Questions — and answers — flew fast and furious at the passionate panel for DC Comics’ New 52 at Fan Expo Canada convention in Toronto, where Tony Daniel, Francis Manapul, Dan DiDio, Shane Davis, James Robinson, Jeff Lemire, Brian Azzarello and Eddie Berganza discussed the various titles being relaunched and offered up news, including the the return of the Justice Society with Robinson and artist Nicola Scott at the helm.
“The goal is to keep it fun and fast, even though the first arc is about 5 issues,” Manapul said of his intentions for “The Flash.” The writer/artist hopes to bring readers “into Barry Allen’s mind” and “make it introspective and at the same time, a kick-ass action book. Every issue, the action is going to get bigger and bigger and bigger until I run out of ideas,” he joked, adding that “it’s his own psyche that really slows him down or pushes him forward.”
The Jim Lee-designed costume also sparked the idea for a new approach to Flash’s costume change. “When I saw the lines, just like every fan, I was like, ‘What are they there for?’ Then I decided to figure out a reason. The first thing I did was, rather than having the lightning just sporadically go everywhere, they would leak from his symbol and follow the uniform line on the suit, following those inseams that Jim had done. And based on that, I created a new costume transformation sequence. It’s still very traditional in a sense, but a modern take. If you think about it, it’s kind of silly for him to have to pull up his boots and put on the cowl. So the idea is that he shoots it out and runs into it so that the suit is bound together by lightning and the Speed Force.”
Dan DiDio explained how “Action Comics” will be positioned in the chronology of the new DCU. “If you look at ‘Justice League’ as Year One, ‘Action Comics’ is almost Year Zero for the DC Universe. It’s before any of the public heroes have emerged.” Later in the panel, it was clarified that Batman would still be operating at the same time as Superman, just not in the public eye.
“It’s a stage of his life where he feels really alone from people,” DiDio continued as he explained the new take on Superman. “His adopted parents are no longer alive, he just moved to a new city, he’s trying to establish himself as a hero. People don’t know what to make of a man with these powers, he finds himself hunted but he still wants to do what’s right — he’s trying to establish himself on almost every level.”
DiDio also expressed his feeling that the costume revamp, much like the Flash’s, will make sense to readers. “So much has been made about the costume itself. Well, this is the one case where you get to see how the costume really comes to be and why it matters to him as much as it does. He’s wearing his cape, which is really still the blanket around his neck. We thought it sounded silly at the start, but between Rags’ (Morales) art and the way the story’s been told, it’s really been sold well.”
Just to make it clear, DiDio once again reiterated the timeline: “You’re getting the Year Zero in ‘Action,’ you’re getting the Year One as [Superman] meets the Justice League members and then basically Year Five as he’s moving along, so there’s a lot of Superman coming at you. And the best part is that everyone’s been working together to make sure it really feels like the same character, even though he’s in different phases of his life.”
“Savage Hawkman” writer Tony Daniel then explained his new take on the character to the audience. “How savage am I making him? Well, he’s going to be chopping people’s heads off, dismembering people — all the good stuff. I mean, the guy has an axe, a mace, a shield that has three big spikes coming out of it. He’s not going to be tickling his opponents! The nature of the character’s design just says it all, but what that means is that he’s going to have some pretty intense foes.” He went on to say that Carter Hall will be comparable to the modern take on Sherlock Holmes recently depicted by Robert Downey Jr. in that “he’s gritty, but extremely smart.” Fans will also finally get an answer to how Hall hides his wings when in secret identity mode along with as a newer, stripped-down origin. “The first thing that I wanted to get rid of is the reincarnation factor, the Egyptian thing and the tragedy of him and Hawkgirl. All that stuff. A lot of convolution there. Is that a word or did I just coin a phrase?” he asked his fellow panel members as a rumble of uncertainty could be heard amongst the crowd.
Daniel, who has been writing Dick Grayson in “Batman,” next expressed enthusiasm at once again being able to tackle the original man behind the cowl in the pages of “Detective Comics” #1. “I’m extremely excited to do Bruce Wayne stories. We’re going to be concentrating on solo detective stories, as opposed to having a lot of peripheral characters. I really want a small cast of character involved, so Commission Gordon, Alfred, Batman.” He also shared that a new love interest will feature into Bruce’s life, one “who is not Catwoman,” and that the book will be made up of “big story concepts and short story arcs so you can get in and out of stories quickly.”
Jeff Lemire then described “Animal Man” for the assembled fans, saying, “It’s very much a horror book. This is a dark story with a lot of dark things pulling at this family. I love writing each member of the family, especially his wife Ellen who has become kind of the heart of the book. There’s this cool irony where Buddy wears a costume and he’s supposed to be a superhero, but he’s a really kind of the weak one and without her, the whole family would be a mess.”
James Robinson’s announcement that a Justice Society book is on the way was met with an especially positive reaction, as he made a point of explaining how the heroes will co-exist with the Justice League given the new timeline. “Everyone’s saying, ‘How can there be superheroes before the five years?’ We’re actually bringing back Earth-2.” Robinson explained the benefit of returning the JSA to the alternate Earth has to do with the availability of characters. “One of the problems with the Justice Society pre-[New] 52 is that so many of them were dead. There were very, very few of them alive, but you’re going to see some people that haven’t been around for a while fighting crime and being a part of the team again, so just bear with us.”
Among the other reveals during the Lightning Round of the Q&A included news that Shane Davis will be taking over cover duties on “Superboy,” Clark will have a a non-Lois Lane love interest and Parasite will return as a significantly less bumbling villain. The panel refused to answer whether Gail Simone would return to Secret Six in the coming months, and also clarified that former Batgirls Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown would still exist in the new DCU, but the former as her original alter-ego, Spoiler. DiDio spoke especially passionately throughout the panel about his and Keith Giffen’s “OMAC,” while one young fan showed loyalty to Jack Knight by asking when he would return as Starman. Robinson answered, “there’s one untold tale of Jack Knight that Tony (Harris) and I have always talked about doing. [Tony is] very busy, but never say never.”
When the big question on everyone’s minds — whether or not the continuity changes resulting from this relaunch would ultimately alienate the new readers DC hopes to reach — was asked, DiDio answered with confidence.
“If it scares them away, then we didn’t do our job properly.”