DC Comics’ recent Rebirth initiative put a premium on making the publisher’s superheroes feel the way they did back in the day. And so the DC Universe: Rebirth panel Friday at the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo (AKA C2E2) started in a traditional fashion: with Co-Publisher Dan DiDio going off the reservation.
As is his want, DiDio took the mic into the crowd to goof with fans about what their favorite parts of the initiative have been (responses ranged from “Greg Rucka” to “the Watchmen”) before declaring that the conversation of the day would be focused on how Rebirth books came together. cher by panel’s end, the creators assembled had revealed a wave of classic and obscure villains set to return in the coming year including as part of a “Batgirl and the Birds of Prey” crossover with “Nightwing.”
Joining the DC executive were “Batgirl & The Birds of Prey” writers Julie and Shawna Benson, “Wonder Woman” creators Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp, “Superman” writer Dan Jurgens, “Detective Comics” writer James Tynion IV, “Nightwing” writer Tim Seeley and “Justice League of America” writer Steve Orlando.
DiDio began by saying that when it came to taking DC back to its roots, “The energy that went into doing that was spectacular.” And he asked the “Birds of Prey” what they felt was missing from the book before they started writing.
Julie Benson explained that first and foremost they wanted to “Bring back the idea that Barbara Gordon was and is Oracle,” she said. “That was something that Geoff [Johns] talked about on day one. The other thing was bringing back the original trinity of Batgirl, Huntress and Black Canary.”
Shawna added that the idea of family was their core theme on the book. “They’re a sisterhood and a family, and they become more powerful as superheroes together.” Julie in turn promised that there would be “No catfights…at least until issue #11.”
For his part, Rucka said that making “Wonder Woman” again was terrifying…and it’s become even more so at the end. “It’s a 24-issue storyline, and we’ll see if we can stick the landing. And if we can’t, I’m changing my name and moving to a different country,” the writer joked.
Seeley’s challenge was doubly hard on “Nightwing” as he and Tom King had just successfully reinvented the hero in “Grayson” to critical acclaim. But the core of who the hero is from Robin to Nightwing to superspy, the writer claimed. “Dick has always been about youth…and though Dick did grow up, he’s never been about a guy who’s in his 30s,” he said, noting that “Grayson” was more like Dick’s college years while now he’s trying to find his way into being an adult.
Jurgens’ challenge on Superman was one-upping his own work from decades past. But the writer said that having a family on hand as part of the new storytelling reality helped change things for him personally, even as he didn’t have to change much about who the Man of Steel is. “One of the advantages of working on a character that’s existed now for almost 80 years is that you can go back to different eras to pluck out what makes the character work…that’s what Rebirth is about: finding the core elements that makes the character work,” he said. Jurgens said aside from his classic work, he pulled from John Byrne and Geoff Johns’ runs on the original superhero in order to make this take more reflective of the character’s entire history.
Family also factored in to Tynion’s run as he’d been asking for a “Batman Family”-style title for years before getting “Detective” and making it more of a secret team book. The mission the team chases on the page, the writer promised, will lead to some events coming in the year ahead from DC. However, the core idea is rebuilding the family of the Bat-verse with Tim Drake at the center because “He has always had the ability to see the Bat Family from an arial view and see what it needs.” Playing into the book’s future will be characters like Lady Shiva, Zatanna and the Order of St. Dumas – an arc that will create a new A.I. version of Azrael that the writer promised won’t be confusing to people who have never read an Azrael comic before.
Orlando said “Justice League of America” take Rebirth’s famed theme of hope and optimism and turns it into a team – this Justice League trying to inspire the DC Universe to be better. In between Lobo exploding various peoples’ heads, he said that characters like Vixen are being rebuilt in the book to hold onto their confidence and ability in a new way. “These are characters that can make each other better and do things they could never do on their own.”
Asked what other obscure characters he might pull into the book if he could have anybody, he threw out weird names like Prince Ra-Man and the Heckler as the kind of character he likes to revitalize.
Meanwhile, Orlando also writes “Supergirl” for the publisher – a task that was complicated by the fact that the hero has her own TV show now aside from her long history. “There’s a huge responsibility to fans of this character,” the writer said. He wanted to hit every tone that represents who the character is – especially having hope and helping others.
DiDio then turned the conversation to the fans again, asking what they connected with in the Rebirth line. Answers ran from joy being an essential element of the DCU to the return of legacy returning with hints of Flash Jay Garrick and others.
The Co-Publisher also polled the crowd on how they liked the double-shipping of books. The response was generally positive. “We wanted to get to a place where we felt we were delivering our stories faster to you…but that pace takes its toll,” he said. Rucka agreed, saying that he’s leaving “Wonder Woman” after #25 in part due to the struggle a twice-monthly book put on him as a writer. “We ran the math at some point, and it’s almost 500 script pages of comics in less than a year,” the writer said.
Jurgens agreed the pace was a challenge, but he compared it favorably to the “Triangle Era” of Superman comics from the ’90s that practically made the line a weekly comic. “The intensity never lets up, but at the same time you can tell your story in a different way,” he said. The high number of issues allow writers and artists deliver both twists and digressions that make the story deeper for readers.
Looking forward, the Bensons promised that in the second year of their book they’d bring back Catwoman, Poison Ivy and even famed BoP nemesis Calculator to the action. “We want to give them obstacles,” said Julie, noting that the team would be leaving Gotham some more in year two.
“Nightwing” follows a similar track by bringing back Raptor – the villain who launched his arc. “Part of that does tie into an event, so I can’t say too much about that,” Seeley said, promising (perhaps jokingly?) that Dick would travel to the world of Warlord Skartaris and run around in a fuzzy loincloth for several issues. More importantly, Grayson will cross the Agents of Spyral again including his former partner Tiger.
The creators of both books then revealed they’d just gotten approval for a “Birds of Prey”/”Nightwing” crossover that they’ve already started plotting.
Orlando then took his turn to say that upcoming issues of “Justice League of America” will show Lobo fighting construction machinery while Killer Frost and the Atom will take on a villain from the ’90s Bloodlines era: Terrorsmith. The team will also go to Monster Valley in a story he described as “Justice League meets Tarzan.” That story will introduce one new character, and another new villain will appear soon after called King Butcher – one of the Lords of Order who will lead to the reveal of the big villain of the book’s first 24 issues. One last hint Orlando offered: he’ll be doing an arc in the Microverse that the Atom has lived in in the past.
DiDio wrapped by balking at a question about revivals for the likes of Martian Manhunter or the Legion of Super-Heroes, saying that plans were in the works for more revivals of classic heroes, but that the main goal of Rebirth remained not doing it until the right team had been found.