EXCLUSIVE: DC Entertainment President Talks Comics, Movies And Creators—And How The Recent Changes Will Affect Them

The recent reorganization of Warner Brothers that created a new division, DC Entertainment, and saw DC Comics president and publisher Paul Levitz step down from his role, sent big waves through the comics and entertainment industries earlier this week.

While we’ve seen official statements from Warner Brothers, Levitz and the new head of DC Entertainment, Diane Nelson, speculation has run rampant about what the new environment could mean for Superman, Batman and the rest of DC’s stable of characters. How will in-development projects be affected? Will stalled properties suddenly see movement? And where do comics fit into the mix?

I caught up with Nelson to ask some of these questions and get a better sense of what we can expect to see coming out of the newly formed DC Entertainment.

MTV: Diane, it sounds like we’ve both had busy weeks. It’s been a pretty impressive 10 days or so for the comics and entertainment industry…

DIANE NELSON: Listen, between last week’s announcement and this one, this is good news for comic book lovers and creators and I’m really flattered and excited to have a role in it. It’s going to be great fun. I have a lot to learn.

MTV: But from what I gather, you don’t have as much to learn as many people would in your position. You come from a position [with Warner Premiere] that acquainted you with quite a few of the DC characters, correct?

NELSON: Yeah, it’s true. I’ve had the luxury of working on a lot of our great brands here at Warner Brothers, including a lot of the DC ones. I’ve also worked on a lot of great bands that were not DC. I think the common thread for all of them has been that I’m a person who, a long time ago, thought I wanted to be a creative person myself, but quickly realized that my strength is working with and supporting and really, I hope, nurturing creative people.

That’s what this is all about for me. I don’t presume to describe myself as a creator anymore, but I certainly love the process and I hope I can do a lot of great things for the talent who are in and around DC.

MTV: The language of the announcement has people drawing a lot of conclusions about what we can expect to see coming out of the new DC Entertainment. In your words, what’s the basic, most obvious change fans can expect to see as a result of the restructured DC environment?

NELSON: I hope they see more—and better. The real operating factor behind this announcement is about focus and prioritization and doing things even better moving forward. My hope is that, through that focus and coordination, all of the businesses of Warner Brothers and Time Warner have greater opportunities to work with the characters and stories that are part of the DC library—both the big ones that we all know and, equally importantly, the ones we might not know who would lend themselves well to new brands.

I keep using the word “incubation,” but, between Vertigo and Wildstorm and so many of the other imprints and character libraries that exist within DC, there’s a lot more to this than just the traditional superhero.

MTV: Well, on that note, is there a certain character or area of DC that you feel is going to benefit greater than most from the new environment? Do you have a favorite character or title that, when DC Entertainment was first being conceived, popped into your head and made you think, “Yes! This property can finally get the attention it deserves!”

NELSON: That’s like asking me which of my children is my favorite. I’m not going to go there.

But I will say that Vertigo is an area of great interest to me. It is even less well tapped than other parts of DC, and could potentially offer amazing stories for our future television video game, digital and consumer products businesses. I’ll highlight that one, but it’s no less or more important than any of the other parts of DC.

MTV: Everyone is saying that this restructuring of DC is aimed at beefing up the movie arm of the company first and foremost, but that’s not implicitly stated in the announcement. Is it fair to say that the interests of the movie-making side of Warner Brothers are at the heart of this re-organization?

NELSON: It is a huge, important part of the equation, but Jeff Robinov, who is now my boss and runs Warner Pictures Group, he’s the person who has really been spearheading this initiative—and he would be the first to say along with me that all of the parts of the company that we can tap into are key.

We’ve been using the phrase “cross-platform,” but there is no question that the feature film slate is an engine that drives our business, and that it’s unique and incredibly powerful. But I don’t think that this is a question of making a big, tentpole feature film and spinning all of the ancillary business off of that.

This is about looking at all the different faces of the prism at the same time we’re building a feature slate that could encompass both big tentpole and big- or mid- or even smaller-budget films. It will be about working with the television group and the digital group and the video game and the home video group, etc. If we do our job well, the feature slate will be a key piece of it but it won’t be the only piece of it by far.

MTV: So, where will comics and the publishing arm of DC fit into the equation?

NELSON: DC Comics is the cornerstone of what DC Entertainment is about. It is an amazing publishing house and part of my job will be making sure that the support is there for whomever the new publisher will be. Paul Levitz will continue to be a huge and important part of the family as a consultant if I can get him to pay attention to anything other than writing, which he wants to be doing.

Supporting whomever that new publisher is, and the physical publishing business, and whatever future digital publishing looks like—those are going to be key aspects of this. This is not about supplanting that or focusing on other forms of entertainment at the expense of publishing. … Stories and characters, those originate in the form of these physical comic books, and there’s got to be a deep respect for that.

MTV: One of the things that Marvel has received a lot of praise for recently is the company’s willingness to involve comic book creators in the movie creative process. Warner Brothers recently announced the involvement of creators like Geoff Johns in some of their film projects, so is this something we’re likely to see more of in the new environment?

NELSON: Yeah, I hope so. Geoff and Marv [Wolfman] and Grant [Morrison], those three gentlemen were engaged to help advise on the feature slate even before this initiative. In fact, that’s a great demonstration that this has been a long time coming—that this is not something we pulled together in the last five days, despite some commentary otherwise.

Their involvement and the role between creators and those experts in our various content businesses who produce the—I’ll call them “mass forms of entertainment,” films television and so forth—that balance and collaboration is really important.

So, the short answer is: I hope that there is a whole lot of that moving forward, and I also hope that this becomes an opportunity for creators of comic books who have ambitions to do more than that. That’s where the word “incubation” comes in. It can be about incubating stories, but it can also be about incubating talent.

MTV: There was a rumor that, as part of this new environment, a “call back” was issued on film projects that involved producers outside Warner Brothers—that some of those projects are now in a holding pattern while Warners decides how to bring them more in-house. Is that the case?

NELSON: We are looking at the slate and are very, very much of the mind that DC properties are something that Warner Brothers is looking forward to driving, and will be working with filmmakers as we do on a case-by-case basis.

MTV: So, what’s the next step in getting acclimated for you? Are you taking boxes of comics out of the DC library? Reading through a few volumes of “Who’s Who in the DC Universe”?

NELSON: That’s funny, because right before I picked up the phone an anonymous package containing a book called “Comic Wars” arrived on my desk with no note. I believe it’s a nonfiction account of the history of Marvel—but yes, I’m reading everything I can get my hands on, and just trying to immerse myself and be respectful of how much I have to learn.

But the real work—not work, fun—will occur when I go to New York and get to know the people there and figure out where we go from here.

Let us know what you think in the comment section or on Twitter!