Jim Lee assumes sole DC Comics publisher role and denies rumors

Jim Lee comments on Dan DiDio’s recent departure and details plans for DC Comics moving forward.

Last week, DC Comics was changed in a sudden and substantial way. Co-Publisher Dan DiDio “stepped down” effective immediately without any official statement or word. He had served in that role for a decade and been a part of DC Comics’ senior editorial structure since 2002. But what of Jim Lee, who has been co-publisher alongside DiDio since 2010? As reported by Newsarama on leap day, Lee formally spoke about recent events at his spotlight panel at this weekend’s C2E2 comic book convention.

Jim Lee stated in firm terms that there would be no attempt to replace DiDio. He would be acting as DC Comics’ lone publisher. He also reaffirmed that DC Comics had been part of the greater Warner Brothers company since 1967 and that the comics are not going anywhere:

“There’s continually new things going on, and I look at being sole publisher now and the team I’m working with. Much more in trenches now than ever before. […] We’ve been with Warner Bros. for decades. The actual strategy for DC is to put publishing at center of what we do. It’s the engine of all the movies, TV, cartoons, we do. And so its my intent going forward as the Publisher, to lean into the collective years of my team.”

Due in large part to the massive debt attached to AT&T, which bought out TimeWarner last summer, rumors had emerged of DC Comics being sold, cutting production drastically, or even licensing out some franchises to other publishers (like Marvel). Rumors of Disney/Marvel “buying” DC Comics have seemed to emerge every other year since 2009, but their energy reached a fever pitch last week. On those rumors, Lee commented:

“To address some of the stuff that is out there, there’s rumors… speculation. I wouldn’t put any credence into it. DC has been around for 85 years, and we’ll be around for another 85 years. I hope to be doing this panel in 85 years.”

Jim Lee finally declined to confirm rumors about the “Five Generations” line-wide crossover, which DC Comics has barely teased about, much less officially announced:

“It’s hard to talk about things we haven’t announced. Intention not to do a line-wide reboot. Our focus in talking to editorial team is to continue what we’ve done best: Character-driven stories, pairing right creators on right characters, and developing characters that are inclusive and diverse.”

Jim Lee has been a major figure within the comic book industry practically since he entered as an artist for Marvel Comics in 1987. He began on Alpha Flight and Punisher: War Journal, but his claim to fame was becoming a regular artist on Uncanny X-Men in 1989. He would go on to launch the top-selling X-Men No. 1 in 1991, in which his iconic designs for the characters would inspire a cartoon the next year and continue to define them. In 1992, Lee left Marvel alongside a slew of other creators to found Image Comics, which remains the third-largest publisher in the comic book industry. At Image, he formed his own studio, WildStorm Productions, where he created titles such as WildC.A.T.S. and Gen 13.

After a brief return to Marvel in 1996 for their Heroes Reborn push (a precursor to their Ultimate imprint of 2000), Lee moved to DC Comics. He sold WildStorm Productions to DC Comics in 1998 and began the 21st century drawing runs on Batman and Superman. Lee also began doing design work with DC Comics’ video games, such as Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu and DC Universe Online. DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson promoted Lee to co-publisher in 2010, and he would go on to redesign much of DC’s superheroes for their New 52 crossover in 2011. Those redesigns are frequently used for direct-to-video animated projects as well as the third season of Young Justice.

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Despite some concerning news, Jim Lee made sure to step out in front and offer some strong words of reassurance. As sole publisher, this was a role he had to play. On the other hand, the exact reason for DiDio’s swift “departure” remains a mystery. The future is still uncertain for DC Comics but is (hopefully) not as dire as it was last weekend.