Journalista for Sept. 22, 2010: Forest for the trees

Posted by on September 22nd, 2010 at 3:41 AM



“So Vertigo wins ‘last imprint standing’ over at DC, right? Unless we’re counting super-heroes?”


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From the story “Cat Suit,” originally printed in Tranny, ©2008 Steve Lafler.


Recently posted to our homepage:

  • Rob Clough presents the concluding installment of his interview with indy cartoonist Steve Lafler.

  • R. Fiore explains that the rumors of DC Entertainment transferring their publishing division out to California were always ridiculous.

  • International comics: Fredrik Stromberg examines the Swedish Comics Association’s list of the best comics of 2009.

  • Kent Worcester reviews Aaron Renier’s The Unsinkable Walker Bean.

  • Over at The Hooded Utilitarian, Richard Cook reviews the comics DC put out in September 1980, the month he was born.

And in the news…


Above the Fold


Is DC Comics planning an employee massacre?

DC Comics has announced that its administration, multimedia and digital divisions will be moving to California, and that the WildStorm imprint will be shuttered. The question of how WildStorm’s creator-owned titles will be dealt with has yet to be answered. DC’s publishing division will remain in New York City. (Also: something something Zuda something.)

But as we’ll see, the biggest news separated the journalists from the sycophants: The Los Angeles TimesBen Fritz reported that “about 20% of DC’s roughly 250 staffers will lose their jobs as part of the shift, while some others will move to the West Coast from the East. In addition, certain new positions are being added in Burbank.” That’s somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty people, folks — a full one-fifth of DC Comics’ staff about to get fired.

Or are they? In a footnote to his own commentary on the subject, Graeme McMillan states, “A DC spokesman has since contacted the site to challenge the estimate of 20% staff cuts, noting that Diane Nelson has not given that figure in her interview with the LA Times or at any other time.” I smell weasel words. At no point does Ben Fritz’s report state that his source for the 20% figure was Diane Nelson, and the DC spokesman cited seems to have avoided stating that the 20% figure is actually wrong — merely that Nelson didn’t give the figure in question — or that big layoffs aren’t coming down the pike, regardless of the actual figure. As of this writing, Fritz’s report has yet to be amended or retracted.

A report from the Hollywood Reporter likewise prominently alludes to layoffs “on both coasts,” though writer Borys Kit declines to cite specific numbers. Publishers Weekly‘s Calvin Reid and the Washington Post‘s Michael Cavna likewise acknowledged the likelihood of firings.

While Fritz and Co. managed to find the lede in this story, the industry press didn’t fare nearly so well. A few did at least try. In his interview with DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson, Jonah Weiland was apparently the only trade journalist to ask about how these moves would affect staffing. In response, Nelson waffled:

Unfortunately or fortunately I can’t go through that with you because what we’re beginning today is a pretty unique process of talking with all of our employees personally, one-on-one, over the course of the next few days to work with them on each of their individual positions. So there’s a spectrum of things that are happening for various employees — there are promotions, there are offers of relocation and unfortunately there are some layoffs to come. Until that’s all sorted and people have had time to consider their individual opportunities and we confirm all that, which will take us a few weeks, we aren’t going to be able to discuss specifics.

In the same vein, iFanboy‘s Conor Kilpatrick caught both the L.A. Times report and DC Comics’ pseudo-denial, and dutifully covered both.

By contrast, ICv2, Bleeding Cool, Comics Alliance and Newsarama all seemed to miss the possibility that significant job losses might result from the announced changes. Comics Alliance‘s Laura Hudson alluded to the subject in the introduction to her own interview with Nelson, but did not ask about possible firings during the actual conversation — likewise with Kiel Phegley‘s interview with Jim Lee and Dan Didio — and Vaneta Rogers‘ interview with Nelson let a blink-and-you-miss-it mention of layoffs pass without comment. While comics bloggers Heidi MacDonald, Tom Spurgeon and Douglas Wolk discussed reports of the alleged employee massacre to come, the supposed news sites were by and large more concerned with how the moves would affect the company’s product.

Regardless of whether or not Ben Fritz’s 20% figure turns out to be correct, the notion that these changes might result in mass layoffs is an obvious question for journalists to pursue, and for industry watchers to contemplate — and yet the question seems never to have occured to many of those whose obstensible job it is to do such things. If the purpose of DC Entertainment’s PR offensive was to emphasize the company spin and distract the comics press from the downside of yesterday’s announcement, then they succeeded. Good job, funnybook reporters!

Related: Rich Johnston looks at DC Comics’ relationship with its WildStorm imprint over the years, while Warren Ellis has further thoughts on Jim Lee’s now-doomed imprint:

I do wonder where new creator-owned work will go, at DC, especially given Vertigo’s obvious contraction. (Although that imprint’s rumoured new focus on more hook-y, commercially-rugged material may make it look more like Wildstorm than itself, in a few years.) Six months ago, I was more worried about Vertigo than Wildstorm. Shows what I know.

Further commentary on DC Comics from Christopher Butcher, who wonders if there’s anyone in management with two brain cells to rub together — okay, I’m sort of putting words in Butcher’s mouth, but only just.


Life in interesting times

  • “The Belgian newspaper Le Soir reported on Monday that four suspects were arrested in the three-year-old case of body parts found near notes linked to the Death Note manga.”

    Offensive? Me? ©2010 Gregorius Nekschot.

  • Prosecutors in the Netherlands have dropped their case against cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot. The investigation began in 2005, centering around a number of cartoons posted to his website that were critical of Islamic culture.

  • Speaking of which: The Washington Examiner notes that press organizations are avoiding commentary on the assassination fatwah issued against cartoonist Molly Norris over her “Everybody Draw Muhammed Day” cartoon.

  • The murder trial of retailer and convention organizer Michael George has been delayed while the litigants wait on a ruling from the Michigan Supreme Court.

  • Sean Kleefeld vs. Tom Spurgeon vs. Sean Kleefeld on the effect of funnybook price increases.

  • The Atlantic vs. Comics Alliance on the state of the graphic novel.


Today’s Format WarsTM report

  • Brigid Alverson speaks with CEO Micah Baldwin.

  • Matt Blind reminds us that formats and business models have never been guaranteed in the publishing world.


Joe McCulloch: New this week

A look at the best-sounding books scheduled to hit the comics shops today.



¡Journalista! continues after this commercial message.
Graphic NYC




  • Christopher Irving on James Sturm

    Meet the Center for Cartoon Studies co-founder and author of Market Day.






  • C. Ché Salazar on Chew: International Flavor

    ©2010 John Layman and Rob Guillory.

    “[…] Chew’s view of food comes across as strangely uptight. Its message is to eat because it allows you to keep living, and that any pleasure can lead to your own moral destruction.”






  • Kristy Valenti: Otto Soglow’s killer curves

    “Merely by altering the degree of a curve, Soglow provides shorthand for his readers: the more puffed the chest, the more full of hot air a character is (the ambassador’s valet’s chest is so inflated with self-importance that his backbone is diminished and his arms curl back into his body, creating a lopsided donut-hole). The ambassador himself is a Buddhist temple bell of a semicircle; he’s like that because he lets it all hang out (setting up dignitary-typist dance parties, dancing barefoot in the birdbath) whenever possible.”




Comics and Art


  • Stephen Kroninger: The cartoons of Paul Conrad

    A generous collection of the late political artist’s work.




Comics Culture


  • Richard Bruton: Leeds Alternative Comic Fair round-up

    Reports from the recent show in Britain.


  • Your Not-Comics Link of the Day:

    Ben Yagoda looks back at the English obscenity trial over D.H. Lawrence’s book Lady Chatterley’s Lover in 1960.

    (Link via Jessa Crispin.)


Events Calendar




  • Sept. 22 (London, England): Join Judith Vanistendael for a launch party celebrating her new book Dance by the Light of the Moon at Bar Music Hall on Curtain Road, beginning at 6:30PM. Details here.


This Week:


  • Sept. 24 (Halifax, Nova Scotia): Dave Sim will be signing books and meeting readers at Strange Adventures on Sackville Street, beginning at 10PM. Details here.
  • Sept. 25 (Seattle, WA): The Jet City Comic Show will be held at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, from 10AM-6PM. Details here.
  • Sept. 25 (Boston, MA): The Massechusetts Independent Comics Expo takes place at the Art Institute of Boston on Beacon Street, from 10AM-6PM. Details here.
  • Sept. 25 (Manhattan Beach, CA): Mouse Guard creator David Petersen makes an appearance at The Comic Bug on Manhattan Beach Boulevard, from 3-5PM. Details here.
  • Sept. 25 (Toronto, Ontario): Blake Bell will discuss Golden Age cartoonist Bill Everett with his daughter, Wendy Everett, as part of a book launch at the Innis College Town Hall on Sussex Avenue, from 4:30-6PM. Details here.
  • Sept. 25 (Toronto, Ontario): Lewis Trondheim will give a drawing presentation and discuss his work onstage at the Innis College Town Hall on Sussex Avenue, beginning at 7PM. Details here.


Want to see your comics-related event listed here? Email a link to and let me know. Please include an online link to which I can send people for more information. No sales-only events, please — it’s nice that you’ve marked things down at your store or website, but I won’t be listing it here. (Note: Under no circumstances will I link to a Facebook page. Seriously, what idiot “advertises” their event solely on a website that requires registration to see the advertisement?)


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4 Responses to “Journalista for Sept. 22, 2010: Forest for the trees”

  1. […] is DC’s rejiggering, and what it will mean for all involved. In his Journalista! link-blog, The Comics Journal’s Dirk Deppey takes the comics press to task for not paying attention to one of the biggest aspects of the story—that up to 20% of DC’s […]

  2. Kiel Phegley says:

    Hey Dirk,

    I’m really not trying to start a fight or anything, and once again, I’ll probably look back on this and decide it would’ve been better for me to say nothing at all, but as you called me out by name, I thought I’d offer up a few points you may not have considered:

    First and foremost, as one of the journalists attempting to cover this very disjointed story as it was developing yesterday, I can say with certainty that the LA Times piece with the 20% figure (wherever it came from) wasn’t published when almost everyone else was getting on the phone with Nelson, so the potential for a direct follow up with her on that idea wasn’t possible. In fact, I think that for the most part the comics press’ interviews with Nelson went live minutes after the LA Times piece.

    That said, I won’t argue that the question of layoffs wasn’t covered as highly as some of the other issues at play here. For CBR’s part, Jonah asked and got the answer he was given, make of it what you will. It may surprise you to find that as we cover a story on the site, everyone confers and keeps in touch on what’s out there and what’s been asked from the main page guys to the blogging teams. So yeah, I knew what Jonah and Diane had talked about (and by extension what the top of the DC food chain was saying) when I got on the phone with Didio and Lee. Regardless, I was told both by the co-publisher and DC PR during the call that questions as to specific staffing moves of any kind had no answers at present as they hadn’t spoken with all the staff affected yet. That’s right there in the interview we ran.

    And look, I’m not saying that my interviewing is always 100% perfect or that I’m the god of comics journalism or anything. You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who hates my writing more than me. But the idea that me personally or CBR as a whole went into this coverage without the jobs of the people at DC chief in our minds simply isn’t true. And I can guarantee that as actual hard facts come to light about what happens to whom at DC (whether by official channels or not), our staff will be there to report on the facts.

    I would also say with some certainty that for the majority of the press who were able to speak with key DC people on the record yesterday, the main focus was to get as much information as possible out to our collective readership in the first few hours of a story hitting. While the (admittedly annoying) rush to be first on these kinds of things can make for a more scattershot result in coverage at the outset, I still think it’s better to work with the information and resources available than not at all.

    I mean, without all the interviews done yesterday what would you even have to blog about today except for two press releases?

  3. R. Fiore says:

    Let’s get our semantics right here. I didn’t say that the DC to LA rumor was ridiculous, I said it made no sense. That’s not to say that a corporation might do something that makes no sense.

  4. […] DC Comics made several big announcements this week: they’re shuttering the Wildstorm and Zuda imprints, moving part of their operations to the West Coast, and reducing their workforce by as much as 20%. [Journalista] […]