Comic Book nerds, your day has come. (I’m looking at you, Professor Levitz and the Comic Books and Graphic Novels class). PBS is airing a documentary special featuring comic legends such as Adam West, Lynda Carter, Michael Chabon, Jules Feiffer, and more and is hosted by Liev Schrieber. This documentary spans through the origin of comic books, starting in 1938 onto present day, and what the medium has left in its wake.
TRUTH, JUSTICE, AND THE AMERICAN WAY (1938-1958)
During the Depression, the popularity of dozens of superhero characters opens the door for a new generation of artists and writers. World War II creates a patriotic fervor for star-spangled adventurers to represent the American spirit at war and on the home front, but in the 1950s, superheroes are caught in the fire of government scrutiny and regulation.
When the thrilling “Adventures of Superman” is broadcast on the new medium of television, America’s first and greatest superhero leads the entire comic book industry to renewed strength.
GREAT POWER, GREAT RESPONSIBILITY (1959-1977)
In the 1960s, a new breed of superhero emerges in the pages of Marvel Comics, inspired by the age of atomic energy and space travel and, in turn, inspiring the pop culture and Pop artists of the time.
Spider-Man, the Hulk, and others are the first to have “problems” with which an adult audience can identify, and contemporary social issues make their way into comic books. Black powerhouses such as the Black Panther and Luke Cage appear on the scene and the pages of “Green Lantern/Green Arrow” explode with relevant storylines, as comic books are forced to confront the reality of an increasingly complex world.
A HERO CAN BE ANYONE (1978-Present)
This episode captures the enthusiasm for superheroes as they are embraced in all forms of media and by all demographics, beginning with the historic “Superman” movie featuring Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel. In 1986, Batman is overhauled as The Dark Knight to reflect the nocturnal underside of his character, and Watchmen brings new sophistication to comic book narratives, illuminating a violent and politicized world.
In the burgeoning new millennium, superheroes have taken over popular culture with feature films, television shows and video games complementing a new generation of web-based comics that bring superhero adventures to every corner of the world.
Executives of the China Publishing Group completed their first week of professional development at Pace University. One of the week’s guest speakers was Mike Shatzkin (pictured left), founder and CEO of the Idea Logical Company and co-founder of Publishers Launch Conferences.
Mr. Shatzkin overviewed what he sees as drivers of industry change, among them the unbundling of the value chain, the diffusion of publishing capabilities into organizations of all kinds, and the emergence of businesses that specialize in a particular genre, market, or capability.
Those themes echoed in the presentations of other speakers–Paul Levitz of DC Comics, Clare Toohey of CriminalElement.com, Rick Joyce of Perseus Books Group, Dan Blank of We Grow Media, Boris Hughes of HP, and Jason Epstein of On Demand Books.
The week ended with a lively tour of DC Comics (including the offices of MAD magazine) led by Pace M.S. in Publishing alumnus and professor, Thomas Di Mascio.
Please note that this is a members only event. A student membership is only $20.00 and provides you access to a wonderful year of programing: panels, networking events and parties, and great opportunities like this one! To join go to: http://www.wnba-nyc.org/
This past week, Tom Di Mascio, the Director of Supply Chain Management at DC Comics and a Professor in the MS in Publishing program (and also a former student of mine), graciously gave my three middle-school children (and my husband who could not resist coming along) a tour of DC Comic’s New York offices. We were all excited to see where Superman, Batman and Catwoman (to name only a few), comic book characters were created and brought to life.
In some ways, the halls of the office is like a museum; filled with really cool art — covers from early comic books, a giant hook rug wall hanging of Alfred E. Neuman, the fictional mascot and cover boy of MAD Magazine and giant paintings of Superman.
One really great part of our visit was when Tom walked us through the process of making a comic book by using the 5 huge paintings that lined the lobby wall of the 7th floor ( Picture 3). It was so interesting to learn about all of the people involved in the process and to hear what they each did—who knew that you could be an “inker” as a job!
We met a lot of really interesting people; the MAD Editors, a lawyer with a really cool office filled with action figures and toys and of course we got to see Tom’s office which, given his title, is a dream come true for any kid or comic book fan. We also had a chance to see the Library where the librarian showed us some of the collection and told some great stories about what was there. We even got to hold a copy of a few first editions. It was a fascinating day for us we learned a lot about DC Comics and comic book publishing in general.
According to Prof. Di Mascio, for anyone interested in publishing,
“What is so cool about DC is that we are very active in: traditional publishing (Random House is our distributor); specialty (Diamond Comics is our distributor); subscription sales; newsstand sales; electronic books; collectibles (movie replicas, action figures, and statues)… We’ve got it all AND we save the universe from destruction every day.”
We had a great day-Thank you! Be sure to check out the DC Comics website. The blog is a good read.
Pace University Adjunct Professor of Publishing, Paul Levitz, entered the comics industry in 1971 as Editor/Publisher of The Comic Reader, the first mass-circulation fanzine devoted to comics news. He continued to publish TCR for three years, winning two consecutive annual Comic Art Fan Awards for Best Fanzine. He received Comic-con International’s Inkpot Award in 2002, the prestigious Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award in 2008, and the Comics Industry Appreciation Award from ComicsPro (the trade association of comic shop retailers) in 2010. Levitz also serves on the board of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
Professor Levitz is primarily known for his work for DC Comics, where he has written most of their classic characters including the Justice Society, Superman in both comics and the newspaper strip, and acclaimed runs on The Legion of Super-Heroes. Readers of The Buyers’ Guide voted his Legion: The Great Darkness Saga one of the 20 best comic stories of the last century, and visitors to the site comicbookresources.com selected the same story as #11 of the Top 100 Comic Book Stories of All Time. DC Comics has issued a new hardcover edition of Legion: The Great Darkness Saga in 2010, which made the New York Times’ Graphic Books BestSeller List, as did his recent Legion of Super-Heroes: The Choice.
Cumulatively, Professor Levitz has written over 300 stories with sales of over 25 million copies and translations into over 20 languages. As a DC staffer from 1973, Levitz was an Assistant Editor, the company’s youngest editor ever, and in a series of business capacities, became Executive Vice President & Publisher in 1989 and then served as President & Publisher from 2002-2009. He continues as a Contributing Editor, but is now concentrating on his writing.
His current writing projects include Taschen’s 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking, published for the 2010 holiday season. This book won the comics industry’s Oscar, the Eisner Award, as well as the United Kingdom’s prestigious Eagle Award and Germany’s Peng Award.
During the Fall 2012 semester, Prof. Levitz will be teaching PUB 615, Comics & Graphic Novels. During the Spring 2013 semester he will be teaching a new course, PUB 619, The Future of Publishing: Transmedia, and he hopes to see many of the Pace M.S. in Publishing students in one or both of these classes.
In the piece below, Professor Levitz shares a few of his thoughts on the skills publishing professionals need in an era where media is rapidly changing and converging.
If you told me when I first sat down at an Assistant Editor’s desk that I’d be trading in my typewriter, rubber cement and rubdown Letraset for a computer more powerful than the multi-million one that filled the publishing company’s basement, I would have accused you of escaping from one of the science fiction comics I wrote. So I hesitate to predict what technologies the current Pace Publishing students will end up commanding. But I am convinced that the core competencies of managing creative people and processes will remain vital to our society, and as media change and converge, the need for publishing skills will continue. With that in mind, the new PUB 619, The Future of Publishing: Transmedia, was shaped to give students an overview of how to think about managing content as it travels across different forms.
Part of the joy of my years running DC Comics was looking at my calendar, and seeing my day move from discussions with writers and artists to directors, animators, video game creators, television showrunners, and even people experimenting in media forms that didn’t really exist (yet). It’s an experience that will be shared by more people in the future, as media collide, converge, and become increasingly reliant on each other. With numberless channels to choose from, and all of our centuries of creativity becoming available in the cloud, brands and curators become more important, not less, and many future guides through this confusing time may come from our halls.
So let’s look backward, and examine how and why Baum’s OZ lived on in forms as varied as THE WIZ and WICKED, and whether losing Kansas helped its survival; consider the commonalities of POKEMON, Harry Potter, and…oh…perhaps the ADDAMS FAMILY, to deduce the qualities that enable properties to prosper across media; talk about our roles working with talent in the varied structures that unique forms demand; and imagine together what the future might be like.
There’s got to be a certain pleasure in a class where the instructor comes in admitting he not only doesn’t know all the answers, he’s not sure what the questions are going to be, right?”
When she left DC Comics in September of last year, Janelle Asselin was one of the few female editors at the company. Asselin, who worked on the Batman line, was an editor on Birds of Prey as well as an associate editor on Batwoman, Detective, Batman and a few other books. During her time at DC Comics, Asselin began work on graduate thesis in publishing at Pace University. The topic was one that I have a lot of interest in — increasing the sales of comics among women. I follow Asselin on Twitter and kept tabs on her progress over several months. With the thesis finished, I set up some time to speak to her about her findings. The following is an interview with her about the findings of her thesis and thoughts about women in comics.
Janelle, you took on this thesis when you were an editor at DC Comics, which as you say in your piece, focuses on male readers. Tell me about how you came up with the topic.
I knew when I started my masters program that I wanted to do as much as I could to turn what was a generally focused publishing program into being comics related. I often used comic companies for assignments and things like that. So I knew that I wanted my thesis to be about comics from the very beginning. My thesis advisor had me come up with two possible topics, so I chose women and comics as one and copyright and comics as the other. Through the course of doing some basic research and talking through both topics with friends and family, it became clear that while both interested me, the topic of women and comics was the one I was really passionate about. I worry that a lot of times, commentary on the topic of women and comics veers into the negative, which is so easily dismissed by people on the other side. I wanted to write something positive – something that admitted the problems in the industry (which are plentiful) but more importantly offered what I saw as solutions. And certainly being in the midst of the early days of planning the New 52 and watching, from the inside, as DC hatched marketing plans and all that as I came up with my topic was…influential.
That seems to imply you had some questions about how they were choosing their targets for the new 52. Were you surprised about the lack of targeting of female readers (i.e. the identification of the male 18-34 target)?
I wasn’t surprised, but it was hard to think – I’m working on a book like Birds of Prey which I’m OBVIOUSLY pushing to be aimed at women 18-34, and instead the whole part and parcel was aimed at one narrow demographic. I don’t think it’s a good idea to ignore a demographic that could be so valuable and which is largely so untapped at this point.
Janelle, summarize for me what are the conclusions you made from your research. What surprised you most?
The primary conclusions I made from my research are that there are four different ways the comics industry can adjust to increase sales to an often excluded demographic that just happens – oh yeah – to make up over 50% of America. Those four ways are better marketing towards women, more inclusive content, more effective distribution, and changing the cultural preconceptions of comics. Not every company would need to do every thing on that list, obviously. There are great indie companies that produce content that is already woman-friendly – but people just don’t know about them yet. They would need to market to women better or find new ways to distribute. And better marketing to women would, over time, change the cultural preconceptions of comics.
The thing that surprised me the most was that the answers, as I saw them anyway, were not insane, drastic measures that companies would need to take. These are all within the grasp of comics publishers and retailers. Obviously the cultural preconceptions are difficult to change, but with the other three being adjusted, that would come eventually. It just takes actually considering women of any age a viable market for comics.
Did you have any preconceived beliefs going into it? What were they?
I’ll be the first to admit that for most of my life I did not consider myself a “feminist” or anything of the sort. I have a dear friend who is a definite feminist who taught me a lot about what it really meant to be a feminist and speak up about the issues that women face. The evolution of my feminism really kicked off when I started my thesis, though. Previously I had…not a dismissive view of the issues women in comics face, but I think really an innocence about how deep and serious those problems are. Spending my time living and breathing WOMEN AND COMICS all the time really changed how I thought about the entire industry and certainly about women’s place in it. I tend to be an optimist so I really wanted to find that we were all underestimating comics publishers and shop owners…but we’re not, at least not for many of them. It’s one thing to know your own experiences and it’s another to see those experiences mirrored in hundreds of respondents on a survey or see the gender breakdown in readers from publishers and convention organizers.
You mention the paper helping to evolve your self-identity as a feminist. As you delved down into the issues of women and comics did you have one moment where you shook your head or had a light go off that changed your view? Do you identify as a feminist today?
It was definitely a more gradual process for me but probably the biggest revelation was – oh yeah, there are comics that are good for women that are out there! It’s easy to get bogged down in the day to day sludge through superhero comics that don’t want us as consumers, especially as someone who got into comics through that genre and worked in that genre, and forget that there are a ton of small companies or self-publishing cartoonists who ARE doing a great job. Those companies and cartoonists should be recognized – and we should find a way to help them market themselves. And yes, I do identify as a feminist today.
In the paper you state:
without changing the content problems that the largest publishers in the country have, the perception of comic books as a whole will not change.
As well as concluding:
The content of comics from the main two publishers needs to be less sexist and offensive to women and the entire industry needs to have a diverse selection of comics for women and children.
The survey showed that 77% of those in your survey said they thought more female creators would increase female readership although there was clearly some conflicting data regarding whether female creators influenced a purchase but that said I was interested to hear your thoughts around female creators as a factor in getting more female readers. How important do you think it is? How realistic?
I think the bottom line is that more female creators are good for the industry. The important things about hiring more female creators (which, to be honest, is not at all easy) are that it both furthers the appearance of the industry as a place for women and they are more likely to write women well. If you were a woman considering reading comics but you’d started to dismiss the industry as a “guy thing” and you saw a cool comic written by a woman – wouldn’t that make you think twice? It’s not as if it would be an immediate rush of female readers but I think that the appeal of seeing things created by women does make the industry seem more like it’s a place for women. And while there are male writers who can write women really well (Greg Rucka and Duane Swierczynski both come to mind), there are MANY who cannot. A good writer should be able to write people of any gender well, but more often than not in superhero comics you find decent writers who write fairly complex male characters and female characters that are sexy cardboard cut-outs. And don’t even get me started on how women are often drawn. It’s frustrating to read. Female readers want to read and see better female characters and there’s a hope, I think, from all of us, that female creators can offer that.
As far as how realistic it is to expect female creators to bring in female readers, I think it’s important but like all creative decisions in comics can go completely unnoticed if not paired with good marketing and better distribution. If publishers think hiring a female writer or artist is going to double their sales to women, they’re likely going to be disappointed. But if they pair a female creator with a good marketing effort (aimed at places women actually look) and distribute it in a way that women have access to, then I think you have a great chance.
Another interesting conclusion was that comics needs to product more content for children given that you are now working with content for kids. (Note: at Marvel/Disney) Tell me about your thoughts there – do you see it as feeding a new generation? A way to reach the powerful “momconomy”?
I cannot speak strongly enough about how interrelated I think women and children readers are and how both are extremely important to the future of comics. Women make 80% of the retail purchases in America. EIGHTY PERCENT. And that means that more often than not, if a kid is shopping, it’s with mom. So if the comic industry wants to have a future and hook readers young, they need to target both women and children. If a woman is reading comics, she’ll be more likely to let her kid read comics. And if a kid is raised in a house where one or both parents read comics, I think we all already know that he or she will be more likely to read comics. Kids who never know comics exist are going to have a hard time finding them when they’re at an age that most superhero comics are geared towards. And even better in all of this is the fact that if mom reads comics, she’ll have no problem with her daughters reading comics, which increases the future female readership of comics as well as just the future male readership of comics. There’s no loss here for the comics industry. It just takes foresight. Creating more comics for kids and women, making sure they know they exist, and making sure they’re accessible could genuinely change the future of the industry. Some publishers are already doing a great job making stuff for one or both (Top Shelf and Archaia both leap to mind). We just need a greater segment of the industry to take those demographics seriously.
Clearly I and other comics readers were concerned by what we saw was a missed opportunity by new 52 to target female readers. Given your thesis and the fact that you were there was there anything you would have done differently?
Unfortunately I can’t give you a truly honest answer to this, but I will say one thing: the one thing I wouldn’t change, in many ways, is Birds of Prey. I’m so damn proud of that book. Duane and Jesus and June just keep getting better month after month. When I read Birds, I see the best of what I wanted to accomplish at DC.
Okay, I give you the key to the marketing kingdom for the big two. What would be the first thing you would do to get more female readers?
Well I think before I’d market either of the big two to women, I’d make sure the content was woman-friendly. But if that had been achieved, I’d say get the comics out there into the mainstream. Pay money to get comics into the hands of women on television – make it seem normal for women to read comics. Both companies are owned by large media conglomerate, so this shouldn’t be too terribly hard. Get previews or ads in magazines like Bust, which already caters to women who are more open-minded about comics. And of course, spend some time courting the women who are already reading comics by doing previews, interviews, ads, etc on the websites they read.
Let’s jump 5 years into the future. Jump! What would make you happy about women in comics? What would surprise you?
I’d say a large percentage increase of female readers, industry-wide, would make me happy. Heck, not even THAT large of an increase – something like 25% more than there are currently in the industry. Growth that would make it obvious we’re here and we’re not going away. More product made for women, definitely. Product that’s made for men that’s less misogynistic. Product that is aimed at both genders. Marketing campaigns big and small aimed at women. These are the relatively easy things – the distribution and cultural changes are more long-term goals.
What would surprise me is if companies were still approaching comics as being only for men. The industry is not on an upswing, and sooner or later, publishers and retailers will want to hit new markets – and they’ll realize that MORE men 18-34 may not be the answer they once thought.
And finally, if you had someone ask what superhero comics offer to women, despite the challenges you outlined, what would you say?
Awesome characters! They may not always be written or drawn well, but man, think of all the AMAZING female characters that are in super hero comics. Black Canary, Rogue, Huntress, Storm…even Cass Cain, Stephanie Brown, and Oracle still exist in back issues and trades and can exist again. These are characters that are fun to watch when they’re at their best – and they are an escape from our every day lives, where most of us don’t get to take down criminals or save lives. The characters make it all worth it, because in the right hands, they are amazing.
You can view some of the statistics from a survey that Asselin conducted for her thesis here.
To see the original blog post, visit the DC Women Kicking Ass blog here.
DC Comics seeks a Supply Chain Management/Logistics Administrator for the Publishing Operations department. Purchasing position that is central to support of Director, Supply Chain Management & Logistics in ensuring compliance of purchasing policies. Supplies information to Director for analysis, research, reports and real-time costing of projects. Back-up the Supply Chain Management & Logistics Director in his absence.
- Keep up-to-date with all new WB SAP/ EBP policies and assist Director with training of personnel company-wide.
- Research into purchase of unique items upon request.
- Complete monthly reconciliation packet for P-card purchases.
- Manage the reconciliation of all logistics transactions.
- Assists Director in a back-up/ supporting role with ongoing initiatives and projects in addition to supporting with interactions/ projects between DC Supply Chain Management & Logistics Department and Warner Brothers Procurement and Time Warner Procurement Departments.
- Organize all departmental projects on a weekly basis and capture the savings achieved whenever applicable.
- Act as an in-house CSR/ Project Manager on commercial print and premium projects (e.g. specialty production and printing for MAD magazine; Marketing Department requests; etc).
- Communicate with in-house departments, outside vendors and freight companies to compare freight quotes and organize transportation based on the best method determined (books from printers; transfer of books between distribution channels; comp copy freight).
- Work with Director, Supply Chain Management & Logistics to troubleshoot or resolve any issues pertaining to shipments.
- Maintain shipping documentation for all projects handled.
- Shopping Cart Maintainer for DC Comics.
- Other duties as required.
- Related degree in accredited school or equivalent work experience required.
- 2 years in related industry required.
- Good presentation skills (verbal and written) required.
- Knowledge of international and domestic freight/logistics a plus.
- Knowledge of print production process.
- Knowledge of premium sourcing and production process a plus.
- Must be comfortable working with numbers. Analytical skills necessary.
- Expert knowledge of Excel required.
- Knowledge of MS Word.
- Knowledge of SAP a plus.
- Ability to work with confidential material required.
- Must be detail oriented, have good follow-through skills and be able to handle multiple tasks simultaneously.
- Must have ability to meet deadlines and schedules.
- Must have ability to deal with a wide range of suppliers and levels of management.
- General business negotiation skills required.
To apply go to: http://www.warnerbroscareers.com/Search/index.htm, select the Administration / Clerical category, and find the Supply Chain Management / Logistics Administrator position.
Students or alumni who apply should email a copy of their resume and cover letter to Professor Jane Denning
Thomas DiMascio is a 1994 Pace University MS in Publishing Alumni. Since graduating from Pace, Mr. DiMascio has had a successful career working in book publishing and is currently the Director of Supply Chain Management for D.C. Comics.
In this interview in addition to offering up a bit of advice to students and alumni, Mr. DiMascio will tell us a bit about how his career has evolved and continues to grow in today’s dynamic publishing environment.
If you are an alumni and would like to be interviewed or, if you would like to suggest alumni for future interviews, please email Professor Jane Denning at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include all of the relevant contact information.
Prof. Denning: Hi Tom and thank you for agreeing to do this interview. It has been 17 years since you graduated from the M.S. in Publishing program. What have you been doing with yourself since then?
I was very fortunate to have been able to travel for business. I spent a lot of time in England, China, Switzerland, Spain, Canada, and Italy, where I met my wife between press-checks. I also took the time to return to school yet again for my MBA at Rutgers University. That was a very intense program. I called it boot-camp for the brain.
Currently I’m in my eighth year at Warner Bros. / DC Entertainment and raising my family in New Jersey. Because I can never sit still, I began teaching Business 101 at my local community college last fall and this summer I will teach a course in Supply Chain Management in our Masters in Publishing program. I can’t wait.
Prof. Denning: How has the industry changed since you began your career? What was the work environment like then (in terms of job opportunities) as opposed to now?
TD: From the beginning I knew that this industry, while rewarding, is not the best place to be if you want to be rich. That was fine with me then and it remains so today.
I began working for Viking Penguin during the summer during my undergraduate studies. This was way back in the late eighties. There were only a few personal computers in the office and I spent most of my time glued to one crunching data on how many books we picked, packed, and shipped to the world. Nowadays I am stilled glued to a computer but I am answering e-mails every second of the day. They come in faster than I can respond!
As far as job opportunities go, they are tight. Publishing houses have been transforming for over two decades from the old-world stodgy houses of the past into modern businesses. Just as this change was moving into its final stage, the industry has now arrived at a crossroad with the new world of digital publishing.
Prof. Denning: Please tell me a bit about how our educational experience at Pace prepared you for your publishing career.
TD: There are two ways to learn about the publishing industry in a relatively short amount of time. One way, that I believe to be illegal, is to clone yourself many times and go to work in every department at a large publishing house. The easier way is to go to enroll in the M.S. in Publishing Program.
When I enrolled in the program, I had an operational / business perspective on the industry. For me, it was incredible to see how a work makes it from the slush pile or agent; then to a finished work. The more I learned about the process, the better I became at my job and the more I fell in love with the industry. There is nothing like knowing that you are an important part of either entertaining or educating the world.
Prof. Denning: How have you been involved in the program since graduating?
TD: I had lost touch for a number of years. About two years ago, you and a former colleague of mine from Wiley, Linda Bathgate — yet another Pace graduate — were instrumental in bringing me back to the program as an adjunct professor. Last year, I was honored to perform a guest lecture for a group of executives from the publishing industry in China. This summer, I will teach a course in supply chain management in the publishing industry. I can’t wait to share what I have learned!
Prof Denning: Where did you intern when you were in Graduate school? Was it a valuable experience?
TD: I was lucky enough to have already been working in the industry. While studying for my bachelors at Rutgers, I had worked at Viking Penguin and John Wiley and Sons. Upon graduation, I remained at Wiley. It was while I was at Wiley that I entered the program. Those two publishing houses are two of the finest examples of excellence in global publishing and were fantastic places to learn about the industry. I would go back to either in a heartbeat!
Prof. Denning: What was the topic of your thesis paper? What advice would you give to students who still have to write their papers?
TD: My thesis was a study of the function of book packagers. After I completed my coursework, it took me several years to sit down and write it. My first bit of advice is not to do that. Yes, you have time, but don’t let life get in the way of your thesis. That said, I had devoted much time to researching the topic, attending events, and interviewing book packagers around the world. I was fascinated with the process, as it entailed every aspect of running a publishing house, short of making and selling copies of the work. Book packagers create works but do not publish. They sell the rights to publish the work to publishers throughout the world. Publishers are happy because they can simply add works to their front-list without having to acquire and develop it.
Prof. Denning: I know that this semester you were given an iPad to assist you with your course and that you are also working with an internship student (who was also given an iPad) as a faculty mentor. Can you tell us about your impression of the iPad? The experience of working as a faculty mentor?
TD: Having an iPad has changed how I personally view e-books. I think that the device itself is revolutionary. Oddly, it really does nothing more than a laptop can do; but it is so damn portable and the battery lasts forever — that’s what makes it a game-changer. I read books, check my e-mail, watch movies, surf the web. It is incredible. If I was first given a Kindle, I don’t think that it would have made the same impact as the iPad has. It will be super-interesting to see how the tablet and e-book reader market develops.
Being a faculty mentor is a really nice experience. I am a father, a coach, a boss, etc., so being a mentor comes naturally for me. Clare, the student who I have been assigned to is a dream. She is so smart, driven, and mature. I’m sure that before I retire, I’ll be reporting to her.
Prof. Denning: Have you always been interested publishing? Where did that passion come from?
TD: As I mentioned earlier, my love for publishing sprung from a simple summer job at Viking Penguin while I was an undergrad. It was love at first sight (pathetic but true). I was just enamored by all of the books; thousands of them surrounding me. I said to myself that I wanted to be a part of making books. Well, that was 1988 and I’m still here. I love it.
Prof Denning: Can you tell us a bit about DC Comics and what it is like working there?
TD: Unique! I am not a fanboy like most here. That makes me stand out. However, I’ve been here over eight years and I do enjoy it immensely. What I do really like is the business itself. I deal with conventional hardcovers and paperbacks; but it doesn’t stop there. Comics themselves are periodicals like magazines; so I work with the subscriptions and newsstand channels too. We also publish MAD magazine. It is published by a small and very intelligent team of nuts who are great to work with.
Then there are the collectibles. They are way cool. I’ve been to China several times managing the relationships with our factories that produce our action figures, statues, and movie props.
Since DC is part of Warner Bros. and Time Warner, I also have the privilege of working on and with projects that sometimes touch our movies, games, and animation business. Also, I often work on inter-company projects with my colleagues from other Time Warner divisions: TW Corporate, WB, HBO, CNN, Turner, and Time Life.
Finally, there are all of the Top Secret things that have to deal with saving the universe… Unfortunately, I can’t go further.. You don’t get much cooler than that.
Prof. Denning: What do you think the future holds for DC Comics? The graphic novel book/comic book industry in general?
TD: We recently reorganized our business. We’ve been a publisher for over seventy-five years and that says a lot about our business. The world has changed, however. Warner Bros. wants us to be more adept at working with them to bring new projects to the big screen and television; not to mention games and of course electronic publishing. We shall see were this takes us in, say, five years. I guarantee you that the business will be very different while still having the publishing team at its core.
Prof. Denning: Tell us a bit about what your job entails—what is “Supply Chain Management”?
TD: Supply Chain Management is like marketing on steroids. The discipline examines all functions from the point after R&D until the moment that the product is placed in the customers’ hand. Then we are charged with working with all business units to make sure that we are providing the customer with exactly what they want, when they want it, and in the most efficient manner.
What the heck does that mean? Well, before supply chain management, there were all of these silos of business units — marketing, production, manufacturing, sales, distribution, customer service — doing their jobs as best as they see fit. Unfortunately, that often translates into the customer NOT getting what they want, when they want it. Things unintentional get lost in translational. For a business that means a loss in productivity and unhappy clients.
The skill set of someone in supply chain management is two-fold. You need to be good enough in mathematics and statistics to be able to handle forecasting as well as remaining very politically savvy. In business, working between business units can be dangerous. Towers with high walls and moats are often created around departments. Department heads don’t often want to work together with others because it reduces their power. Sound crazy? It is.
Prof Denning: What do you think the future holds for book publishers? Do you think the launch of designated ebook readers and the iPad (and subsequent tablets) forever changed publishing as we know it?
TD: There is no doubt that the industry has changed. I think that it is a change for the better. Good, smart publishers will survive. The art of publishing does not discriminate from the form the final product takes.
Prof: Denning: What do you think the biggest trends in book publishing are today?
TD: From my perspective, the biggest single trend that I see is that publishers are finally understanding that “content is king.” With the real birth of an e-book market, all publishers are learning how to publish in electronic format. An offspring seems to be a resurgence in the concept of on-demand printing. With a combination of on-demand technology and e-books, publishers theoretically never need to place a title out-of-print. This will have a huge positive impact on a publisher’s bottom line — assuming they can adapt.
Prof. Denning: Would you like to speculate on the future ebooks? What areas to you think will be the most impacted (textbooks, childrens, trade, graphic novels, romance etc.)?
TD: They are here to stay. The question is in what format and on what platform. I think that any publisher can create a great e-book for their particular genre.
Prof. Denning: What do you think the essential skills our students need to leave the program with in order to succeed in the industry?
TD: In my opinion there are two fundamental traits: a deep understanding of the content and a strong marketing skill set. If you have a strong connection with the content you will be able to relate both with the creators and customers. With a strong skill set in marketing you will understand how to use data analysis in locating and satisfying your customers.
Prof. Denning: Can you tell us a bit about the course you will be teaching this summer?
TD: The course is an introduction to supply chain management in the publishing industry. Most courses in the program focus on creating the original work within a publishing house. For the first time, we will take a look at how works mysteriously make their way from the publisher and into the hands of the consumer.
Prof. Denning: Any other advice you would like to offer up to our students?
TD: Like anything in life, hard work and perseverance go a long way. Best of luck to our students!!!
Prof. Denning: Thanks, Thomas!
Paul Levitz is a comic fan (The Comic Reader), editor (Batman, among many titles), writer (Legion of Super-Heroes, including four NY Times Best Sellers), executive (30 years at DC, ending as President & Publisher), historian (75 Years of DC Comics: The Art Of Modern Myth-Making and educator (including teaching a course on “The American Graphic Novel” at Columbia and Princeton, as well as “Transmedia & The Future of Publishing” in Pace’s M.S. in Publishing Program). He won two consecutive annual Comic Art Fan Awards for Best Fanzine, received Comic-con International’s Inkpot Award, the prestigious Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award, and the Comics Industry Appreciation Award from ComicsPro. His Taschen book won the Eisner Award, the Eagle Award and Munich’s Peng Pris, and his most recent book explores the birth of the graphic novel in Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel. Levitz also serves on the board of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and Boom! Studios.