Q&A: DC Comics’ Jim Lee, Dan DiDio and Geoff Johns

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This morning, it was announced that DC Entertainment’s new president Diane Nelson had named Dan DiDio and Jim Lee as DC Comics’ co-publishers, and Geoff Johns as Chief Creative Officer. TECHLAND spoke to the three new appointees about what comes next for DC.

So Jim and Geoff: are you going to be moving to New York?

JIM LEE: I actually have a place in New York–I’ve been living here for a long time. Obviously I have a place in San Diego, but we’re commuting a lot.

GEOFF JOHNS: Last year I spent four or five months in New York; I travel here quite a bit.

Obviously, there have been rumors for a while that DC will be moving at least some of its operations out to the West Coast; can you talk about that at all?

DAN DIDIO: One of the things we want to do right now, rather than speaking about structurally what might be changing, is focus on the new creative team we’ve got in place. We’re really excited about the fact that we’ve been brought in by Diane, and charged with forging a relationship between DC Comics and DC Entertainment, and we’d like to keep it focused on that.

Tell me a little more about how DC’s liaison with the film division and other parts of Warners is going to work.

GEOFF JOHNS: That’s actually a big part of what I’m going to do. I’ve already worked with Dan for years in the DCU, and my job now is to kind of work with everyone, Dan and Jim and all the imprints, and keep writing comics, keep working in the DCU, and also take that stuff and shepherd it out into the world outside the comic book business. I’ve been spending the last few months working on “Green Lantern” [the movie], and for me that’s the first big sign of what the new DCE is: the collaboration with the filmmakers and the studio and everybody at DC on our characters and stories.

How much editorial oversight for the print comics does your new job involve, Geoff?

GEOFF JOHNS: It’s like I’ve been doing now–I’ve got a lot of creative input. I love collaboration, and it’s obvious from the way I like to work with everybody in comics in the DCU. I’m going to continue doing what I do, but in an official capacity.

Jim, how is this going to affect the future of the WildStorm imprint?

JIM LEE: I think it’s going to be exciting for WildStorm. Obviously, it’s one of my passions–we talked to them over the phone as we were announcing this, and the response I heard was laughter–that they were happy, and they were excited, and they know that this means incredible things in the future.

DAN DIDIO: I’m going to go one step further on that. Being one of the New York-based guys, we’ve always had 3000 miles between these two parts of the company. And Jim and I are going to work extraordinarily hard to bring those two aspects together and work much more closely. There’s incredibly talented people at WildStorm, and we want to make sure we tap all their talent and abilities, not just to serve WildStorm but the entire company.

Dan and Jim, can you talk a little about what the division of labor is going to be like? Are there aspects of the publisher role that one of you is more inclined toward than the other?

JIM LEE: I would say yes, but overall we have a lot of overlap in responsibilities. Obviously, we’re charged with maintaining the integrity of all the different imprints that make us DC Comics, and because we’ve known each other for so long, we’ve got a really good sense of our individual takes. That said, we also have other aspects of publishing creator-driven or creator-owned projects that we want to champion, and we’re still going to have that, to maintain that diversity across the line. I’ll have my hand more in the digital space–obviously digital publishing is going to be a big part of our future, and I’ll be working with John Rood, who’s in charge of marketing, sales and business development. That’s going to be a big project for us to work on going forward.

Is there anything you can say about how these changes are shaping the digital publishing initiatives, and if that connects to the DCU Online project that Jim and Geoff have been working on?

JIM LEE: Those are fairly independent of each other–the game itself is a massively multiplayer online game. The digital comics side is really about trying to capture the comic book experience in digital form, off paper. The problem is there’s no established standard yet, in terms of length, size, is there animation, is there music… we’re still really very much in the exploration phase, but obviously that whole business is coming to a critical tipping point. We’re going to see some exciting things come out of all this research and thought.

Dan, I’m curious about your thoughts about where DC’s publishing is moving with print comics, and how that relates to other media.

DAN DIDIO: All of us believe in the strength and viability of the print marketplace, still. We have a very loyal fan base, and a very strong fan base, because of the collectibility of the product, so we will continue to produce the strongest possible books out there that we can. Also, in conjunction, we see growth, and we’ve been seeing continued growth, in the bookstore market, with the original graphic novels and collected editions that we put out for DC, for Vertigo and for WildStorm. And we’ll continue to push that marketplace as well. One of the things that we’ve done with the Earth-One line and the DCU is we’re aware that different products exist better in different marketplaces. Vertigo has done extraordinarily well with creating original graphic novels to be sold in the bookstore market, and we’re going to take that idea and move it into the DCU with the Earth-One books and, again, we will continue to push print just as aggressively as we always have.

Geoff, how do your new responsibilities relate to the workload you’ve been taking on? You’ve been writing four or five books a month for a while; are you going to be able to continue doing your own writing work in addition to this other work you’re doing?

GEOFF JOHNS: You’ve got to look at my career as a whole: I’ve been working in TV and film outside of the comics for quite some time, writing and developing things on “Robot Chicken” and “Titan Maximum” as well as things like “Smallville” and other projects outside of comic books. What I’m doing now is focusing all my creative energies toward DCE. I’ll still be writing a lot of comic books–it’s something I love doing, it’s a passion, it’s part of my job, which is great. I’ve already been involved in editorial for quite some time. Quite honestly, I don’t know how it will affect me; I’m certainly not going to be doing six or seven books a month like a lot of guys, but I’m still going to be writing “Green Lantern,” “Flash,” “Brightest Day,” “Batman: Earth-One,” all my projects I’ve got lined up are going full steam ahead, and there’s even some new ones on the horizon.

What kind of guidance do you think DC needs right now in terms of relating to the broader Warners structure–the film division and the other divisions? What sorts of things are you going to work on making run more smoothly?

GEOFF JOHNS: The big message is DC is working together with Warner Bros. It’s all about collaboration. That’s kind of the word–a closer working environment across the board.

DAN DIDIO: I can’t tell you how excited I am–you know, I’ve worked with Jim and Geoff on so many projects over the years, and the final project always even exceeds my expectations. And I feel that, with them bringing their creative energy across the entire publishing line, it just makes DC that much more valuable and that much more exciting.