While a lot of ink has been spilled over DC Comics New 52 initiative over the past year, the publisher still puts out a number of non-serial comics, and those stand alone stories formed the backbone of the Saturday “DC All Access: OGNs” panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego.
Alongside traditional superhero creators like “Batman Earth One’s” Geoff Johns and the “Superman Earth One” team of J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis were writer and TV chef Anthony Bourdain along with his co-writer Joel Rose and artist Langdon Foss from Vertigo’s “Get Jiro!”
“This is an alternate future Los Angeles ruled by warring factions of chefs,” Bourdain said of “Get Jiro.” He spoke with a flurry of food related terms and jokes in describing the main character as a man who will do anything to defend the proper way to make sushi. “In this case, it might lead to decapitation,” he said as an image of just that from the OGN flashed across the screen.
He went on to say that the entire culture of the world the team build was based on food, right down to two crime lords who stand in for major supermarkets and organic markets (the latter’s hippie style “doesn’t stop her from feeding her enemies to pigs”).
Bourdain started in comics when he wrote and drew his own comic and sent it to longtime friend Rose, who said the story was good but the art “not so much.” From there, they teamed with Vertigo and started to collaborate fully with their artist.
Foss spoke the collaboration saying, “It was a dreamy, dreamy, sweaty, crampy experience,” he joked saying the book had a weird mix of specific visual needs and whimsey. “In a situation like this where we have this utter devotion to food culture…the sky is the limit in terms of how far people are willing to act.”
Bourdain and Johns had a few light moments together as the chef explained to the writer that there are indeed wine nerds, and they do have their own conventions, “only they’re much drunker.” The pair then started to discuss the possibility of Batman fighting a sushi chef in the future, to which Bourdain said, “I’m there!”
Speaking of Batman, “It starts with the cover,” Johns said praising Gary Frank’s work helping to find he right view into the character’s world and early life. The panel showed off an early sequence from the book where Batman misses a grappling hook launch and lands in a pile of trash .
“For us, that really captures what we wanted to do with Bruce Wayne in this book. He’s still just a kid in his 20s, and he’s never really left Gotham.” Johns said they wanted to present a totally different take on Batman where Jim Gordon was “kind of a corrupt cop at the beginning” and Alfred Pennyworth is “definitely not a butler…he has no intention of being a butler…he knows Thomas Wayne from the war and is a Royal Marine. He’s come on to lead the Wayne security staff.” When the Waynes are murdered, Alfred is forced to take on the charge of raising the orphaned boy as his butler.
Johns said that “Batman Earth One” Vol. 2 is in the works which he hopes will be a “Killing Joke” level reinvention of the Riddler which will show how Batman become a great detective.
JMS and Davis spoke to the continuation of “Superman Earth One” as the second volume, according to the writer, focuses on how Clark Kent builds a life in Metropolis. “This is a kid who knew his powers early on and was afraid of hurting someone…there was a wall between him and everyone else…and I wanted to show him coming to turn with that lonely background when he has a chance to use those powers for good.”
The story runs parallel with the story of a serial killer tied to STAR Labs which will release the Parasite. Once he steal’s Superman’s powers, it gives Clark a new way of looking at the world as a normal human.
Davis said all previous versions of the Parasite had one common thread: “He’s purple.” To help amp up the villain, the artist studied actual parasites in nature to see what they had that made them so fearsome to touch. To that end, he added blisters all over the character’s face and body.
The “Superman” collaborators joked about how the dating comedy between Clark Kent and new character Lisa carried a lot of what they loved about the story. “The story is either the greatest slice of life moments that Joe is one of the great writers of all time at, or the fights…and each fight does feel different. You will know where the climax is and the resolution,” Davis said. Straczynski said he felt the new volume was better than the first all around.
They also spoke to the idea that Superman’s presence across the world would be a big part of the story as the government of America and others across the world try to find a way to defeat the alien hero, which will bring another character into the story towards the end of the novel.
SVP of Marketing John Cunningham spoke to the success of the OGN line on the whole drawing in non-comics readers to the form, and he said that they’d be working in the near future to amp up the eBook side of the publisher’s graphic novel offerings.
“In a lot of ways I learned what I was doing as I did it,” Bourdain said of his book, adding that the most important lesson he learned was that this is a visual medium where you always need to show and never tell. “I came at this book with a real, bone-deep understanding just like I’ve done in television that this can only be done with amazing collaborators.”
The chef went on to describe the character of Jiro’s origins coming out of the very first scene in the book. From there, whenever he hit a wall, he’d pass of the story to Rose -Â who himself has worked for former DC imprint Paradox Press in the past – to help keep the ideas flowing.
Asked what non-fiction story he’d like to tell as a graphic novel, Bourdain said he thinks the CIA’s secret war in Laos. Straczynski praised the book “Devil In The White City” as a model for great, gripping non-fiction that could make for a great comic since the era of Chicago its set in makes for a great visual to hang a graphic novel on.
The question of whether the “Earth One” books would connect and make its own universe where characters cross over, Johns said some surprise characters would appear in “Batman” volume 2 while JMS noted that the process of building this world is very slow due to the format and stories, but that the possibility exists. There are, however, no plans to cross this world over with the traditional DCU at any time.
Bourdain said that he has no thoughts about whether “Get Jiro!” would ever be turned into a film. “I don’t care,” he said after searching for the right words. What was most important to him as getting a print graphic novel in his hands, smelling it and rubbing his face in it to celebrate the completion of his pitch to make comics.
Johns said, “The Riddler story Gary and I are working on now is kind of Riddler via the Zodiac killer or a David Fincher film.”