Baltimore Comic-Con Day 2: DC Universe Panel

Sunday's DC Universe panel at Baltimore Comic-Con featured DC Executive Editor Dan Didio, Vice President Bob Wayne, legendary writer/artist Sergio Aragones ("Mad Magazine"), writer Billy Tucci ("Heroes For Hire"), Jim Calafiore ("Gotham Underground"), writer Jim Shooter ("Legion of Superheroes"), writer Mark Waid ("Brave and the Bold", "The Flash"), and Senior Coordinating Editor Jann Jones ("Black Canary Wedding Special," "Tiny Titans").

Several announcements dropped at the panel, including Tucci collaborating with screenwriter and director John Milius ("Conan the Barbarian") on a "Sgt. Rock and the Lost Brigade" miniseries. Another war series, "The War That Time Forgot," will be written by "Deadman" writer Bruce Jones, featuring war heroes from different time periods. Former DC editor Peter Tomasi will take over "Nightwing" and "Green Lantern Corps," writer Doug Moench and artist Kelley Jones will reunite with the Dark Knight taking on the Invisible Man in "Batman: The Unseen," and writer Marv Wolfman will launch a new "Vigilante" series. The new series will feature an investigation into a traitor amongst the DC heroes. "But only one," Didio said, alluding to the Skrull invasion storyline in the Marvel Universe.

Legendary comics creator Sergio Aragones will co-write the ongoing "The Spirit" with Mark Evanier. Didio wouldn't reveal the artist just yet, "with Sergio coming aboard as the writer it's a big moment for us." Aragones also discussed a "Bat Lash" project he'll be co-writing with Western author Peter Brandvold (full interview here). "Presently we're up to issue number four and are working on issue five." Aragones noted the artist will be John Severin, which brought a round of applause from the crowd. "It is magic seeing 'Bat Lash' drawn by someone who loves a Western," Aragones said. "Just like Sgt. Rock will be drawn by someone who loves war." Walt Simonson will provide covers.

"Legion of Superheroes" writer Jim Shooter, who made his debut on the title over forty years ago, said he's planning a sixteen issue arc in his upcoming run on "Legion." How does it feel to write something and have someone take control? "It's a mixed emotions thing," Shooter said. "If I do keep track of what they do you see things and go 'oh, what're they doing' or you'll see something and say 'I wish I'd thought of that.'" Regarding his return to many of his creations in "Legion of Superheroes," Shooter said, "It was coming home to the characters."

Artist Cully Hamner interrupted the panel and had to pay the piper: he'd lost a bet made in 2001 regarding the Olsen Twins and whether they'd pose nude in Playboy to Jann Jones and promised to humiliate himself. He sang the entirety of the Beatles' "With A Little Help From My Friends."

Jann Jones discussed adding the expansion of the Johnny DC line with "Tiny Titans," "Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam" and "Super Friends." "We're trying to make these books that really can be given to any child," Jones said. "The joke is that I really don't like kids, but I'm making books that I really love." An audience member asked about Tawky Tawny's role. Didio explained that in conversations with Mike Kunkel they came to the conclusion that Tawny and the Wizard played the same sort of role for Batson. Jones also said to expect a ten issue Great Ten miniseries plus an appearance by Ghost Fox Killer in issue nineteen of "Checkmate."

A fan asked Didio if the "oceans of guff" he's gotten recently has affected him. Not at all, he said. "We've had a game plan for a while," he said. "I feel very confident in where it's going. I have a lot of faith in 'Countdown' and where it's going. Everything we do is part of a learning process." Didio explained that the "showrunner" writing method used for "Countdown" was in response to the difficulty "52" writers were having.

A Wonder Woman fan asked when the character's All Star treatment would be solicited. "We won't solicit it until we have enough that we can put it out and not be late," Jones said. Didio pointed out that Jones is responsible for getting DC's publishing schedule back on track.

Jim Shooter was asked if he felt he had an ownership claim on the "Legion of Superheroes" characters he created when he was a minor. "I was a kid when I sent that in. When they bought it I thought 'hey, I'm rich,'" he said. "That check was $200, it saved our house. I didn't care, I was 13 years old." Shooter explained that years later when he worked at Marvel Comics he worked with (former DC Executive Vice President) Irwin Donenfeld Jr.'s ex-wife, who was then the chief counsel at Marvel. She told him then that he could sue DC and make a significant amount of money, since he'd been a minor at the time and neither he nor his parents had signed anything. Shooter said he decided not to because he'd known the deal and thought it would be dishonorable.

"You were 13?" Didio said. "I thought you were 16."

"No, that was Cary Bates," Waid added. "Who it occurs to me we should be really nice to."

Didio was asked about the third weekly series that'll follow "Countdown." He said it'll be a complete reinvention of the format yet again. "'52' is world building. We told the writers that this is the world without Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman," Didio said. "They got so caught up with building the world that they forgot what the original purpose of the series was, to fill in the gap of 'One Year Later.'"

A fan asked what nature the book's narrative would be. "It's going to be undoing 'Final Crisis,'" Shooter joked. Expect a different storytelling method than what's been seen in "52" or "Countdown." "Whatever the third way to do it is, that's how we're doing it," Didio said.

"1,000 one page stories," Waid said. "That was so much funnier in my head."

A fan asked Didio about the chances of the Crime Syndicate from Grant Morrison's graphic novel "Earth-2" showing up in the DCU. Didio initially responded "absolutely," then clarified that while Morrison's antimatter universe Crime Syndicate would eventually appear again, a similar outfit called the Crime Society would appear in the first week of October, hailing from Earth -.

A fan asked Mark Waid "where's Hypertime?" Waid patted himself down and searched his pockets. "I don't know. Next."

An audience member asked the panel their favorite books. Jones: "Justice League of America." Waid: "All Star Superman." Shooter: Mark Waid's back issues. Jim Calafiore: "52." Billy Tucci: "All Star Superman" and "Showcase" volumes.

Will "52" appear in Absolute form? Wayne said there's no plans at this time.

Is there ever going to be a comic where the bad guys win? "Bad guys win all the time," Shooter said.

"Iron Man, for instance, that's one." Waid said.

Expect a piece on late artist Mike Wieringo in "The Flash" next month. Waid plans to focus on the West family in "The Flash," at least at first. Readers can expect the Justice League to get involved more over the next few months as they realize it takes a village to raise super-powered kids.

What's the status of "All Star Batman and Robin?" Issue eight is done, as is the script to issue nine.

Why release a hardback or a soft trade? "The decision is a proprietary thing," Wayne said. "We do have a dartboard and there is a wheel of formats." Bob Wayne said there may be more of the more apocryphal and promotional comics DC has done over the years. Didio said to expect the "52" and "Countdown" origin backups to either be collected or placed online.

The panel was asked what comic they've always wanted to own. "Spider-Man #50," Didio said. "I saw that cover and I couldn't wait to buy it."

"There's ones you want but they're so much money," Tucci said. "I almost got arrested at the Geppi museum."

"I have things I'm fond of," Calafiore said, like the Metal Men.

"When I was a kid I bought 'Fantastic Four' #1 and 'X-Men' #1," Shooter said. "We read them to death. If I had to pick, 'Spider-Man' #1."

"My answer is so dorky - 'Lord Pumpkin' #1 because it never came out!" Jann Jones.

"The comic I always wanted was that first 80 page 'Secret Origins' comic that came out," Wayne said.

What's coming next for "Justice Society of America?" Didio said to expect the "Kingdom Come" story to run into early next year, then a Power Girl story after that.

Any plans for a Green Lantern movie any time soon? "No," Didio said, "But there's a focus on a team that he's a part of that we can't talk about."

One fans asked about "Justice League Unlimited" and "Teen Titans Go!" being sidelined. "JLU will run until March, they'll be around for a while." Didio said that if sales support it, the series will stay. "Those are titles that were to support a television series that is no longer producing new product."

Will there be anymore tie-in series that will support "Final Crisis?" After much hemming and hawing, Didio said "Maybe."

Didio was asked his stance on characters dying in comics. "It's the strength and the depth," he said, then referenced the deaths of Barry Allen, Blue Beetle and Sue Dibny ."Jim killed Ferro Lad so blame him" Didio said.

"He was dead then he got better," Shooter said. "When Ferro Lad dies that's when you know that Legionairres can die," Didio said.

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