Some weeks in Comics Disassembled, my look at ten things I liked or didn’t like from the week of comics, start nicely. Some do not. This week starts with both. Let’s get to it.
1. Marie Javins, Yay!
I’ve only met Marie Javins once, but when I did, she was watching Brian Stelfreeze’s table at NYCC as he ran off to do something really quickly. It was a nice random meeting, and I felt like this woman of considerable importance taking time to guard someone’s stuff at a convention was a nice bellwether for the kind of person she was. By all accounts, that is the case, as Javins is one of the few people in comics you’d never hear anyone say something bad about, alongside Sina Grace, Gina Gagliano and a rather short list of others.
Don’t say good things only happen to bad people, then, as Javins was promoted to Editor-in-Chief of DC Comics this week, elevating from a co-EIC role with Michele Wells to this new position. That means Javins, one of the savviest people in comics who has both helped discover a bevy of notable creators and has helped guide varying rad projects, is going to be running the show, at least theoretically. While it seems Daniel Cherry III, the Senior Vice President and General Manager at DC, will be the one who decides what happens where, Javins will be the one who executes everything.
That’s a good thing for DC, and a good thing for comics. Huzzah!
2. The rest of DC, not as much!
If you’re like me, one part of the previous subject that might stand out is, “Wait, what happens to Wells, then?” Incredibly, insanely, it means she’s going from the co-lead to being laid off, as Wells joined at least six others – including the bulk of the remaining direct market leads at DC, namely Stuart Schreck, Adam Phillips, and Fletcher Chu-Fong – in being laid off during this cursed year and cursed time.
Now, the first and most obvious thing to say here is everyone affected – and honestly everyone who wasn’t affected by this, as continuing to work there must be stressful given the perpetual change – earns my utmost sympathy. This is a massive bummer, and it’s easy to see how much these people meant to comics in how they reacted. Before all of this, Adam Phillips was basically every retailer’s favorite person at DC, as he was the one person I knew everyone trusted. Chu-Fong and Schreck were in there too. Retailers were apoplectic about this, speaking publicly on social media about their sadness and frustration about these moves. These were impactful, well-liked individuals.
The other thing I caution everyone to not do is make bold assumptions based off what is transpiring here. If you’ve ever been through layoffs before – I have – you probably know how the game works: the people who make the most money without being at the very top are often the bulk of who departs, because in theory they can be replaced while saving a company lots of money. Corporations often don’t look at people as people. They look at them as financial statements, representing debits and credits more than anything. And with the experience residing in the direct market wing of things, it was a clear target.
Because of that, I would not jump into the fray and full-throatedly say “DC IS LEAVING THE DIRECT MARKET!” because I don’t think we have enough perspective to know that. I’ve said this before, but why would DC create new direct market distributors so they could abandon them? Why would they reup with some of them for 2021 if they’re about to bounce? From what I’ve heard from creators, people are busy at work at DC, or at least were before this. This is obviously troubling, and undoubtedly deeply frustrating for retailers, but do I think DC is verging on departing comic shops? No.
I mean…if you’re AT&T and you’re bleeding money, why would you leave a market that provides any positive earnings, even if it’s limited? Corporate overlords are not famous for shying away from free revenue. The infrastructure is already there. They may lean away from it to a degree – despite Wells’ departure, I still think graphic novels and digital is their focus going forward – but abandoning it immediately? Mark me down as skeptical, although please forget I said this if it does happen.
Again, to all who left and to all that remain, I’m so sorry you’re all having to go through this. It’s a nightmare scenario in a normal year, and this is anything but one of those. It’s a tough time, and I hope everyone who departed lands on their feet sooner rather than later.