Saturday's supersized DC Universe panel at the Batltimore Comic-Con attracted a near capacity crowd and a large panel of DC writers, editors and executives. DC Executive Editor Dan Didio welcomed the audience and commented on the long waiting lines for people getting into the convention, "It's a great sign for the Baltimore convention." Didio mentioned that the panel would be a marathon hour and forty-five minutes long, "the good part is I won't be the only one talking." Didio introduced the panel, including DC Cice president Bob Wayne and PR man Fletcher Chu Fong (running the slides), Jim Starlin ("Death of the New Gods"), Kurt Busiek ("Superman"), Ron Marz ("Ion"), Sean McKeever ("Countdown," "Birds of Prey," "Teen Titans"), Senior Coordinating Editor Jann Jones and Jimmy Palmiotti ("Jonah Hex", "Countdown"). Didio also introduced newly hired story editor Ian Sattler and editorial assistant Adam Schlagman.
DC Nation panels, as Didio explained, are as interactive as possible. There was no formal presentation, just a long series of question, and through a count of raised hands most of the audience members had been to a DC Nation panel before. Didio polled the audience on their thoughts on DC's weekly title "Countdown," running down the storylines. One fan commented in the Mary Marvel storyline DC had "really redefined magic in your books, taking her from being an interesting basic character and doing things you've never done before."
"Plus, she's a tramp," Kurt Busiek added.
Didio also said the Trickster and Pied Piper have a "hard road ahead and nothing's going to be easy with them." McKeever added that in the February issue he's writing, "something really bad happens to them."
The Karate Kid story got the faintest reaction from the crowd. An audience member explained that the story was too ambiguous and far-reaching. The panel also dropped a hint that the Joker and Harley might meet up in "Countdown."
Didio brought up the Challengers from Beyond team of Jason Todd, Donna Troy and Kyle Rayner, who through a series of one-shots and miniseries will take a tour of the Multiverse. Didio asked if the room understood the basic concept of the Multiverse, leading half the panel to raise their hands. Didio had a fan explain that there were 51 Earths and New Earth. A question about the so-called Palmerverse led Didio into a discussion on how DC has structured its new status quo. "We have long discussions about this, it's where your head starts to hurt." Didio explained that there are 52 universes and within those are multiple dimensions and microverses.
"Are you saying there are infinite earths?" a fan asked, getting a good laugh from the crows. "I'm trying to think of a punchline that has 'crisis' in it," Didio said. "When this Multiverse was introduced there were 51 carbon copies of one Earth - ultimately those universes were altered by Mr. Mind - each one is a variation of that base. When you go into different dimensions, its different interpretations of what's going on inside those worlds."
Didio pointed to the Challengers from Beyond team, "they were created to take you to the worlds and the difference they see. Ron Marz said "We're seeing characters that have never been to these worlds before, so they're your proxy. They have to learn where the hell they are and what's different from the world they're used to."
Palmiotti interjected that anyone having problems with understanding the Multiverse should "take up an issue of Jonah Hex, as a snack, then go back."
A fan asked if, with the exception of "52" and "Countdown," any series would be set on an Earth other than New Earth? Didio said "Countdown: Arena" is set in the Bleed, not on any Earth.
A Cassandra Cain fan asked what was happening to lesser known characters like the former Batgirl. Didio noted that Cain will return to the Bat-Fold in the Gotham Underground miniseries. Sean McKeever clarified that the adult Titans from the current Teen Titans storyline are from New Earth's future, not part of another Earth.
Didio was asked to explain the thought process behind Bart Allen dying. He explained that they'd always had the plan to bring Wally back and that at the end of "Infinite Crisis" it was obvious he was coming back. He didn't want as many Flash's, explaining why when the West family comes back the children's powers are different than Wally's. Didio shared an anecdote from when he met one of his favorite writers, Stephen King. Didio asked why most of King's novels had downer endings. King said "No, 'Cujo!' 'Cujo' has a happy ending!" "The kid dies in the end," Didio replied. "That's right," King said, "I really didn't want him to die in the story, but the way it was written it had to happen."
Another fan commented that he always felt Jason Todd got the shaft - any chance to revisit his time as Robin? Scattered fans in the audience shouted "kill him!" Didio turned it over to the panel. Palmiotti suggested a sex change, Jann Jones said "get him married," Busiek said he liked the idea of Todd exploring his memories from before he died. Starlin suggested he bare his legs to see if he's still shaving.
Any books set in the Multiverse coming? "Yes!" Didio said.
Expect the end of the kryptonite storyline coming soon in "Superman: Confidential."
Any plans on "Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters" as an ongoing? Palmiotti said he and Grey have eight issues planned, but that decision is based on how the story goes.
A fan tried to get Dan Didio to guarantee "Checkmate" and "Shadowpact" won't be cancelled. Didio wouldn't promise anything, but said "Checkmate" had plans up through issue 25.
Anymore from the Secret Six? Look for them in "Checkmate" and "Salvation Run."
An audience member said he was married to a woman "sick of longboxes." He asked if DC would produce a DVD collection similar to Marvel's. Wayne said there were no plans and added that his other business is making longboxes.
When will "Manhunter" return? Jann Jones said when enough scripts are in from writer Marc Andreyko.
After all the references to Barry Allen in "Justice League of America," is there any chance on seeing more? Didio said, strongly, "No Barry Allen plans, he's not coming back. It's the first time I can say that without screwing it up."
Why was the Dr. Fate ongoing taken off the schedule? "Someone on the team got sick," Didio said, delaying the book. "Then it was placed into the 'Countdown to Mystery' book."
An audience member thanked the panel for making Kyle Rayner Parallax because he hated the character so much. "You know he's not real, right?" Marz said. "I made him up." A followup question was asked about Rayner's often-changing costumes, power sets and status quos. "Wait until you meet Perpendicullax," Busiek said. Accoding to Didio, one thing that remains consistent is Kyle Rayner. "Things are happening to him," Didio said, "But it's about Kyle - we do like Kyle."
"We want you to follow the journey," Marz added. "In a lot of respects he's just changing his clothes."
How long is Dwayne McDufffie on "Justice League of America?" "As long as he wants to be."
A fan asked Palmiotti if he and Grey would ever do a "Jonah Hex" issue that takes place in the 24th century, a reference to the "Hex" series. "They're in longboxes downstairs. It's been done, wasn't anything I was really crazy about."
Any chance for a Kurt Busiek team book? "Hear more about it on Monday."
Is the Challengers from Beyond supposed to have a "Sliders" feel? "That's what the specials are - following the Palmer prints around the Multiverse
The Monitors say they don't want people to know about the Multiverse - how many do? "It's confined to the characters exposed to it at the end of '52' and those involved with it in 'Countdown,'" Didio said. He added that they were trying to make the concept as accessible as possible, "As soon as we mentioned the Multiverse came back we received a minimum 52 pitches of 52 universes."
Anymore Brad Meltzer work? Didio said the author is currently working on his next novel and believed he was supposed to be doing some "Buffy."
A fan reminded the audience that the one conspicuously unseen part of the Multiverse is Earth One. Will we see it in the next year? "In the next year? No." Didio said.
Are there any plans for Jack Knight or an "Absolute Starman" edition? "Starman will be available again, whether in Absolute or some other format in the next couple of years," Wayne said. "You will see Jack Knight again," Didio added. A fan called out "Robinson?" Didio said "Yes."
A fan complained that there were too many stories in "Countdown." "As the numbers get smaller, we'll start to condense," Palmiotti said. "At about halfway through we kill half the characters," McKeever joked. "And the other half get married," Palmiotti said. "Your patience will pay off." Bob Wayne also announced that artist Scott Kolins will come back to DC with Coundown #26 and that he's signed an exclusive contract with the publisher.
Jimmy Palmiotti spoke about his and Justin Grey's "Jonah Hex" series, which will feature art from David Michael Beck in the Halloween issue and, Russ Heap for the 25th issue. They'll also keep the done in one stories. Ron Marz plugged the book, which he said is the first book he reads out of the box.
A retailer who said his store has an audience 30-40% female asked Jan Jones if, as a woman in comics, she felt a responsibility to female readers. Jones, whose first editorial job was the "Black Canary Wedding Planner," says she thinks her job is to make the best comics possible. "The strongest teams, the strongest writers, the strongest artists" will appeal to female readers. Jones also pointed out "Birds of Prey," "Supergirl" and "Catwoman" in the DC Universe line.
A "Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane" fan asked Sean McKeever if he would "soap opera it up" in "Teen Titans." "Not going full-on romance angle," McKeever said. "But the important part is the relationships." McKeever said that after the "craziness" of his first four issues he'll be working with his new editor, none other than Dan Didio. McKeever quoted his Myspace and said it'll be "either the greatest collaboration or the worst ever in comics." Didio said he wanted to get back into editing, and that he also considers "Teen Titans" one of their primary franchises.
How long is Carlos Pacheco on "Superman?" "Carlos will draw just up to 668," Busiek said. Any plans for Superman's 70th birthday in 2008? "Framing it up right now, but big, big things coming up," Busiek said. The Third Kryptonian storyline is on the way, then a three part story introducing the new Insect Queen, then an "earthshaking 'Superman'/'Action Comics' crossover that will change the landscape."
A fan asked Jim Starlin if there was any hope of other cosmic characters coming back? Starlin said that he and DC were looking into doing a "Mystery in Space."
Will DC offer an oversized hardcover format like Marvel? "You mean the Marvel books that are in the 'Sandman: Endless Nights' formats?" Wayne said to expect more DC series collected in different formats beginning in 2008. Also, expect a new release date for all the "Showcase" books being pulled off the schedule. Wayne apologized for the discomfort and said that they'll reappear sometime in the second half of 2008.
Will "All-Star Superman's" storyline spread to other books? "Grant and Frank's arc ends at issue 12, then Grant has additional standalone stories with different artists."
Didio, after seeing a baby in the audience dresed as Robin, announced that following the Ra's Al Ghul storyline Chuck Dixon will return to "Robin," a title he once defined.
A fan thanked the panel for the "Booster Gold" series and asked if his favorite villain "Dark Skeets" was gone. "Skeets is good now," Didio said. "Yeah, just like Dark Phoenix is never coming back."
Expect "Countdown: Arena" to cover and identify about a third of the Multiverse worlds. which reflect familiar Elseworlds books. Soon fans will be able to vote on match-ups on DCComics.com.
Fans can look forward to a second "Space Ghost" mini-series as well as some "Jonny Quest."
Ise there any chance of another appearance by Milestone heroes Icon and Static? "Although published by DC, they are Milestone characters owned by Milestone," Didio said. "We're trying to work something out, especially with Dwayne on JLA."
An audience member asked the panel's view of the characters' diversity. Palmiotti said he and Justin Grey try to go against the grain and introduce different character backgrounds because it makes it a better read. "It's something that comes natural to him growing up in NYC." Jim Starlin added, "I've introduced a number of purple characters." McKeever said he doesn't want to shoehorn something in, but he said diversity is an issue that needs to be tackled. Jones pointed out that a Great Ten book will be out next year.
Didio pointed to the Jon Stewart Green Lantern as an example. "People accept him now, he's been in the cartons, but they don't realize it was a major deal thirty years ago." Didio said he likes the Jason Rusch Firestorm, "when Dwanye McDuffie came on the book I saw the potential of the character." He related Rusch to the Ronnie Raymond iteration, whose first series was cancelled after five issues, but who was featured in backups in "Flash" and was part of the JLA, leading to another series that lasted a hundred issues.
Busiek was reminded that he mentioned a big project set for after his run on "Aquaman." He said it was delayed a year, but it's even bigger now and readers can expect an announcement at Monday's retailers convention.
Will readers find out who got sent to the Legion's future in Brad Meltzer's "Lightning Saga" arc of "Justice League of America?" Look for next year's 50th anniversary for more answers.
Who takes over on "Nightwing?" Former DC editor Peter Tomasi.
Will Grant Morrison do more Doom Patrol? Only if they appear in "Final Crisis."
A fan asked the status of Martian Manhunter. "He's a member of the Outsiders now, and he will appear in a series, you just won't know it" As the crowd let out an "ooooh" Didio joked "he's a Skrull!" The other native of the red planet, Miss Martian, won't be meeting with Martian Manhunter anytime soon, but McKeever said look for her to be explored in "Teen Titans" next year.
Are there plans to put Nightwing with another team? Didio angled the microphone to Bob Wayne: "Maybe!"
Any chance of a Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale "Wonder Woman" book? Not likely, Didio said, with Loeb at Marvel and Sale working on "Superman Confidential" and the "Heroes" television show.
The panel was asked what books they would buy given the Absolute treatment. Jimmy Palmiotti said he'd like to see "Monolith" even just collected. Jann Jones and Ian Sattler said "Ambush Bug," Marz went for "All-Star Superman," and Busiek said "Astro City." McKeever said he was blanking and couldn't think of a book, while Jim Starlin professed to not knowing what an Absolute was. Dan Didio admitted that "I don't like the idea of an Absolute, paying $75 for a book you can get cheaper." Bob Wayne kicked him of the podium, "You didn't complain when some of that money paid to send you down here." Wayne added to expect four or five Absolutes slotted per year. Also the second volume of the "Sandman" Absolute is on its way.
At the ten minute mark Didio commenced a lightning round, with quick questions and short answers.
- Will Lionel Luthor appear in "Countdown?" "He'll be mentioned," Busiek said.
- Any characters from Earth-26? Didio said to expect Earth-26 Blue Beetle in Arena.
- Any progress on the Superboy lawsuit they could discus? "No comment," Wayne said.
- Any word on Marv Wolfman and George Perez' "Teen Titans" book? "George is busy with 'Brave and the Bold' and working on something big for 2008," Didio said.
- Inter-company crossovers? "No," Didio said.
- Will the "Hitman" trades be completed? Wayne said it's based on sales of the "Hitman/JLA" crossover.
- Will Warren Elis finish "Desolation Jones"? Didio paused and said "No. I think he's exclusive to Marvel."
- The Watchmen Earth is not one of the 52 Earths.
- Didio was asked directly "when "Flash" #1 came out last year did you know Bart Allen was going to die?" Didio dramatically tried to skip to the next question, then revised his answer, "I knew he was going to be replaced."
- Finally, according to Jann Jones, Deathstroke is a principal in "Tiny Titans" - though you can also expect him in the "Wedding Special."