DC Fandome’s success left top WM exec “giddy”

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dc fandome jim lee

As DC Fandome rolled out on Saturday, it was clear that Warner Media had put a ton of work into it: and it paid off. You can read all Team Beat’s DC Fandome coverage here (great job Team Beat!) with all kinds of announcements about games, movies, TV and, yes, comics.

If it wasn’t an IRL replacement for going to the San Diego Comic-Con, it was, at least, a hype bonanza for the WM team. Traditionally Warner’s is the big spender at SDCC – not only do they have the spectacular wide angle screen in Hall H that costs six figures. They have the branded bags, the branded room keys, and the branded pinbacks in the badge boxes. I’m sure that money was still sitting in the marketing budget and so it was decided to put it into a virtual con. Smart move.

You may recall that WB actually sat out Hall H last year – reportedly because they didn’t want to screen the Joker trailer for fans – but that left WM with two years between massive reveals.

A lot happened in two years. No one could have foreseen five months and counting of COVID theater closures and the ensuing push backs of theatrical releases. In a happier world, we’d still be talking about how fun Wonder Woman ’84 was, but in this one we just got to see a second trailer.

But in between Hall H Domes, DC’s film slate seemed to meander into half a dozen directions. Warners has had solid hits with all of its DC-based films since the Justice League debacle, but that debacle – and the scandal-driven departure of studio head Kevin Tsujihara – severely trimmed the mizzenmast of the good ship DC Films, while grounding it on the shoals of Hype Drought.

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And then came HBO Max, and all the deployment of resources into streaming. And the DC comics brand being more important than ever to every division of Warner entertainment. And a whole new slate of high level execs at AT&T/WM. And then, just as the whole company seemed to be behind the DC brand, came the huge layoffs at DC, and rumored revamping of the publishing line. 

It was a big bummer to try to sell.

But, frankly, they managed to pull it off. People love Batman. Once you understand that the rest is easy

DC Fandome was by far the best virtual con yet with star power, reveals galore, some innovative use of the “zoom screen” format, and videos that showed humans who have bodies below the clavicle. It’s nice to have the editing power of a movie studio behind you sometimes.

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All that said, they should have called the event the Jim Lee Fandome, because DC’s Publisher/CCO was in what seemed like half the panels. I lost count, but Lee was absolutely the centerpiece of the show, a little piece of comics authenticity in a sea of branding. (Some people were bored by Lee’s “portfolio review” segment, but I appreciated that instead of just “You need to take a live drawing class” it drilled down into light sources and posing. I learned something!)

I did a little live tweeting of a few panels, but I really didn’t need to because Jim Lee was live tweeting the whole thing!

As for the actual reveals of the day, they were pretty cool. While Wonder Woman has been in the can for a while, The Suicide Squad and The Batman all got teaser trailers, and The Flash, Black Adam and Shazam 2 got teasers of various sorts. The Suicide Squad – a title which will in no way ever get confused with the previous film which was called Suicide Squad – looked funny and wild, but with a cast that big sometimes things get out of hand…still, I’d give anything to watch it tomorrow.

Batman, of course, ruled the day because he’s Batman and he’s vengeance.

The film apparently takes place in a world where they have yet to invent the Tungsten lightbulb, but after the non-canon Joker, can the Bat-verse ever return to daylight? A MST3K-type roasting of the Batman tv show by the Batman Beyond cast buried the campy take and left it where it belongs – in The Suicide Squad.

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My use of the term “non-canon” is no mistake, by the way. In an earlier piece about WM/DC’s troubles, I wrote:

I’m sure AT&T wishes they could solve their problems by adding more Earths, ones where you can get HBO Max on the device of your choice.

I really had my Nostradamus hat on that day because that is just what they are going to do! In the “Dc Multiverse” panel,  DC Films’ head Walter Hamada, DC TV czar Greg Berlanti and DC Entertainment CCO Jim Lee talked about the future of the media multiverse and took a few pages from both Julius Schwartz’s playbook and the concept of “Hypertime.” As opposed to the tight continuity of the MCU, DC’s movie slate has usually been more filmmaker driven and it will stay that way. Hamada explained that different stories were from other universes and alternative worlds – a teaser campaign flashed such phrases as “Earth 19” and “Earth 94” and Brandon Routh as Superman – but there’s also a narrative line for the main films – the now shattered Justice League universe. And in the spirit of Hypertime, all the stories happened, although Joker was an “Elseworlds.”

As reported at SyFy:

Hamada explained that this particular crossover opened up doors for more Multiverse worlds. “There’s this one Earth,” Hamada said, that features the Justice League fans know from the films, “and one with a Year Two Batman” from Matt Reeves’ upcoming film starring Robert Pattinson. These canons won’t affect each other, just like Joker doesn’t affect either. Now the DC films have the freedom to get a little weird simply because these worlds don’t touch.

“The possibility is there,” Hamada said of other Elseworlds stories like Superman: Red Son, though that particular story isn’t in development in any form. “It’d be much better to be a special thing,” Hamada said of films that showcase different versions of well-known characters, so fans shouldn’t expect this to be a regular thing — though it’ll certainly be fun when it does happen. Hamada also calls HBO Max a place where film and TV can “meet in the middle,” so that might be somewhere to watch down the line.

It’s a fun playground of ideas! A billion dollar playground! Thus all the vast world of TV and movies and streaming and Watchmen can all be allowed. Hypertime – basically another word for having your Affleck and eating dinner with your Keaton, too – is a very useful concept at times like this.

With the films and TV and video games and everything borrowing so much from the comics, it was still disheartening to know that DC Comics itself has been trimmed so much. The Milestone comics announcement was big and welcome, but the mostly digital roll-out seems…odd. I’ll have a bit more to say about that later. But many people noted that the comics were missing from this particular Dome – or at least moved off to the Sept. 12th follow-up.

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DC Fandome was clearly the biggest projection yet of the continued evolution of DC as a brand, in a company where branding is everything. After all, DC is now part of the “brand” division. Recent moves at WM/DC have been all about projecting a single brand in the Disney model – the disastrous move of the DC booth from its traditional spot anchoring the floor at SDCC to an afterthought in the massive Warner Media booth being the worst example. Marketers dream of creating the kind of authenticity and loyalty that DC Comics  has built up. Washing it away in a corporate initiative is unfortunate…and also, on brand.

Reading Lee’s tweets, it was hard not to see him projecting the value of individual creators – see the shout out to the actual humans behind the Black Adam “Motion Comic” above. Lee’s own value to the brand is as a creative, the authentic voice that fans respond to – again, something that can’t be made in a lab for a focus group.

Anyway, at least ONE exec at Warner Media was super stoked about DC Fandome – the most important exec of all, Jason Kilar, the recently named CEO  of WarnerMedia and the man who has been rolling out all the company wide layoffs and reorgs. He loved Fandome!

In case that tweet is somehow lost to posterity, here is the text for the record:

I am so thankful to the @DCComics fans. And I am thankful to the amazing storytellers that care so deeply about these characters, which are family. And the @WarnerMedia team? World. Class. For those that are enjoying #DCFanDome today, pls let me know what you thought. #Giddy

Kilar is 49 but his Twitter avatar screams “boyish” and he used the rare “mind blown” emoticon to retweet….Gail Simone.

Kilar (or his social media team) spent some of the rest of his Saturday replying to DC fans who were moved by the ‘Dome, a very nice gesture.

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I’ll admit, I did not have the CEO of WarnerMedia retweeting Gail Simone on my DC Fandome bingo card. It’s a harsh new environment at Warner Media – if past reorganizations are any guide, studio Game of Thrones just got realer than ever in Burbank. Knowing that the DC brand is an important one to the highest levels of the C-suite is a small, momentary, victory for our kind. For the moment, at least, comics and the people who create them were allowed into this terrifying gladiatorial arena dome.

One last observation: while half of DC Fandome was moved because of logistics, it also had the effect of keeping it tight. Those 100 other panels might have been a distraction to rolling out the strong message that “Batman is coming.” It was a smart move – keep ’em focused.

In conclusion, Jim Lee says it all.

The glitz is over, back to trying to sell these comics and save these stores.

The post DC Fandome’s success left top WM exec “giddy” appeared first on The Beat.

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