Since Warner Bros. merged with AT&T, the future of both companies dropped into flux. Warner Bros., specifically DC Comics, looked to take advantage of the streaming space by giving comics fans their own space. Original series like Titans, Swamp Thing, and Young Justice: Outsiders were the key appeal to bring subscriptions in. Yet, once HBO Max announced itself as the streaming home for all things Warner Bros., DC Universe found itself in the unfortunate position of having to compete with its parent company. There did seem to be partnership on the horizon, especially given that Doom Patrol was co-financed by HBO Max and DC Universe licensed Harley Quinn to it. Yet, as AT&T restructures the corporation, DC Universe (and DC Comics) ended up hit with massive layoffs. More than ever, this puts the future of the service in jeopardy.
Yet, it’s not as simple as just taking everything from DC Universe, both original productions and library of old films and shows, to HBO Max. Because the greatest value of DC Universe had little to do with streaming video, and everything to do with access to the massive 80-year library of DC Comics for just $8 per month. We’ve all read reprints of the first Superman, Batman, or other legacy characters’ stories. Yet, what about the third issue of Batman? Maybe the first appearance of the Riddler? Chances are, you can find those stories in the DC Universe comics library.
Personally, I was able to finish reading a comic series that I started when I was about five or six years old, but never completed. Even if all the video options disappear, the comic book library is still something WarnerMedia and AT&T could work with.
What Do the DC Universe Layoffs Mean for the Future of DC Comics?
Image via DC Comics
Early this spring (down the long haul into history back), the ludicrous rumor that AT&T would sell DC Comics to Marvel circulated. (Jim Lee debunked that rumor pretty quickly). In fact, Lee reiterated that the future of DC Comics’ universe is still big and bright, which it still is despite the layoffs. The upcoming DC FanDome is a virtual celebration of all things DC, tossing everything together rather than keeping them all in discrete boxes. Warner Bros. used to want to keep the Arrowverse separate from the DCEU, and those separate from the animated films. Yet, now, they are happily calling it all one big Multiverse.
Things are not all bad for DC Universe’s chances to stay functional during this time of transition. People said the early cancellation of Swamp Thing was a sign of certain doom for the service. More recently, the cancellation of DC Daily, a “show” that served as daily marketing for DC Universe, kicked up those rumors again. However, Titans season 3 is still happening (as far as we know), but it’s also possible that it could jump to HBO Max as well. There was also a rumor that Greg Berlanti, HBO Max, and DC Universe were all teaming up for a slate of shows. (Though, in hindsight that rumor seems more like information or a guess that didn’t pan out.)
More concerning is the report that DC Comics laid off a third of their editorial staff. This could be pandemic related or part of the usual corporate restructuring after a merger. Yet, DC Comics (or, more accurately, their characters) represent far too large of a cash cow for WarnerMedia and AT&T for them to ever let go.
In Spite of Layoffs, What Hope Might Fans of DC Universe Have for Its Future?
Image via DC Comics
One of the more interesting developments is that HBO Max and DC Universe partnered on a promotion. The deal offers access to both services for a price less than the cost of just HBO Max. Alone this suggests a kind of intra-corporate cooperation between the services. Yet, taken with all the other events of late, it suggests that they are hoping DC Universe users get used to having HBO Max.
Still, the one thing that might keep DC Universe afloat, even if all streaming and original content production moves to HBO Max are the books. HBO Max doesn’t have the digital infrastructure to seamlessly incorporate digital publishing material. Even Amazon keeps Prime Video and Kindle Reading/Comixology very separate. So, DC Universe could remain as a digital repository of comics, much like Marvel Unlimited. In fact, like Comixology, DC Universe might even get into producing original comics content, exclusive to the service. This is all speculation, mind you, but it’s not inconceivable.
After the massive layoffs at DC Universe and DC Comics, fans worry about the future of the service. However, if the comics readership remains strong and people stay subscribed even without the promise of new streaming video content, it may just have a chance.
What do you think? Is DC Universe going to go away or do you think it has a place in the WarnerMedia empire as a comic book library for DC diehards? Share your thoughts below.
Featured image via DC Universe
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.