissatisfaction in product, which has mostly been laid out as company-wide cross-over material going right through DiDio. So you can see why they’re looking for a new EIC.
Of course, if Archie Goodwin were still alive, he’d be stepping up right now. Alas, Archie’s no longer with us, so the search is on. Not sure who they’re hiring? Well, sounds like DC isn’t sure either, but that’s why you interview people. Much like watching a basketball game after a major trade, sometimes you need a game program to know who it is you’re watching, so here’s a break-down of likely suspects with Pros and Cons for each.
That said, it’s important to step back and remember that DC is a unit of Warner Brothers and for an executive position, there will be some attention paid to the resume. Management experience and editing experience will be looked at. DC has also not been hiring from the industry, of late. Dan DiDio came from animation. Of the last two marketing SVPs, Stephanie Fierman came from the publishing world and Steve Rotterdam comes from entertainment marketing. With film, television, the Internet and licensing being increasingly important revenue streams, they may well be looking for a person with a wider perspective on things. A source indicated to me DC has been exploring some options of people not currently working in the traditional comics industry. My instinct is they’ll want someone with some previous involvement, but that might not be the case. Then again, they may decide to have an insider as editor and emphasize worldliness more with the business staff. Time will tell, and a decision hasn’t been made, but as the interviews continue, here are some people to watch:
Internal to DC (generic con: will promoting somebody in the offices cause too much internal jealousy?)
Mike Carlin, editor
Pro’s: Been there, done that. Made a lot of people a lot of money with the Death of Superman.
Con’s: Been there, done that. Will you get fresh ideas from a former executive editor? Would mean admitting firing him was a mistake. Outside media experience is limited.
Bob Schreck, editor
Pro’s: Great editorial resume, working with top talent at several publishers. All-Star Batman sells a lot of books, All-Star Superman gets a lot of praise.
Con’s: Seems to be largely ignored at DC; All-Star books don’t ship very regularly; All-Star Batman widely ridiculed. Outside media experience is limited.
Geoff Johns, writer JSA, Green Lantern, all sorts of stuff
Pro’s: One of the main architects of DCU overarching storylines, so you could say he has partially been doing the job; Producer on Blade: The Series, as well as screenwriter; learned the film business under Richard Donner
Con’s: Not formally an editor before; can you really afford to take a fellow who’s arguably your best writer off his books to be an editor and risk sales drops; might be a pay cut for him
Jimmy Palmiotti, writer: Jonah Hex, Freedom Fighters, inker on all sorts of things
Pro’s: Knows writing, art, and advertising; Co-ran Event Comics and Marvel Knights; Even writes video games; one of the best rolodexes in the business; DC could emulate Marvel and have the other Event Guy running them (you know how publishers like to copy each other in comics)
Con’s: Likely wouldn’t want the job; likely a pay cut for him
Paul Levitz, President
Not a candidate, but if anything goes wrong, Levitz is more than capable of stepping in and hold down the fort.
External to DC (Generic con: will they understand the current culture?)
Jim Shooter, former EIC, Marvel Comics, Founder of Valiant Comics; recently freelancing on Legion of Super Heroes, a title he defined many years ago
Pro’s: Got solid results at Marvel and Valiant; makes sure deadlines are met; discovers talent, including current Marvel EIC Joe Quesada; was an important figure at DC, historically; smarter than most people in the industry
Con’s: A lot of animosity still exists over his tenure at Marvel; editorial style often described as “my way or the highway;” potential for some talent to shy away; Rumor has it he didn’t like the overall direction for Legion and quit
Joe Quesada, EIC Marvel
Pro’s: Want to cause chaos with the competition? Hire their boss. Very successful run at Marvel; good rolodex
Con’s: Allegedly not popular in the DC offices, after various teasing comments over the years; Recent track record with getting “event” books out on time is spotty; Three words: “One More Day”
Marv Wolfman, freelance writer on Nightwing; various animation jobs; former Marvel EIC; key architect of DC’s 80s revival
Pro’s: Wrote much of the continuity for the DCU; extensive work in animation; plenty of editorial experience, include time as show-runner at Marvel
Con’s: Too retro? Possible baggage from decades of freelancing
Gerry Conway, former EIC Marvel, former Executive Producer, Law & Order: Criminal Intent
Pro’s: Extensive experience writing for DC; short tenure as EIC for Marvel; extensive screenwriting career; executive producer on L&O: Criminal Intent doubly significant as the show was part of a line
Con’s: Likely a serious pay cut; been out of the game a while
Axel Alonso, Editor -Marvel
Pro’s: Often viewed as Marvel’s top editor; spent some time at Vertigo
Con’s: With a cushy gig and heir-apparent status to Quesada, probably wouldn’t want to leave
Stuart Moore, editor -Virgin SciFi
Pro’s: editor at DC/Vertigo, launching the Helix line, which yielded Transmetropolitan; editor with the wildly successful Marvel Knights line; background in book publishing
Con’s: limited outside media exposure, currently writing for Marvel, as well
Len Wein, created Swamp Thing, for EIC – Marvel
Pro’s: Plenty of editor experience for both DC and Marvel, including stint as EIC for Marvel; plenty of animation experience
Con’s: hasn’t been as active in comics lately
Steve Saffel, Executive Editor -DelRey; Former Editor, Marvel
Pro’s: A mix of comic editorial and mainstream science fiction editorial, including experience on lines like Star Wars, Conan and Tarzan
Con’s: Out of mainstream comics for a while.
That’s my short list. Right now, the door is wide open, and don’t be surprised if some Hollywood script editor names start popping up shortly, it fits the existing trends.