A packed panel room welcomed the DC Nation panel Saturday afternoon at Baltimore Comic-Con. Hosted by DC Comics Senior Story Editor Ian Sattler, the panel consisted of Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne, J.T. Krul ("Blackest Night: Titans"), Jamal Igle ("Supergirl"), Peter Tomasi ("Blackest Night: Batman"), and "JSA versus Kobra" editor Rachel Gluckstern.
Sattler began the panel, microphone in hand, perched atop a chair in front of the panel table, expressing to the gathered masses how excited he was to be back in Baltimore. "I grew up in Washington DC. I've known Marc Nathan for way too long. This is my tenth Baltimore Comic-Con," Sattler said. "Marc has one of the coolest stores I've ever been in. I used to wander around in there. It builds a real sense of community when you have stores like that. One of the coolest things about comics is that we have a community like this and it's cool that you can come home like this."
Sattler then brought out a bag with some of his purchases of the day that included a naked Batman Mego with kung-fu action, which took a place of honor on the panelist table, and in honor of the 10th anniversary of BCC, Sattler pulled out vintage party hats with, in his words, "the Hulk and Spider-Woman and I guess all the Bendis Avengers."
The DC Nation panel kicked off with Gluckstern's commentary on the Red Circle books recently put out by DC. "The Red Circle books went through a reinvention of MLJ characters with J. Michael Straczynski," said Gluckstern. "We have two ongoings the shield written by Eric Troutman and illustrated by Marco Rudi. The co-feature to that is Inferno, which my coworker describes as Jason Bourne on fire. He's a hero flambe." In addition to the backup features, DC has also recently began publishing "The Web" written by Angela Robinson and Roger Robinson with a co-feature written by Tom Derenick and Bill Sienkiewicz.
Gluckstern then revealed that Angela Robinson would be stepping off as the writer on the Web to be replaced by Marc Guggenheim, who will introduce the Black Hood. Following that, "House of Mystery" writer Matthew Sturges will take over the book in February. "Sturges made the mistake of handing things on time to us," said Sattler, when asked about Sturges' heavy workload.
The panel then shifted over to J.T. Krul, who was clearly excited about the upcoming "Blackest Night: Titans" variant cover by Titans legend and BCC guest of honor George Perez. "You couldn't ask for anything better," he said. "The variant covers are great because we wanted to do a horror tone with Ed Benes's main covers." Krul said the Perez variant is "the screensaver now on my desktop. It's reached that special place and it'll probably be there for a while."
"We have stuff coming out from J.T. after Blackest Night that I can't tell you about," said Sattler. "It's really messed up. He's such a nice guy and we're having him write the most messed up book ever."
Moving on to Peter Tomasi, the writer was very clear that there were many things he couldn't talk about. However, he did have a tease for "Blackest Night: Batman." "We spent a lot of time trying to figure out a really cool riff on the zombie feel of the Black Lanterns," he said. "We've come up with a really cool twist on it. It's going to knock a lot of people's socks off. It's going to be pretty wild. Keep your eyes peeled next week. ["Blackest Night: Batman" artist] Ardian Syaf definitely grew with each issue. By the third issue he's got a real handle on these characters. We wanted you guys to feel like a lot of craft and a lot of art went into this crossover."
After the panel teased Jamal Igle about his singing skills, Igle divulged some details about his upcoming "Supergirl" storyline with writer Sterling Gates. "I finished 'Supergirl' #46 which is the last part of the Hunt for Reactron," he said. "They found him! More on the other end, he found them and its not good. It's not a good situation. We've got that going on. We've got action which is going on in 'Supergirl' #46 and some messed up crap is going to happen."
"We're pushing the super books really hard right now," said Sattler. "This is something that I started talking about way back when Geoff came onto 'Action Comics'. This isn't going back in six months. This isn't a temporary thing. We're kind of at the halfway point. This is a big story we've got. It's not an event, it's just a bunch of books working together to tell a huge stories. James Robinson and Greg Rucka have done a great job with Flamebird and Nightwing and the Guardian and Mon-El and giving everyone a different taste of what Superman can be like and what the universe can be like. We keep saying, it keeps building. If you look, we went from a bottle to a planet at the halfway, so imagine how much more we're have to do with that story."
"On a personal note for me, I'm going to be taking a few issues of 'Supergirl' off, I'm going to be off from #47 to #49 and then coming back for #50. In between, I'm going to be doing 'World's Finest #3', which is the first team-up between Supergirl and Stephanie Brown, the new Batgirl." The issue will also be written by Supergirl writer Sterling Gates.
Following Igle's announcement of his three-issue vacation from "Supergirl", Sattler opened up the floor for questions. While the responses found Sattler insisting that he would see the Kool-Aid Man next year at BCC, some discussion of the "Suicide Squad" Showcase edition's delays, a fan bringing up ketchup flavored potato chips in response to Sattler's "DC Nation" column, and Peter Tomasi's uncanny imitation of Grant Morrison, there were a few questions that stuck out.
While Power Girl's reaction to New Krypton will be addressed, Sattler couldn't divulge much information on that front. However, when asked if Dick Grayson as the new Batman is something that's here to stay, Sattler replied, "I hope so. We have a lot up our sleeve. Grant has quite a bit of story to tell with our friend in the cave. We'll see how it goes." Sattler then indicated the naked Mego on the panel table and said, "When Bruce shows up this is going to be his costume."
"It feels right at this juncture in time" said Tomasi. "It feels organic and it's a right step for the character. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out"
"I love Damian. He's the dude you love to hate because he's such a jerkface," said Sattler. "Between Batman and Damian and Red Robin, that's stuff we're keeping in continuity. Expect this to be the way it is and long term. ... We have really great long term plans right now. I hope you like it, because we're keeping it as long as we can"
After a question about whether Paul Dini would return to "Streets of Gotham," Sattler was quick to mention both Dini's current duties on "Gotham City Sirens" and his recent work on the "Batman: Arkham Asylum" video game. For many fans, the most exciting tidbit was yet to come. "There's a certain Zatanna book perhaps coming out in 2010, so look out for that," said Sattler.
When asked about whether the panelists preferred the DC status quo, Tomasi replied, "You've got to keep moving forward or you die. Get your interests in different ways without sacrificing the heart of the characters. We're always looking for ways to characters to evolve and do new things in different ways without sacrificing the true intent and the heart of the character."
"I think if we can make a change and its something we're all standing here talking about the way you're doing this and the way you're doing that--keeping the core but adding new levels onto it, it stays exciting," said Sattler.
Perhaps one of the most entertaining answers came from Bob Wayne, when asked about the end of "Blackest Night." "I think you want to go to the next panel we have later. It's called 'Rosebud's the sled...'"
One fan praised the artwork on "JSA versus Kobra," which caused Gluckstern to relate an interesting tidbit about artist Don Kramer. "When we started up the project, I spoke with Don discussing the style and look of the book," said Gluckstern. "He's been wanting to experiment with grease pencil, a lot of that shading is grease pencil. His inker is his next-door neighbor, Michael Babinski. He comes over hanging out all day in Don's studio, then Mike is the lucky one who gets to scan them in and send them to us."
Sattler put forth the DC Challenge to the audience: "Read 'JSA verus Kobra' #1," he said. "The art in this book is just awesomely amazing."A fan asked about more of a focus on villain mini-series. While Sattler referred to Gail Simone's "Secret Six" and Paul Dini's "Gotham City Sirens," Bob Wayne recommended a different route. "Look at 'Arkham Reborn' when that comes out," said Wayne. "That goes to the heart of the interaction with the psyche of the villains. David Hine is doing a wonderful job on this."
"That picks up very directly from 'Battle for the Cowl,'" said Sattler. "There was stuff set in motion when we blew up Arkham again."
The panel wound down with the announcement that "Superman/Batman" would be changing to chronicle fill-in stories between other events, with the 2001 crossover event "Our Worlds At War" described by Sattler as "not first, but it's on deck."
While one of the most revealing questions was "Which Lantern Corps would you put yourself in?" (Gluckstern: "Rage," Krul: "Hope," Tomasi: "Black or Red," Igle: "Avarice," Wayne (to Igle): "That's mine!" and Sattler (to Wayne): "That's mine too, I wanted it first!"), the most touching comment came from a 56-year-old fan in an amazing Green Lantern shirt who had been reading "Green Lantern" since issue #4, which he bought at a candy store for a dime. His heartfelt thanks to the panelists and DC had everyone applauding. "Thank you, thank you, thank you for all that you've been doing with Green Lantern and the Green Lantern Corps. There's never been a better time to be a fan of Green Lantern." The enthusiasm of the fan was infectious and gave the panel just the right tone for an amazing DC Nation panel here at BCC.