The Reborn DC Comics Universe continued to keep things old school at New York Comic Con.
The “meat and potatoes” approach to superheroing was well represented at the publisher’s “DC Universe – What’s Next?” panel at the Jacob Javitz Center. Taking the stage on Saturday morning were a wide selection of creators behind some of the DCU’s core titles including “Harley Quinn” writer Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, the “Green Arrow” duo of writer Ben Percy and artist Juan Ferreyra, “Deathstroke” writer Christopher Priest, “Wonder Woman’s” Greg Rucka, “Hal Jordan and The Green Lantern Corps'” Rob Venditti and “Flash’s” Josh Williamson.
Talk went right to the books themselves with the reveal of the “Harley Quinn” #5 cover as Palmiotti joked that the great thing about bringing their book to the Rebirth mileu is “57 covers.” Conner said, “I think the best thing about it is, nothing changes.” Though the creators did appreciate the opportunity to retell Harley’s origin in the “Rebirth” special, but beyond that “Nothing really changed in a way, because for us issue #1 was more like issue #31” as Palmiotti said.
Coming up in the series is a music based story where Quinn fronts a band called the Skull Bags in a plot akin to “Point Break.” “She’s going undercover to break a crime ring, and the ring happens to be a punk rock band,” Palmiotti said, adding that the mohawk take on Harley was “to keep the cosplayers on their shows.” The story will take the character into the punk rock scene of Brooklyn. “She’s the lead singer of her band, but she’s not good at all. She has no talent, but she doesn’t care,” Conneer said, noting that her favorite part of working on the story was writing fake song lyrics.
The creators also teased that coming up in the book, they’ll be collaborating with artist Jill Thompson on a story – the first of many promised bits of new info dolled out over the panel.
“Green Arrow” was up next as Ferreyra and Percy joked about the fact that they just met as the artist also laughed about Percy’s very deep voice saying, “He makes Darth Vader pee himself…when he tells me to draw something, I draw it.” The writer then said that when he made his transition from the DC You take on the character to Rebirth, the missing elements he and DC defined as essential to Oliver Queen were his goatee, his relationship with Black Canary and his liberal politics. “It’s been a blast to tip my hat to his history while also making this my own,” he said. “Really the title of the book should be ‘Green Arrow & Black Canary’ or maybe ‘Green Arrow & Black Canary & Diggle,’ but that’s a bit too much.
Percy said that the key to the relationship between his leading lovers is that Arrow wears his heart on his sleeve while Canary is more guarded – but she’s still not afraid to “call him out on his shit.” Artist Stephen Byrne will join the rotating visual team on the book in issue #9 – a follow up to the “Island of Scars” arc. The story will then shift focus in Ferreyra’s to an undersea train that was the dream of Oliver Queen’s father Robert which also connects the current story to the island where Oliver crashed, turning him into Green Arrow. “We’re brining back the boxing glove on the [arrow],” teased the artist.
Percy added that the theme of the series overall is to play with the Robin Hood idea of the character. Without his fortune, Arrow is now truly a man of the people who exists in a sort of Sherwood Forrest setting with his own Little John in Diggle. These themes come to bear with the future return-to-Seattle arc called “Emerald Outlaw.” “It’s sort of like ‘The Wire’ in Seattle. There’s all sorts of political corruption and police corruption going on, and it’s going to run for six issues,” said the writer.
Meanwhile, Percy is also prepping the launch the new “Teen Titans” series, which he said will draw from the two most famous runs on the franchise: the Wolfman/Perez “New Teen Titans” and Geoff Johns 21st Century reinvention of it. “This first arc belongs to Damian Wayne – that little tyrant,” he said. “The first line of ‘Teen Titans Rebirth’ is ‘I’m alone,’ and the last word of it is ‘Together.’ That kind of sums up the whole first arc” where Damian forces the team to come together against their will and fight against R’as Al Ghul’s school of assassins called “The Demon’s Fist.”
He’ll also work to expand the role for classic Titans cast members who have been sidelined from the franchise for a while. “I feel like Starfire hasn’t really been given her shot in the past,” said Percy to which Palmiotti joked, “Amanda and I only wrote her for a year, so thanks for that.”
Unlike his fellow writers, Greg Ruck is coming back to this “Wonder Woman” series after a long absence from the character. And when asked why he came back to the book, his simple answer was “Diana.” In fact, the Amazon Princess is one of three characters DC can always offer Rucka to get him to come back into the fold. The other two are “Kate and Renee” – the two members of the Batman universe he’s left a significant mark on over the years.
But as for the plot of “Wonder Woman,” he said, “It’s a huge year for Diana. It’s her 75th. She’s finally getting her movie. And I think honestly this is a chance for her to break out in the way that character has been poised to do for a long time…one of the things I’ve been tasked to do is make sense of all this stuff that’s been flying around over the past 15 years.” Rucka added that in recent years, there have been many missteps with the character as “the signal has gotten lost in the noise.” So “The whole purpose of this damn run is to show everybody who didn’t already know why she is one of the most amazing characters ever created.”
Looking forward, artist Nicola Scott will wrap her work on the “Year One” era of the book with issue #14 with Bilquis Evely coming on to take over that role. But in the immediate future of the book, the focus will be squarely on Barbara Ann Minerva – the woman who will become the Cheetah as Rucka explores who she is and her own take on the world of the gods before she’s corrupted.
Switching from the ancient world of gods to the far flung reaches of space, Venditti said that in “Hal Jordan” “it’s not jus the Green Lantern mythology we’re playing with but the whole history of the DC cosmos,” he said. So the first arc is hitting classic GL grace notes like Hal vs. Sinestro, but as things move forward, the scope of the series will expand.
“Green Lantern Corps” artist and longtime franchise stalwart Ethan Van Sciver has been drawing multiple new members of the Sinestro Corps while drawing covers, prompting Venditti to create names and back stories for the characters as he goes. The first arc will wrap with a split story where in one issue Hal takes on Sinestro alone in War World while Guy Gardner fights his way out of imprisonment at the hands of the Sinsestro Corps. Those are both meant to be tales that lean towards the strength of each individual GL, and the next arc will be a major John Stewart arc that draws from his view of what the Corps means and how he leads the military organization.
Venditti then explained that he’s been drawing inspiration from his life to make the characters feel real, saying that in life you meet friends who “are a Hal” or a Guy or a Kyle Rayner. As the story goes forward, you’ll start to see details of the superhero’s lives drawn from people Venditti knows who he feels embody their personality types.
Williamson said that for his part, he pitched DC hard on letting him write the Flash. When someone mentioned it offhand to him that he should write the book, “I obsessed on it for months” before Dan DiDio shot down his initial impassioned pitch. “Then at this con last year, I sat down and starting talking to Dan about what I wanted to do…and at one point, Dan said ‘Stop. I love it.’ But here’s the thing, no one told me I was writing ‘The Flash’ until I got into the white room with Geoff Johns,” he laughed. The conference meeting at DC’s office was what Williamson thought was a pitch session to earn the gig, “And the Geoff walks in and sits down…and it was the first time anyone told me I had the job. I said, ‘Do you want me to tell you what I want to do?’ and Geoff said, ‘I know what you want to do…let’s get to work.'”
The two concepts that the writer wanted to bring back to the book were Barry Allen as a teacher of Wally West and to build up the surrogate family aspect of the Flash legacy. “Barry lost his mom…and he was always looking for someone to replace that,” he said. “And then Barry became a surrogate father for Wally…and I want him to do that for the new Wally West too.”
The villain of the piece, Godspeed, came from the idea that he’s not a Reverse Flash but a Reverse Barry Allen. While Barry always wanted justice for the death of his mother, Godspeed only wants revenge. Coming up in the book is another villain arc called “Rogues Reloaded.” “For a long time, these guys have been considered anti-heroes…but they’re coming back, and they won’t be helping the Flash anymore,” he said.
Priest wrapped the run on the panel by joking that when he was offered “Deathstroke,” his only question was “Is he Black?” The writer was tired of being stuck only writing African American characters, but he’s relished doing something different. The writer doesn’t want to make his character more likable but to revel in the villainy inherent in who Deathstroke is. And that will come to the fore when the character takes on Batman in issue #4.
Stay tuned for more from New York Comic Con all weekend on CBR!