With WonderCon 2015 barely begun, DC Comics wasted no time in hosting its first panel of the show — a Batman panel featuring “Batgirl” and “Gotham Academy” co-writer Brenden Fletcher, “Grayson” co-writer Tom King, “Batman/Superman” writer Greg Pak and “Batgirl” artist Babs Tarr.
Pak started the panel by discussing a couple of recently released issues of “Batman/Superman” — #20 and Annual #2. The latter features Superman deploying his newly discovered “solar burst” power.
“All will be revealed in June,” Pak said of the “big, fat” cliffhanger at the end of the annual. “We’ll be back with a big crazy thing going on in all the Superman books that you won’t want to miss.”
Fletcher called the recently concluded “Batgirl” arc the “culmination” of what the team wanted to do with the character. “She made this decision to make a chance,” he continued. “In pushing to do that, maybe she made a few mistakes along the way. Issue #40 sees her pretty much literally facing herself, and facing her old problems and telling herself it’s time to be comfortable with a new day, a fresh start.”
“We’re setting up the supporting cast to play a much larger role in Batgirl’s life, not just Barbara Gordon’s life,” Fletcher said.
Panel moderator Tiffany Smith asked Tarr how it felt to be the artist who illustrated the WonderCon program distributed to attendees. “I’m in constant awe that my work is being so well received,” Tarr replied.
Turning to “Black Canary,” Fletcher said that despite the rock and roll-theme of the series, the title character may not be the “best performer.” “She’s a fighter,” he said. “Maybe she’s not perfectly elegant on stage. That’s something we’re going to be exploring in the series.”
Tarr went to school with “Black Canary” artist Annie Wu, and said that Wu was always an impressive artist. Fletcher said that Tarr sent him and “Batgirl” co-writer Cameron Stewart a list of things she wanted to draw in the upcoming second arc of the series.
Talking “Gotham Academy,” Fletcher spoke of the collaboration with his co-writer Becky Cloonan and editor Mark Doyle, “It was nice to get to the end of this first arc, and see our initial conversations on the page.”
Fletcher also said that Cloonan pushed he and series artist Karl Kerschl to push the book into its direction of a school populated by new characters, and that he became so attached to the new characters, that he almost was hesitant to bring Batman himself into the series.
King told he panel he watched every James Bond film pre-credit sequence when preparing to write the eight-page “Grayson” preview that will be released in the next two months before the series returns in June. King also said that the series is moving to “bigger and better things” when the book resumes with issue #9.
King said that the creative team makes a conscious effort to embrace Dick Grayson’s sexuality. “That’s part of who he is,” he said. “He carries that with him. We love that about the character.”
“He’s the guy who doesn’t give up,” King said of Dick Grayson. “He doesn’t have superpowers. He doesn’t have the darkness Batman does. Because of that, he might be even more interesting. It’s Bruce’s legacy, what a great person Dick Grayson is.”
Smith asked what it was like for creators at DC Comics right now, with the stated mandate of taking more risks. “Wonderful,” King said. “I’m pretty new to this. There were some rumors that DC was very censorship-heavy — I haven’t found that to be true at all. They’ve been pushing me.” King said originally he conceived “Omega Men” as effectively “Guardians of the Galaxy” in the DC Universe, but he was pushed to do something different.
Fletcher and Tarr both spoke of the advantages of creative teams working closely together. Fletcher added that the first issue of “Gotham Academy” was concocted with he, Cloonan and Kerschl working together in the same room. “That’s when everything kind of clicks,” Fletcher said. Tarr added that since creators work alone so frequently, you get “re-excited” when working together in person — as she, Fletcher and Stewart have been doing in the past week, dating back to Emerald City Comicon.
Moving to fan questions: Is Damian Wayne in “Gotham Academy” to stay? “Damian’s there,” Fletcher said, adding that Damian factors into the overall mystery of the series, and saying more answers specific to that character can be found in “Robin: Son of Batman.”
Asked about the controversial and subsequently pulled “Batgirl” #41 variant cover, Fletcher said the most recent arc of “Batgirl” was effectively the creative team’s statement on the “Killing Joke,” which was referenced in the image: Depicting Barbara Gordon’s “ultimate triumph” over the Joker.
Fletcher told a fan that the first “Batgirl” arc was about the character accepting that she could move forward after suffering trauma. “I can be the person I need to be, to be the best crimefighter, the best friend, the best daughter I can be,” he said.
King said the next issue of “Grayson” will feature six DC characters that haven’t been seen in a while — appearing in the shadows, at least initially.
When asked about potential plans for Carrie Kelley, Fletcher said he’d love to write the character at some point. King said it feels like a character that he’d almost be afraid to write, given the reverence for the original “The Dark Knight Returns.”
The next person up said she loved the prior DC Universe, and asked why she should give the current one a chance. “We’re just creating stuff, we’re just doing the best we can,” Fletcher said. “Hopefully you can feel our enthusiasm. This is all new, fresh stuff, and we’re just trying to give you guys super-fun stories. Continuity is what it is, but really at the end of the day, this is a fun story about Batgirl.”
King said he was also in mourning of the old DC Universe when The New 52 happened. “‘Flashpoint’ did exist, there is a bridge to the old universe. We’re still in that stream of continuity,” he said. “All we talk about is how we want to bring that love that we have to these characters — we’re here because we love John Byrne’s Superman, we love Frank Miller’s Batman.” King said the goal is to get to the “essence of the one beautiful moment” readers found as a kid.
A fan asked who the panel would like to voice their characters in a theoretical animated adaptation. Fletcher picked Karen Gillan for the voice of Batgirl, and said he’d really like to see a “Gotham Academy” animated feature one day. King said he’d love for “Grayson” to become a TV show.
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