At San Diego Comic-Con International’s DC Comics: The New 52 panel, Superman group editor Matt Idelson was joined by artists Francis Manapul and Philip Tan, and writers Gail Simone, Brian Buccellato, and Mike Johnson to discuss the new Flash, Batman and Superman related titles, and to answer fan questions about the DC Comics company-wide September relaunch.
The panel started when moderator and DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan Didio introduced the full panel one by one as the audience cheered. Didio then told the crowd that those at DC were concerned by the negative feedback they had received from fans over the initial relaunch announcement, but here at the Con he felt nothing but positive energy. He also told the audience the relaunch was a long-term plan.
“Is everybody feeling a little bit better?” Didio asked, and the audience cheered in response.
Buccellato and Manapul then spoke about “Flash” #1, the title they are co-writing, saying that they will show fans what goes through Flash’s head and will emphasize his speed in both the artwork and story.
“It’s a very personal story,” said Manapul, adding that the tone they set is exactly how they felt when first starting out on the book: excited and fresh.
“We are putting ourselves in Barry Allen, we are not trying to reinvent him,” said Buccellato.
Didio then allowed the two “Flash” co-writers to give away the new rogues gallery, starting with a new villain called Mob Rule. Manapul said they will reveal the rogues gallery slowly, explaining that they will be tied into Central and Keystone City. Manapul also revealed the Rogues have broken up, and only Captain Cold is trying to keep the group together.
Johnson then talked about “Supergirl” #1, which he is co-writing, saying that readers will see the new 52 through Supergirl’s eyes. He then displayed a splash page from the comic showing her first days on Earth, Supergirl knee-deep in snow. He also showed penciled pages saying that in the first three issues Supergirl will “not get the warmest welcome,” said Johnson. Issue three will see a new villain coming in to the comic, but Johnson told listeners that the initial issues will deal primarily with her first days on Earth and figuring out her new powers. Johnson added that the yellow Earth sun will affect her in different ways than Superman, and that her powers will be triggered at different times by the sun.
“One of the things we want to do is really see it through her eyes…we’re with her, we’re in her head,” said Johnson, adding “What would it be like to be Supergirl and be ripped from Krypton to Earth…it’s like going to the dark ages.”
Johnson finished by saying that Silver Banshee will be showing up in “Supergirl,” adding, “We’re excited about bringing her back.”
Simone asked the audience if they wanted to talk “Batgirl” or “Firestorm” first, laughing as the entire audience yelled “Batgirl!”
“Batgirl is no sidekick, she is the smartest character in Gotham,” said Simone, adding that in the series Barbara Gordon is a young woman out of college, getting her first apartment and fighting crime at night. Praising the art, Simone added, “We’ll see Batgirl like you’ve never seen her before.”
Simone also added that the “Killing Joke” did happen in the new DCU, and the comic will reveal how Barbara rebounded from that incident. Simone then told the audience that Batgirl will be dealing with the Brisby Killers, a new group of villains.
Turning to “Firestorm,” Simone stated she kept turning the book down until Ethan Van Scriver, her co-writer, finally wore her out and convinced her. Saying that the series will revolve around the two teenage Firestorms, Simone added that there are actually Firestorm protocols around the world in the new DCU, so the action “Will be global,” said Simone.
On the villains side, Simone said the first issues introduce a villain named Felix who is “what happens when nuclear power goes wrong,” said Simone.
Didio then spoke about “OMAC,” pointing out the Kirby influences incorporated in the art by series artist Keith Giffen. Didio also mentioned an evil “pool cleaning” service will be involved in one of the stories, adding “it will be fun!”
Turning the floor over to the audience, there was a literal stampede as fans rushed to the microphone, a couple of people falling over.
The first fan asked how long DC had been planning the reboot. “Personally, I wanted to do this reboot for five years,” said Didio, adding that he wanted to do it after “Final Crisis” but the time didn’t seem right. He then polled the audience to see how many people had read the comics for decades, explaining that a lot of long-time readers become jaded after 30 years as they had “seen it all,” so DC wanted to do something fresh–thus the relaunch. The audience burst into applause as Didio concluded his speech.
The next audience member to the mic pledged to buy and send issues to his friends who had never read comics in order to help bring in new readers. The panel then talked about their view on the comics and relaunch. “I think we’re very much aware what we’re doing is something that will be lasting for a long time,” said Manapul, adding, “You’re going to get some of the best work out of the creative teams right now.”
Another audience member asked if Ambush Bug will appear in “OMAC.”
“Giffen doesn’t want to do anymore Ambush Bug,” said Didio to boos and groans from the audience.
The same fan then asked if Simone will be analyzing the Barbara/Commissioner Gordon dynamic in “Batgirl.” Simone said Jim Gordon will be involved as well as Batman, Dick Grayson, and another family member who remained unnamed.
The next audience member to the microphone self-identified as a Barbara Gordon Batgirl fan and asked Simone for details about Barbara’s job and the comic.
“She’s out of college, she has a degree several years ahead of a normal person,” said Simone, adding that Barbara’s intelligence intimidates people. Simone also said she will delve into how Barbara deals with being someone who used to be disabled, but is now able-bodied again.
The panel laughed and all shook their heads as a fan asked about how much the DCU characters will remember from “Flashpoint.”
“There are no trap doors,” said Didio, saying that when they move forward into September they will not be looking back into the events of “Flashpoint.”
A female fan asked if there will be Lois Lane central stories or series coming out after September.
“As far as one-shots and miniseries, we’ve talked about it but…we sort of have to build a foundation first,” said Idelson, adding that they are focusing on creating the new status quo before doing more Lois-central stories.
The audience applauded as a fan asked if there will be more “one and done” stories. Manapul said that while the first issues will be longer arcs as they are setting up the new world, there will be more one and dones as the series go on.
“Every comic is everybody’s first comic,” added Johnson, saying they were trying to balance the singular stories with the longer story arcs for attracting new readers. Idelson added that none of his stories he’s editing will have “part one and part two.”
A female fan told Didio that she counted and out of the twenty-eight solo character titles only six were women and only two were not’t connected to older male superheroes. “How do you justify calling that diversity?” the fan asked as the audience cheered. Didio told her it was an industry problem and then dodged the question, calling on the next fan.
However, Simone went back to the female fan and told her that making Barbara Gordon Batgirl does not diminish her power as Oracle, nor her power as a female superhero, as the fan had worried it would.
To the next question, Didio told the audience the DC TV shows and movies would subtly influence the comics and vice versa. “It’s a two-way street,” said Didio.
Asking about “Flash” continuity, the next fan asked if Iris is dead.
“Iris is alive,” confirmed Manapul, saying that in the comic Barry Allen and Iris went out in the past but it never progressed and he is currently single. Director Sing, Captain Fry, and Forrest will be involved in the comic added Manapul, as well as Gorilla Grodd and there are plans to bring back the Pied Piper.
Another fan wanted to know how much the creators are like their characters.
“I’m not a Kryptonian female,” joked Johnson as the audience laughed.
Didio then said falling sales and lethargy in comics buying prompted them to do the relaunch in order to “make some bold moves” to reinvigorate readers. “The worst thing to do is to do something like this when nobody cares anymore,” said Didio.
A Red Star fan asked for more Red Star, then asked if there were post-September titles that will hearken back in tone to the classic stories and comics, such as “Teen Titans.”
“We’re really trying to draw from when we think [the titles] were at their best,” said Didio, saying that “Teen Titans” will feel closer to “Young Justice.”
Didio told another fan that what made this relaunch different than any of the others is the fact that there are 52 titles coming out, more books being published with this than any other DC reboot.
The next audience member to the mic wanted to know how much of the reboot was collaborative and how much individual.
“I feel like I can do whatever I want,” laughed Manapul.
Suddenly, Didio announced they had ten more minutes for questions, prompting a cheer from the audience.
Another fan asked why they weren’t bringing in more Milestone characters into the DCU but they are bringing in more Wildstorm characters. Didio told him that they were planning to bring in more Milestone characters after September.
The next fan asked if it still took two people to pilot the Firestorm matrix. “This is a whole new re-imagining of the Firestorm concept,” said Simone, saying that they had changed things up quite a bit and hinted that there may be many Firestorms.
Johnson told a female fan “We are really emphasizing Supergirl is an alien from Krypton,” when she asked if the book would dive more into her alien heritage.
Didio then told the audience there are no more big events planned for the foreseeable future and the crowd wildly applauded.
Another fan wanted to know why they scrapped “Superman” #712. Didio told him he had troubles with the story and changed it to the Krypto replacement story because of that.
Didio told a “Batman Beyond” fan that he could not give away any details about “Batman Beyond” or anything being written after September.
To a fan who wanted to know how the new timeline worked with Batman and Superman, Didio quickly explained that Superman is the first superhero in the new DCU because the older Batman was “working behind the scenes” and no one knew about him.
The last question came from a female fan who asked if Black Alice and Misfit would show up in the new 52.
“Dan and I just had a meeting–and chances are good!” said Simone as Didio thanked the fans and brought the panel to a close.