While the DC Comics on the stands are currently undergoing a Convergence, the talk from the publisher at the Chicago Comics And Entertainment Expo (or C2E2 to you) looked forward to DC's impending June relaunch. Friday afternoon at The New DC Universe panel, a coalition of creators bringing new series and new approaches to some of the company's classic characters led the charge.
As things got underway with "Batman Eternal" writer James Tynion, "Catwoman" writer Genevieve Valentine, "Harley Quinn" co-writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti and "We Are Robin" artist Khary Randolph taking the stage.
The panel started out by discussing June's returning "Harley Quinn" #17 where Conner explained the book would focus on its lead "being a professional doctor and a non-professional psychopath" in order to "save all the animals in the world." To accomplish that goal, Harley makes a team of Harley's gathered from across the span of Manhattan's five boroughs. Palmiotti explained that the cover to the issue is an homage to "We Are Robin" #1 saying, "We thought we'd make fun of a cover that comes out probably the same week." For older fans, a variant joking on the death of the phone booth is an homage to a classic '70s DC cover featuring forgotten Superman villain Captain Strong. "The seaweed went to his brain," Palmiotti said. The story from issue #17 and 18 finds the gang of Harley's chasing down the Captain in a Coney Island bar and hijinx ensuing.
In Harley spinoff news, "Harley Quinn and Power Girl" launches on June 17. The six-issue mini series is a story that takes place in between moments of the well-received "Harley Quinn" arc where the character teamed up with a brainwashed Power Girl. "It's a whole two-weeks worth of adventures that take place between those two panels," Conner said, crediting Palmiotti with the high concept. "If you remember the original 'Power Girl' series, she was the perfect straight man, and everyone around her was nuts. So she seemed the perfect straightman for Harley...because Power Girl is so stoic. I think that's why they work as such a good team because Power Girl is always going, 'Stop killing people.' They play really well off each other."
"It's a lot like life in our house," Palmiottii joked of the married couple's creative life.
The additional new June series launching from the pair is "Starfire" which has a different tone than the comedic "Harley," but is still a lighter book for DC. "She's a fish out of water. She's from an alien planet, and she doesn't know anything about earth and is trying to fit in. She's trying to understand earth culture and doesn't understand a lot of it, but htings get very confused. But she's very smart, and a lot of time, she saves the day," said Conner.
The series is set in Key West, Florida near where the New York natives now live. "The fun of Key West is that she's orange, and everyone else there is too," Palmiotti joked. Conner said that a whole new cast of supporting characters will be introduced with the locale, and all of them will end up playing the straightman to Star. In addition, issue #3 will see the arrival of a DC face from Starfire's past.
Tynion shifted topics to talk about his incoming work co-writing "John Constantine: The Hellblazer" with Mind Doyle (with artist Riley Rossmo). He said the team wanted to show a Constantine that was "vibrant, alive and dangerous" where fans were drawn to the excitement of who John Constantine is in a modern context. "This is the John that you see at the end of the bar, and you don't know whether you want to have a conversation with him because you think it might destroy your life...and you're right,"
Particularly noteworthy for the series is the reintroduction of the name "Hellblazer" to the series. Tynion said that the change was meant to reflect the fact that the series would be returning to the horror roots of the character's long Vertigo run. While his New 52 iteration had explored his place in the DCU after years on the side, this series will be one where "We are going to be focused very much on John. there will be touches of the familiar, but there won't be a lot of guest stars showing up."
Khary Randolph spoke to the tone of the "We Are...Robin" series, comparing it to the Batman gang scenes of "The Dark Knight Returns" with "V For Vendetta" with a little bit of hip hop flourishes thrown in. Lee Bermejo is writing the book and providing covers while Randolph and Rob Haynes take on the interiors. "I want to gritty it up a little bit so it's not as clean as the stuff I want to do," he said.
The story focuses on a boy named Duke -- appearing first in "Batman" #38 -- who is inducted into the Robin gang in a somewhat violent manner. "There's stuff with cops. There's a lot of kind of political things as well. It's topical. It's fun," said the artist.
"Wonder Woman" artist David Finch then joined the panel to talk about the incoming Annual #1. He called the issue "basically a big fight between Wonder Woman and Donna Troy for most of the issue...it's very rare that I get to choreograph a big fight scene page-by-page, blow-by-blow," he said.
The artist said that with June's "Wonder Woman" #42, he wanted to give the character a costume that was less stereotypical and more practical -- in line with the costumes of the men of the Justice League. "It was hard to give her pants without giving her pants," he said, adding that the relationship with Donna Troy will continue to evolve. "It's not going to be easy."
The new arc will also introduce a new mystery character teased by Finch's latest cover.
Panel moderator Heath Corson then switched places with Palmiotti so he could talk about his work writing the incoming "Bizarro" series. "The concept for the 'Bizarro' book is it's Jimmy Olsen and Bizarro in 'Planes, Trains & Automobiles,'" he said, noting the strange land they'll travel to is Canada.
Valentine then spoke about the continuation of her new take on "Catwoman" as the boss of bosses in the Gotham mob saying, "The more you think about it, the more it makes sense. She doesn't like dealing with everybody, but she absolutely likes getting shit done. So all you've got to do is put her in charge of everybody," she said. "I was really excited where at the end of the first arc, she realized that to get things done, she had to become Selina Kyle and Catwoman both again. So now she'll be back in the costume."
By day, the character will be the mob boss trying to make a difference, but "At the same time, she's always going to have an agenda that is very personal. So at night, she'll be taking up the Catwoman cowl again to fight some of her worst impulses as a mob boss." That dual life will lead Selina to face off again against her "Batman Eternal" foil Spoiler. "I think it's a great time to do this because it's the absolute worst time for Selina, and Steph just does not care. She wants what she wants," the writer said.
As fan questions got underway, Palmiotti and Conner said there were no immediate plans for Starfire's former teammates Red Hood and Arsenal to appear in the book. Similarly, Palmiotti said that questions of whether Starfire would explore classic territory like a relationship with Dick Grayson, saying, "Eventually, we'll do some things that go back, but for now she's got to be in a new book that feels that way at the launch,"
Randolph said that "We Are...Robin" would be taking a huge amount of influence from the cult film "The Warriors" -- the mention of which prompted Palmiotti to note, "The Brooklyn gang won."
Tynion had no idea what would happen with NBC's "Constantine," but he said the team of the new book wanted to bring the character back to his very internally-focused Vertigo roots.
Conner said that Starfire would not be promiscuous in the way she was portrayed in "Red Hood & The Outlaws," though the new solo series would address the fact that she has less hangups about sexuality than most earthlings -- mostly with people telling her how she has to dress to match earth decorum.
Asked whether "Convergence" would have an impact on their series, Palmiotti said that while some books in the line would be, none of theirs were because they had been working on the launch for months in advance in order to provide a totally new starting point for their characters.
Tynion and Valentine said that the new approach to the Batman line from Editor Mark Doyle was to make the entire world of Gotham "more elastic" so many different kinds of stories could exist next to each other.
Conner said that "Starfire" will be drawing some inspiration from the original Marv Wolfman and George Perez "New Teen Titans" series as well as other past sources, calling it "an amalgam" approach.
To wrap the panel, Corson called onto stage writer Brian Azzarello to a round of applause. The teased that three letters would be coming up in at DC: "DK3" -- then confirming that "Dark Knight Returns 3" is in the works.
"For the past six months, I've been working with Frank Miller to bring the next chapter in the 'Dark Knight' to light. It's been humbling. I've learned a lot, and I call him sensei. It's a really, really big project," the writer said.