Dan DiDio Reflects on Past Projects

by Thomas ODonnell
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While preparing to move the DC offices from the East Coast to the West Coast, Dan DiDio spends some time reflecting on past projects.

Below you will read his insights to how these stories came about in the DC Universe.


For the last few weeks I’ve been developing an interesting routine. During the course of my normal work day (if such a thing exists) I’ve been tasked to clean out my office in preparation for the company’s upcoming move and I find myself breaking up items into four distinct piles; things I throw away, things I give away, things I take to California and things I take home. It’s a constant struggle to determine where each item falls, and each decision feels spontaneous but also highly calculated. All I know is the pile of things coming home seems to keep growing, I only wish it wasn’t the heaviest stuff. And of course, with each pile of memorabilia comes another pile of memories, and a quiet Sunday morning (at least before the cacophony of inane debate over Superbowl commercials starts) seems no better time to continue my reminisces….

We were just returning from a writer’s summit and about to lay out the building blocks to Infinite Crisis with the staff, but first, a correction. In my sifting through my files I found the pitch document for “Crisis in Hypertime”(one of several long dead plans unearthed). As the record reveals, the project was first pitched as Crisis II or Crisis in Infinite Futures, the main villain was Gog, and dramatic changes were projected for both Nightwing and the marriage of Superman (sense a theme?). OMAC and Spectre were also mentioned, but as you already know how things turn out, those threats make it into the next event pitch, Infinite Crisis. The pitch, titled To Infinite Crisis and Beyond, laid out the long term plan for the DC Universe and it covered the proposed direction and tone of the universe, the five storylines leading up to Infinite Crisis, the Infinite Crisis mini series, the One Year Later jumps, and the All Star Comics line. The opening two paragraphs of the document sell it best;

“Welcome to what we in Editorial are calling, “The Grand Plan.” Our goal here is to build on the sales and creative achievements of 2004, further redefine our comic line by bringing into focus a distinct vision and direction for the DCU while we re-establish ourselves as the number one comic publisher in 2005.
Throughout 2004 we have concentrated on working through the challenges of improving our books in the current market. After strengthening our creative teams on our series we will now begin to build a more cohesive universe for our characters. It is our belief that it is the sense of community and continuity is the missing piece of the puzzle for achieving sales dominance.”

Now, since this is 10 years later, we all know how this turns out. The five storylines become four mini series (Amazons Attack being pushed out due to concerns of it being anti U.S. Army at the start of the Iraq War), the One Year Later jumps are met with mixed success, the All Star line has its success as well but never reaches its full potential and while we never achieve total sales dominance, 2006 was one of DC’s best years on record.

So, this plan, unlike the previous, was accepted completely, and any changes that occurred, were more part of evolution and the creative process. Editorial field marshalls were assigned to each of the storylines to maintain pacing and continuity across the line and, all in all, everyone was excited and ready to go. We sold the story inside the company and all departments were lining up their support. Now it was time to sell it to the outside world.

2005 part 2

There’s nothing like being an east coast early riser out on the west coast. Not much on television and it’s probably best not to start calling or texting (either coast) until a more acceptable hour. So, with the choices on how to pass the time limited, I thought it might be a nice time to continue my trip down memory lane.

When I first arrived at DC, the company had a somewhat dysfunctional relationship with Wizard Magazine. Folks seemed a bit distressed over their handling and prioritization of comic news and felt their price guide fueled a detrimental speculator market, but, there was no denying their impact as they became one of the most copied comic magazines on the market. I decided to put some effort into building a better relationship with the magazine, and pointed to a preview Wizard ran of Hawkman as the reason for it. The Hawkman launch in 2002 was a surprising success. While it was great new take on the character from Geoff Johns, James Robinson and Rags Morales, there were low sales expectations given Hawkman’s past performances. So when the book over achieved some of the credit was applied to Wizard and the preview they ran a month before the series premiere. Their coverage seemed to make a difference. So, in the months that followed, we moved from détente to cooperation to the point where we actually provided all scripts to Identity Crisis prior to publication to key Wizard Staff members, and even had Wizard staff sit in key editorial discussions during the ramp up to 52 (more on that later). External promotions were improving, now it was time to turn to our inner voice.

With the Editorial machine pumped and primed, gearing up for Crisis, the challenge was to get comicdom as excited as we were. The problem was, there was no one leading the charge. As a long time comic fan, I always liked when I could put a face to the voice of a comic company. I got caught up in the hype and hucksterism of Stan Lee’s Soapbox, smiled back at Jennette Kahn’s caricature in her Publishorials, and soaked in every ounce of insight from Dick Giordano’s Meanwhile… I had subscriptions to Comics Journal, Comic Reader and Amazing Heroes for my comic book news, but I still wanted those secrets only an insider could bring. With their columns, I always felt they were speaking directly to me, and when they did, I listened. At the start of 2005, DC’s insider column was “The Mole at 1700.” I was never comfortable with the mole and to make matters worse, Marvel had “A Cup O’ Joe”. A warm soothing coffee vs a blind subterranean rodent. We never stood a chance.

I met with Paul, and pitched the idea for an editorial page with a point of view. This wasn’t the first time I’d done this, but with the advent of Infinite Crisis it was time to bring the in house column into focus. So the mole gave way to “Crisis Counseling” in the back of our books, and in 2006, Crisis Counseling became DC Nation (our convention strategy tied our panels to these concepts too). The DC Nation page was my opportunity to speak directly to the fans, and though Paul’s approval came with the caveat doing a new column each week, I was more than happy to meet that challenge. This was a key moment for me, but not for the reason you’d expect. I was brought into DC to be the outsider. To shake up the status quo and approach things differently. But it was pointed out to me repeatedly, I was not a “true” editor. I did not rise through the ranks, I did not “earn my due.” Even though I was in the Executive’s Editor seat for a couple of years, that did not earn me the right to speak for the line, until now. This was a great moment for me, with the Publisher’s approval, I was about to become the face of the DC Comics line. Little did I know what that responsibility really meant.

So I set off to start construction on the DC Nation page with DC’s Editorial Art Director, Mark Chiarello. By now, Mark had become my “partner in crime” in changing the visual tone of the DCU in covers and promotional ads. Mark, along with Mike Carlin, and Joey Cavalieri, was “one of the last “classically trained” editors of DCU, having learned his craft directly from the “murders’ row of editorial who ruled the offices into the 80’s (one could argue that it’s a craft that has faded over the years). As Mark set the look of the column, I worked on its voice. Having perfected a management style that’s part Patton, part Corleone, it was time to put that style aside and channel my inner Stan Lee. As Executive Editor I had to represent the line and needed to project a blended level of excitement and arrogance for people to believe the stories we had planned couldn’t be missed (As co-publisher I need to be more tempered, and the change in attitude leaves me feeling a little like Thomas Barrow in Downton Abbey). It was Chi’s idea to place my photo at the top of the first column (he even took the shot), it and wasn’t a coincidence that the picture was reminiscent of an old DC picture of Carmine Infantino when he was publisher. I remembered that photo fondly. When I was growing up, Carmine was the face of DC Comics, he was the ultimate insider, and now, I was one too.

Superboy Prime

Superboy Prime

Source: Dan DiDio

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