I’ve always been a DC kid. The first comic I ever bought myself was a 1984 issue of Batman where the caped crusader fought his orange and yellow garbed enemy The Catman. Twenty five years later, the DC Universe is still my first stop for comic book entertainment. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Green Arrow and Aquaman truly are the World’s Greatest Superheroes. Heck, the Black Canary is probably the only woman I ever truly loved, and I’m so dedicated I even have her tattooed on my body!
However, it hasn’t always been easy being a DC kid. Although DC has gone down in history as being the oldest comic book company in existence, it has been criticized as being stodgy, dull and not nearly as cutting edge as its rival, Marvel Comics. With their radioactive spiders, gamma powered monsters and multitude of “X” books, Marvel Comics has been the top dog at comic shops for decades. DC Comics just didn’t seem to have a chance against the Mighty House of M.
Then Dan DiDio arrived on the comic scene.
With a background in television and public relations, Dan DiDio has been acting as the Senior Editor and Vice President of DC Comics since 2002. Under his guidance, the DC Universe has gained a sudden surge of popularity, slowly rising back to the top of the comic book world in both relevance and acclaim. With such major events as Identity Crisis, Final Crisis and Blackest Night, in addition to hit year long weekly series as Countdown and 52, under Dan DiDio’s watch the DC Universe has proven to be a new golden age for the company. His DC Universe has enticed readers back into fold and brought new excitement to the comic book world.
However, Dan DiDio has managed to go one step beyond his predecessors by making himself readily available to fans. Starting with his weekly DC Nation column, Dan put a name, face and personality forward to the public, refusing to just be a typed name at the bottom of the third page of the comic book. By holding popular panels such as DC Nation, DC Universe and Sunday Conversation at multiple comic book conventions across North America, Dan has made great strides in addressing the questions and concerns of the fans of DC Comics. Often a controversial figure, Dan has been both loved and loathed by comic readers. However, Dan points out with pride that he does listen to the opinions of the fans. Due to the comments and devotions of the fan base at his attendance breaking convention panels, books have been saved, plots have been changed and characters have come back from the dead. Not since Stan Lee has a comic company editor in chief been so in touch with his readers, and recognized by the company’s fan base.
It was at one of these convention panels that I caught up with Dan DiDio. Dan is what you’d call a typical New Yorker. With a thick Brooklyn accent and a big personality, Dan’s enthusiasm for comic books is exhilarating. He makes the fans at his panels feel completely at ease, allowing the conversation to flow easily and rapidly. Although comic books are his business, Dan DiDio still speaks the same language as comic book fans. Deep inside of him there is still a little bit of a fan boy. Perhaps that is why comic fans connect so well with Dan; in him we see a bit of ourselves.
Through his columns and constant dialogue with news outlets such as Newsarama and Wizard, Dan DiDio is a weekly presence in the comic book world where he generates excitement with hints, spoilers and clever teases of things to come. Sometimes it seems that Dan has said it all already. However, just who is Dan DiDio? What is his background with comics? How did he get involved in the industry? Why does he love comic books the way he does? Just who is this man who has revolutionized the DC Universe? I was determined to find out about the man known as Dan DiDio. But like any good fan boy I also had my own agenda. Could I interest Dan in bringing back DC’s 1960’s humour book Swing with Scooter? Come and join me and see as
CONFESSIONS OF A POP CULTURE ADDICT PRESENTS
SWING WITH DAN:
A CONVERSATION WITH DC COMICS’ EXECUTIVE EDITOR DAN DIDIO
Sam Tweedle: Your career didn’t start in comic books but, in fact, television. Weren’t you initially involved in soap operas?
Dan DiDio: Actually, I worked in production and then I did publicity for the soaps. Then I did programming with the children’s shows and I was heavily involved with an animation company based out of Vancouver called Mainframe Entertainment.
Sam: They produced Reboot.
Dan: Ye=ah. Exactly. With Reboot I have a long history. I started as the program exec. I was the one who got to cancel the show and as revenge they hired me on to be the story edit for the third and fourth season of the series and then I got involved from the company from there, but Reboot is something that is near and dear to my heart.
Sam: Now how did that career prepare you to get into the comic book business?
Dan: I always been interested in comics. If you go back I got rejection letters from 1978.
Sam: Who rejected you?
Dan: Paul Levitz rejected me a couple of times. Jim Shooter rejected me. I got some of those people. I still know who they are.
Sam: What were the projects that you were pitching?
Dan: I pitched a couple of series involving some of the characters at DC. I had some Spider-man stories that I submitted. Jimmy Palmiotti collaborated and I pitched some 2099 stories to Joey Cavalieri back in the day. There was a bunch of them. A lot of creator owned stuff back during the black and white boom in the 80’s.
Sam: So have you always been a comic book collector? Have you always been interested in comics?
Dan: I’ve been a solid comic collector since 1971.
Sam: What was your first comic?
Dan: First comic that I remember, and I still have it to this day, which is what most people have, was Spider-man #40. Spidey Saves the Day, which I have a giant poster of in my house. That was the first one I had. I used to collect a lot of the horror comics – House of Secrets and House of Mystery, Man-Thing, Swamp Thing, Creatures on the Prowl, Creatures on the Loose, Where Creatures Roam... all those books.
Sam: So when you were a kid where you a DC kid or a Marvel kid?
Dan: Went back and forth. I looked at Spider-man on one side because the cartoon. I looked at the 80 page giants of Superman and Batman for the value. I picked up a lot of books in the day and then you just kind of build up from there
Sam: Obviously you read a lot of comics being the executive editor of DC, but do you read any books from any of the independent companies, or do you read any Marvel book?
Dan: I receive three hundred comics a month, which includes DC and all the other companies and I go through seventy to eighty percent of those every month.
Sam: So on a full scope, what are you enjoying the most?
Dan: That’s not a question I normally answer. It’s hard for me to enjoy anything because I’m looking at it with an extremely critical eye. You’re reviewing it for talent for people that you might want to bring into DC. You’re reviewing for talent because you’re wondering why certain books are breaking out and why they’re selling better then yours. Your reviewing it for so many different reasons – format, paper, pricing. I have to look at everything to see what the tone of the market is and what’s breaking out there.
Sam: Everyone has that one special character that they love the most. The one they are devoted to. The one that they would get tattooed on their body. Which ones yours?
Dan: (Laughs) That would be Godzilla but that’s not a comic book.
Sam: You’re a big fan of Godzilla!
Dan: I love all the Godzilla films! For comics though, I gravitate to some of the eclectic characters. From the DC side it’s The Metal Men, Adam Strange, Deadman. I love Swamp Thing, The Challengers of the Unknown, Doom Patrol. On the Marvel side everything from Spiderman and the Hulk to The Avengers and beyond. I just love comics and storytelling.
Sam: Who is your personal favourite writer and artists of all time?
Dan: It’s hard to say. There are just so many things that people enjoy. How can you say you’re not a fan of Stan Lee’s writing? It’s just impossible to do. So much of what he has done has influenced so many people. Probably more then anybody else in comics. One of my own personal favourite moments was when I had the chance to meet him when I was at ABC Children’s Programming and he came in one time to pitch me.
Sam: To pitch you? Wow. That must have been surreal!
Dan: Yeah. There’s a funny story that goes with that. A good friend of mine, Linda Stiener, who I worked for in children’s television, had a meeting set up with Marvel Entertainment and Stan was coming in to pitch a Thor series and a Captain America/Avengers series at ABC. [Linda] knew I was super excited about it. I was jumping all over the place. I couldn’t wait to meet Stan. As the story goes, we had the meeting and we were sitting there talking for ten or twenty minutes about how Captain America works with The Avengers but how it is hard to do him separately, and it was a wonderful conversation that I was having with him. Then in the middle of the talk Linda leans into Stan and says “You know how excited he was to see you? He was jumping up and down! He was so excited!” I was sitting really high and then I was all deflated because I went to having this really intellectual conversation with Stan Lee to being the ultimate fan boy. [Stan Lee] was truly truly one of the most impressive and wonderful people to meet.
Sam: What project are you most excited about right now.
Dan: You know, it’s hard to say. The fact that the Batman books are working as well as they do. The fact that Blackest Night is breaking as big as it did. The fact that we are building a really strong story with Superman. The fact that we are doing so many different things with so many books. I point to things like Secret Six as being the little book that could. It’s hard to pick one thing because I am proud of so much and the better goal is that everybody [at DC] is working their hardest and that’s what gets me the most excited. I have a wonderful staff of people working in editorial putting the effort into making the books the best they can be. The talent committed to everything going on, and I can tell you honestly that we are at a point right now that the people that we are working with, and that work for us at DC, is committed to what is going on, and I couldn’t be happier with the crew that we have assembled.
Sam: I go on message boards frequently and…
Dan: I never go near them.
Sam: But you know, there is a lot of fan criticism, because a lot of fans get passionate about their favourite characters. A lot of times they come directly at you. How do you deal with fan criticism?
Dan: You know what? This may sound weird but it doesn’t bother me. Primarily because it’s not personal. Even in the most personal thing somebody could write, it’s not personal. It has nothing to do with me. They have no idea who I am. They are reacting to what they are doing, what they’re reading, what they’re seeing so you can’t take it personal. The fact of the matter is, if people get that incensed or that excited that it’s a good thing in some ways because that means they care. I think the worst thing that we could experience, or the worst thing that we can do, is be faced with apathy, where people don’t care anymore because once they don’t care they have no reason to buy, no reason to read and no reason to be around. That’s the last thing I want. We take it from there. There are a lot of good people. That’s one of the best things about conventions is getting a chance to meet people face to face, because you get a much more honest response and get a much more interesting conversation. A much more interesting dialogue going. We go to these conventions and a lot of decisions are based on fan reactions that people give us. What they say.
Sam: Like when you were planning on killing Dick Grayson?
Dan: Yeah. Its fascinating to me because sometimes we can be one hundred percent right in our assumptions, and then we can be one hundred percent wrong, but the goal is to make it right and to make it work to the best of our ability and the nature of what we do is wonderful. We have every month to fix it. We have every month to make it better and even when it’s working right there is no rest.
Sam: Is there an editorial decision that you have ever regretted making?
Sam: Anything you can share?
Dan: Is there ever anything you ever did that you regretted?
Sam: Sure. Asking that last question.
Dan: There you go! (Laughs)
Sam: I’ve been to a number of the panels that you’ve done over the years and I enjoy them a lot. It really seems that you’ve personally been putting a face, a voice and a name to the creators that work at DC through these panels. How did you come up with the DC Nation and Sunday Conversation panels come about?
Dan: The simplest answer is there are three days of a convention and you need three different reasons to do a panel. The last thing I wanted to do was do the same panel over and over because it gets repetitive and you get the same questions and by the third day there is nothing left to talk about because you see the same people. So what I want to do is get the different types of responses. DC Nation is basically a free for all. It’s a real give and take and a real interactive panel. We’re getting people’s real insights and real opinions and real honesty in what they like or dislike. There is no book or statements that are off limits from that and we go out of our way to assure that. Even if somebody says something that the rest of the room disagrees with, we make sure that everybody has a voice and everybody is listened to. That’s DC Nation. DC Universe isn’t really about us but is about the [creators]. I like to get the
talent to talk about what really excites them and get that interaction again. Then we have Sunday Conversation. It’s all about the fans. There is not a single professional in the room. It’s a chance for fans to tell their stories. The one story I love was when once we were talking about the weirdest ways to get comics and this one guy told us that he was a soldier in Iraq and his PX didn’t have comics and he was waiting for a particular issue of some book and he couldn’t wait to get it, so what he did was put together a convoy and rode through a hot zone to go to another location to where the comic was available. Once you pretty much do that, that conversation is over. Nobody is going to be able to get close.
Sam: Okay, so one last question. Any chances that there might be a return of Swing with Scooter? I think that DC is ready for the return of Swing with Scooter!
Dan: No, I won’t swing with Scooter.
So there’s my answer. Scooter won’t be returning to the DC Universe anytime soon. However, never say never. With Dan DiDio leading the company in bold new directions, anything is possible.