They weren't attending the show to represent DC Comics in an official capacity, but Greg Capullo, Scott Snyder, Jimmy Palmiotti, Cully Hamner, Ron Marz and Joshua Hale Fialkov sat down with fans Saturday at Baltimore Comic-Con to discuss DC's New 52 initiative and their own upcoming work for the publisher. "We're not the company guys," said Palmiotti, "We're just a bunch of freelancers saying what we think."
"As a show of hands," asked Palmiotti, "who's really excited about September?" A scattering of hands went up. Hi follow-up, "Who's angry about it?" Produced noticably fewer hands.
Zeroing in on one of the angry fans, Palmiotti asked, point blank, "What are you so angry about?"
Despite the announcement of 52 books, the fan explained, a lot of favorite creators don't seem to be represented, mentioning Amanda Connor by name. Palmiotti was quick to assure the fan that Connor -- Palmiotti's wife -- was actually working on two books for the publisher's relaunch, they just won't be ready for September. Offering his own experiences as an example of how much there is left to be announced, Palmiotti told the audience, "I have three books I can't talk about yet.
"You don't want to talk about it," the creator continued. "You don't even want to solicit it until it's done, because then you guys will start going, 'Where is this book?' Now it's late."
Another fan spoke up, telling the panel members he wasn't a fan of the new costumes. "What do we know about costumes?" asked Palmiotti, "They change! We've got the opportunity to get the whole world to look at the DCU." Ultimately, the things people buy are the things that will stay.
"When 52 comes out," added Marz, "you guys get to vote with your dollars from day one. Nobody is going into this saying, 'Let's screw with the fan boys!' Everyone is saying 'Let's do something really cool that people are going to really get behind.'"
Getting back to the costumes, Capullo pointed out that a lot of the changes readers will see flow organically from the stories being told. Wonder Woman was specifically called out as a character whose outfit changes are explained as a part of her story.
"We're as big fans of these characters as you!" the incoming "Batman" artist declared. "We're not changing them just to change them."
Another fan complained about the sheer number of books being launched, explaining that there's simply no way he could buy them all. "I'll probably miss 95% of the books."
Palmiotti pointed out that he'll still buy more books in September than he did in August. The audience didn't find that a particularly satisfying answer, so the panel made a point to note that the comics industry is in trouble and what DC is doing is a bold move calculated to help improve the current situation. If the industry is going to survive, new readers must be brought in, and this is the way in which DC has decided to provide a jumping-on point for everyone.
Another fan brought up previous large-scale continuity changes from DC and wondered why this one was different. Scott Snyder pointed out that for a lot of books, nothing was really changing. Past stories happened and will be referenced. Snyder pointed to his "Batman" stories, saying they weren't the result of the 52 event and were pitched months ago.
Snyder then pitched the audience on his and Capullo's overall concept for "Batman," beginning by describing how in "Detective Comics," he wrote Dick Grayson as a character distinct from Bruce Wayne, whose compassion is his greatest strength. Finding ways to use it against him, turning it into a weakness, made for some great stories. Now, with Bruce Wayne, we have a Batman who has has Gotham City as his greatest ally. What if it became an enemy? What if there's a force that's existed in Gotham since colonial times, what if it has a history with the Wayne family, and what if it turns its attention on Batman? It's an epic story, Snyder said, and it was underway long before he had ever heard about the New 52.
Similarly, in his Swamp Thing book, Snyder asked, what if there's a counter force to The Green? What if it's made of bones and carcasses, and it's rising out of the desert, and The Green has to counteract it? The strongest Swamp Thing stories were always about Alec Holland yearning for what he's lost. Now, he's got his humanity back again, but what if The Green needs him? Not just a Swamp Thing, but Alec Holland as Swamp Thing? Again, Snyder emphasized that this was a story he pitched, not some decree handed down by DC ediorial.
Throughout the panel, the creators emphasized that these are their favorite characters, they wake up every morning grateful to get to write them. They're big stories, but ones which were pitched months ago, they're not coming out because there's a New 52 mandate hanging over their heads. "Nobody," said Hamner, "is doing this just because they're picking up a check."
The coolest thing about this relaunch, said Marz, is that it's not just superheroes. People who don't read comics might be drawn to something like a horror or western book. Comics aren't just superheroes -- they're a storytelling medium. Citing his new title, "Voodoo," Marz stated, "If I've done my job right, half of you will think she's the hero and half will think she's the villain in the story."
A long-time fan complained about the renumbering of DC's longest-running books. "I was really looking forward to 'Action Comics' #1000."
Palmiotti pointed out that even if there wasn't going to be an "Action Comics" #1000, there would be a thousandth issue of "Action Comics." "In my head, 'All-Star Western' #1 is really 'Jonah Hex' #71."
"My wife is a big fan of Witchblade." said one fan. "Would you recommend 'Voodoo' as a book she'd get into?" Marz replied: "Duh!"
With time running out, Palmiotti called for a lightning round of questions.
In response to a question asking if there is there an editorial edict to tell a year one or origin story in the first year of the relaunch, the panelists responded no, it's up to the writers to decide if they need one. SImilarly, nobody's having characters forced into their books and no one is being forbidden to use certain characters.
The rest of the questions resulted in the following answers:
The number of Batman books published will depend on sales numbers for the initial titles being launched. The JSA will be showing up eventually. James Robinson's "Shade" will break down into several arcs with Cully Hamner illustrating the first three-issues. The panelists had no clue as to whether or not the Superman changes were done in response to the current legal proceedings involving the character. And finally, Batman makes an appearance in "Swamp Thing" #1.