No, AT&T is NOT going to shut down DC Comics

Dan DiDio, long-time co-publisher of DC Comics was abruptly fired from his post on Thursday morning, February 21. A polarizing figure within the industry, DiDio was reportedly fired for “fostering a poor work environment” according to sources speaking to BleedingCool, which broke the story. His firing follows a series of rapid departures by long-time editors Alex Antone (Deathstroke, Teen Titans, Aquaman, Harley Quinn), Rob Levin (Batman Beyond, Injustice, Scooby-Doo, Titans, Batman, Justice League), Molly Mahan (Clean Room, Doom Patrol, The Dreaming, House Of Whispers, Lucifer, Detective Comics) and Pat McCallum (DC Universe Executive Editor), among others. While some of the departures have been attributed to power struggles and maneuvering in the wake of AT&T completing its purchase of DC’s parent company Warner Bros., DiDio’s management style – described as micro-managing (or being “highly involved in projects” depending on who is asked) – has been cited as the cause in other instances.

DiDio and Jim Lee were co-publishers for DC Comics. The duo had been promoted to that role in February of 2010 by DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson. With DiDio’s ouster, Lee assumes sole oversight. Joining DC Comics in 2002 as vice president-editorial, DiDio also wrote issues 94-100 of Superboy before being promoted to vice president-executive editor in October 2004. During his tenure, he oversaw a number of reboots to the DC universe including the Flashpoint and Rebirth eras as well as being heavily involved in the New 52. That universe-changing series, spread across numerous titles ended in 2015 and was considered to be somewhat of a failure. In 2016, DiDio admitted that mistakes were made. His book had been one of the first to be cancelled, in fact. The Rebirth line was an attempt to fix the inconsistencies that plagued the prior series.

Additionally, DiDio further outraged many fans by killing off, or otherwise significantly changing a number of major and minor characters including Wally West (Flash) and Dick Grayson (Robin) as well as sidelining them and others in the subsequent storylines.

His latest reboot, originally named 5G, but renamed Generation Five to avoid confusion with the wireless cellular technology, would see Bruce Wayne, Diana Prince and Clark Kent age out of their roles as Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman, respectively, much in the way Superman and Batman were depicted in The Dark Knight graphic novel. One of the rumored plot points is for a black character rumored to take on the mantle of the Dark Knight. The characters are to revert to their “normal” ageless state by the end of the series in 2026. The fate of Generation Five is uncertain with DiDio’s departure.

While it was clear that DiDio was attempting to become the Stan Lee-style face of the DC Universe with numerous appearances at fan conventions and his weekly DC Nation column appearing in most of the major superhero titles, his tenure was plagued by a number of internal issues. Two prominent scandals occurred under his watch. Eddie Berganza, the line editor for Superman had been credibly accused of sexual harrassment by multiple women. And, Eric Van Sciver, who worked with Geoff Johns on the Green Lantern Rebirth title and later as writer and artist for Hal Jordan And The Green Lantern Corps had been very active in the Comicsgate scandal, eventually having to apologize for – and subsequently being fired for – a number of offensive posts on his social media.

It had been thought that DiDio’s slowness to act upon these issues may have been a contributing factor to the “fostering a hostile work environment” cited by DC when terminating his employment. However, it has since come out that the breaking point was an ongoing dispute with Scott Snyder, the main writer for Fifth Generation. Ultimately, Warner Bros executives sided with Snyder about the future direction of the arc.

No, DC Comics is NOT “going away”

In fact, in the wake of DiDio’s firing, it was Van Sciver’s social media posts that allege that “AT&T will ‘close’ DC Comics if Fifth Generation fails, saying that, “comic books are dead and they are going to close up the publishing house soon.” This story was picked up by one of the less reliable fan news sites without additional verification.

It is important to remember that, while AT&T is not an entertainment company, it has a strong, vested interest in maintaining the integrity of its licensed intellectual property as it brings HBO Max into the Streaming Wars. There is an understandable concern that its iconic “Holy Trinity” of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman being aged into their 80s and 90s for a six-year story arc and not matching the branding, and more importantly the merchandise. The importance of DC to ongoing television (CW) and movie series cannot be underestimated. While DC has abandoned its attempt at a Marvel-style integrated series of movie, it has still had major blockbusters in the standalone movies, especially The Joker. What has happened is that DC has cut back the number of titles published each month. And, while only a handful of its titles appear in the top 15, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern are consistent top performers.

Rumors of AT&T selling off DC Comics have been circulating ever since the purchase was announced over a year ago. However, that runs the risk of damaging the lucrative brand for the cinematic productions. At present, no other outlet has picked up the “DC Comics will be shut down” and it likewise has not been repeated by anyone beyond Van Sciver. Instead one of the more persistent rumors fed by insiders for the past half year is that AT&T would license the publication of the comics to its larger rival Marvel while retaining the rights for TV and film. This has been fueled by a recent reference to Superman in an issue of Thor, with a reciprocal Marvel easter egg teased in Doomsday Clock. And, there was precedence in that DC briefly published Marvel comics several decades ago. Regardless of the veracity of that rumor, it is clear that DC’s offices in Burbank, California are currently in a state of turmoil.

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