"We just launched a lot of interesting things in June. There's a lot of different things we have going on right now," DC Comics' Batman group editor Mark Doyle said, kicking off the publisher's Boston Comic Con panel. Joining Doyle on stage were Brian Azzarello, Babs Tarr, Annie Wu, Ming Doyle, Scott Snyder and Jimmy Palmiotti. Dressed as Deathstroke, Snyder's son also joined the group on stage.
"I'm working with Frank Miller on the end of the trilogy of 'The Dark Knight,'" Azzarello said , getting the conversation rolling. "Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson are doing the bulk of the art chores right now, and there are some other people that are going to be announced soon.
"It comes out at the end of this year," Azzarello promised, joking, "Someone's Christmas bonus depends on it."
"I knew that this project was happening before we moved and, honestly, one of the reasons that I wanted to go was because we're doing a lot of amazing stuff," Mark Doyle added, "but knowing that I would be working with Brian and Frank and Andy and everyone on this was a big deal... To be able to work with these guys and finish the storyline the way that Frank always wanted to -- it's an amazing privilege. You go to work and I have a conversation with my editor and you're just pinching yourself because this is my job. I can't believe this! The first issue is coming together right now and it's really spectacular stuff."
"It's three years after 'The Dark Knight II.' It picks up sort of where it left off," Azzarello said.
"Go back and reread everything because it's very rewarding for people who know the story very well," Doyle advised, adding, "I think if you haven't read any of this stuff before, you could jump on with this book too."
Snyder spoke about his latest arc of "Batman," which finds Jim Gordon taking up the Bat-mantle following the Dark Knight's alleged death. "Joker and Batman sort of fought to the death and, in the aftermath of both of them going down, the city decided they needed a Batman and so they hired Jim Gordon to be a deputized Batman who is sort of funded publically and is a representative of all the things he's believed his whole life: the police, all the sort of systems people put in place to protect themselves in a city like Gotham... I hope what you guys can see is the story is deeply about what if Batman died and everyone is trying to fill the void. Part of the story is, what if Batman died and Bruce Wayne came back unscarred?
"It was an idea I had in the fall, and I pitched it to Mark [Doyle]. I remember it was right before Thanksgiving or so, and I was like, 'Oh, you're away?' I was texting him anyway. I was like, 'We have to talk about this crazy idea.' He liked it, and then I came and I pitched it to the Bat-writers in the winter. The deal was, we only felt we would do this crazy thing if all of us had a better story for our characters through it and on the other side of it, from whether it was Jim Gordon, Bruce Wayne, Alfred, everybody. It's a story where we're really thrilled with," he continued.
"When it was announced, they showed the robot suit -- this kind of bunny-eared Robo-Bunny, which I love. When the image came out, people were kind of mad, saying, 'Oh, Batman isn't a wimp, he doesn't need a robosuit!' and when we showed that it was Jim Gordon, people were very gracious. Since the story started, you guys have been so wonderful to us. It means a lot that you're that generous with us and that elastic with your trust. Thank you so much, from Greg [Capullo] too," he said. "He sends his love and appreciation for the fact that you guys have been so incredibly supportive. We've always been ready for the sales to sink or for you guys to be okay leaving us if we're trying something too crazy. The fact that the book is still doing as well as it's doing -- #41 did better than 'Endgame' -- means a lot to us. So thank you. You guys are the best."
Doyle switched tracks and brought up Patrick Gleason's "Robin: Son of Batman," revealing, "Coming up soon, Deathstroke is going to be appearing in 'Robin: Son of Batman.' Deathstroke is going to be in issue four. If anybody wants to see Damian vs. Deathstroke, get ready, because it's happening."
On the subject of "Batgirl," Tarr divulged, "There's a love triangle coming up."
"Babs has a list that she sent to Cameron [Stewart] and Brenden [Fletcher], the co-writers of 'Batgirl': 'These Are the Things I Want to Draw,'" Mark Doyle pitched in. It's the most random list. It's like candy-themed villain and just random things, and they love it! They're like, 'Alright, cool. How do we work this in?' When you showed me that list, I was like, 'Oh, that explains a lot.'"
"For the last arc, I wanted to draw Scooby Doo in 'Eyes Wide Shut' kind of episodes," Tarr shared. "They put in the cult people, and then she was exploring a haunted house that I really wanted to draw. They put in little things like that. I'm so thankful to them, because they write fun stories for me to draw, so that -- when I'm drawing it -- I'm really excited to be working on it. I can't ask for better writers to do that kind of thing.
"I got to draw all these father-daughter moments! It was really cute. I love my dad. I get to draw cute baby Babs flashbacks where Jim has his mustache back," she added, throwing a glance at Snyder. Thanks to Snyder and Capullo, Gordon has been mustache-free since he became Batman.
"That's a perfect example of what Scott was saying when he first pitched the idea to us and the other writers," Mark Doyle said. "All people saw were story opportunities. Of course that's going to affect Batgirl! It's been fun to sort of play with that dynamic and see where that takes us.
Wu also recounted how she landed her "Black Canary" gig. "It was around the time of New York Comic Con. He was in New York for 'Batgirl' stuff at the convention. He was like, 'I just want to talk to you about a possible DC thing.' He was super vague about it and waited until we were face-to-face so I didn't have an opportunity to play it cool. He gave me the basic pitch of Black Canary rock 'n' roll road trip, and I then I was just like [rests chin on hand], 'Huh, that's interesting.' Just trying to keep a straight face."
"You were stone cold that whole time!" Tarr broke in.
"Really?" Wu rejoined, joking, "I was super chill... I was immediately like that sounds like the coolest idea. Before I even committed to it, I was already thinking of ways to do something new and interesting with this book and a character who hasn't really had an opportunity to shine on her own in a long time. It's been really fun working with Brenden. I hope people are enjoying it."
"I remember I called Mark and was like, 'That was one of the best first issues I've read in a long time,'" Snyder interjected.
"If you don't know anything about Black Canary, it's a good jumping on point, but if you loved her for years and years, there's stuff for you, too. It's a good blend of past and weird new stuff. It's a little something for everyone," Wu explained. When an audience member wondered aloud if there would be any love triangles, she answered, "It's mostly dudes getting punched."
"That's what Annie wants to draw!" Tarr said.
"The first item on my list for Brenden was like, 'I want to draw a dude that Dinah punches, and then his unconscious body crowdsurfs away,'" Wu confirmed.
Ming Doyle also weighed in on her experience working on "Batgirl Annual" #3, as well as co-writing "Constantine the Hellblazer" with James Tynion IV. "Once again, Brenden dropped down like a good fairy godmother and was like, 'Have you ever considered in your life wanted to work for DC?,'" she said of the "Batgirl Annual." "It was great, because also it was that special edition; it was only 6-8 pages. He was like, 'I don't know if you have any interest in Batwoman and Wicker Man.' I was like, 'Just stop.' It was wonderful. I got to draw some occult details and they let me design a new villain named Gladius and I channeled my love of 'American Gladiator' and I really got into it. I also got to draw Batgirl for a hot second, which is nice."
She called up a Constantine cosplayer from the back, joking, "His cosplay is my sales pitch for the comic. Just look at that guy! One of the biggest things that we did with John with the new June launch is we gave him a hot, sexy new de-aging and brought his age down a little bit... The very last panel of issue #2 is him looking at his phone like, 'Shite, I have to go home.' And things go great, as they always go for John."
Turning to Palmiotti, Mark Doyle said, "I was joking with ['Harley Quinn' editor] Chris [Conroy] and I said, 'So, when are you guys just going to spin off and have the Harley group? There's so much Harley happening, so much coming down the pipe."
"We introduced the gang of Harleys and we have them running around New York and destroying things with Captain Strong, which is our wonderful seaweed-eating bad guy/good guy/confused guy," Palmiotti said. "It was actually a character in the '70s. In the '70s, he ate alien seaweed, and he looked like Popeye and he started beating up Superman. Amanda wanted to parody a Nick Hardy cover that was done in 'Action Comics'... Amanda drew an exact parody of Nick Hardy's thing, and then we realized halfway through when we did it -- Amanda's like, 'How many people know what a phone booth is?' And that's the joke on the cover. He's like, 'I know you're changing in that phone booth!' And she's like, 'What's a phone booth?'
"That story wraps up in #19, and then Harley goes out to L.A. to find somebody's daughter who joined a cult. It's called 'Harleywood.' She goes out there, and she deals with -- let's just say it's Harley Quinn meets every David Lynch movie, especially 'Mulholland Drive.' You'll understand it when you do see that cowboy in it, unless they make us take it out. We're having some fun with that and she's out there for a couple issues and then back. We're working towards something by issue #25, which is the spring of next year."
"I don't want to give away too much," Palmiotti continued, "but we definitely lead to some pretty big story in #25, so much so that we have John Timms doing a couple of issues so Chad Harding could catch up with doing some of the bigger issues coming ahead. We don't want to push the artist too much; they need a break. You've got to understand they can't do 12 a year. It's almost impossible without them exploding... There's one scene on the walk of fame where there's a lot of characters dressed like other superheroes and other characters. She has a little battle with a Hello Kitty character that doesn't end well.
"Our job is to go as extreme as we can<" Palmiotti explained. "And [the editor's] job is tell us what we can't do, so we never pull back but we definitely do the age-old 'here's the most horrible thing in the world, you'll let these things go because you're focusing on that.' We do want to do a red flag issue one day that maybe Vertigo will publish. It'll just be every scene we have to cut out of a Harley comic."
In response to a fan question about the process behind "Batman Eternal," Snyder responded, "The whole team on the book works really well together. Mark was great about setting up a summit in Burbank right after San Diego, and we all had a chance to talk through the entire story and figure out what parts were suited to which writers... One of the things that's great about having Mark as a group editor is that he's very much about every having fan having a book that suits them within the Bat-line, a book in every genre for every fan, and that's been very inspiring. I think that, in 'Eternal,' we try to run it the same way, where the writers that are part of that series in some way. We want to know which neighborhood they gravitate towards, and -- when we make the big story, me and James [Tynion IV] -- we try and give them enough room to tell stories within that larger structure that allow them to play to their strengths.
"That series is a tremendous amount of fun," Snyder continued. "Genevieve works on 'Catwoman,' and if she wants to do more of the crime stuff, then we let those parts go to her. If Tim [Seeley] and Tom [King] who do 'Grayson' are sort of more into the spy stuff, then we let them do more of the espionage. There's all kinds of spy stuff. It's a very, very fun series. It's a real joy to work on, and I hope that it's a reflection of great things they've been able to do with the Bat-line. I feel like the parts of the story are singular. That was something we tried with the first 'Eternal' and we were really happy with where it was about letting everybody do an arc that suited their strength... Cass and all the characters in it are a blast to work with."
With a sly smile, Tarr said of the upcoming "Batgirl" story arc, "We just did two issues with Bat-Dad, but then I think we're on our own for the rest of the arc. There's some things. I'm not allowed to tell you."
"'Batgirl' isn't in its own universe by any means. You will start seeing people for sure," Doyle pitched in.
Asked whether Green Arrow will show up in "Black Canary," Wu refused to comment. "I feel like if I say yes, or no, or no comment, either way it's going to be a spoiler for you. So just stay tuned and keep reading!"
"One of the goals with 'Black Canary' is to make sure we establish Black Canary. It's her book, and it's Dinah's story. We need to make sure we tell that story first, and then if what's-his-name shows up -- maybe -- it'll be through Dinah's eyes," Doyle explained.
The next fan question crossed "Wytches" over into "Batman," inquiring who Snyder would pledge in the Bat-verse. "My son says he would pledge Batman. It takes me away, I'm sure, from hanging with [them]. I'm sorry, son!" he said. "Yeah, Batman would find a way out of being pledged. He would be a wytch."
Another fan brought up Damian's heritage, asking if it were possible to show his biracial background visually. Doyle took this question, saying, " He does have a very complicated background, and one that we're going to be delving much more into in 'Robin: Son of Batman.' John Kalisz, who does color that book, actually does take that into consideration. There is a subtly in the tone that he brings to Damian. Maybe we should be cranking it up more. I don't know! You know what? I'll look at it when I'm in my office on Monday."
A few of the panelists also addressed what kind of schooling is required to become a comics creator. "Be cool! Stay in school! That's a great question, because we all come from very different backgrounds," Mark Doyle said.â€¨"Some of the most accomplished people in comics didn't study any sort of art or formal writing," Ming Doyle explained. "A lot of it is just how passionate you are about self-guided study. That being said, schooling never hurts."
"More important is finding people that you can trust to show your work to," Snyder added. "For me, that was the big benefit of going to graduate school for writing. At first I thought it was going to be a degree, or it was going to be sort of the pragmatic aspects of that, like it would be finding an agent or one of those things, but none of that really mattered. Having sort of a team that you can rely on to be honest with you about your work. Writing is a very lonely profession! Even having people you can show your stuff to and know they're going to criticize it honestly, it's invaluable. That was the big benefit of school for me. I didn't know any other writers or artists at that time. Having people I could rely on was really priceless."
"As a writer, I think you have a responsibility to understand what the artist does and what they go through to get to what they do," Palmiottia said. "As a writer, I always travel for love, get your heart broken, read history, all that kind of stuff. As an artist, you can have raw talent but, at some point, training doesn't hurt. Being disciplined doesn't hurt. In comics, what a lot of people don't understand is how much discipline it takes to actually do a comic book a month, how much hard work it is. They have to draw everything. It's not an easy thing to do. So much work! To live with an artist is the best way to learn."
In response to a question about Batmobiles, Snyder shared, "I really enjoy coming up with new Batmobiles for Greg to draw for us. Greg and I had a fun conversation about that where it's like, 'What haven't we tried?' And Greg was like, 'A Bat-eighteen-wheeler. And that's a joke.' And I was like, 'No, that's not a joke.' That is his Batmobile for now. He has another one that shows up in #46, which is pretty fun. We like a plethora of Batmobiles in our book."
Azzarello also took a question about whether it's more difficult to keep stories fresh or to appease older audiences. "I think that [alienating people] is a goal. Why do something that's already been done? You've got to look at this stuff and try to make it as fresh as you possibly can, just to keep yourself interested in it. And if you [the audience] hate it? So what? There'll be another one next month."
The final question came from a Maps cosplayer who wanted to know any new information about "Gotham Academy." Doyle handled it and closed out the panel, saying, "There is new stuff that I can't talk about. With that book, it was a total experiment for us last year. We thought that were people out there like you who wanted a book like 'Gotham Academy' and you guys answered and it's doing really well for us. We're going to double down on that and we're going to start doing more 'Gotham Academy' stuff. Stay tuned!"