If you want to know what’s happening in the DC Comics Universe, CBR’s B&B is the place to be!
Welcome to B&B, CBR’s exclusive monthly chat where your friendly DC Comics Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras and Editorial Director Bobbie Chase answer all questions DC, sharing the latest word on new books and events to the topical stories concerning the publisher.
The DC E-I-C since 2010 and Senior Vice President since December, 2012, Harras cut his comics industry teeth at Marvel Comics in the early ’90s, first as an assistant editor to Ralph Macchio then as an editor himself on books like “X-Men” before becoming the E-I-C for Marvel, a position he held until 2000.
Promoted to Editorial Director last year, Chase launched her career at Marvel in the late ’80s. As an editor, she worked alongside Harras and also held the position of Marvel’s E-I-C for a year before leaving the company — and comics — in 2001. Chase returned to the industry in 2011, overseeing the editorial reins of DC’s Batman family of books.
Today, Bob and Bobbie join CBR to talk about what’s new in the New 52, announcing the new creative teams for “Constantine” and “Birds Of Prey,” revealing Jim Starlin’s DC book, talking “Detective Comics” #900 and discussing their goals for 2013.
Josie Campbell: It looks like April is going to be a busy month for DC, but before we start talking about individual announcements, let’s take a look at the state of the broader DC Universe. In 2012, DC published a bunch of critically-acclaimed, top-selling titles like “Batman” — but there was also a lot of turnover, with books being cancelled after six or so issues, or having new teams come in. Looking at DC and the DCU as a whole, what are your overarching editorial goals for 2013, and what would you like to improve on moving forward?
Bob Harras: I think 2013 is the year we’re going to weave more and more together with certain elements of our universe; more world-building and just keeping to the spirit of the what New 52 is, which is about game-changing, which is about challenging our readers and challenging ourselves to come up with something new and exciting. That really is our mantra for 2013.
Bobbie Chase: We’re going to explore the universe, surprising readers with things they don’t know, and there’re going to be some interesting character studies. We’re really getting into who the characters are, and who their villains are.
Harras: As Bobbie said, we really want to explore who heroes are up against and what their conflict is, every month. More than just being villains, what is their opposite, what makes them a hero and how is that going to define the DC New 52? We’ve got a lot of things planned as the year progresses, exploring that issue. A hero, in many ways, is defined by their opponents. That’s really one of the themes we’re exploring.
Chase: And always, always, always telling good stories!
Obviously one of the big things coming up for DC this year is “Trinity War,” the crossover involving “Justice League” and other books. How does “Trinity War” fit into that goal of exploring villains and characters in the DCU?
Harras: I think there’s a lot of very interesting concepts coming out of that storyline. That is one of the things that actually started the conversation about villainy and the nature of villainy and the nature of what our heroes in the Justice League in particular have to go up against. So themes of that will echo across the line. It’s part of an ongoing conversation we have here —
Chase: Every single day!
Harras: I think the New 52, when we launched it, we were defining our heroes. Now, we’re going to explore the other side of things — their villains. We’re delving a little more deeply into the darker side of things.
Talking about dark, one of the books that immediately comes to mind is “Constantine,” which stars a character who has traditionally been on the darker side of Vertigo and the DCU. Both “Constantine” and “Birds Of Prey” are going to be getting new creative teams in April, before either team’s first issue even made it to publication. Who is going to be replacing Robert Venditti and Jim Zub on those books, and why switch them out before they got to write their first issues?
Harras: Robert came to us with a fantastic pitch for “Constantine;” we really loved what Robert’s doing — he’s working on “Demon Knights” now, and he’s also working on another project for us that I really can’t go into which is a big deal for us. But at the end of the day, Robert and Dan [DiDio] and I spoke, and “Constantine” was, for him, one book too many. It was the one thing that we had to go, “If we want you to focus on this one project, maybe we should make a change on ‘Constantine.'” Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes very professionally, very nicely stepped up to the challenge [of launching “Constantine”].
Chase: Very quickly, too. Those guys already had ideas because of what they were doing in “Justice League Dark.”
Harras: It was one of those things where we had to step back and say, “You know, Robert, we should concentrate you on these other projects right now.” And like we said, with Jeff and Ray stepping in on “Constantine,” weaving it closer to “Justice League Dark,” I think it was actually the best solution to — not a problem, but a challenge. We all sat down and said, how do we make this work?
Christy Marx is taking over as writer on “Birds Of Prey.” Does Jim Zub also have other projects at DC, like Venditti? Why the switch there?
Harras: Jim had a great pitch for “Birds Of Prey,” but as things came together in discussion and the creative churn, we all saw what Christy was doing on “Amethyst,” and we were looking at “Birds Of Prey” and internally and editorially we were thinking of taking it in a different direction. The decision was made that we were going to go in a different direction than what Jim had originally envisioned. We definitely, definitely want to continue working with Jim, but at this moment, we wanted to go in a particular direction. Bobbie started working with Jim months ago —
Chase: He’s a great writer. He’s a great idea guy, and I look forward to working with him again.
Harras: In the creative process, these things sometimes happen and he totally understood. Obviously, he was a bit disappointed, but he understood. We hope to work with him on another project.
Since we’re on the topic of creative changes, one of the things that was a big discussion point for a while was Gail Simone being on and off “Batgirl.” With Gail now reinstated on the title, I have to ask — how much was fan outcry and fan support part of that creative editorial decision?
Harras: What we had was Ray [Fawkes] coming on for two months to help out, schedule-wise. We’re very happy Gail is back; she’s on the book moving forward, so to me, that was a moment in time where we were just looking for Gail’s next plot to come in and we’re moving forward.
Going back to announcements, one of the huge things, and something that Jim Starlin has been teasing a little bit on his own, is the fact that he’s going to be writing “Stormwatch.” How did that move come about?
Harras: Jim has been talking to us for a while now about doing various projects and pitching some ideas. He and Dan had been speaking, and he had been sending some ideas to Bobbie and me. Again, one of the things in the creative process, as you talk and discuss various things and — my term for the day! — the creative churn, some of the things Jim was coming up with, we thought might actually be interesting to put on “Stormwatch” and change the direction of that book. So it came out of, again, an ongoing conversation.
Chase: I was a natural progression coming out of another project, as Bob said. It was such a good fit.
When you say “Jim Starlin,” most people think of his cosmic, sci-fi work. Was this part of why you wanted to pair him with “Stormwatch?”
Harras: Definitely! I mean, exactly! That was one of those moments where Bobbie and I looked at each other and said, “It’s staring us in the face!” [Laughter]
Chase: There were several things that were appealing about bringing Jim on, and [artist] Yvel Guichet on the art, as well. There’s just going to be some great stuff on the project.
On the art side, we have Brett Booth leaving “Teen Titans” and moving over to “Nightwing” as the new permanent artist while Eddy Barrows is shifting “Nightwing” to “Teen Titans.” Was that a planned switch?
Harras: Again, it’s one of those things where it comes out of a conversation with the talent, with the editors.
Chase: Brett loves “Nightwing,” so it was a great fit.
Harras: Eddy coming onto “Teen Titans” also was a nice, elegant switch. Where they are, with Brett leaving the storyline and the new locale for Nightwing, Kyle [Higgins] has a lot of interesting ideas for where he wants to take the character. With Brett aboard, again, what we want to do with the New 52 on a constant basis is challenge the readers and challenge the characters.
Chase: Brett was sending me sketches of Nightwing and a lot of other characters when we were working together.He just has so many ideas for the universe, he’s not containable! [Laughter] It’ll be a great time for readers.
Along with the creative team changes we’ve just talked about, the books will be going in new directions. Do you see April as a landmark month, where a lot of current titles are going to have a new outlook or change creatively from what they have been in the New 52?
Harras: I think when we say they are going to be game-changing and we are going to be setting the tone for the rest of the year with the books, really what we’re saying is, we are upping the stakes that month. We are really saying to everyone, including our characters, the world is not as safe as it was. Their lives are going to get much more difficult from this moment on in 2013. Does it change the direction of series or does it fulfill the direction of series? That’s really what the creative conversation is.
Last year, there was the Second Wave of DC books, replacing some titles and introducing new books and creative teams, followed by other Waves on a pretty consistent basis. Are the creative team changes in April going to be like the Second Wave, where every couple of months we’re going to see new books and new creative team changes?
Chase: Well, that’s an ongoing process and it happens all the time. It’s not an event for us, this part of the ongoing workflow.
Harras: As far as the creative churn, it’s part of our ongoing mission to make the New 52 ever-challenging and ever-new. As Bobbie said, it’s part of what we do on a daily basis. There’s no real yay or nay answer to that, it’s just the nature of what we’re doing.
“Detective Comics,” though it was renumbered, would have reached issue #900 in April. I understand you guys are doing something special for that with John Layman — what does that special milestone issue entail?
Harras: I don’t want to go into too many details of what John and Jason Faybook are planning there. The concept of the number 900 is important to the story. It’s something that I think will take people a little bit by surprise of what it is, but it is the theme of the issue. It’s what Batman has to face. It’s definitely part of the story in a big way.
Chase: You can say that there’s a group called the 900!
Harras: Ok, you can say that! [Laughter]
“Detective Comics” is one of the longest-published comic books out there; will the numbering revert back to the old numbering after this issue?
Harras: Nope. The New 52 is what DC is. It is where we go forward, it is really part of the whole being of what DC is.
Chase: Like we’ve said, it’s not an event: It’s ongoing.
Harras: It’s the redefinition of our line, which we will continue moving forward.
Looking in the DCU right now, the huge event currently running is “Death Of the Family.” For the past year and a half, Scott Snyder has been setting the pace and the event tone for the Batman family of books. Moving forward in 2013, is that a trend that will continue? Should we look to see more events being generated out of “Batman” for the rest of the Bat group of books?
Harras: I know what Scott and Greg have planned coming up in the next few months; I think it’s going to be amazing, I think it’s going to take people by surprise. But the other Bat books, too, have stories to come. Whether that will be connecting to what Greg and Scott are doing on a regular basis or not is not something we have written in stone in any way, shape or form. It is the story that tells us if our characters are getting connected or not.
Chase: And the mystery of our next through line, we can’t tell you! [Laughter]
One of the other books people have been paying a lot of attention to and is February’s “Justice League of America.” Is this a title essential for readers to dive into if they want to really understand the upcoming “Trinity War” event?
Harras: “Justice League of America” is a book we’re incredibly excited about; Geoff [Johns] and David Finch are putting together the world’s most dangerous heroes. The “Trinity War” will be part of that storyline and part of the “Justice League” family of books. But I think what you’re going to see in “Justice League of America” is, there’s more to it than that. There are bigger stories going on in that launch that I think are going to progress further down the line. As we said earlier in our conversation, we really had discussions about where we’re taking the characters, where we’re taking their conflict and their adversaries. This is all part of the general discussion. You’ll see elements of that in “Justice League of America” #1.
Chase: Also, in terms of repercussions throughout the line, the Justice League now is very much going to be a family group of books. It’s already joining “Justice League” and “Justice League Dark,” and we’ve got “Green Arrow” and “Vibe” and “Catwoman.” They’re going to be integrated and important to one another. Important to, really, the whole line.
Harras: And their admission into the team is going to change their lives as well. As we said, game-changing events, changing the lives of our characters.
DC is also doing a cover artist crossover with “MAD” in April —
Harras: April being April, we turned to [Editor] John Ficarra who runs “MAD” and said, “Would you like to have some fun?” John never likes to have fun. [Laughter] They’re going to do a number of variants for our titles in April; I’ve seen a couple of them already, and they’re very “MAD”-like! “MAD” is part of our family and I think it’s a nice thing to do.
Chase: We’re having fun with this!
Harras: If I get one more email with an idea from John Ficarra that terrifies me, I’ll let you all know! [Laughter] Sergio [Aragones] is doing one of them, I can tell you that. I can’t get too into it because we still have a lot of ideas, we’re still discussing the craziest ones. I think people are going to like what they see because “MAD” is dedicated to this in an amazing way! [Laughter]
There’s also some sort of unnamed event in April that will feature a lot of the April covers having “shocking” moments for their lead characters. What’s going on with that?
Harras: That is going to be on all the New 52 covers. It is part of, as we explained earlier, the theme of game-changing, upping the stakes for our heroes. This was a way to accentuate that threat or shocking moments in our heroes’ lives. What we’re doing with the covers is thematically linked to that. They will be page-fold covers; the covers will tell you a story. There will be an image that will crack the page fold, and as you open up the cover, you’ll say, “Oh, wow!”
Chase: You might even say, “What the F?” [Laughs]
We’ve talked a lot about the big things that are coming down the line for DC in April. Is there anything we haven’t hit that you’re excited for fans and readers to see coming up?
Harras: That’s a great question. One of the books I really want people to take a look at is “Wonder Woman.” I think what’s going on in that book is just astonishing. Diana’s family and the conflicts in there again fit the themes we’re talking about. It’s really changed her life in a big way. It’s really changed how people perceive her, and that book is just, not to sound corny, but it’s a gift every month.
Chase: It’s one of my personal favorites. I love it!
Harras: Also, “The Flash” is a great book; Brian [Buccellato] and Francis [Manapul] are doing just a great superhero book and it’s taking the Flash in new directions.
Chase: One of my favorites is “Demon Knights.” What Robert Venditti is starting to do in that book I think is really fun. It’s a fun read! And “Earth 2” —
Harras: “Earth 2” is actually one of our books we’re very proud of, creating a world of crisis that’s similar yet distinct from ours, with heroes that are similar but very different from ours. It’s just been great to see how that is progressing and how that world is expanding.
Chase: And how much darker those versions are! [Laughs]
Harras: Where that story’s going to go — again, we’ve had conversations, we have big plans. You’re probably getting a bigger answer than you were hoping for! [Laughter] I also want to say what Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort are doing on “Superman,” there’s a sense of energy I really appreciate.
Chase: And a sense of family. It’s really tying in nicely with “Superboy” and “Supergirl.”
We’ve talked about your overarching goals for 2013 — do the two of you have personal goals for this editorial year? And Bob, if you can work the word ‘churn’ into it one more time, I think we’re all set.
Harras: [Laughter] I was just going to calculate how to do that! My goal for 2013 is to make DC the place to go for superhero excitement. For characters, for events — just for enjoyment. I don’t mean to sound corny, but that drives me. DC is the place for these great characters. To serve them well and make them the most exciting characters for readers is my plan, my hope, my goal. I can’t speak for Bobbie, and I did not use the word churn there, but it’s ok! [Laughs]
Chase: My goal is to mess with the characters as much as possible. [Laughter] Really, it’s making amazing series that the readers will want to pick up!