Bob Wayne, senior VP of Sales for DC Comics, moderated a packed panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego to discuss Jim Lee and Cully Hamner’s designs for the characters in DC’s 52 new #1s as part of the publisher’s September relaunch. Also on the panel was VP of Art Direction and Design Mark Chiarello.
Wayne began by asking Chiarello to explain his job at DC Comics to the audience. “I like to create comics that I edit myself,” Chiarello said, directly referencing his “Wednesday Comics,” which won an Eisner Award Friday night at CCI. He also joked that he had “a blue-collar fantasy to one day fire my boss,” the reason Dan Didio wrote the “Metal Men” portion of the project, but added, “He did a great job on it.” He hopes to get his other boss, Jim Lee, on board for the next edition of “Wednesday Comics” in trying to fulfill that very same fantasy.
Chiarello then turned to Lee to ask him about his busy workload wondering, “What drug are you on?” Lee’s quick answer was lots and lots of “Sugar Free Red Bull.”
Chiarello explained the decision to bring Hamner onto the design team because a few years ago he designed the new Blue Beetle, a look that everyone loved, “So we said, ‘Let’s get that guy!'”
As the first slide of the panel went on screen, a design of Batgirl, the panelists reaffirmed that everyone collaborated on the designs in some way. “It was surprisingly ego free,” Hamner shared.
Lee brought the purple interior of the cape back because he liked the way it looked on Yvonne Craig on the ’60s “Batman” television series. Chiarello really liked Adam Hughes’ interpretation of the character on the new cover to her upcoming #1.
A slide of the Flash went up next and Lee revealed that while he may do the initial redesign, he sometimes forgets to show how the back of the character would look, and Hamner would come in and then figure out how the character would look from behind and provide another sketch. They also added, “Francis Manapul added a lot of nuance,” from how the costume forms on Barry Allen to the sparks of energy that erupt from those lines when he runs.
A slide of Supergirl took the screen and Lee told the crowd his favorite version of the character is the ones from the ’70s. In doing the redesign, Lee wanted to keep the yellow piping of the pre-relaunch costume, but make it unique. Chiarello shared that while Supergirl went through many design ideas, Batgirl was practically a first pass.
Superboy’s new design is based on the story and what the character is going through, and the panels revealed that some of the new designs are only temporary costumes until they get their “final” ones as their series go on.
Explaining Poison Ivy’s new look in “Suicide Squad,” Hamner said the design is “pretty much mine… I wanted to make her almost a silhouette with leaves blowing across her body.” The idea is that the leaves will change colors like the seasons from green to orange to brown.
Green Arrow’s new look began by using the character’s look in the “Smallville” television series as a starting point. Hamner said that they spent a lot of time just trying to figure out how his quiver should hang on his back. Artist Dan Jurgens wanted it over the shoulder and that’s what they eventually went with.
The new design for Mr. Terrific “is mostly Cully,” Lee explained. Hamner admitted, “I wasn’t happy with it at first, but you guys liked it.” Lee’s only input was to make the ‘T’ on his face red because it allowed for more expression than basic black. Hamner also said that an ‘M’ was tried on the face. “We tried a lot of crazy stuff,” he laughed.
Firestorm’s redesign by Ethan Van Sciver was then shown, and the panelists admitted that was one they attempted a bunch of designs for and sent them to Van Sciver and Gail Simone. Van Sciver replied back, “We got it guys,” and they all agreed his version was best.
Grifter was quickly shown, and Lee mused, “You know what? I didn’t do a lot of the designs on Wildstorm.” Of course, Lee created and helped design the vast majority of the now-defunct Wildstorm characters who will now be a part of the relaunched DCU.
Arsenal and Starfire were shown, and Hamner explained that the former needed to go through some significant changes since Green Arrow himself is now younger. With Green Arrow excising the hood, it was determined that Arsenal should wear a baseball cap. The hat was originally red to match his costume, but Lee said, “That was a little too cute.”
Red Hood’s new look skews closer to how he looked in the animated “Under The Red Hood” Batman movie. Hamner said the artist on “Red Hood and the Outlaws,” Kenneth Rocafort, “Made it a lot cooler than I did.”
The redesign of Harley Quinn follows her look from the hit video game, “Batman: Arkham Asylum,” as fans seemed to really respond to it. Deadshot was right next to her on the slide, and the panelists said they wanted a paramilitary feel to the character, so he has elements lifted from a soldier, but with additional superhero elements.
A few designs of Kid Flash were shown, one with his hair sticking out from the top of his mask like a ‘fauxhawk’ that Hamner came up with, and one with a full cowl. They included headphones on the character; liking the idea he’d be running around at high speed listening to music, but in the end, “Teen Titans” writer Scott Lobdell wanted something “more happy.”
The panel then opened it up to questions, and the first one was about whether or not the DCU’s villains would be getting similar redesigns. “I don’t remember a lot of those,” answered Hamner. The panelists said some redesigns might wait until the characters are used and reintroduced, and if the artists on those books want design ideas.
Asked why they would get rid of Superman’s underwear, but not the “wings” on the side of Flash’s mask, Lee explained that the ears are meant to make the character’s head more aerodynamic, as the wings follow the curve of his head. Lee also said Superman’s redesign has nothing to do with any recent lawsuit.
The final question was about how the invulnerable Superboy could have a tattoo. “How’d he get a tattoo? How does he cut his hair?” Lee jokingly responded. “I’d imagine you could use your heat vision,” to give to tattoo invulnerable skin.