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The Wednesday Waffle Episode Five

No video this week, as a result of internet connectivity issues, and aside from letting you know that "What's on the Rack?" will be late this week partly as a result of those same connectivity issues, and partly because the delivery is late, there's only one story really:

LAYOFFS AT DC COMICS A "BLOODBATH"

If you follow any people who work at DC on any of the Social Media platforms you will have seen a lot of buzz about people losing their jobs over the last couple of days. Warner Bros. - DC's parent company, was itself recently bought by AT&T, and changes have been afoot across the whole organisation for some time.

Over the weekend layoffs were announced across the company, and the redundancy axe seems to have fallen particularly savagely at DC Comics.

While details are still sketchy, it seems clear that Bob Harras, formerly Editor in Chief has gone, as has Hank Kanalz, formerly Senior Vice President of Publishing strategy and long standing vice president Bobbie Chase - whose name has been associated with DC for about as long as I can remember. Former publisher Jim Lee remains at the company, but no longer in the publishing role - I've seen reports that he will take the title "Chief Creative Officer", which sounds like a demotion to me.

In addition editor Brian Cunningham, who most recently worked on Doomsday Clock, Suicide Squad and the Dark Multiverse titles has also been shown the door, as have Mark Doyle and Andy Khouri, who were both closely associated with the acclaimed and financially successful Black Label line - so it's clear that good sales have been no protection.

And that's just the tip of a very big iceberg, it would seem.

So. What's behind all of this?

Change has been coming for some time. Dan DiDio who had been co-publisher at DC for a decade was unceremoniously dumped back in February, and a lot of his vision for the future direction of the company and the characters it publishes seemed to be being dropped along with him.

Then of course, there was COVID-19 and the "great pause" that impacted DC's bottom line at a time when new owners were paying careful attention to profits and perhaps wondering why so much effort was going into a tiny division which made - by the standards of the rest of the entertainment industry at least - almost no money.

Did the COVID-19 shutdown cause this current round of redundancies, or was DiDio's departure always going to be the start of a massive reduction in staff that was delayed by the shutdown? We'll probably never know - but change is happening.

We recently reported that Batman would no longer be re-starting from #1 after #100 comes out. Does that mean we were going to get another re-boot that is now not happening? And just yesterday, after many months of Harley Quinn's romantic relationship with Poison Ivy being ret-conned out of existence an article appeared on DC's website championing that same-sex romance. Yes, it was talking about the animated series, but it was illustrated with a panel from the comic.

One article alone doesn't signal a major shift in thinking perhaps, indeed, it might just be a rogue opinion piece that slipped through the net while everyone in the office was distracted by the corporate carnage going on around them, but it seems that rapid change is happening at DC. Whether this is change for the better or not is an open question, but it's coming whether we like it or not.

In the meantime, this is more than just a story about a publisher. This is a story about people - many of them who have been with the same employer for decades - suddenly and unexpectedly finding themselves out of work. At a personal level many small, life changing tragedies have played out over the last few days, and the best wishes of all at Desties go out to all the former DC staffers affected.

The question now, of course, is "is this just a DC thing, or is something similar likely to happen at other publishers?" And of course again, there is no way of knowing. If the redundancies are part of a change of strategy at DC, then there's no reason to think they're anything other than an isolated DC thing.

But if they are related to a restructuring that is being undertaken to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 shutdown? Well in that case this could be the beginning of an industry implosion on the same scale as the end of the speculator boom in the nineties.

These are uncertain times, and for now it looks like we're going to be sailing on stormy seas for a good while yet.

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