Tag: Dan DiDio

A Few Words About Keith

A Few Words About Keith

Last night, as I write this, daughter Adriane came downstairs while I was watching a typically clever and compelling docuweird from James May. I knew from the expression on her face I was about distance myself from Mr. May’s well-honed sense of humor.

Adriane carefully informed me that my old friend Keith Giffen had died. Such an event has grown all too typical and they all hurt, but, damn, this one came right out of the blue. My editor Mr. Harrison and I were just talking about Keith on our weekly video Squadcast and I remember cutting myself short under the belief that Keith would get his due from us later. Yeah, well…

I’m going to ignore my journalism teachers and not give you the mandatory obituary routine. If you are not familiar with Giffen’s work, there’s a couple tons of it on the trade paperback racks at your favorite bookstores. I will point out that Keith co-created a many great characters and concepts, including Rocket Raccoon, Lobo, Ambush Bug, and the latest version of the Blue Beetle, Jamie Reyes, presently of motion picture fame. His Wiki page is quite good and most likely getting even better right now.

But all the bios and reflections cannot do justice to his work and his approach to storytelling. The word “unique” is an absolute term: either something is unique or its not and one thing can not be more unique than another. Keith Giffen’s work was unrelentingly unique. Keith Giffen was unique.

In all the decades I’d known him, I had never had a less-than-remarkable time. His wit, his charm and his creative courage were his and his alone. When first you encounter one of his stories your response likely would hit the high end of the vaunted Richter What-The-Fuck scale. By the time you were done with that first story, chances are you’d start looking for his other stuff.

Or it might just piss you off. Art is like that, and so was Keith. He told his story, his way, and did so brilliantly.

The first memory that escaped the attic of my brainpan was a conversation we had in 2016 at a massive party that preceded the world premiere of the first Suicide Squad movie. Dan DiDio and DC Comics threw one hell of an affair and everybody who was anybody in comics and was in the New York area at the time was there — and plenty of people flew in as well. I told Keith how much I was enjoying the work he and Dan had been doing recently and, while I was fumbling for a clever way to say “my appreciation seems to be the kiss of death” Keith kept interrupting me.

“Have you read my Scooby Apocalypse?” he asked repeatedly, cutting off my praise of his other recent work. “Well, no, I haven’t,” I admitted. “I think it will surprise you.”

It certainly did. Evidently, it also surprised the folks at Hanna-Barbera, which was and remains part of Warner Bros., as does DC Comics. Evidently, they had a hard time recognizing DC’s often brilliant reimagining of their characters — and when it comes to bringing home the animated bacon, nothing does that more consistently than Scooby-Doo. And Keith found an alien heart deep inside the property, and he ran with it. Proudly. And deservedly so.

I should add it’s become my favorite of Keith’s work. Well, his living work, at least.

Several days ago as Keith was dying from a stroke, he composed a farewell note for posting after his death. If you are about to check out of this reality, you’re going to have a hard time doing a better job than he did. His farewell was pure and complete Keith Giffen. He posthumously posted “I told them I was sick… Anything not to go to New York Comic Con, Thankx. Bwah ha ha ha ha.”

That New York Comic Con is happening right now, this very weekend, and Keith is wonderfully all over it.

That, my friends, is how to go out in class and style.

His work, of course, lives on. Along with his friendship.

With Further Ado #114: Give Comics Hope Promotes Modern American Optimism

With Further Ado #114: Give Comics Hope Promotes Modern American Optimism

The Thrill ISN’T Gone

The weirdness – and tyranny –  of COVID-19  wasn’t supposed to last this long. I will admit I thought It would all be over by this fall.

I miss in-person comic cons. The lack of conventions is a drag. I always enjoy pawing through long boxes and looking lost treasures. I love seeing the cool vintage collectibles and new toys. But what I really miss are the people. I miss the buzz of the fans. Their unique, positive excitement is, I would argue, unique to Geek Culture. It’s different from fans going to a concert or a big sports game. Although each of those types of events have their own enthusiastic fans, it’s an entirely different flavor than what you would find at comic conventions.

Maybe people are nicer to one another? Maybe they are more excited? Maybe it’s that shared joy that comes from finally finding your own tribe?  I’m not sure, but whatever it is, I miss it.

I miss the old normal of comic shops too.  In my neck of the woods (The Finger Lakes Region of New York State) they are all open again. Finally. But there’s still a stilted caution that is a part of every visit. Everyone’s a little more cautious. Everyone lingers a little less. Everyone finds some excuse to cut short their visits.

Publisher’s schedules are getting backing to normal. I’m hearing positive news, anecdotally, that some publishers are actually doing pretty good right now. That’s encouraging news.

On the other hand, so many comic shops are still struggling. They’ve had to pivot, to adapt and to get ready for the new reality, and it hasn’t been fun.

Give Comics Hope is a new initiative that’s looking to make a difference.  Their premise is straightforward:

Give Comics Hope is an ambitious charitable initiative that calls on all members of our community to rally together to provide vital aid to comic book shops. Continue reading “With Further Ado #114: Give Comics Hope Promotes Modern American Optimism”

Brainiac On Banjo #075: Nice Guys Finish

Brainiac On Banjo #075: Nice Guys Finish

If you’re a regular reader of this slice of pop culture pie, you might be surprised by today’s week-opener. Perhaps you should get comfortable, put down the vape pen and pull over to the shoulder. We’ll discuss your driving habits later.

I’m very disappointed Dan DiDio is no longer co-publisher at DC Comics… even though I still don’t understand how you can have “co-publishers.” But that is not something we’ll discuss later. It’s Publishing, and that’s the next town over from Chinatown.

On many occasions I have used this vessel of bubbling hot ether to criticize Dan and DC – and Marvel, for that matter – for being too quick on the reboot pedal. I won’t repeat myself at this time (except in my sleep) because you get it. You might not agree, which is fine, you might agree, which is fun, or you might be somewhere in between. No matter. I remain disappointed.

As I have only a limited ability to convincingly blow smoke up a great many asses simultaneously, I shall share my reasons. First, and most important, as publisher Dan was not afraid of trying out new things and new approaches. Because necessity is indeed the mother of invention, this is – to me – is the most important skill set a publisher can have… and Mark Waid, who has just taken a similar position at Humanoids, Inc. should consider this license.

Wednesday Comics, the most ambitious endeavor DC had undertaken this century, was created by Mark Chairello when Dan was DC’s executive editor; he green-lit it, which is part of the job. Mark said Dan (and then-publisher Paul Levitz; DC goes through more publishers than CatCo) were constantly after him to edit something. He sure did.

I could cite many more examples – his interest in many of DC’s lesser-known characters led to some wonderful character revivals. Every such example entails risk, and if too many of those risks do not pay off, one’s job can be handed over to somebody else. It also provides fodder for Brutus when corporate politics goes nuts. Of course, corporate politics is a self-replicating virus that it is nuts – and almost always is anti-creative. Publishing is a very risky business.

It’s also one that does not inure to the expansion of your database of friends. Not everybody is going to accept your weird ideas, particularly when someone thinks that their toes are being tread on. Imagine how Curt Swan might have felt when he was offed from Superman.

Fact is, Dan has quite a reputation as a nice guy. From his many associates and his great many convention appearances, it is clear he is the real thing… unless, perhaps, you feel it is your ox who is about to be gored. Sadly, that comes with the job.

My personal experiences with DiDio are limited. He was overwhelmingly kind to me at his Suicide Squad movie pre-party and at the world premiere; I hadn’t worked for DC for a while, and he was under no obligation to be so swell. Sometime later, I was at my old pal Jamie Graham’s booth – Graham Crackers, get it? – at some comic book convention (after over a half-century, they all run together), and Dan was there, diving through the long boxes trying to complete his collection of Marvel ComicsWhere Monsters Dwell – which, after all, was a reprint title. He looked up, very slightly embarrassed, and pointed out that he was, after all, a comics fan and collector.

Damn straight, pal! That should be in every comics publisher’s job description. Every single one. And here’s the best reason: whenever corporate brings in somebody from Earth-Prime who thinks publishing comic books is the same as publishing greeting cards or hawking toothpaste, they fail. Always. They also make asses of themselves.

The good publishers only make asses of themselves when it sells comic books. That’s called “priorities.”

Should Dan have been fired? I don’t know. There are plenty of rumors, but decades ago I learned such rumors are at best untrustworthy and, more likely, complete bullshit. I don’t know. You don’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised if DiDio still doesn’t know the complete story. Did I mention corporate politics are so revulsive I wouldn’t be surprised if AT&T eventually hires Donald Trump for the gig?

I hope Dan remains in the comics racket. So many long boxes, so little time.

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #060: Dear Dan

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #060: Dear Dan

Dear Dan,

First off… is it OK to call you Dan? Probably not. We’re not close friends. We’re not really even acquaintances. At best, I know some people you know really well, and you’ve come by my little table in Artist Alleys now and again, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Yeah, Dan seems a bit too informal. So, I apologize. Mr. Didio, I felt it necessary to write to you a complicated mélange of thoughts today. I’d seen — thanks to my blown-up social feeds — of your recent (likely undesired) conscious uncoupling with DC Comics. Admittedly when I’d seen the news, it came on the back of Ethan Van Sciver claiming he knew someone who knew someone at AT&T who was threatening to blow up all of DC publishing if 5G doesn’t go over well. That bit of foil-hattery on top of your release was a bit too much for me. I logged off, and moved along.

And as it happened, my feed stayed choked with DiDio Dictations; lovely words shared by the multitude of industry veterans I’m lucky enough to have known long enough to be worthy of personal Facebook friendship with. And each of these creators detailed both their love and respect of you, and the work you did. It began to gnaw on my subconscious a bit. And here I sat, looking over a picture of Pop Culture Squad’s Bob Harrison posed with you, and it — combined with the words of Scott Snyder, Gail Simone, Art Baltazar, Will Pfeiffer, and more — finally able to come to grips with what all I wanted to add to the mounting mass of mentions and manifestos. Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #060: Dear Dan”

On the Changes in DC Comics Management – Dan DiDio No Longer at DC

The news of major changes in the upper management of DC Comics began to break on the afternoon of Friday February 21st. “Dan DiDio is no longer employed at the company.” All of the standard straight comics news outlets have covered it.  We are not here to do that.

The basics details are this. Dan DiDio has been at DC for eighteen years and has served as co-publisher, with Jim Lee, since 2010. As of yesterday he is no longer with DC.

This news was a surprise to everyone I have reached out to. “Comics Twitter” exploded at the news, and many people who worked with him expressed their thanks for his support over the years. A common thread that you will find is that Dan was fiercely supportive of creators and loves comics like nobody’s business. He is also responsible for recruiting and empowering some of the best new voices in comics.


Continue reading “On the Changes in DC Comics Management – Dan DiDio No Longer at DC”

NEWS: DC to Eliminate Vertigo Imprint and Consolidate Under Three Age-Specific Labels

NEWS: DC to Eliminate Vertigo Imprint and Consolidate Under Three Age-Specific Labels

DC Comics announced today that they are eliminating the Vertigo imprint and reorganizing how they are labeling their books.  This news is not unexpected, but still is somewhat of an important event. Beginning in 2020, DC Comics books will be identified in one of three categories.

There will be the main DC label for standard DC super-hero books. The newly launched DC Ink and DC Zoom will be folded under a single DC Kids banner. The DC Black Label banner will remain and include all mature readers books aimed at readers 17 years old or older. This is a departure from the initial intent of the line that would be out-of-continuity boutique type books.

“We’re returning to a singular presentation of the DC brand that was present throughout most of our history until 1993 when we launched Vertigo to provide an outlet for edgier material,” said DC Publisher Dan DiDio. Continue reading “NEWS: DC to Eliminate Vertigo Imprint and Consolidate Under Three Age-Specific Labels”

Brainiac On Banjo #027: Comic Book Economics

Brainiac On Banjo #027: Comic Book Economics

Dan DiDio

Somebody noticed the comic book racks are overcrowded… and that somebody is Dan DiDio, co-publisher, DC Comics. I gather Dan’s deductive skills were sharpened by his decades of comic book collecting.

Well, he’s the right man for the job. Just about each month for the better part of a half-century the Diamond Distributors catalog, the one that terrorizes your friendly neighborhood comic book store owner who must bet the rent on his or her non-returnable orders, has grown like Stumbo on steroids to its present size and weight, rivaling the Manhattan phone book in water displacement. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #027: Comic Book Economics”

DC Launches 100-Page GIANTs as WALMART Exclusives – Opinion

DC Launches 100-Page GIANTs as WALMART Exclusives – Opinion

As Newsarama, The Hollywood Reporter, and other media outlets have recently reported, DC has announced that it has partnered with Walmart to release exclusive 100-Page Giant issues of its comic books. This is both good news and bad news for the comic fan community.

Continue reading “DC Launches 100-Page GIANTs as WALMART Exclusives – Opinion”