DC Comics' Batman may have made the biggest publishing news yesterday at the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo (or C2E2) with the word of Frank Miller's return to the world of "The Dark Knight Returns," but there was more discussion of the Caped Crusader to go around as Saturday's programming got underway.
"Batman" writer Scott Snyder took the mic to moderate the "Caped Crusaders, Dynamic Duos and Darkest Knights" panel. Joining him on stage were "Batman Eternal" writer James Tynion, Ray Fawkes and more.
Snyder opened the discussion by thanking the fans for their support on the risks the Bat-line has been taking and will continue to mix up moving into DC's June relaunch. He said he and artist Greg Capullo were surprised and heartened that new issues like "Batman" #40 would earn sellout status via comic shops even four years into their run.
Kicking the ball across the panel, Tynion spoke about the response to the weekly series "Batman Eternal." "It started pretty much a year ago, and only the first three issues were out at C2E2 last year. To see people who came and got those signed last year come back with the finale this year was amazing," he said. "Gotham has the best toybox in all of comics. It's got the best cast of characters in history. We wanted to take out all our favorite toys and break them in weird ways so that they could never tell the same kind of stories again."
Tynion explained that their goal was to make a vibrant new Gotham City without losing the core of what made the landscape the best in comics to begin with -- stressing moves like the return of Spoiler, the introduction of Julia Pennyworth and the rise of Catwoman to the head of the city's crime. "The only way we would have been able to do this was with this absolutely incredible team," he said.
Fawkes then spoke to his place in the line that editor Mark Doyle masterminded. "We wanted to make sure there was a Gotham book for every kind of fan," he said, noting that his "Gotham By Midnight" was meant to be the horror book of the line. "We thought it would be cool to bring in some of the cops and Jim Corrigan who was in 'Eternal,' and it was a risk...but you can expect some more extremely dark stories in this book." While the first arc of the series was about Corrigan as the Spectre judging Gotham in a "Sodom and Gomorrah" style scenario. Now that it has survived, the second arc will be about Corrigan's cops making an attempt to pull Gotham back from the brink of depravity so it won't face Biblical judgement in the future.
"Detective Comics" writer Brian Buccellato then took the mic, showing off the cover to the incoming issue with Francis Manapul featuring a robotic Batman hanging from a blimp. While he wouldn't explain that, he said that the book would soon include much more Harvey Bullock and Renee Montoya. After that reveal, Snyder decided to go all in talking about the new face of Gotham in June.
"I had this idea to do something new," he said. "As I was getting towards the end of 'Endgame,' I realized there was a way to change the line into something new. The line right now is all about risk...we're all trying to do things that change the Bat mythology. But I would swear on my kids that we would never -- any of us -- change anything if we didn't think we were giving you a better take on the core of who these characters are."
The new take on the Batman mythology starting in June became a collaborative effort where Snyder pitched his take on who would wear the new armored costume while other creators added elements like Manapul adding the blimp or other creators adding new twists about their cast to the mix. "We were in lockstep," Snyder said.
The publishing plan for the launch is for "Batman" #40 to arrive on Wednesday and then the new status quo to be spelled out in the "Divergence" one-shot DC is releasing on Free Comic Book Day. Addressing the new gun that the armored Batman carries, Snyder said, "It shoots Batarangs, and it's bad ass" to allay fears that the character would break Bruce Wayne's rule against firearms. The writer then showed off some penciled pages from Capullo's work in issue #41 say, "It doesn't look that bunny-ish there. It's pretty Gundam."
He also revealed that there is a new Batsuit underneath the armor. "It's amazing. Greg designed it, and it's incredible," he said. "When I saw his design for 'Zero Year' with the purple gloves, I loved it, but this is even better."
As fan questions opened up, someone asked about the sequel to "Eternal." Tynion said, "'Batman Eternal' was a big success for DC, and it's a fair guess that we'll be doing something similar." Snyder then decided to reveal more because he would get in less trouble for spoiling things. "We went into 'Eternal' not knowing how to write a 52-issue series, but we're incredibly proud of how it came out. So we're definitely talking about doing a second year, and because it's the 75th anniversary of Robin next year, one thing we've been talking about is doing a story focused on all the Robins...we're really thrilled about it, and we're talking about it now."
Asked how that plan would affect Dick Grayson, the panel said he would have a major role to play with the Batman family at some point in the future.
Snyder said that the upcoming stories in "Batman" would address the potential class conflicts that exist between the billionaire Bruce Wayne and the largely poor people he beats up. The story would look at this through the eyes of Thomas -- the young African American Gothamite who plays a major role in the "We Are...Robin" series coming up.
A young woman expressed that a lot of fans who were ignored in the past b DC Comics are now getting their due with the new wave of books that are coming out in January. But, she said, when will they bring Cassandra Cain back? The panel got very quiet at this point, and Tynion eventually said that the fans supporting Stephanie Brown's return is what led to Spoiler's return in "Eternal" and that they also see a similar wave of support for the other former Batgirl.
Asked what would become of the villains who are fighting on Batman's side of the war with Joker in "Endgame," Snyder said that the original Bat rogues would spread across the various books this summer, noting, "We're going to try for a real mix in June of classic villains and new villains. We have a new villain in 'Batman,' but other books are trying to reinvent some classic villains in interesting ways."
Asked about the future of Damian Wayne, Tynion spoke up for Pat Gleason's incoming "Robin: Son of Batman" series as a story about classic Damian traveling the world and having insane adventures. Snyder said, "This is a character who deserves his own book...what Pat has come up with is so good. It's world-traveling Damian with his Man-Bat friend."