Lee, DiDio named co-publishers; Johns new CCO

Warner Bros. has taken another big step in proving to fanboys just how serious it is about bringing more of DC’s superheroes to the bigscreen.

Nearly six months after taking over control of the publisher, and rebranding it DC Entertainment, the studio on Thursday unveiled a new management team comprised of A-listers in the comicbook biz, including Image Comics co-founder Jim Lee and DC Universe editor Dan DiDio, who now serve as co-publishers.

The team led by Lee and DiDio under the direction of Warner Bros. vet Diane Nelson, who was named prexy of DC Entertainment in September, will be instrumental in determining how characters like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash and Green Lantern are portrayed creatively through movies, TV shows, direct-to-DVD pics, online properties, videogames, theme park attractions, merchandise and, of course, comicbooks.

Before opening the doors to WildStorm Prods. and co-founding Image (where he created WildCats), Lee helped co-create such X-Men characters as Gambit while at rival Marvel. He’s been one of the artists for many of DC Comics’ bestselling books, including “Batman: Hush,” and is now overseeing “DC Universe Online,” a massively multiplayer game that Sony Online Entertainment will launch this year.

DiDio has been senior VP and exec editor at publishing imprint DC Universe, home to Superman and Batman. Before that, he served as senior VP of creative affairs at Mainframe Entertainment, overseeing development, distribution and marketing of the company’s TV shows.

Meanwhile, Geoff Johns, a comicbook scribe who’s already breathed new life into Superman, the Flash and Green Lantern on the printed page, and has made a name for himself penning TV scripts for “Smallville” and Adult Swim’s “Robot Chicken,” will serve as DC’s chief creative officer. He also wrote the story for “DC Universe Online,” working closely with Lee.

John Rood, a former marketing exec at ABC Family, will now handle sales, marketing and business development, while Patrick Caldon, a former finance exec at DC Comics and Mad magazine, serves as exec VP of finance and administration.

Rood returns to Warner Bros. after 10 years with the Disney ABC Television Group, where he was most recently senior VP of marketing at ABC Family. Before that, Rood spent six years at Warner Bros. Consumer Products, pairing up advertisers with DC’s characters for promotional deals.

The studio has spent the past months figuring out ways to integrate DC and the development of its characters more fully into the rest of Warner Bros.

The latest moves have been an effort to “prioritize DC as an incredible asset,” said Nelson, who described DC’s new executive team as creative but also with an extensive business background.

“We want DC to be a creative engine that is proactively driving how we interpret these characters across the Warner Bros. business and figure out which character and stories we want to bring to the customer vs. just being a reactive rights holder,” Nelson told Daily Variety.

While Lee, DiDio and Johns will oversee the 90 comicbooks that DC Comics publishes each month through various imprints, they’re expected to be especially key in speeding up Warner development of its superhero pics.

The studio already has “Green Lantern” set to lense this summer with Ryan Reynolds starring. An adaptation of “The Losers” hits theaters in April; “Jonah Hex” bows in June. And Christopher Nolan is prepping a third “Batman” adventure and will reportedly shepherd development of yet another reboot of the “Superman” saga in theaters.

All of this comes as rival Marvel Entertainment, now owned by Disney, is moving forward with films based on Thor, Captain America and the Avengers, while “Iron Man 2″ bows this summer and a third film is planned.

“With this new leadership team, Diane will be able to fully and respectfully integrate DC’s brand and characters, not only as key content drivers in the film division, but across all of the businesses of Warner Bros. and Time Warner,” said Jeff Robinov, prexy of the Warner Bros. Pictures Group.

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