This headline hit me like a two by four. While the whole restructure of DC is interesting, this news signal the end of an era. I believe Paul Levitz was a key element in how things were done and from what I have read he was a key element in keeping the direct market a strong place. Paul has always struck me as one of the true professionals in the comic industry.
I think Paul leaving is going to have a bigger impact to comics then the Disney acquisition of Marvel. This is for two reasons. Number one I think Paul did a lot of things to protect DC and allow DC to be a little more innovative then Marvel has ever been. Paul stated years ago he was fine with being the #2 publisher. I think he realized it allowed him to do different things then trying to be number one. Plus I believe Paul was a believer in story first, which means a lot in a visual medium. Second I believe this signals that Time/Warner is looking to try and exploit their stable of characters more and want to be more aggressive. The Superman rights are still up in the air and Marvel movies have been coming out left and right while DC has had one or two at most in a year. These type of things would make Warner want to protect those assets and the ownership is rooted in the comic book side of the business.
DC Comics will no longer be hands off in this environment, it will be hands on. I’m guessing a big digital push, more flash, more bottom line oriented and looking at new ways to distribute the material. I’m worried that it may cause the thought process of making Batman look like Christian Bale or Blackest Night worked, let’s do Blackest Night Part II, The Return. If I were Diamond and/or a direct market retailer I would be considering selling right now as the long term horizon is going to be very dicey and I think the world as we know it is changing. The goal is get the product to the market and make as much money as possible. Cutting out the direct market retailer and using distribution they own makes sense. How many other stores do you know that get everything they sell from one supplier? As an ex-auditor that is a recipe for self destruction.
It is not just happenstance that these two companies with their huge catalogue of characters are both being targeted for exploitation. If you look at the amount of money that comic properties have made just in the movies you will see that right now it has everyone’s attention. I do not believe that this means no changes to the publishing arms of these companies. It doesn’t make sense to allow Diamond to be the sole distributor of comics; it does not make sense when the corporate accountants are looking at the bottom line to do some of the things that are being done. Look for radical shifts to occur in DC first and then Marvel later on. The Marvel move will be slower as it is one company buying another, at DC when you are made the head honcho of something you have to show an immediate impact. While nailing down the rights to Superman and movies will be top priorities it will be easier to make a splash with comics faster. As with all things it will have some positives impacts and some negative impacts.
I have been saying for a long time that the direct market model was dead and the thing that saved comics was not a successful model anymore. The major shifts we are seeing with these companies as entertainment products means our world will be rocked. The next two years are going to be very interesting.
As for Paul Levitz and what he symbolized, that era has now passed. It is reminiscent of when Carmine Infantino left and Jenette Khan took over or when Stan Lee stepped down. On a personal level I can’t wait to see him get back into comics and I hope on a Legion of Super Heroes book.
Thanks Mr. Levitz for all that you did and I hope this next phase of your life is an enjoyable one for you.