It was a sparsely filled room today at Wizard World Philadelphia where the “Final Crisis: Director’s Commentary” panel convened. Fitting with the intimacy of the small crowd, the panel consisted of just Ian Sattler, Senior Story Editor of DC Comics and J.G. Jones, the artist on “Final Crisis”. Many of the fans were reading “Final Crisis” #1 as the panel began, the holiday shipping schedule leaving some catching up on their weekly comics during the convention. Kicking things off, Satler told the crowd “Final Crisis” #1 was the perfect book for a director’s commentary and reminded fans to look at for the actual “Final Crisis #1 Director’s Commentary” due out soon.
Sattler then introduced himself to the crowd and turned to J.G. Jones, the panel’s main attraction. “And who are you?” Sattler asked. “I am King of the Monkeys,” Jones replied to laughs. From there, the two moved into a slide show and accompanying commentary. Some of the most arresting slides were of the book’s memorable opening, a meeting between Anthro, the first boy, and the New God Metron.
“Grant had some very specific ideas on how he wanted the New Gods colored,” Jones revealed. “He wanted them to appear as though they were lit from within. You have people running around in crazy costumes already so how do you top that?” Jones revealed that he and colorist Alex Sinclair tried to make it look as though Metron were “made of cracked porcelain, lit from within”. These coloring and design choices extended to the denizens of Apokolips as well. “Darkseid is the source of all darkness,” Jones said. “So he kind of radiates shadows, but he never casts a shadow.”
Another significant revelation casual readers might have missed in the first scene is the presence of another classic DC character: Vandal Savage. “He’s there in the beginning and then we see him again in a suit. So it’s kind of like the evolution of Vandal Savage.”
The colors in “Final Crisis” was something important to both Jones and Morrison. “I established a really good relationship with Alex Sinclair while working on 52’s covers. I keep an enormous photo reference file and sent him just a disk worth of stuff,” Jones said. “Just to interject, I’ve seen the file he’s talking about,” Sattler said. “It’s… scary. It’s not just huge, it’s organized.” Among the items in Jones file: helicopters, police procedural photos and martial arts.
It was these exhaustive photo references that Jones later admitted to using in creating the atmosphere of procedural police work when the Green Lantern Corp find the corpse of Orion. “I figured Alex kind of knew what he was doing,” Jones said of his partner. “So I just kind of feed him and other than that, just let Alex go.
Sattler and Jones also spoke about the somewhat inglorious death of the Martian Manhunter within “Final Crisis” #1. “I was hoping people wouldn’t bring it up,” Sattler joked. “I’m not sure how the room feels about it.” One fan asked why the creative team made the decision to give Martian Manhunter’s death so little room in the story. “Compared to Barry Allen passing away, Supergirl passing away. Martian Manhunter doesn’t even get a line of dialogue,” the fan pointed out.
Jones confessed that was something he had talked with Grant and his editor about before he even drew the page. “I said – shouldn’t this guy get some more time? And we decided it would be more dramatic if he just comes in and they whack him.” Sattler pointed out that there was more to tell about the death of J’onn J’onzz, if not necessarily within the main “Final Crisis” series. “There’s a book coming out called Final Crisis: Requiem and guess who’s on the cover,” Sattler said.
Jones was quick to mention that he was glad they didn’t tell that story in Final Crisis, however. “I couldn’t believe I was drawing that in just one panel,” he said. Sattler agreed that the horror of the moment was in the suddenness of it. “That kind of thing happens in life,” he reminded. “It was a deliberate choice by Grant.”
A slide featuring the Green Lantern cover for “Final Crisis” #1 was brought up and the duo talked at length about the significance of the covers in the series. “A lot of thought went into these,” Sattler said. Jones spoke about the construction of the covers and what he was trying to accomplish. “I wanted to try to find angles that filled the entire cover,” Jones said. “It’s a single hero cover, how many ways can you do that? I’ve seen tons of basic covers with the lead character just standing with his fists and his sides and his chest pushed out. That just puts me to sleep.”
Jones also mentioned that his style for the covers was one influenced by Andy Warhol’s pop-art. “Each cover is fully painted in water-colors,” he said. According to Jones, just as much thought went into the design and coloring of his covers once they were finished as the paintings themselves. “I sent several photo-shop ideas for the backgrounds but what they came up is great,” Jones said.
At this point, the duo brought up a slide of the Flash cover to “Final Crisis #2”. “They match but they clash,” Sattler said with appreciation. Sattler also commented that all of Final Crisis would follow this design style. “Every issue, including the tie-ins, will keep the theme… each having a full body-shot and an alternate sliver cover,” Sattler revealed. “You’ll see a lot of variation on odd camera angles with clashing colors.”
Apparently the distinctive cover style also created a problem for DC. “They asked me, how are we going to fit the trade dress?” Jones said, with a laugh. Sattler mentioned that this was a problem solved by DC’s trade designer, Chip Kidd, in a way that also fit the theme of the series. “As we go through each issue, the logo along the side will stretch and deteriorate,” he said.
Another slide featured the character designs printed in the “Final Crisis: Sketchbook”. “A lot of these designs were done while Jeff was in the wilds of Scotland,” Sattler said. “Yeah, I was spending time with Grant talking about this stuff. That’s why a few of the sketches at the bottom are his.”
Jones and Satler also responded to a somewhat dissatisfied fan who commented that he really enjoyed the artwork, but hated the story for the first issue. “I would say don’t worry,” was J.G.’s polite response. “The first issue was a lot of set-up… I can’t tell you what’s coming, but it’s great. “I would agree,” Satler chimed in, affably. “It’s really crazy stuff.”
Satler also reminded that the series’ major advertising hook “The Day Evil Won,” isn’t merely a tag-line. “That’s actually a specific event that happens at the end of issue three going into issue four. So stick around.”
The two closed by point out the incredible amount of detail that’s gone into “Final Crisis”. Sattler pointed out that items such as Mr. Miracle posters in the background and The Dark Side Club invitation were painted at full-size by Jones. “I’m gonna rat you out here because I know you want admit to it. But all the detail that’s worked into this thing, you wouldn’t believe.”
Each expressed amazement that the book was actually out now, given how long they’d been working on it. “It’s been a long time in development,” Sattler said.
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