DC Comics moves its offices to an open building designed by Frank Gehry
As private social media posts have reported over the past month, DC Comics is moving from its purpose-built offices in the building known as The Pointe in Burbank to new facilities. The new building is designed by world renowned architect Frank Gehry and is already a landmark on the I134 freeway, earning it the nickname “the iceberg”. Although some have reported that DC is moving to the Warner Media lot, this is definitely not the case, although the lot itself isn’t too far away and the Iceberg is located in the heart of the WB/Disney media district in Burbank, and not far as the crow flies from La Pointe.
Sources close to DC tell me that the planned move actually predates the pandemic and involves divisions other than DC. But the big change is that the new office will be the popular “open space – hot desk” model that more businesses are turning to after COVID. This means that no more than 30% of the workforce will be present at any time. I have no idea how many people work for DC these days, but when the company decided to move to the west coast, it was about 250 people, and 20% of the staff was cut at that time there, and others have since been deleted. But it’s still probably over 100 people.
It is unclear whether senior managers will have their own offices. At the very least, CCO Jim Lee needs a drawing board for visual purposes so hopefully.
The move and the new office plan really aren’t that revolutionary – as most businesses have discovered over the past two years, business can work just fine remotely, and most people DON’T WANT TO RETURN TO OFFICE.
In fact, while trying to find out more about this move, I was told that Marvel Comics in New York switched to the open space/hot desk model a while back in the midst of COVID. Given their historical lack of office space, that makes a lot of sense.
However, DC’s decision was not greeted with joy by workers. “That sucks,” one of them told me at close range. There are several reasons for this, as far as I know.
First, DC has gone through the boom over the past two years, with massive layoffs, a completely new business model, fickle management, and their latest CEO, Daniel Cherry III, who suddenly jumped ship. (although I’m told the move was met with cheers internally.) Plus, add in the complete uncertainty of Discovery taking over. So more change is more stress for survivors.
Second, the move is clunky to begin with. The new construction project was originally scheduled to be completed in 2023, so it appears to be a bit ahead of schedule. However, no one will actually be able to “move in” until June. So everyone has to take all their bullshit home and keep it there.
And that brings me to my final point – DC staffers generally have a lot of bullshit. Back when people usually had desks, people in creative fields were turning desks (or even cubicles) into mini-environments or real installations. A tour of the DC offices was a tour of toys, comics, history, art, and cool stuff.
And now it’s all gone, swept away by corporate indifference. DC’s former offices at 1700 Broadway were a legendary shrine to comic book history, nestled in the vanishing world of New York publishing. It was first imagined by Jeanette Kahn and Paul Levitz, and built with murals, statues and posters, each full-door editor’s office a personal haven devoted to this or that line. Hot desks eliminate all of that.
While DC’s offices at the Point don’t quite have that history, it should be noted that they were a source of pride for the management team at the time. Diane Nelson and Geoff Johns. The offices were designed specifically for DC and its operations, and on my one visit, while it didn’t quite have the flair of 1700, it had cool offices and personality, as you can see in this video from 2015. Everything from the bullpen to the library was included!
And if you want the melancholy vibe of Magnificent Ambersons tracking shot, here’s an article where I detailed a tour that went everywhere from the lobby to the men’s room.
There was a lot of corporate pride on the desks until new management started treating DC Comics like their least favored stepchildren.
And then there’s the DC Library, a historic and if not invaluable, then extremely valuable resource from back issues. This library was so valuable that at one point a whole press release was issued to move it from the east coast to the west coast. This story contains a rather painful quote from the former president Diana Nelson:
“There’s a happiness that comes from being so close to the studio — seeing people they haven’t seen regularly — and being in a creative space that feels like a comic book business.”
Painful in many ways looking back at the past two years!
The library is safe, I’m told, but won’t be stored in the DC offices – which is totally stupid, but so is a lot of this stuff.
Looking back, the former DC president Paul Levitz fought his entire career to keep DC from moving to the West Coast – and he succeeded. Former co-editor Dan DiDio also fought against this decision, but was reversed, which decision makers still regret today.
Going back to the macro lens, real estate is something that brings a lot of regrets. The site of the new Iceberg, Burbank Studios, is part of movie history. According to the LA Times, it was once owned by the WB and then sold to NBC in 1951, which then turned it over to a developer in 2007 (a decision they later regretted according to scuttlebutt).
On the plus side, LA has a beautiful new Frank Gehry building, and I’m sure the folks in DC will enjoy saying they’ve worked in a building designed by one of the most prominent artists of the past 100 years.
Also on the positive side, although there is a lot of uncertainty as to what the new David Zaslav-directed regime will make DC I’m told everyone is very glad Cherry is gone and beloved Anne De Pies is in.
And who knows, with The Batman looking to be a big, zeitgeist-defining success, maybe DC executives will decide that DC Comics should be treated with the dignity and respect it deserves, and they might even recover their library. We’ve learned that office space is a changing thing, especially in this post-pandemic/WWIII era, where we’re still figuring out all about how we live now.