UPDATE 4/19/14 8:10 PM PT: A previous version of this story included an incorrect account of Simone’s anecdote in the third paragraph, and has since been edited.
“Batwoman” writer Marc Andreyko, “Detective Comics” team Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato and “Batgirl” writer Gail Simone gathered Friday afternoon at WonderCon 2014 in Anaheim, California for DC Comics‘ Batman panel — taking place in the character’s 75th anniversary year, with new weekly series “Batman Eternal” freshly launched.
The panel, held in a large ballroom upstairs at the Anaheim Convention Center, started with an acknowledgement of Batman’s 75th anniversary, and the “Batman Day” planned for Wednesday, July 23.
Asked to name their favorite Batman moments, Andreyko cited Batman telling Robin, “Think clean thoughts, chum” in “For the Man Who Has Everything.” Simone shared how her son — previously uninterested in superhero comics — was converted after seeing “The Dark Knight.” Manapul has two picks — the introduction of Mr. Freeze in “Batman: The Animated Series,” and Batman confronting Killer Croc in “Batman: Broken City.” Buccellato said the 1989 “Batman” film “completely changed” his view of the character.
Talk then moved to the recently announced “Grayson,” featuring Dick Grayson leaving his Nightwing identity behind to become an agent of Spyral. “Dick Grayson’s going to kick some butt,” said panel moderator Larry Ganem, DC’s talent relations director.
Next up, a quick overview of weekly series “Batman Eternal.” Ganem gave an audience member the chance to read issue #2, released earlier this week.
Andreyko talks “Batwoman”: “There are complications a-plenty in [Batwoman]’s relationship with Maggie,” resulting in Maggie receiving custody papers from her ex-husband. Also on the horizon, an art heist where “something in the paintings” being stolen will lead to a significant reveal. The upcoming “Batwoman Annual” will wrap up stories from issue #24.
“She kind of writes herself,” Andreyko said, praising past creators’ work on the character. “And I’m really putting her through the wringer.”
“I have one of the best art teams that I’ve ever worked with, on ‘Batgirl’ right now,” Simone said, speaking of interior illustrators Fernando Pasarin and Jonathan Glapion, and cover artist Alex Garner. Ragdoll, a major cast member in Simone’s pre-New 52 series “Secret Six,” is coming to the series.
The second “Batgirl Annual,” on sale April 30, will feature a “different perspective on Poison Ivy, according to the writer. Upcoming issues #32, #33 and #34 is “pretty much everything I’ve been asking for for three years,” Simone said, saying it includes guest stars and an “amazing action” story, but declining to disclose further details. “We do have some female guest stars that we haven’t seen in a while,” Simone added.
Asked what she liked about Barbara Gordon, Simone replied, “She’s highly intelligent. I consider her the smartest one in Gotham. Anyone can argue with me, but I will win. I also like that she does not give up. I’ve always felt that she’s a character that inspires in others.” Simone said when the character was Oracle, she wanted to keep true to the character’s ideals, “no matter what her limitations may or may not be.”
“She’s always had things she’s had to overcome, in all of her incarnations,” Simone said. “Plus, I love writing stories in Gotham.”
Manapul and Buccellato discussed the different challenges of writing Batman following their run on “The Flash.” “Batman’s Batman, and there’s been a lot of great stories about him,” Buccellato said.
“I think the best thing about Batman is really getting to beat him up,” Manapul said. “One of the things that’s really appealing about ‘Detective Comics’ is that it’s just that — we’re really focusing on the detective aspect.” Manapul said Harvey Bullock will become “just as much a lead character” in the series as Batman, though the two aren’t necessarily on the same page — they’ll get in each other’s way while attempting to solve the same crimes.
Manapul said that compared to his experimental layouts on “The Flash,” he’s taking a “more controlled approach” with his storytelling in “Detective Comics,” and that he hopes to becomes a “very different artist” by the end of this run.
Before opening the floor to questions from the audience, Ganem asked Ivan, the fan who just finished reading “Batman Eternal” #2, for his review of the issue: “A big thumbs up.”
First question from the audience: Given that Oracle is now once again Batgirl, “Will we ever see a representative of the disabled community in Batman or the DC Universe?” “I would vote yes,” Simone said. “If you ever checked out my series ‘The Movement,’ we did in there, as well.”
Manapul on Annie Aguila, a new character introduced in “Detective Comics” #30: “Where you expect her to go, that’s not where it’s going to go. I think there are darker places to bring her. Ultimately, I think that’s going to be a lot more interesting.”
Next fan up to the microphone asked since Stephanie Brown is back in “Batman Eternal,” is Cassandra Cain next? Ganem asked the crowd if they wanted to see Cass back, and received fairly healthy applause. “Duly noted,” Ganem responded.
What villain from another area of the DC Universe would the panel like to bring to Gotham City? “I’d go to Central City and grab The Rogues,” Buccellato answered. “I’d go with Lex Luthor,” Manapul said. “They could have a money fight.” Simone picked Ares, and said she’d also like to see “some other heroes come into Gotham and have to deal with some of Gotham’s villains.” Andreyko named Brainiac, to “see how smart Batman really is.”
What are the panelists’ picks for favorite TV or movie Batman? “Clooney, Clooney, Clooney and Clooney,” Buccellato joked. Andreyko: Michael Keaton in “Batman Returns.” Simone: “Batman: The Animated Series.” Manapul: “All of them.” Buccellato: Also Keaton’s Batman.
Favorite Batman villain that’s not the Joker? Andreyko: “Red Hood.” Simone: The Penguin. Manapul: Mr. Freeze and Clayface. Buccellato: “Killer Croc in a strip club.”
When asked what she enjoys about writing Batman, Simone said the psychology of the character, and the ability to explore layers that isn’t always possible to explore with other superheroes. Andreyko agreed, saying he likes how Batman has characters around that adds humanity to him.
A fan asked what the panel thought of Bill Finger not getting a “created by” credit for Batman. Buccellato said it was unlikely the panel would be able to answer. “I want to keep my job,” Manapul replied. Ganem pointed out that he mentioned Bill Finger at the beginning of the panel when discussing Batman’s 75th anniversary.
“We cherish what Bill Finger did, and his contribution to creating Batman,” Ganem said. “We’re all good with Finger and his family.”
Last fan question asked if Harley Quinn might become a bigger part of the current Bat-world. “I love Harley Quinn, and I love what Amanda [Conner] and Jimmy [Palmiotti] are doing now,” Simone said. “It would be cool.”