DC Comics will hit the refresh button on its entire slate in late May, with the line-wide “Rebirth” relaunch. The initiative aims to bring back some beloved elements of the DC Universe that have fallen to the wayside over the years, while still pushing things forward.
The initiative was announced last month, though details have remained scarce — it’s known that it’ll start on May 25 with an 80-page “DC Universe: Rebirth” one-shot written by DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, and illustrated by multiple high-profile artists that include Gary Frank, Ivan Reis, Phil Jimenez, and Ethan Van Sciver. While list of “Rebirth” titles have been announced, the creative teams for the books have remained a mystery.
That changes today, with DC announcing the writer and artists of the “Rebirth” books plus more details, in a major event open to fans and press Saturday morning at WonderCon in Los Angeles — with Johns and DC Co-Publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio in attendance, along with multiple surprise guests.
The event commenced with the co-publishers — Lee and DiDio — taking the stage, and Lee thanking both the fans for showing up relatively early on a Saturday, and the various DC employees who made the event happen.
“At the end of the day, Dan and I are comic book people,” Lee said. “This is what we live and breathe. The comics are the source material for what you’re seeing in other media. We’ve got to keep that vibrant and exciting, and that’s what Rebirth is about.”
DiDio addressed the question of, “Why Rebirth? Why now?” “Sometimes what happens, and you can feel it now, you lose your way a little bit,” DiDio told the crowd. “The hope is to show our recommitment to you, the fans.”
Johns was next to take the stage. “I love comics,” Johns said. “If I’m going to list all of my passions, comics is No. 1 — DC Comics, specifically.”
“When you say ‘relaunch,’ ‘reboot,’ I get skeptical as a comics fan — but I also get hopeful when I know what it’s all about,” Johns continued. “Rebirth is not a reboot.”
Johns explained that the purpose of 2004-2005’s “Green Lantern: Rebirth” — previously named as an inspiration for the impending line-wide “Rebirth” — wasn’t just about bringing back Hal Jordan, “but bringing back everything that’s wonderful about these characters.”
Johns said he loves a challenge, including people telling him, “You can’t make Booster Gold cool. You can’t make Aquaman cool.”
Teasing the “DC Universe: Rebirth” one-shot, Johns said that some characters will return — and, “There might be a death of a character. There might be the biggest secret in the DC Universe ever.” “Ever,” DiDio punctuated.
Lee talked to the audience about the advantage of Johns, DiDio and himself all working under one roof, and showed off images of new character designs. Among the designs included Green Arrow with a goatee, and Johns also told the crowd that he believes Nightwing should “be in black and blue.”
Speaking of the previously mentioned recommitment to the fans, DiDio said, “The line itself is going to be a little bit different,” reminding the crowd of the previously announced twice-monthly books. “We’re doubling-down, and going twice-monthly on our core titles.” Additionally, DiDio repeated the previous announcement that DC Universe books will have a $2.99 cover price.
Next up was a video of fans and pros discussing their favorite DC Comics stories. Rob Williams picked “Starman,” Bryan Hitch picked Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s “Batman” story “Hush” and Greg Rucka chose “52,” which he co-wrote.
Announcement time! The new Bat-books writers were out: Tom King on “Batman,” James Tynion IV on “Detective Comics,” Tim Seeley on “Nightwing,” Hope Larson on “Batgirl” and Julie Benson & Shawna Benson on “Batgirl and the Birds of Prey.”
King was asked about taking over on “Batman” after the legendary run of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. “I looked at how Scott took Batman and made it personal for him,” King said, “He’s out there with hits wits and his will and his family and his obsession. I want to look at how he gets close to that madness.”
Johns asked Tynion about coming on board “Detective Comics,” which is returning to its classic numbering, alongside “Action Comics.” “What’s always embodied this book is a willingness to try new things and be very daring. What I wanted to do is a run that brought us a take on ‘Detective Comics’ that you haven’t seen — this is Batman boot camp run by Batman and Batwoman. This is the Batman team book I’ve been waiting for my whole life, and I hope you have, too.”
In the cast: Spoiler, Tim Drake, Cassandra Cain and Clayface. “We can’t reveal too much about what he’s doing on the team, but he’s right there, front and center. Topping the whole cake is Batman and Batwoman, running this time, side-by-side, as a real cohesive unit.” Interior art by Eddy Barrows was shown.
Johns informed the audience that “Nightwing,” written by Seeley and illustrated by Javi Fernandez and Marcus To, will be impacted by the character’s recent adventures in the “Grayson” series. “‘Grayson’ was a book about a man from a family of superheroes out on his own,” Seeley said. The first story arc of the new “Nightwing” will be titled “Better Than Batman.” “The beginning of the Tim Seeley/Tom King rift is starting right now,” Seeley joked.
Larson will write “Batgirl” — her first superhero work — with Rafael Albuquerque on art. Larson said she loved “everything” about the prior run on “Batgirl.” Larson and Albuquerque’s run will take Barbara Gordon out of Burnside, and onto a backpacking trip in Asia. “She’ll be on a bit of a training mission as a superhero.”
Julie Benson & Shawna Benson, writers on The CW’s “The 100,” are newcomers to comics. In “Batgirl and the Birds of Prey,” Barbara Gordon will enlist Black Canary’s help to investigate an Oracle impersonator, plus deal with a new “mafia boss in Gotham.”
King revealed to the crowd that David Finch will draw “Batman.”
“There’s an elephant in the room, which is, ‘Where’s Scott Snyder?'” Lee said. “We’re very pleased to announce that Scott is not going anywhere.” Snyder — and John Romita Jr. — joined the presentation.
Snyder’s new book is the previously unannounced “All-Star Batman.” Snyder said that while Capullo is taking a break from DC Comics, he still had more to say about Batman — especially the villains. The new series will feature a variety of artists, including John Romita Jr., Tula Lotay and Afua Richardson.
“‘Batman’ is in incredible hands,” Snyder said of King, adding that the whole Bat-line is in great hands.
“All-Star Batman” will be villain-focused. “It doesn’t change any of their origins, but it’s sort of like what we did with the Joker,” Snyder said.
“I get to work with this guy, Scott Snyder, and I get to work on his storyline, which is Batman dragging Two-Face across the country,” Romita said. “Imagine taking Batman out of Gotham and dragging Two-Face tooth and nail across the country, and the two of them butting heads constantly.”
“Both of us wanted to do something special for you guys,” Snyder said of her and Romita, describing their story as, “Batman, ‘Road Warrior,’ ‘Death Race,’ monster trucks, chainsaws — it’s out of control. We’re excited. I want to make Two-Face as scary as the Joker.”
But wait, there’s one more Bat-thing — Snyder is now under an exclusive deal with DC Comics. “So we never have to address the elephant in the room again,” Lee said.
Next up is some of the Superman talent — Dan Jurgens, writing “Action Comics;” Gene Luen Yang, writing “New Superman;” Steve Orlando, writing “Supergirl” — plus Liam Sharp, artist on “Wonder Woman.”
Artists Patrick Zircher, Tyler Kirkham and Stephen Segovia will join Jurgens on the twice-monthly “Action Comics.”
“Lex Luthor does become ‘a’ Superman soon,” Johns confirmed. It’ll star the Superman and Lois from the current “Superman: Lois & Clark” series. “Lex is trying to put all the pieces together,” Jurgens said, as to why a new Lois and Clark arrive in Metropolis.
Johns complimented Yang for approaching superhero comics differently, since he’s relatively new to the genre. “New Superman” will star a new 17-year-old character named Kenji Kong. He’s from Shanghai, a city that Yang calls “a real-world Metropolis.”
Next up was the new “Supergirl” series, and Johns praised what Orlando has brought to DC Comics over the past years. Of Supergirl, Orlando said, “her experience as an outsider makes her unique.” His run will include a new Cyborg Superman — Supergirl’s father, Zor-El.
DiDio quickly announced a few more Superman family creative teams: Debuting in September is “Trinity,” written by Francis Manapul and drawn by Manapul and Clay Mann. “Superwoman,” starring a new character, will be written by Phil Jimenez and illustrated by Jimenez and Emanuela Lupacchino . The main “Superman” series will be written by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, and illustrated by Gleason and Doug Mahnke.
Lee shared his enthusiasm for working with Sharp, the new artist on “Wonder Woman.” “I really wanted to bring a mythic history to it,” Sharp said of his “Wonder Woman” work. “I’ve been having an amazing time on this. It feels like I was born to it, and I think it’s the best work of my career.”
Who’s writing “Wonder Woman”? Johns made the announcement: Greg Rucka, who’s returning to the character, and joined the presentation.
“How can you say no to Diana?” Rucka asked. He revealed that Sharp will illustrate contemporary stories of the character, as she tries to reconcile “growing inconsistencies” in her life. The book will alternate timelines, with every other issue featuring a “Wonder Woman: Year One” story — written by Rucka, and illustrated by his “Black Magick” collaborator Nicola Scott.
Next up were some of the creative talent on the Justice League expanded family: artist Tony Daniel on “Justice League,” writer Joshua Williamson on “The Flash,” writer Robert Venditti on “Hal Jordan & The Green Lantern Corps,” writer Sam Humphries on “Green Lanterns,” writer John Semper on “Cyborg” and writer Dan Abnett on “Aquaman.”
Daniel and Fernando Pasarin are working as artists with Bryan Hitch — as writer — on “Justice League.” “Him and I, are sensibilities are different, but we’re merging together to make such a great marriage of different influences,” Daniel said of he and Hitch. Newbie Green Lanterns Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz will both be in “Justice League.”
Johns told the crowd he met Williamson 15 years ago at a convention, when Williamson asked Johns for an autograph as a fan, and praised his evolution as a writer. Carmine Di Giandomenico and Neil Googe will illustrate the twice-monthly “The Flash” series. Williamson explained his run’s high concept: Due to a Speed Force incident, “We end up having dozens of new speedsters, and Barry has to train them.” One of them, named Godspeed, ends up a killer.
Johns said he’s hard on anyone who writes Green Lantern, but he’s very excited with what Venditti has planned — especially with Sinestro — for the twice-monthly “Hal Jordan & The Green Lantern Corps,” which will be illustrated by Ethan Van Sciver and Rafa Sandoval. “There’s such a huge, great cast of characters; to be able to work on this book with Ethan Van Sciver and Rafa Sandoval, really an exciting book to be on.” John Stewart will also be in the book.
Johns will co-write the “Green Lantern: Rebirth” one-shot with Humphries, illustrated by Van Sciver, that leads into “Green Lanterns.” Of “Green Lanterns,” Humphries said it stars Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz, and is akin to “‘Lethal Weapon’ in space.” “We’re going to put these characters through the wringer and see if they have their courage to overcome their fear,” Humphries — primarily known as writer and making his DC debut — said. The Red Lanterns will be the villains of the opening arc, which will be titled, “Red Dawn.” Robson Rocha and Ardian Syaf will illustrate “Green Lanterns.”
DiDio told the crowd that he’s known Semper, the new writer of “Cyborg,” for years from their shared history in animation. The twice-monthly book will be illustrated by Will Conrad and Paul Pelletier.
The series, Semper said, will explore if the title character is “more machine than human or more human than machine” “We’re really going to go into a dark place with him, and figure out what he’s all about.”
The goal of “Aquaman,” Abnett said, is that the title character wants to “proactively make himself whole. One of the things he wants to do is make Atlantis a nation of the world — stop making it secret and hidden away. Atlantis isn’t very willing,” and the surface world isn’t too eager, either. Brad Walker, a frequent collaborator with Abnett, will illustrate “Aquaman.”
Abnett is also writing “Titans,” with artist Brett Booth. “These are legacy characters. This is about DC’s heritage. This is about characters that are either trained or raised by classic characters, and are now heroes in their own right. This is not necessarily a trendy thing to say, but they’re also friends. As to what actually happens in the book — I can’t tell you anything.”
Johns talked –in vague terms — how “Titans” relates to the current, Abnett-written “Titans Hunt.” “There will be a tie that will be revealed,’ Johns said. “‘Titans’ springs right out of ‘DC Universe: Rebirth.’ I think you guys will be very excited about how and why.”
Jason Fabok joined the presentation to discuss the upcoming “Justice League” #50. Johns and Fabok said they’ll reveal what Batman was told when he sat on the Mobius Chair earlier in their run — the Joker’s real name.
“Harley Quinn” writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti joined the presentation, along with “Suicide Squad” artist Philip Tan. Lee dubbed Harley Quinn now the “fourth pillar” of DC Comics, after Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.
“It’s going to be more of the same madness, plus,” Conner said of the now twice-monthly “Harley Quinn,” starting in August with artists Chad Hardin and John Timms.
Lee repeated the earlier news that he’s working with writer Rob Williams on the new “Suicide Squad” series, and that Tan is also illustrating the twice-monthly series. “Philip was my first choice,” Lee said, adding that they’ve sat down in person and discussed how best to “pass the baton” back and forth.
“It’s a book about hope and redemption,” Tan said of “Suicide Squad.” “It’s really hard to go into more details without spoiling anything, but I’m pretty sure you guys are going to be.”
The “Suicide Squad” team roster will closely resemble the film’s lineup: Killer Croc, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Katana, Boomerang, along with a few as-yet unrevealed characters.
Also now exclusive to DC Comics: Amanda Conner. “This is really fun to me,” Conner said. “I am contractually obligated to draw at least three books for you.” Conner also gave the crowd one more tease for upcoming issues of “Harley Quinn”: “A lot more Ivy, a lot more Power Girl, a lot more Bat-characters and non-Bat-characters.”
The presentation started to wrap with host Tiffany Smith and Johns quickly announcing a few more creative teams: “Green Arrow:” will be from writer Ben Percy and artists Otto Schmidt and Juan Ferreyra (“Green Arrow and Black Canary finally meet,” Johns said); “Red Hood & The Outlaws” from writer Scott Lobdell and artist Dexter Soy (Red Hood will recruit Bizarro and Artemis to the Outlaws), “Hellblazer” from writer Simon Oliver and artist Moritat (Swamp Thing and John Constantine on a mission), “Deathstroke” from writer Christopher Priest and artists Carlo Pagulayan, Igor Vitorino and Felipe Watanabe (“the most character-driven, nuanced, but still shooting-people book I’ve ever read,” Johns said), “Batman Beyond” from writer Dan Jurgens and artist Bernard Chang (“the return of Terry McGinnis”), “Blue Beetle” from writer Keith Giffen and artist Scott Kolins (Johns confirmed the return of Ted Kord, saying the book is “Jaime Reyes, with his mentor, Ted Kord”) and “Teen Titans” from writer Ben Percy and artist Jonboy Meyers (“Damian Wayne decides he’s going to lead the new Teen Titans, and nobody wants him to, so it’s Robin versus the Teen Titans,” Johns teased).
Two more books don’t have creative teams announced — yet. “Super Sons,” which is, “Son of Superman meets son of Batman,” and “Justice League of America” — “which we can’t talk about, yet,” Johns said.
The panel concluded with Johns once again teasing May 25’s “DC Universe: Rebirth” one-shot — “characters return, another character’s fate is sealed” — plus a video of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” cast and director Zack Snyder expressing enthusiasm for “Rebirth,” along with a sizzle reel showcasing art from the new books.