DC Comics continued its WonderCon presence with its New 52 panel, which brought creators from the publisher’s core line to discuss new developments — upcoming and current — including new characters, debut series and more that will affect the future landscape of the DC Universe. Panelists included Robert Venditti, Cliff Chiang, Francis Manapul and Bernard Chang.
DC’s John Cunningham kicked off the panel with the 75th anniversary of Batman, marked last month, but celebrated throughout the whole year. Cunningham stated that July will be the celebration of Batman Day, and more information will be available as the date approaches.
Keeping in the Batman vein, Manapul discussed coming on to “Detective Comics” in the 75th years. “As daunting as it was, Brian and I are great friends and we easily fell back into two guys talking on the phone, chit-chatting about characters we’ve loved since we were kids,” Manapul said. “Once we got into the work, all the trepidation went away.”
Manapul’s first issue, “Detective Comics” #30, kicked off the “Icarus” storyline, which brings focus to Batman’s detective roots. “Batman is the lead, but it was one of those things where as we were writing the book, it became clear to us that Harvey Bullock was going to become a very, very important part of our book,” Manapul said. “He was the guy that found the drug Icarus in ‘Flash’ #25, which works as a bridge to our story in ‘Detective Comics.'” The artist said that the dynamic between Batman and Bullock will be very different from the Dark Knight’s experience with Jim Gordon. “They don’t want to help each other at all. That rivalry is going to get in the way of them solving the case.”
The covers for “Detective Comics” are a bit off the beaten path, and Manapul said that to his editor Mark Doyle’s credit, the team was able to get those covers approved. The yellow of the cover is reminiscent of the crime genre in Italy, and also serves as a play on the old Batman logo. “Essentially, it’s just trying to flex graphic design muscles instead of traditional comic book covers.”
New, unfinished pages from “Detective Comics” #31 features Bullock accusing Bruce Wayne of doing drugs. “Bullock just looks at Bruce and says, ‘I don’t know what you do at night, but I look at your face and it’s clear you don’t sleep very much.’ … It’s the birth of a very antagonistic relationship that will carry over,” said Manapul. He further stated that he writes Bullock late at night, making it easier to have that anger come through in the dialogue.
Another sequence of panels shows a unique approach to Batman reconstructing a crime scene, while another set of pages features Bullock asking Bruce Wayne for a urine test.
Next up was “Wonder Woman” and Cliff Chiang said he and writer Brian Azzarello had a three-year plan. “We’re hitting the climax of it. Wonder Woman has decided she’s not going to hide anymore. She’s going to claim the mantle of the God of War and she’s going to [take the fight to the Firstborn],” said Chiang. “Wonder Woman” #29 features Diana rejoining the Amazons, and Chiang said she’s planning for some change.
Considering Chiang’s run is coming to a close soon, he said that the three-year plan was a “loose plan.” “Things you hadn’t planned for end up being great and turning into meaningful symbols during the story. We’re going to finish up in the fall — looking forward to finishing the story and paying off the loyalty to the readers,” he said.
Venditti’s “The Flash” #30 comes out on this week, and Venditti couldn’t say very much about his plans — though he did say they’re picking up right after the end of “Forever Evil.” “Central City was one of the main focuses of the ‘Rogues Rebellion’ storyline. … As a defender of the city, Barry has to try and put the city back together, but also put himself back together. How does he deal with the guilt of not being able to be there when the city needed him most?” Venditti said. “You can imagine the enormous backlog of crime and death he would have to deal with and there’s no avoiding it.”
The series focuses on Flash attempting to put everything back together. Venditti is writing the series alongside Van Jensen, a former crime reporter. “Iris West being such a focus of the series, and introducing … Wally West, that will become even more important — Van lends a sense of authenticity to that,” Venditti said, setting up a scene where all the police officers have to go through psychological evaluation. “While he’s not sleeping, not eating, trying to hold down a day job, he has to [talk to a counselor],” he said, showing moments where Barry is zipping off in between questions with his therapist. “I don’t think he’s taking [therapy] as seriously as he should.”
As for Wally, he will be a permanent member of the cast. “One of things we’re focusing on is how Barry affects Wally, how Wally affects Barry and how Wally affects the Flash,” said Venditti. “This new character designed by Brett Booth is a mystery figure, but is very central to what this first arc is going to be. We’re introducing new villains, we’re working with fan-favorite villains. Such a great foundation was built up by Francis and Brian in their run, and we feel very fortunate to come in and put our stamp on Barry and Wally’s characters. There’s some pretty big stuff here I can’t talk about.”
Venditti is also currently writing “Green Lantern,” and it continues the saga of Hal’s ongoing challenge of official leadership of the Green Lantern Corps. “What he’s had to learn over these previous issues is that rushing into battle isn’t always the way to be,” said Venditti. “If he’s the greatest Green Lantern of them all, he’s potentially the most willful of them all. … I would think we get to the point that he believes the ideas he comes up with are correct by virtue of the fact that he came up with them.” In the most recent issue, Hal put together a council to help him lead. “He’s starting to find a way to make that all work together.”
“Green Lantern” #31 kicks off “Uprising,” and the idea is that the universe has risen up to overthrow the Green Lantern Corps as a police force. “How do you protect people that don’t necessarily want you around? Hal’s having to deal with some of the mistakes he’s made, but also that of the prior leadership,” Venditti said. “It’s up to Hal to lead the corps in such a way that they’ve earned the right to be this force of justice in the universe.” Upcoming issues of “Green Lantern” will also show how Hal’s grown as a leader and as a person, becoming a bit more methodical.
Van Jensen and Bernard Chang are leading with John Stewart in “Green Lantern Corps,” and Chang said that there are 7200 Green Lanterns. “We’ve covered about 1,372 in about 10 issues,” he said. “Most of the Green Lanterns are not human, so we have to come up with either referencing existing databases of heroes, or we’re designing some new ones. … If you name them, I’m probably drawing them now or have drawn them.” Describing the book as a “true sci-fi action/adventure book,” Chiang said that John Stewart, Fatality and deputized former Green Lantern enemies, would be hunting down a black-ops character in the current arc. “I like to refer to Van Jensen, myself and Marcelo Maiolo as The Three Musketeers — although, you guys have the Four Corpsmen, so there’s a lot of name-calling going around,” he said.
Cunningham turned it over to the audience for questions, with the first fan asking about Venditti carrying on from the cliffhanger Manapul and Buccellato left at the end of their arc involving Nora Allen’s murder. “We won’t be picking up with that right away,” he said, saying there’s a concrete story arc that goes all the way through October. “I’d say it’s also going to be part of the relationship he has with Wally. As far as solving that great mystery they left that last issue with, that’s going to be pretty far down the road.”
Venditti also spoke about Hal Jordan coming back to Earth — and while he might come back eventually, and there will be some Earth stuff in the book, it’s going to be pretty hard for Hal to get back to Earth in the middle of an intergalactic war. Further, Kyle Rayner is a “huge piece” of the story going forward. “All the other Green Lantern books think that he’s dead. He’s off with the new Guardians and Carol Ferris,” said Venditti, noting that the character would be a “key player” in all of that.
Manapul discussed the challenge of Batman losing Damian. “What’s happening right now with Annie is he just saw — once again, much like previous Robins — you see a young kid losing a parent. What is he going to do to try and make this person whole again? The relationship he’s had is different than with previous Robins — I’m not saying that Annie’s going to be a Robin or anything like that, but that’s very core [to their relationship].”
While “The Flash” #30 deals with the aftermath of “Forever Evil,” Venditti said it would be “safe to read.” In terms of the relationship between Barry Allen and Iris West, with the introduction of Wally into the series, “there will be opportunity for Barry and Iris to spend more time together.” The creative team isn’t trying to force anything, and the process feels organic, and he hopes that readers will have fun reading it. There will be conflict and friction between Barry Allen and Wally West, but the friction “won’t be what [readers] are expecting.”
A fan asked about the opportunities that the New 52 offers to creators and readers alike.
“These characters have a core to them, but they can be reinterpreted,” said Chiang. “We can find the things we love about them, but tell these stories. … The New 52 is about letting creators put their spin on things.”
“For me, one of the great things about it is a clean entry point to all these characters, to the whole universe. I appreciated that as a new reader,” said Venditti.
Manapul described the potential in one word, “Opportunity.” “We have the opportunity to introduce these characters to new readers,” said Manapul. “Everybody gets a chance to re-meet these characters that we’ve known for a long time.”
“It’s a chance to jump on, but also see a refreshed version of our favorite heroes,” said Chang.