Bloodbath at WarnerMedia: Inside the DC Universe layoffs
A casualty of COVID-19 appears to be the comic book industry. Even though major comic companies like Marvel & DC are under parent companies like Disney & Time Warner, that may not be enough to save them from layoffs.
A project of DC’s that took a big hit was their streaming service, DC Universe. Founded in 2018, this new project from DC is now facing massive layoffs. A third of its staff may be let go. Is this part of an upcoming economic crisis? Could it also be a business-as-usual merger? Let’s find out.
DC Universe origins
DC Universe began in 2018 as a streaming service for anything DC comics-related. It hosted the old Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve, Batman the Animated Series, and obscure DC footage you couldn’t find anywhere else. It even tried its hand at original content, like an adult animation show about Harley Quinn and Doom Patrol.
DC Universe digital publishing platform
DC Universe wasn’t like other streaming services. It didn’t limit itself to streaming movies & shows. Members could also stream DC comics through the service. They could peruse classic editions of Batman & Superman and check out new comics. Using DC Universe this way may be an innovative idea for the comics industry to go paperless.
Who is getting laid off?
Layoffs were announced in 2020, including for the majority of DC Universe’s streaming. Senior staff like editor-in-chief Bob Harris, executive editor Mark Doyle, senior VP of publishing strategy Hank Kanalz, and senior story editor Brian Cunningham are also on the chopping block. A third of the editorial staff faces the dreaded pink slip.
DC Universe wasn’t the only DC property heading for cuts. DC Direct, the in-house merchandising manufacturer responsible for action figures, coffee cups, and T-shirts, is rumored to be closing after twenty-two years.
The alleged closure began when Time Warner’s manufacturer, Warner Bros. Consumer Products, took over a majority of merchandise manufacturing for DC. From a corporate standpoint, this takeover seems to be Time Warner’s way of trimming the fat and reducing redundancy.
Pulling out of Comic-Con
Many fans already pointed out that DC didn’t sign up for a Comic-Con at Home panel. Due to COVID-19, the popular San Diego Comic-Con was canceled this year. Panelists pulled together and decided to do virtual panels for fans instead. Missing from the lineup though was any from DC.
This is odd because DC is releasing properties later this year & next year that need promoting. Wonder Woman 1984, James Gunn’s Suicide Squad, and Matt Reeves’ The Batman are slated to be released. They’d normally be promoted at San Diego Comic-Con, virtual or not.
Instead of joining Marvel & other geekdom promotions via Virtual Comic-Con, DC will host their own event on August 22. Here, DC fans can get an exclusive look at upcoming projects including the much-anticipated Black Atom movie starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Time Warner’s streaming service
People who’ve been in the know aren’t as surprised by the layoffs as the average comic book fan. Rumor is that Dc Universe is going to be merged with HBO Max, owned by Time Warner. WarnerMedia streaming service is also acquiring an extensive DC selection, including the new shows from the DC Universe.
A merger is also indicated by the appearance and disappearance of DC Comic movies on HBO Max. While some DC properties were slated to leave the streaming service July 1, their stay has been extended through the end of the year. However, it’s still unclear if those movies will remain on HBO Max in 2021.