The DC Panel at Baltimore Comic-Con opened with DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio addressing his creative vision of “Batwoman” and announcing Marc Andreyko as regular writer with “Batwoman” #25, which CBR covered Saturday. Once that was handled, the panel discussion began in earnest.
At the outset, Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras noted that September marks the second anniversary of The New 52.
“What we are doing with Villains Month and ‘Forever Evil’-with the Villains Month covers-is really like a celebration of the New 52. It’s a celebration of DC,” said Harras. “It’s a celebration of villainy, which is an odd thing to say. It’s all part of what we do at DC every month, we try to reinvent our characters and present them in new and exciting ways.”
Throughout the panel, Harras used projections of various covers and pages to foster discussions with the creators on the panel. He opened with a cover from “Forever Evil” #1. Harras noted that the issue went on sale this past Wednesday and that it is “setting the stage for the next step in the evolution of the DCU . . . if you read the book something really unexpected happened to Dick Grayson that really kind of changes the game in a lot of ways . . . where that’s going to take the Bat characters and the rest of the DCU characters? Just wait and see.”
From there he turned the discussion over to “Forever Evil” artist David Finch to discuss the pages and project. Finch expressed his love of drawing Lex Luthor in particular.
“He is such a fun character,” Finch said, stressing that a scene in the first issue establishes Luthor as “a ruthless, cold manipulative person and we get to see through the course of ‘Forever Evil’ whether that changes a little bit. Maybe he grows a little bit as a person or whether this makes him worse.”
Finch expressed admiration for “Forever Evil” writer Geoff Johns’ aggressive approach in the first issue’s script. “Right out of the gate, this is the kind of stuff I would have expected to be in issue #6,” Finch said. “Issue #1–right away is really changing things up, a lot of stuff happens to Nightwing.”
Another key point that Harras stressed in the new 52 is the opportunity to explore new character dynamics and relationships. In making this point, he mentioned “Superman/Wonder Woman,” which launches in October by writer Charles Soule and artist Tony Daniel. Soule took the microphone at this point.
“These two [Superman and Wonder Woman] together is complicated,” said Soule. “Their lives are full and crazy and complex.”
Soule teased that in “Superman/Wonder Woman” #2, the story revolves around meeting the family. “If you can think of any more stressful event than the first time you go with your significant other to meet their family, it’s never pleasant,” Soule said. “When your significant other’s family happens to be a bunch of murderous crazy Greek Gods-there’s going to be some tension around the dinner table.”
While the series is intended to have fun moments like that, Soule stressed that there is a great deal of action in the story as well. Soule hinted at the large scope of the action by revealing that Doomsday is involved in the first arc.
From there, panel discussion turned to “Green Lantern” writer Robert Venditti. He stressed that his approach to the series aims to stay faithful to the original mythology that Geoff Johns created on his run of the series.
“What I admired about what he did with ‘Green Lantern’ was the sense of scope, wonder and imagination that he brought to it,” he said. “I want to build on that somewhat and maybe look at things from a different angle, but use that as a foundation.”
For example, Venditti is eager to explore the story of the Star Sapphire, Prixiam Nol-Anj. Venditti noted that typically Star Sapphires get their ring because of a love for a particular person.
“In this case you end up finding out she has a love for an entire people that she has been kept away from for the duration she was an inmate in the science cells on Oa,” said Venditti, noting that she will be involved in the “Lights Out” event that starts in October. “I try very hard that make villains that are sympathetic,” he added. “You may not necessarily agree with their methods, you can relate to their plight and why they are doing what they’re doing.”
Venditti said he relishes working with artist Billy Tan on “Green Lantern,” partially because of the creativity Tan uses with the ring’s constructs. Venditti tries to write the stories employing ring constructs that make sense for Hal Jordan. In Venditti’s opinion, Hal is a big fan of action films, and so some upcoming constructs may pay homage to that. “I feel so lucky to be working with him [Tan],” Venditti said.
Venditti was equally eager to discuss his plans for “Green Lantern Corps,” which he is co-plotting with writer Van Jensen. Venditti credits Jensen’s past work as a lead crime reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
“It makes him a really unique and good fit for a book like ‘Green Lantern Corps’ to get back to these guys being policemen in space,” he said.
Panel discussion shifted back to Soule to chat about “Red Lanterns.” Tying into the “Lights Out” event, apparently Atrocitus, who was thought to have been killed by an undercover Guy Gardner, is in fact alive but powerless since Guy took his ring. Atrocitus is teaming up with his cat Dex-Starr to travel “the universe trying to figure out a way to get Atrocitus powered up again.” Describing the upcoming adventures, Soule summed it up as a mixture of “Sons of Anarchy” and “The Shield”-but in space.
Harras took the opportunity at this point in the panel to compliment the Green Lantern writing team and to assure fans that the Green Lantern franchise is “in very good hands.”
In terms of his work on “Swamp Thing,” Soule mentioned that with the return of the villain Arcane, this also means his daughter Abby will have a role as well, since “she has supplanted her father as the Avatar of Decay.” In discussing the return of Arcane, he described the story as “one of the creepiest things I have ever written, I finished it about one in the morning. I couldn’t go to sleep for awhile.”
Soule also acknowledged that the series is ultimately building up to a confrontation with Seeder (who Soule describes as an “Evil Johnny Appleseed”). He is a villain that starts off with good intentions, according to Soule, “but then things go wrong.”
Series co-writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner jumped into the panel discussion to tell folks about their approach on “Harley Quinn.” The level of quirky comedy for this series becomes plain in hearing Palmiotti describe “Harley Quinn” #0. He noted that Harley will be breaking the fourth wall-“she actually picks on some of the artists in the book, she picks on Amanda and I in the book,” he said. “It’s a little bit of madness-a lot of ‘Looney Tunes’-which we’re big fans of. The humor kind of goes all over the place.”
“My problem with the book,” Conner said, “is that Jimmy keeps coming up these wonderful ideas and I want to draw them, but I just have to stay to covers.”
Connor explained that in the first issue Harley moves to Coney Island. Plans call for Harley to inherit a building where she will lives above a freak show, as well as a wax museum of murderers.
“That’s sort of her backyard,” said Palmiotti. “The theme of the book is insanity; we’re just trying to have some fun.”
In terms of the series artist, Chad Hardin, Palmiotti admitted: “Amanda and I had to go through a lot of artists. We picked him because he nailed it.”
The status quo with “All Star Western” has changed, as Jonah Hex is in the present day New 52 and, not surprisingly, gets in trouble with the law. In the most recent issue, Palmiotti (who co-writes the series with Justin Gray) Hex ends up in court, but is assisted by Bruce Wayne’s lawyers.
“It goes crazy from there,” Palmiotti said. “We’re heading West with Jonah, so he’s going to go ‘Easy Rider’ style on a motorcycle-head West with a gal on a motorcycle. He’s looking for money, he needs to make a living but he doesn’t have to worry because in the past he buried a lot of gold. He’s going to go to Grand Canyon and start digging up some of that gold.”
Palmiotti and Gray are making the most of having Jonah in modern times, as he noted in the panel. “We comment on what’s going on in the world,” he said. “He is going to be checking out the Burning Man [the week-long annual event in the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada] out in the desert and then him running into Constantine. The great thing about the New 52 is we can just go as crazy as we want with everything. . . Imagine Jonah having a conversation with Constantine.”
Palmiotti wrapped up the panel by telling attendees about “Batwing” (another series with writing partner Justin Gray). Palmiotti, known for being a witty quote source at panels for years, may have saved his best for last when describing some of the action in this DC ongoing. “Things are exploding,” Palmiotti said. “That happens in comics, I don’t know if anybody ever noticed that-a lot of stuff explodes.”
“We’re having a great time with the character,” Palmiotti said, particularly in terms of the “Zero Year” story. “We show Luke [Fox, son of Lucius] before Batman picked him to be Batwing, in high school. We show how he had it in his blood to be the hero. I think a lot of us have the same thing because we grew up with comics. We have a very good sense of what’s right and wrong in the world. So does Luke, as a matter of fact. In the story, we look at that and how he became a hero way before he donned the Batwing suit.”
“Luke’s personal life is going crazy,” Palmiotti noted, coincidentally hearkening back to the tortured personal lives of the Bat family that DiDio referenced in his pre-panel opening statement. “He has girlfriend problems, Daddy problems-pretty much what everybody in this audience has every day in that book. I hope you folks give it a shot.”