With considerable difficulty, DC’s marketing mastermind Bob Wayne tried to maintain order over a veritable swarm of DC creative talent crowding the dais (“Sell five thousand more copies,” he said to Jimmy Palmiotti, sitting in a makeshift second row of chairs, before the panel started, “and you can move up front!”) to discuss a lot of what’s coming out from DC this year. The panel was attended by Dan Didio, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Amanda Connor, Bill Willingham, Gail Simone, Grant Morrison, Mark Verheiden (in the audience), Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Marc Andreyko, Allen Heinberg and Geoff Johns. To all the audience members assembled, it seemed like a really enthusiastic group of people who loved working together, and loved cracking jokes on one another more.
Between Grant Morrison’s flashy purple suit (before the panel, Waid said to Morrison, “I like your Joker suit,” which made Morrison laugh in a manner that led Waid to reply, “That scared me!”), Geoff Johns’ deadpan delivery, Jeph Loeb shouting out random comments from the back row and then rushing to swipe a seat when Allan Heinberg got up, it was one of the most rambunctious panels in recent memory.
Wayne managed to get some semblance of order as he started the series of announcements, each accompanied by a slide with an image from the project in question. All things centered around “DC Countdown,” an eighty page special costing only one dollar (which became a running joke with panelists, and even a young boy sitting in the front row). Rucka said of it, “Countdown is not being done because there’s something wrong that we have to fix. We’ve got a really cool story, this is the way to tell it.” “DC Countdown” would spawn four mini-series …
- “Day of Vengeance” (written by Bill Willingham and art by Justiniano, with covers by Walt SImonson, who’s also busy doing “Elric” with Michael Moorcock): Six issues featuring Captain Marvel and characters not seen in a while including Ragman, Blue Devil, Enchantress, Nightshade, Knightsmaster, and a new super team whose intelligence officer is Detective Chimp.
- “The OMAC Project” (written by Greg Rucka, art by Jesus Saiz): Rucka said, “I stole that guy from ‘Manhunter,’ a book where the art is almost as good as the writing.” Rucka said the story starts “thirty seconds before the end of ‘Countdown'” and described the book as “paranoid … and it has Batman. How can you go wrong with that?”
- “Villains United” (written by Gail Simone, covers by J. G. Jones): Six issues starting in may featuring a united criminal community in the DCU, save for six villains who don’t want to go along with the rest (Simone would only disclose Deadshot, Cheshire and a redesigned Catman).
- “The Rann-Thanagar War” (written by Andy Diggle, art by Dave Gibbons, covers by Ivan Reis): The discussion of this title brought a spirited exchange with a shouting Loeb, who interjected, “Do I have to go back and buy every issue of ‘Adam Strange’ to understand this? Not that I have a problem with that, they’re great!” Wayne patiently replied, “No, you don’t, but if you do they’re some great stories.”
Wayne joked that he wanted to discuss something simpler, and switched to a slide for the cover from “Seven Soldiers of Victory,” which drew wild applause from the audience. Morrison explained, “It starts at the dawn of time and ends at the end of universe. Everything that ever happened in between is in those books. It has seven heroes who never meet, but everything they do affects everytbody else, through karma and cause and effect. Takes me thirty issues to tell you how they do that. It starts with New Gods and Neanderthals, and ends with earth plunging into a red sun.” Mark Waid complained, “You gave away the ending!” Morrison merely offered, “The good guys win.” When a New Gods question came up, Morrison said “It’s the New Gods, but Darkseid’s won and cast the New Gods down to earth. Orion’s this broken down boxer in the ghetto.”
In “Superman”, next month’s finale of Brian Azzarello’s “For Tomorrow” storyline with fan favorite Jim Lee will have two covers, one by Lee and one by Scott Williams. Judd Winick and Ian Churchill will follow on the series.
Superboy will deal with the issues of his mixed parentage in an upcoming issue of “Teen Titans” with a very striking cover image, showing a shaven-headed Superboy holding a disposable razor, with a ragged “L” cut across the Superman logo on his chest. It was noted that “Teen Titans Go” is DC’s best selling digest.
There will be a DC Special called “The Return of Donna Troy.” Didio mentioned that her return had always been a part of the plan for the events following “Countdown,” and they were happy to have George Perez, José Luis García-López and Phil Jiminez involved.
Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti talked briefly about their plans for Hawkman. “We plan to torture him,” Gray said, which prompted Morrison to ask, “Can we watch?” “Old rogues are coming back with an agenda,” Gray said simply.
On “Wonder Woman,” “Identity Crisis” artists Rags Morales and Michael Bair will join Greg Rucka on the title this year. “It’s like a dose of adrenaline for the book,” Rucka said, “which I know a lot of people are like ‘thank god, something’s gonna happen!’ Diana goes to the underworld on a job for Athena, and she’s joined by Ferdinand and Cassie. Everybody comes back changed.”
Geoff Johns had to be chided into talking about the new Hal Jordan-centric “Green Lantern” series, which plays up both Hal’s role as a “space cop” and has him “working with the Air Force.” “I had an Air Force major read the first issue,” Johns said, “and he said — except for the ring — everything in there could happen.” Other panelists started more ribbing, and Johns admitted he’d been invited to fly in an F-16 by the Air Force. The discussion became strange when panelists started making jokes about Mark Waid building a Green Lantern power battery out of Legos. “No one will laugh when I finish it!” Waid promised. “Then you’ll see, you’ll all see!”
Johns was as coy about “Rogue War” in “Flash,” threatening that every rogue around was in it, including possibly Cobalt Blue. “But nobody wants him back!” Loeb cried, and Mark Waid asked if Mister Identity was in there. Before it could turn into a trivia contest, Wayne said, “look at the time” and moved on.
Marc Andreyko talked about the new story arc on “Manhunter” where “Dan Hunter, the Manhunter from the forties, and his dog get murdered.” That prompted someone on the panel to shout “His dog too?” and someone else yelled “You monster!” The rest of DC’s Manhunters, from Paul Kirk to the Oan robots, will make an appearance and “some will be around after that … and some will not.”
Darwyn Cooke, whose name was bandied about the convention floor most of Saturday, is taking over Solo, which will feature the likes of King Faraday, The Question, Batman, Slam Bradley and more.
When the subject turned to “Legion of Super Heroes,” Mark Waid said, “We are so gonna kick the Titans’ ass!” Thirty page stories will continue, focusing on one or two characters at a time, instead of throwing twenty on panel at once. The title is still building towards the notion of an interplanetary war, because “these kids are rebelling against authority, agents of chaos trying to challenge this very staid, very boring establishment.” “Like you at DC,” Loeb offered, to which Waid nodded and everyone laughed.
“Batman” heads to Metropolis in March, with covers by Matt Wagner and interior art by Dough Mankhe. Paul Jenkins will write “Batman: Jekyll and Hyde” with three issues by Jae Lee and three by Sean Phillips. There will also be a six-part mini-series called “Batman: Dark Detective” released twice a month. of course, “All-Star Batman & Robin” will be out in July, featuring Frank Miller and Jim Lee.
In “Nightwing,” Devin Grayson returns joined by Phil Hester and Ande Parks, with Nightwing headed to New York in search of a dangerous weapon.
Wayne announced a TPB of “Space Ghost,” and Palmiotti offered, “Oh, I thought you were gonna say a trade of ‘Monolith.'” Wayne smiled and said, “You’ll need more sales for that.”
Questions included a request for more “Empire” from Waid and Kitson (“We’d have to get far enough ahead on ‘Legion’ to do it,” Waid said), what about the Metal Men (maybe, pitches circulating but no one has the right idea yet), Titans East (maybe at a better time, since there’s so much Titans stuff happening already), and how did Morrison devise the plan for “Seven Soldiers of Victory,” a response which deserves a paragraph of its own …
“I’m insane,” Morrison said plainly. “I started out with seven characters, and I was like ‘this will be easy, i’ll do seven books’ and then I was like ‘I need to expand on this,’ and then I found some ‘Seven Soldiers’ comics, and I was like ‘aw, I gotta put this in there.'”
A late question asked for an appearance of the Phantom Stranger, and Willingham chimed in saying, “He’s in ‘Day of Vengeance.'” Loeb said incredulously, “And you talk about the chimp?”
All in all one of the most entertaining panels in recent memory.
NOTE: When asked after the panel, Waid told CBR that everyone was riding him because, out of boredom one day, he built an entire door out of Legos, and now no one would let him live it down. He resisted attempts to convince him to really build a Lego power battery, claiming his editors would never understand.