DC Comics to relocate to California

DC Comics in the 70s, at its one-time Rockefeller Plaza location. From "Justice League of America" (vol. 1) #123, Oct. 1975.
From “Justice League of America” (vol. 1) #123, Oct. 1975. Art by Dick Dillin.

On Tuesday came news that DC Comics, who’s been based in the nation’s publishing capital of New York City since its founding in the 1930s, is shutting down its Big Apple headquarters in 2015. At that point, they’ll relocate to southern California to join its recently-created parent company, DC Entertainment (a subsidiary of Time-Warner). More on this development in this Comics Alliance article.

One one hand, I can see why DC might want to relocate to California. It’ll be near its Time-Warner brethren, both the lucrative movie/TV divisions of Warner Bros. and the rest of DC Entertainment. DCE’s digital comics side (and other operations) have already been based in California for the past few years, so could see the allure of keeping the print side there, as well. Modern technology also means DC’s various writers/artists being able to live just about anywhere and still do their jobs. There’s also precedent for major comic companies not being based in New York/out on the west coast, such as Dark Horse Comics, located in a suburb of Portland, Oregon.

On the other hand, besides the loss of tradition, New York’s also the home of the nation’s publishing industry, as much as it’s being rocked by digital lately. DC’s rival, Marvel, seems to be staying put in New York for the time being. There’s also the disruption that moving will cause to various DC staffers who might be faced with the choice whether or not to move 3,000 miles. Additionally, this would seem to fuel the idea that DC’s traditional print comic side isn’t really important to Time-Warner (or DC Entertainment) beyond two functions: maintaining the trademarks on DC’s vast library of characters, and generating story/character ideas to turn into more lucrative movies, cartoons, etc. To that end, if Time-Warner could figure out how to achieve those two functions without having to print a zillion Bat-books each month, seeing the print side of DC someday reduced or outright shut down might not be too far-fetched an idea. DC’s non-DCU digital comic line is already turning out decent, all-ages stories without the need for expensive, massive crossovers, while using versions of the characters the general public would actually recognize.

Finally, a move to southern California puts DC Comics under the more direct eye of DC Entertainment/Time-Warner in general. Granted, this factors in Warners’ historical bean-counter attitudes toward cartoons (dating back to the “Termite Terrace” days of the Looney Tunes), as well as their lack of corporate synergy versus rivals Disney. DC Comics’ print side of things being based in California (presumably on Warner Bros. property) might mean DC can’t get away with some of its recent “wacky antics” regarding certain issues (its current high staff turnover, some issues concerning diversity/minorities, some of their storylines’ tones, etc.). Or so one might hope, anyway. It’ll be interesting to see what ultimately happens to the new California-based DC Comics.

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