What Dan DiDio’s departure means for DC Comics and the industry as a whole

After nearly 20 years at DC Comics, Dan DiDio is out, but how and why did this happen?

Early Friday afternoon, The Hollywood Reporter dropped what could be the biggest DC Comics news in over a decade. Without any public announcement or word, they revealed that Dan DiDio, co-publisher of DC Comics, was leaving the company effective immediately. This was confirmed by a variety of other websites such as Comic Book Resources. About 48 hours later, DiDio himself confirmed it with a public post on Facebook:

“Overwhelmed and humbled by the outpouring of love and support and it leaves me at a loss for words (first time for everything). So, instead, I’ll turn to what was said nearly five years ago on April 10, 2015 to best sum up how I feel. Love to you all.”

It was such a surprise that as the news was breaking, Dan DiDio’s agents and “people” were still arranging to schedule interviews and various events at the next big comic book convention, the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2) on 2/28. The exact circumstances are unknown, with some sources claiming he was fired. DC Comics, as well as DC Entertainment or Warner Brothers, have yet to issue any kind of official statement.

Dan DiDio’s career began on TV, where he was best known as a writer and story editor on the cult favorite CGI animated series ReBoot. In 2002, he was hired by DC Comics as vice-president editorial and also wrote Superboy for half a year. In 2004, he was promoted to vice-president executive editor and began writing the monthly editorial column DC Nation in 2006, which was their version of Stan Lee’s old Stan’s Soapbox from Marvel.

In 2010, then-new DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson promoted him to co-publisher of DC Comics, alongside Jim Lee. Besides acting as one of the “figureheads” of DC Comics, he also wrote comics on occasion, such as O.M.A.C., Phantom Stranger, Sideways, and Infinity Man and the Forever People. Yet to see it all come crashing down on a Friday afternoon is quite a fall from grace.

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His legacy within DC Comics is often paired with the efforts of his editorial peers, Jim Lee and Geoff Johns. He was a major force behind the 2006 crossover Infinite Crisis, where it was rumored he had to be “talked down” from demanding Nightwing die in that tale. According to some rumors and critics, he had a “vendetta” against not only Dick Grayson, but characters such as Wally West, Stephanie Brown, and Cassandra Cain. After his promotion in 2010, he oversaw two continuity-shattering crossover events. The first and biggest, 2011’s New 52, saw DC Comics seek to reboot their entire universe into being “five years ago” and publish 52 new titles.

The response to that was mixed. On the one hand, Scott Synder’s Batman was a huge hit, and both The Flash and Green Arrow saw boosts (aided by their TV success). DiDio also oversaw two runs of a weekly comic book from 2006-2008. On the other hand, many major Bat-heroines like Barbara Gordon, Brown, and Cain were massively altered, and it earned criticism for its treatment of others. Voodoo starred a stripper whose first panel began with her on her knees, while Starfire was often depicted in a regressive way in Red Hood & the Outlaws.

In 2013, at the peak of the character’s popularity, Batwoman creators J.H. Williams III and Haden Blackman left over “creative differences” stemming from DiDio’s distaste for “married superheroes” when they wanted Kate Kane to marry her lover. There’s also no telling how large or small his role was with the Eddie Berganza saga, where DC Comics continued to employ a rampant and publicly acknowledged harasser of women as an editor until BuzzFeed shamed them in 2017.

The boost in sales and buzz behind the New 52 faded and, by 2016, DiDio spearheaded another crossover, DC Rebirth, which sought to undo a lot of the changes to the DC Universe and return a lot of what was. And the latest promotion was that DC Comics’ latest continuity-shattering crossover was to be called Generations, with a so-called “Generation Five” or “5G” to feature major superheroes like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman being replaced by younger counterparts. It would have been the third continuity-shifting “event” within 9 years, which is a feat considering DC Comics seems to be infamous for such stunts.

The reasons for the move remain unknown. One rumor was DiDio not getting along with Synder, who may be a higher commodity. Another is that it may portend a sign of doom with AT&T’s purchase of WarnerMedia last year. The company is swimming in $170 billion in debt, and not even recent tax cuts have helped. The unpleasant reality of the new era of international conglomerates owning comic book companies in that they value them for their media licenses, not comic books or magazines.

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For example, while MAD Magazine’s budget would seem like a drop in AT&T’s budget, it was unceremoniously canceled after 67 years in print mere months after the merger. It will stagger onward as a reprint magazine, a zombie of what it once was. Could DC Comics be next, or see its licenses sold off to other competitors, much as Disney does with IDW and Dark Horse (despite owning Marvel Comics)?

DC Comics characters may rule TV screens and slowly be featured in films, but what remains of their comic book fates if even DiDio can be discarded without a peep? Stay tuned.