DC Comics‘ Group Therapy panel, focusing on team books, began early Thursday evening at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Panelists included Dan DiDio, Gail Simone, Sean McKeever, Geoff Johns, Eddie Berganza, and Michael Siglain.
“Let’s get this out of the way,” Dan DiDio began. “Marvel beat DC at softball. That’s all I’m going to say about it.”
Tony Bedard, Duncan Rouleau and Dwayne McDuffie then joined the panel, and along with the other participants discussed the general themes of their respective team titles. Asked about what he plans to do with “Justice League of America” after Brad Meltzer leaves, writer Dwayne McDuffie said that he loved the team’s dynamics, but indicated that he “might increase the level of action a little bit. They’ve got all these cool super powers, let’s use them!”
When asked what his goal was with the new “Justice Society of America” book, Geoff Johns remarked, “Well the main goal was to sell more copies than the old ‘JSA,’ book, so I’m glad that worked out.”
Following brief discussions of each book, DiDio turned the floor over to the considerably large crowd for questions and remarks, many of which were praise for Geoff Johns and his sold-out “The Sinestro Corps Special.” Johns explained that the storyline has been two years in the making, and is intended as the second part of a Green Lantern trilogy begun with “Rebirth.” Additionally, DiDio and Johns confirmed that the Sinestro Corps storyline will be self-contained and not be part of the ongoing “Countdown” event.
A fan asked the panel about the status quo in “Teen Titans,” which he characterized as an “emo teenager” book. Writer Sean McKeever indicated that he strives to mix drama and humor, but that fans should still be prepared for things to get worse for the Titans before they get better.
The subject of Doom Patrol was then brought up, and DiDio said that finding a place in the DCU for the idiosyncratic team was on his to-do list, but that it remains a question of how to do it and what creators will be involved.
Numerous questions revolved around Brad Meltzer’s “JLoA” run, including a reference to the Ultra Humanite, Despero and Per Degaton, who made as-yet unexplained appearances in the book. A fan asked if their cameos would be followed-up on in McDuffie’s forthcoming run, and DiDio answered, “That’s a Brad question.”
Other fans inquired as to Meltzer’s apparent love affair with the character of Geo-Force, who became the subject of much mockery and running jokes throughout the event. During his work on the “Lightning Saga’ JSA/JLA crossover, Geoff Johns remarked that when he was looking at the list of characters he’d have to write, Geo-Force’s presence vexed him. “Brad just really likes Geo-Force,” said Johns, who went on to explain that his approach to the character was to write him as “an arrogant prick.”
Gail Simone fielded questions about her books, saying that the Birds of Prey will not appear in “Wonder Woman” for at least the first year, and that the identity of the next member of the Secret Six is indeed “a secret.”
In response to a fan’s question about the stability of the Teen Titans roster, Sean McKeever said that he had no current plans to add or subtract members, but that “you never know when Dan’s going to call and tell me to kill someone.”
The panel expertly averted a fan’s numerous complaints about the distinct lack of appearances in the DCU of Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers of Victory. The crowd itself deflected the fan, exclaiming “Klarion was in ‘Robin!'” and “Bulleteer was in ’52!'”
Another fan posited that the numerous attempts to revamp and reboot the Legion of Super-Heroes were a necessary evil; to show fans and creators that the classical versions are superior, noting specifically the dubious renaming of Lightning Lad to Livewire. DiDio responded by saying that his philosophy is to portray characters as people remember them best, explaining that from the most pedestrian fan to the most hardcore fanboy, Supergirl is Superman’s cousin, and thus so she is in the DC Universe. “What we try to do is build a contemporary world around them,” he said before identifying an audience member dressed up as Krypto, Superman’s super dog, as an example of what he was advocating.
In response, another fan observed that the most popularly understood version of Barbara Gordon is that she is Batgirl, to which Geoff Johns and DiDio nodded, “that’s a good point,” perhaps in reference to Johns’ “All-Star Batgirl” project, which has been said to be in the works for quite a while.
The subject of villainous teams came up, and DiDio advised the audience, as he had been throughout the day at other DC panels, to return for Friday’s DC Nation panel to learn more about rumored plans for a “Rogue’s Gallery” project.
Another fan asked the panel to list their favorite character interactions in their respective books. Gail Simone said that she particularly enjoyed writing scenes with Scandal and Knockout, and that the Huntress and Oracle were two characters she liked to put against each other in “Birds of Prey.”
Geoff Johns said he enjoyed the Stargirl-Cyclone relationship, as well as simply “Starman and anyone.” Duncan Rouleau felt similarly about Mercury and anyone.
Many fans congratulated Tony Bedard for his work on the fan favorite CrossGen titles he wrote prior to returning to DC, specifically “Route 666” and “Negation,” which the writer appreciated very much.
Most entertainingly, one fan implored DiDio to raise his hand and swear that he won’t ruin the ending to “Countdown” as he did so infamously with “52,” but DiDio denied he did any such thing, citing a number of semantics that frustrated some in the audience. “How did saying the multiverse still exists ruin the end of Montoya’s story?”
Dwayne McDuffie was more skillfully evasive when asked about an appearance by Green Lantern John Stewart on the cover of a future issue of “Justice League of America.”
Later, a fan asked if anyone on the panel had inherited a team book that included a character they hated. Geo-Force aside, the panel said that if and when such a thing happens, it’s sometimes the case that the character grows to become one of their favorites. “Or you just write them out,” DiDio said.
Breaking topic for a moment, a fan stood at the microphone and bemoaned the obnoxious Ballpark hot dog ads seen in recent DC books, which depict arms protruding from people’s own stomachs and feeding them Ballpark hot dogs. “I was freaked out, too,” DiDio confessed.
DC’s two-man team book, “Superman/Batman” was referenced briefly, with editor Eddie Berganza confirming that events in the title are in continuity and will be part of “Countdown.” The fan then identified “Superman/Batman” writer Alan Burnett in the audience, resulting in pronounced applause. Berganza then announced that following Alan Burnett’s run, “Batman Confidential” writer Michael Green would take over the “Superman/Batman” title.
The panel concluded with a particularly bizarre question from a fan. “Any chance for a Starfire Vertigo book?”
Visibly shaken by the question, Geoff Johns remarked, “That’s like eating chocolate with pickles.”
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