With three weekly series debuting in 2014, DC Comics brought the creative talent behind them to Comic-Con International 2014, including “Batman Eternal” writers Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Ray Fawkes and Kyle Higgins; “Futures End” writers Dan Jurgens and Jeff Lemire; and “Earth 2: Worlds End” scribes Marguerite Bennett and Daniel H. Wilson.
Moderator Bob Wayne began the panel with “Batman Eternal,” and the intimidating nature of doing a weekly Batman series.
“I just want to say thanks to you guys for picking up the book,” said Snyder, who wanted to do a story where 52 issues might not even be enough. “We came up with an idea that we felt would be so big and infect that neighborhood in Gotham. I helped write the first few and I’ll come back and do the last, but it’s these guys that are just killing it on the series. The great thing about it is that it’s not happening in a small corner. We wanted it to be like the Gazette.” When ‘Batman’ comes back at #34, it’ll deal with the aftermath of “Eternal.” “Our goal going forward from ‘Eternal,’ ‘Batman’ — is to give you a Gotham you’ve never seen before. The consequences will reverberate through many, many, many books.”
Tynion agreed, saying the creative team wanted to “take the toys and push them to their limits.” “We want to throw in brand new elements and put them in places they’ve never been before while exploring each and every facet of Batman stories. That was the goal,” he said.
Fawkes said that each writer “championed a different part of the story,” and he’s taking the lead with Jim Corrigan and Batwing, while Higgins said he didn’t really have a focus. “I came into the series a little late, so my first stuff is in issue #22,” said Higgins. “The arc I wrote after that is in the 30s, which I really can’t talk about. … The way that we’re structuring this is three acts. The end of the first big act of the series will be right around issue 20. Section two tees up something new and different with different characters. That’s the stuff I’m doing. I’m working with Jay Fabok to tell the end of section two. … I kind of feel like George Pelecanos on “The Wire.” He wrote the episodes where everybody dies.”
The one big thing about the series that Higgins could say was that he would be bringing The Architect in “Eternal.”
According to Snyder, each act is designed to raise the stakes until “the city is on the edge of destructions with all these big bads” that builds to a giant crescendo. “None of us expected the response you guys have given it, so thanks again.”
Moving on to “New 52: Futures End,” with Dan Jurgens saying that it’s an “unlikely group of writers,” but their differences have built the team into a stronger unit and make for a stronger book. Lemire agreed, saying that eclectic mix is represented in the cast chosen for the book — “characters you wouldn’t normally see together” — as well as the scope of the series.
“Whenever you put four writers who tend to think the same way about character into a room, you end up with a more homogenous product,” said Jurgens, noting that “Futures End” has managed to have an incredibly diverse cast and eclectic mix of plot that draws from the entire DC Universe. “We’re telling to story of what the DC Universe is like 5 years from now given the big event that we’ll be talking about later on.”
Lemire called out Ryan Sook, who does covers and designed most all of the elements for the five-years-later DCU. “He sat in our writing meetings and did sketches based on what we were talking about. It’s almost five creative voices, with Ryan,” said Lemire.
The book brings Terry McGinnis into the New 52, and Lemire said it was Azzarello gravitating towards the character. “The thought of bringing Beyond back to the future back was a good hook,” said Lemire.
In September, the entire New 52 line will jump to the “Futures End” timeline, and Jurgens said it’ll be “a lot of fun.” “You’ll see your favorites and what they’re like five years from now.”
Heading into the real world’s future, Bennett and Wilson discussed “Earth 2: World’s End,” and the challenge of doing a high-profile weekly series.
“This is my first panel at Comic-Con with comic book people,” said Wilson. “It’s great to be a part of that, now! … For me, this was like getting thrown into the deep end of the pool. We’re in a situation where we’re continuing what’s going on in ‘Earth 2’ and there are some catastrophic events on the way and we’re bridging into the future. On the ground level, we have characters like Dick Grayson who are surviving on the ground, then you bump up a bit and you have the World Army — then, to the top level. Having all of this play out at the same time is really interesting; figuring out who deals with what and what’s happening to the world.”
Bennett said the series is the story about a world getting destroyed, and she was inspired by the work the “Eternal” team was doing. “It’s not just a story of attrition or the death of the world, it’s a story about the people in that world,” she said. “It’s a story of triumph, of love and hope that’s coming out of the ruins.”
Wilson has destroyed worlds before in novels, and he said what emerges out of it are the relationships between the people. “They’re not fighting to preserve even their cities or the planet itself. It all boils down to these relationships,” he said. “It has to ultimately be about the emotions or you don’t have anything to move the characters across the board and get good stories out of.”
The first issue of “World’s End” will have an intro to what’s been going on in “Earth 2,” and Wilson said it was challenging to try and explain it all. “It involved going in clinically — because we’re doing world-building here — and required a lot of research to get it all out there on the page,” he said.
“It was important to us to make it immediate and accessible as possible,” said Bennett. “Tom Taylor laid such a great groundwork with the ‘Earth 2’ monthly, and we wanted moments of levity and moments of joy to be very present.”
Wilson said one of the things he always wanted to know from “Earth 2” was “What happened to Sam?” and noted that readers might get a chance to get a little bit of closure in that area.
The panel shifted to Q&A period, which kicked off with Jurgens giving a breakdown for character handoffs for “Futures End.” Jurgens is doing Tim Drake and Superman, Lemire takes Frankenstein and the space characters, Giffen takes Grifter and the Cadmus crew, and Azzarello handles Batman Beyond — but the characters do tend to criss-cross as the series progresses.
The “Eternal” writers said there wasn’t anything proposed that they weren’t able to do. “A lot of the things are just starting to play out,” said Snyder. “Getting to do Selina as the kingpin of crime was really cool to do. Julia Pennyworth has a really big role to play as well. You don’t often get a chance to change the mythology that way and [play with new things]. Once you get to issue #20, you’ll see it changes the status a lot. It’s bringing characters into the bat-world outside of ‘Eternal’ and change major facets of Batman’s support systems.”
Tynion said Julia had some “key, key moments” in act two of “Eternal.” The idea to introduce her was Fawkes’ idea, and once the writers all got in the room, they saw a new opportunity to set an entirely new dynamic to introduce a character that all the relationships would circulate around her. “You guys have seen some flash-forwards,” said Tynion. “We’re marching closer and closer to the end with every single issue, and issues #21-23 is the real turning point to set up that next section and things are going to start changing rapidly. Gotham is going to become very dangerous very quickly.”
Fawkes added that character that are familiar with — Jim Gordon, Batwing, Killer Croc for example — “will almost come out of ‘Eternal’ with new lives.”
Snyder said he almost revealed the entire outline of “Batman Eternal” to Twitter, nearly posting a picture of a giant white board mapping out the whole story after the first meeting.
The question came up as to what the creators of “Eternal” would remember from the series as a whole, and both Snyder and Fawkes answered.
“When we started it, the title came alongside the story. What I would say is that the answer really is in the title,” said Synder.
“We really want readers to feel that they were reading the story that was sure would destroy Batman and now they know why he can’t be destroyed,” said Fawkes.
Snyder and Lemire discussed their collaboration with “Animal Man” and “Swamp Thing,” noting how important and fun it was to collaborate with a good friend. “I miss doing it, but we both told the stories we wanted to tell with those characters,” Snyder said.
The panel was asked about how the building of the DC Universe amongst series works, with coordination between writers — and Snyder noted that a lot of what the team did in “Batman Eternal” actually ended up affecting the story in the upcoming “Endgame” arc in “Batman.”
“It has the biggest bombshell we’ve ever dropped,” he said of the first issue of “Endgame.” “It’s the coordination across the line that’s the most fun. Working in Gotham — it’s fun — we’re in a building together, we’re all neighbors. When I see how much they’re doing, it was like, ‘Let’s make Batman do that too.'” “Endgame” is about taking Batman and giving readers a Gotham they’ve never seen before.
For “World’s End,” Bennet said “it helps you to be more fearless” when it’s within Earth 2 due to the open nature of the world. “The iconic status of the characters also comes with the risk of stasis,” but within “Earth 2,” there’s more of a fearlessness.
“We’re going as deeply within it as we can,” said Wilson. “Think of a Boom Tube. How are they made? Expanding the mythology on everything we pick up and find — that’s been one of my favorite parts of it.”