Last night saw the word of sweeping changes taking effect at DC Comics and Warner Bros., which is now being blamed on the failure of the Justice League movie.
Former DC and Green Lantern comic book artist, Ethan Van Sciver, a 26-year-veteran of the business, posted a video on YouTube of his thoughts on the DC changes that see at least 3% of its workforce laid off and 10% of the Warner Bros. Consumer Products division get let go.
Ethan Van Sciver talks about the failure of the Justice League movie and how it relates to what is going on with DC and WB:
Why is this happening? It's happening because of the Justice League movie. That's what it is. The Justice League movie was a catastrophic disaster for Warner Bros and for DC, for the DCEU. What happened was, it was underway with a $350 million budget under Zack Snyder. Zack Snyder had a family crisis, and some of you know what that is, and it is completely understandable that he exited from the movie and couldn't finish it. The movie still needed to be completed. This represented a significant, an enormous investment, as these films do. Decisions were made to have Joss Whedon come in and finish the movie. Joss Whedon didn't like what he saw, apparently, and asked for close to $300 million from what I've heard. If you have better information about this, let me known, but he basically asked for an enormous, almost equal to the original production budget to reshoot and to finish Justice League. The Zack Snyder movie. [Whedon] made it into something else. The movie was a catastrophe. And it was an expensive catastrophe. It lost an awful lot of money.
You have to imagine what spending close to $700 million on a movie and losing hundreds of millions of dollars on a movie can do to people, can do to their jobs. Shortly after, Diane [Nelson] took a break. Diane never came back. She announced she was staying gone. Geoff Johns, I think, also took some of the blame for the Justice League movie, and he lost his position there. Others at DC have who were involved with the Justice League movie also lost their jobs, lost their positions. The effects are still rippling.
All of this is terrible because the comic books don't make money. The comic books are a loss-leader for Warner Bros. and DC, but certainly, these characters in film and video games should be a cash cow. For a movie that was supposed to launch a million other movies, to actually become a box office failure, it was absolutely devastating. I think DC Comics is still reeling from that.
Ethan Van Sciver also offers insights into the state of the comic book industry:
That on top of the fact that the comic book industry is collapsing under the weight of apathy at this point. In 2016, there were 2306 comic book stores, now there are 1900. Comic book stores are closing down and going out of business at a startling and frightening right. Once we reach the critical mass of 1500 retailers, for companies like DC and Marvel to solicit their product to, it will no longer be viable. All during this collapse, DC and Marvel have employed price hikes, they have employed various gimmick scams. I mean I call them scams, that is what I think they are. A retailers job is to look at the product that they are being offered and then kind of decide based on what they know about their customer base, the people who come into their store and what they buy, how many copies of each one of these comic books that they should provide on their stands, for complete sell-through. Nobody wants to be stuck with this product, you know two weeks after its date it has gone cold. At this points comics are like bread, they have a sell-by date, and they go stale and people do not buy them when they go stale. That is the situation with comics now.
On top of this, politics within the comics, divisive politics, and enormous unnecessary... events... these silly events... like 'hey, this is Civil War 3' and there are 1200 little spinoffs books that aren't necessary to read, and it's just too much. Foot traffic has declined in these stores. Retailers are considering what DC and Marvel are doing as predatory publishing. It is a problem for them to be able to gauge how to responsibly run their own businesses when Marvel and DC are employing tricks like this. It's catastrophic. This is #comicsgate. As much as anti-comicgaters within the comic book industry would like to marginalize our voices and let people know, gaslight people, that we are wrong, we are crazy, all this stuff, the comic book industry is healthy and will survive forever, this is just a temporary setback, I don't think so. I've been through two different comic book crashes and never felt the way I feel now. I've never seen things as so very very very very bleak and those crashes, like the one in 1998, the lowest selling book was like the highest selling book today. At the point, we thought it was extinction. We thought the comic book industry was going to go extinct. That's what's going on.
Well, here is another bit of news, DC cut their line down to 52 comics. Obviously, talent is going to get cut as well, and they are laying off seven employees as of today. I'm sure more fat-trimming will be coming. They probably just don't want a blood bath all at once. We are going to see this get whittled down.
Another ramification of the failure of the Justice League movie is that Warner Bros. is moving away from a shared universe, as head of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, Toby Emmerich, recently stated they are "far less focused on a shared universe."