Despite the fact it was Easter Sunday, the room was packed for DC Comics’ All Access panel at WonderCon. Creators from across the DC Universe were present, including Scott Lobdell (“Superman,” “Teen Titans”), Jimmy Palmiotti (“All-Star Western”), Len Wein (“Before Watchmen: Ozymandias”), Sterling Gates (“Justice League of America’s Vibe”), Kyle Higgins (“Nightwing”), Dustin Nguyen (“Li’l Gotham”), editor Alex Antone, artist Brent Anderson (“Astro City”), and J.M. DeMatteis (“The Phantom Stranger”). Moderator John Cunningham, DC’s VP of marketing, kicked things off with a surprise for both the audience and panelists alike.
“We are declaring today Spoiler Sunday!” Cunningham announced. “You are free today to say anything you want to about any of your books.”
Lobdell was up first and showed off a cover for “Superman” #21, a strange amalgamation of Hector Hammond and Superman.
“It’s kind of a metaphor,” Lobdell said. “Superman, who is the most powerful person on the entire planet, is going to find himself in the midst of a psy-war between a bunch of major, major psionic characters in the DC universe. He’s going to find out that for all his power, it avails him very little.
“Spoilers! I will tell you that in the latest issue of ‘Superman,’ we can see Jimmy [Olsen] getting some information that seems to upset him from a lawyer. What we’re going to reveal in the next month or two is that Jimmy’s parents have passed away, leaving him roughly a billion dollars.” With that revelation, chatter rippled throughout the crowd.
Next Lobdell talked about “Teen Titans,” which will soon see the return of fan-favorite Raven. “In the ‘New 52′ version of Raven, we’re going to find out that maybe she’s a little more sympathetic to her father’s cause than you would have imagined —
“Spoiler-wise, very soon Kid Flash, around issue #23, is going to be yanked back into the future where he’s from by the people that sent him into the witness protection program. It’s going to be up to the Titans to figure out how to make their way to the thirty-first century and get him back. Whether or not he wants to come back is a whole different question.”
Palmiotti took the mic next, discussing his and co-writer Justin Gray’s “All Star Western” plans. “The special guest running around for the next three issues with Jonah Hex will be none other than Booster Gold,” he declared. “He actually stumbles upon a job as a sheriff… I guarantee it’s going to be the most bizarre comic you’ve read in years.”
Shifting to “Batwing,” Palmiotti said, “In #19, we take David and show why he no longer needs to be Batwing. We close down a lot of storylines going on, and then, by the end of #19, we introduce a brand-new Batwing that’s tied very very closely to the Batman family.
“Then #20 kicks in, and our storyline is in Africa with [villain] Lion Mane. Eventually, by 21, we move out of Africa. Our new Batwing is much more international, and pretty much has adventures all over the world.”
DeMatteis was next, and discussed “Phantom Stranger.” Whereas previously he had been following plots set down by the title’s previous writer, DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, issue nine marks DeMatteis taking over full scripting duties.
“At the end of #8, the Phantom Stranger is killed, and he takes a trip to hell in issue #9,” DeMatteis revealed. “I haven’t written a flat-out horror story in a while, and I literally gave myself nightmares. I woke up in the middle of the night with these horrible dreams — so I figured I must have done something right if I terrified myself!”
Depicted on the cover of issue #9 is a new villain called Sin Eater, who DeMatteis said will “evolve into the primary antagonist of the book.” DeMatteis also teased that we will learn all about the Stranger’s mortal family.
“And here, I’ll spoil it: [the Stranger] gets killed by Dr. 13.”
DeMatteis also talked about his upcoming ongoing “Larfleeze” book, which he will be co-writing with Keith Giffen. “It will be cosmic absurdity,” DeMatteis promised. “It will be big [Stan] Lee/[Jack] Kirby cosmic craziness, but like the other stuff that Keith and I do, there will be an abundance of silliness as well.”
“Vibe’s a new teen hero,” Gates said as he took the spotlight. “It’s a coming of age story as he explores his life and his powers and his role in the Justice League of America.
“Spoiler: Batman’s in issue…four?” said Gates to laughs as he described the cover of “Vibe” that Cunningham had put on the projector. “But it’s not the Batman you think it’s going to be. I can say that.”
Delving further, Gates said in issue three they will be revealing things about Kid Flash’s origin that “I thought Scott [Lobdell] was going to beat me up for revealing,” and issue five will feature “Vibe on the run.”
Higgins was next, discussing his work on “Nightwing.” “At the end of issue #18,, Tony Zucco is alive and apparently well, living in Chicago under an alias. So Dick Grayson packs his bags and heads across the country to hunt down the man who killed his parents.”
Higgins and artist Brett Booth are building up a mythology around Chicago, which had its own vigilante superheroes named Ether and Ghostwalker who died in mysterious circumstances. Higgins’ spoiler for “Nightwing” was that there was another hero in Chicago — a phaser named Slipshift.
When the next slide revealed that Higgins is working on “Batman Beyond,” the audience erupted in applause. Jordie Bellaire will be on colors, Sean Murphy will be contributing covers and Thorny Silas will be on art.
Next, Antone announced that there would be a “special miniseries within ‘Batman Beyond’ where we introduce the new Batgirl.” The “Batgirl Beyond” story will be written by Scott Peterson and feature art by Annie Wu.
“The only spoiler I can really say is, in the first chapter, you see a flashback to the original Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, fighting Bane.”
There will also be a new creative team on “Justice League Beyond.” Christos Gage will be scripting with art by Iban Coello (“Superboy”).
The spotlight was then turned to Anderson, who shared some big hints about what to expect in the next chapter of “Astro City.”
“My spoiler would be that after two and a half years of intense discussion with [writer] Kurt Busiek, we finally decided that the old core characters are just old and stale. We decided to throw them out and replace them with a whole new set of characters. The first being American Chibi, a Japanese anime inspired new hero.”
Anderson went on to describe the rest of the new team, which includes “a mob labor leader who cuts a deal with the first inter-dimensional emissary that comes to Earth and tries to get his percentage; the personal assistant to a powerful, Dr. Strange level mage, who is confronted with let’s just say a political situation that she has to resolve; a movie special effects technician who uses her telekinetic powers to do special effects in films because she doesn’t like to hurt the bad guys; and an information broker who supplies leads and information to Honor Guard and the other heroes which will not appear in the book anymore. She makes a mistake that she has to resolve.
“I hope you like the new characters,” Anderson continued. “I am pleased as hell that ‘Astro City’ is finally coming back.”
Nguyen said it was difficult to spoil his “Lil’ Gotham” book, but managed to provide some details anyway. “We’re taking the characters out of Gotham a little bit,” he said. “We’re going to see guest stars from different Justice League characters. You’ll see everything from them going to underground races — We’re taking them to Japan for a little bit to fight giant monsters.”
There was applause when the next slide showed the cover for the last issue of Wein’s “Before Watchmen: Ozymandias.”
“I’m incredibly proud of the book,” said Wein. “It was an honor to work with [artist] Jae Lee. He never did do what I expected him to do, but it would always be what I needed.”
In the subsequent Q&A, one fan asked what happened to Wally West and was cheered by the crowd. Cunningham fielded that one. “One of the coolest things about ‘The New 52’ is that we can give everything its space and give it its moment,” he said. “Wally West fans are very vocal, and all I can say is keep being vocal and keep reading the books and we’ll see what happens.”
Another fan asked if there were any plans to issue Spanish language translations of any DC books. “It’s a little bit more complicated than we’d want it to be,” Cunningham replied. “But yes, we talk about that all the time. So keep coming here and talking about it and hopefully we’ll be able to make you happy very shortly.”