Saturday afternoon atComic-Con International in San Diego, DC Comics’ Dark and Edge panel highlighted some of the inventive titles coming up in the September relaunch. On hand for the panel are Editor Pat McCallum, Scott Snyder, Jeff Lemire, Mike Costa, Adam Glass, Ivan Brandon, Paul Cornell, Kyle Higgins, Moritat, and Josh Fialkov. John Cunningham moderates the panel.
Fialkov, the last creator to ascend the dais, found himself without room at the table and announced, “I’m going to pace back and forth the whole time and make everybody uncomfortable!”
McCallum began talking about “Suicide Squad,” which he said is not really a team. “They’re terrible people doing terrible things-it’s a lot of fun!”
Snyder said that Swamp Thing is “one of my two favorite characters,” and the series will be about “a man fighting monsters,” most notably the monster he’s become. “Our take on it is, Alec Holland remerges, human,” Snyder said, and that his last human memory is being on fire and falling into the swamp, yet he’s also connected to the Green and has dreamlike memories. On Abby Holland, Swampy’s wife, Holland will “feel like [he’s] in love with a woman [he’s] never met.”
“It’s very much about a man running from his own destiny,” Snyder said, and that “nothing’s been taken out” from the character’s history. Also, “We’re going to introduce the villain Swamp Thing was born to fight,” one that he’s never met because it hasn’t manifested in 100 years.
Lemire next spoke about “Animal Man,” saying he was inspired by early and pre-Vertigo series. Animal Man is “really suited to the stories I like to tell,” Lemire said, adding that it’s a story about a family. “The main character is not so much Buddy Baker as his daughter Maxine,” Lemire said, saying the young girl may be the most powerful being in the world who will “become a force for great good or great evil, and Buddy’s job is keeping her alive long enough to find out.”
“It’s a horror book, for sure, it’s not a superhero book,” Lemire added.
Moving on to “Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE,” Lemire said, “I’m having more fun writing this than should be allowed.” “I’m known for these quiet, down to Earth stories, and this is not that at all!”
“Since [Frankenstein] is a person made up of many people, I want to find out who all those people are,” Lemire said, adding that part of the character’s dynamic would be “the soul of a noble poet inside the body of an unstoppable killing machine.”
Lemire said that, between each arc, there will be one-off stories by guest artists, similar to what was done in James Robinson’s “Starman.” “The first one is set in 1969, which is Frank in Vietnam.”
Fialkov was up next saying the original “I, Vampire,” was “what was great about gothic horror, while at the same time being what was great about DC Comics.” He described the series as being about a man named Andrew Bennett, who “becomes a vampire, and stays himself, so he’s ok.” When he turns his wife into a vampire, though, “she turns evil, she turns really, really evil.”
Explaining the vampires’ situation as the series opens, Fialkov said that they have mostly just been keeping low until they get fed up with the inferior humans because “they’re forced to drive cabs all night and be treated like crap by drunk girls.” “These are basically vampire terrorists,” Fialkov said, adding that Bennett’s wife Mary is “their de facto leader.”
“It’s about monsters, but it’s about monsters owning their monstrosity,” he said. “There are piles and piles of bodies in this book.
Cornell came to talk about “Demon Knights,” which opens with a “dirty great terrifying horde of a ravening army” swarming toward a town where seven strangers happen to be drinking in a pub. “Those seven people are Etrigan, Mdme Xanadu, Vandal Savage, The Shining Knight, Horsewoman, Algebar, our mysterious strong woman character from an island somewhere. They’re just there to have a drink that evening. But this horde is coming,” Cornell said, and they will save the day because “they’re the bloody Magnificent Seven.
Etrigan “now rhymes at ends of scenes, not throughout, because he speaks like a Shakespearean actor moving out,” Cornell said, adding that this was vital for Etrigan’s teammates in action scenes. “I don’t want people to suffer for lack of iambic pentameters in a dire situation.”
Cornell again mentioned that the Horsewoman “rides but she cannot walk,” and said he is very passionate about “Demon Knights” before moving on to “Stormwatch,” who are annoyed at the superheroes who are “annoying amateurs.”
Cornell loves the scene in issue one in which The Eminence of Blades fights the moon, “while they’re trying to keep the superheroes from discovering that the moon has become alive-it’s a big job!”
Yes, Apollo and Midnighter are still gay, Cornell said. “I’m going on the 25th annual gays in comics panel tonight, and wouldn’t it be awful if I said ‘well, we decided to take them in another direction?'” He also said that issue #1 would be their first meeting, and the series would show their romance develop.
As Cornell reluctantly relinquished the mic, Higgins said that Deathstroke “should be the ultimate badass,” but “it’s easy for a villain to become a parody of himself” because, more often than not, “villains lose.” Early on, though, Slade Wilson “lays waste to the 405 freeway in LA. Anyone who lives in LA knows how cathartic that was to write.” Higgins added that “there’s a reason to everything that he does, and it’s a very person reason” and that he will not be turning Deathstroke into a good guy. Throughout the carnage, “you won’t necessarily like that he’s doing it, but when you hear the reason, you’ll say he’s absolutely right.”
Glass said the “Suicide Squad” characters aren’t terribly happy with their situation, and would not hang out as has been seen in previous iterations of the series, such as when “Bronze Tiger would be playing poker, Deathstroke’s shooting pool.” “Nobody’s drinking coffee in this book.”
Deadshot will be the team leader, and King Shark-now a hammerhead-will be dealing with his humanity. “He’s devolving,” Glass said, and losing his humanity. A new El Diablo will also debut, a priestlike character with a secret. “He’s sort of our Cyclops character, he’s got a purity of vision … while Deadshot is sort of our Wolverine character.”
Cunningham spoke briefly on “OMAC,” noting that “Keith Giffen is rocking Kirby right now,” then turned the mic over to Mike Costa to talk “Blackhawks.” That series will mostly feature new characters, leading Costa to give a lot of thought to “what’s going to make this book special.”
“This book is about technology, and about the future, and what does the future look like when you’ve already got the Man of Tomorrow?” Costa said. The team is “an international response team to villains who have technology they shouldn’t have. When an inked page appeared on the screen showing a woman heavily decked out in machinery, Costa said, “Wow, we’re revealing a lot here-I’m not going to tell you who that is.”
Costa said, “there’s an intelligence behind who’s being armed and who isn’t,” adding that the Blackhawks will be essentially “preventing the future from happening and then asking themselves questions about it.”
“Men of War” came up next, with Brandon saying “there are some things about it I would like you to learn organically by reading it.” He said that, those the team works for a military contractor, “they are not working for Blackwater-this is a straight military book.”
“Joe Rock is from Brooklyn. There are families where everyone is a cop or a fireman, most of his family were military,” Brandon said. “Unfortunately, most of them are dead.” The story begins in North Africa and does not center on superhero missions, but “the DC Universe does have superheroes, so they will be appearing in the book. It’s hard to explain without spoiling it.” The series will feature a new version of Circe.
“There’s no guarantee any of these characters will be in the book for very long, except possibly for Sgt. Rock, and even that might be in doubt,” Brandon said.
A slide of Moritat’s art from “All Star Western” came up next, an image Jim Lee has talked about incorporating into a “Justice League” issue, and one that evoked gasps from the crowd. Moritat sheepishly admitted this is his first panel and that “Jimmy Palmiotti is the talker.” He seemed pleased with Lee’s praise as related by Cunningham as well as the audience’s reaction.
The floor was then opened to questions.
The first fan asked how DC would maintain enthusiasm beyond the initial push, with Fialkov praising the talents of his fellow panelists. He added that fans should vocally support the books they enjoy.
“it’s a very conscious effort to make all of these books accessible,” Higgins said, noting that, as with soap operas, there may be long running storylines but each issue’s “A plot” would be a substantial story serving as a jumping on point.
The next question involved whether Alec Holland would remember the time Swamp Thing met Holland’s soul, and if so, what his perspective on that memory might be. Snyder laughed, but said “there are so many great stories” and this was not likely to be a plot point, so as to keep the book accessible.
After Higgins joked that Deathstroke would kill Swamp Thing in issue 3, Cornell asked, “who do you think would win: Deathstroke or the Midnighter?” “Frankenstein,” Lemire answered.
On the topic of Harley’s new look, Glass said, “I didn’t have anything to do with that, but I think you’ll find she’s still the Harley you know.”
Asked how this line differs from Vertigo, Costa said, “it’s still the DC Universe, so we can’t swear and we can’t show certain body parts.” Higgens added that the DCU has superheroes.
After a question about “Swamp Thing breaking off another piece of fruit for a lucky lady,” the panel concluded.