Could DC Comics be getting ready to license out its superhero comic books instead of publishing them in-house, as they’ve done for over 80 years?
There does seem to be mounting evidence that DC Comics is in for some major upheaval under Warner Bros. Discovery. Company CEO David Zaslav has no problem cutting anything and everything that he doesn’t think is going to make money. DC is not immune to these cuts. In fact, once of the highest profile cuts Zaslav has made was the cancellation of the $90 million Batgirl movie for HBO Max.
DC Comics Being Told to Get Character Bibles Together?
The latest rumor comes from comic book YouTuber Wes at Thinking Critical who claims that DC Comics has been told to get character bibles together. A character bible is a document that outlines the ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ of company-owned character IP, and is often used as a guideline for licensees.
“Warner Bros Discovery have directed the personnel at DC Comics to start creating character bibles for all the characters. Why would you need character bibles now?” Wes asked. “Is it because David Zaslav wants a more continuity among the characters, like a more baseline version of the characters, or is it something else?”
This wouldn’t be concerning on its own, but there is supporting evidence that DC Comics might be thinking about outsourcing its comic book production. Earlier in the month Wes also reported that he’d heard DC Comics was being told to turn over all sales and accounting data to Warner Bros. Discovery management, which would indicate that they’re taking a good, hard look at DC Comics’ bottom line.
DC Comics Expenses Already Being Cut?
Supporting evidence that DC Comics’ expenses are already being cut includes the publisher not having a booth at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, the cancellation of the DC Fandome event, and DC Comics editorial being ousted from their posh offices in Burbank to a new hot desk arrangement. Even before the merger with Discovery, editorial staff was being slashed at DC Comics by previous owner AT&T.
Corporations put money into divisions they believe will pay out dividends, and it appears that the comic book publishing arm of DC has been getting downgraded, again and again. Like Milton from Office Space, if feels like they’re about to move DC Comics into the basement at Warner Bros Discovery.
Knowing this, it’s not a stretch to imagine that David Zaslav would see the financial sense in simply outsourcing comic book production to a third party, while retaining a skeleton crew of brand managers to make sure the licensees don’t deviate from the character bibles.
Is DC Comics desperate for new revenue?
According to Thinking Critical, Warner Bros. Discovery was demanding that DC turned over the historical sales data of the company from the past few decades to analyze trends. Earlier this week, it was suddenly announced that DC Comics has added another distributor — Universal Distribution — in an effort to increase their distribution efforts. Could Zaslav have lit a fire under DC Comics executives to increase sales… or else?
The McFarlane Factor?
Comic book legend, Image Comics co-founder and toy company entrepreneur Todd McFarlane might be a potential candidate to take on the DC Comics license, should Warner Bros. Discovery decide it’s no longer worth producing comic books in-house.
McFarlane is no stranger to DC Comics, having worked on DC series including Batman in the past. In fact, he’s getting ready to launch another Batman/Spawn crossover book, and is hoping it’ll be the comic book event of the century.
McFarlane’s toy company is currently producing a line of DC Comics action figures called “Page Punchers,” which include a pack-in comic book that Todd McFarlane Productions is overseeing. Could this be a test to see how McFarlane and company would handle DC characters if granted the license?
According to rumors by other YouTubers (including former DC Comics artist Ethan Van Sciver) a group of wealthy comic book fans had approached DC Comics about the license while it was still owned by AT&T. The word that group included Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, whose Skybound Entertainment is in talks to acquire the Transformers and G.I. Joe licenses from Hasbro.
Wes from Thinking Critical claims that the asking price for the DC Comics license under AT&T was astronomical, but that Warner Bros. Discovery could be much more reasonable as they’re open to offloading projects and IP that aren’t central to their business. In fact, it’s being said they’re actively shopping around previously greenlit projects to their competitors, like The Batman animated series, to recoup some expenses.
Movies based on DC Comics characters are extremely important to David Zaslav. The actual comic books are not.
It’s no stretch at all to imagine Warner Bros Discovery making the decision to view DC Comics and the DC Superheroes as movie and television IP first, and to license out comic book production to a company like Dark Horse, Image, or IDW like so many other movie studios and video game companies have done for decades.
It’ll be the end of an era, for sure. But others may welcome the change, as some of the publisher’s more recent hard push into politics has alienated some longtime fans.
Batman and Superman comic books will undoubtedly exist for decades to comic. The question simply is, who will be making them?