C2E2: DC Comics All Access Panel

Taking a cue from their latest volley of promotional videos, DC Comics opened up their weekend of programming at the 2014 Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (AKA C2E2) with a DC All Access Panel on Friday afternoon.

SVP of Marketing John Cunningham led the panel which included "Wonder Woman" and "Future's End" writer Brian Azzarello, "Superman/Wonder Woman" writer Charles Soule, "Future's End" writer Dan Jurgens, "Acton Comics" writer Greg Pak, "Batman Eternal" writer Kyle Higgins, "Earth 2" artist Nicola Scott and "Batman" writer Scott Snyder.

Things started out with a reminder that 2014 marks the 75th Anniversary of Batman, which DC is celebrating with the first of three weekly series in the form of "Batman Eternal." Snyder said he wanted to the story to be "so crazy and big that it could only fit in 50+ issues" and "really make Gotham experiential." Snyder said they wanted to create new characters like the man who wrote the book on the Joker or the janitor at Arkham Asylum in order to make the city feel like a real place. Snyder promised that the book would "radically shift" the landscape of Batman's world with its story which reintroduces characters like Stephanie "Spoiler" Brown. The writing team of the book is already past the 30-issue mark and is currently crafting the home stretch.

The writer went on to talk about the continuing origin of the Dark Knight in "Batman's" "Zero Year" story arc. The final third features a post-apocalyptic Gotham ruled by the Riddler who's holding the island hostage until someone can match him in a game of wits. "It's really Batman, Lucious and Jim Gordon [who] need to find a way to stop him," he said. "It's definitely the craziest thing we've ever tried and also the most personal to me...it has a very big revelation about [Batman's] past as a young boy." He also called the story a thank you to fans who have supported him and artist Greg Capullo through multiple massive story arcs. "I literally just finished it on the plane on the way here."

Snyder also spoke about "Superman Unchained" with Jim Lee. "It's going a little slower than we expected, but it's still going strong," the writer said, noting that they're about to do the big battle issues including one where the villain Wraith attacks DC's trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman in the Batcave. When planning the fight, Snyder said that he and Lee were talking about things to smash when the artist asked, "Has anyone ever thrown the dinosaur before?"

After speaking about how C2E2 was not only his first show as a creator when only one issue of his Vertigo series "American Vampire" was out - "we were at a table trying to give it away...'Stephen King helped us on it!'" he quipped - as well as the convention where he was offered Batman, Snyder spoke about his return to "American Vampire." In the "Second Cycle" series that just launched, he and artist Rafael Albuquerque are crafting the second act of the series where "Every monster in the world against the devil." After that, the pair will send vamps towards the space program in 1960s America. Snyder also talked up his "The Wake" series where artist Shaun Murphy hatched a plan to let the heroine ride a dolphin down an avalanche.

The talk then shifted down the panel as Dan Jurgens joked that he realized "Aquaman & The Others" "should have had a dolphin riding down an avalanche." The writer continued to explain that the series will explore the mystic Atlantean artifacts that empower the team created by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis. He noted that "We have some expansion going forward that we can build on a little bit" with more mystic Atlantean gold whose weapons have never been revealed.

That series will also lead into the next DC weekly series "Future's End" which launches on Free Comic Book Day. Written by Jurgens, Azzarello, Keith Giffen and Jeff Lemire. The difference between the writer's styles is "what helps build a stronger story," Jurgens said. He felt the feel of the book which features Batman Beyond returning to a DCU set five years after the present wasn't homogenized thanks to the team.

"This book right now is very dark...and for me to say that?" joked Azzarello in his curmudgeonly style. "There's been a lot of fights, but good fights...I don't know how to make this sound fun because it really hasn't been fun. It's been a real journey. It's been arduous....but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter how difficult it was for us to do it because you're going to just freak. I envy you because you're there and I'm here."

Azzarello also spoke about the impending "Wonder Woman" story about the Battle For Olympus. "We did an outline, and we're sticking to the outline...so we've maybe got five more issues and then we're done," he said. "I'm really going to miss this book. I'm going to miss her." The writer spoke on his collaborator Cliff Chiang saying, "I think I've worked closer with Cliff than any other artist I've ever worked with...just because English is his first language."

The talk shifted then to "Superman/Wonder Woman" which is about to move into the "Doomed" crossover. Soule spoke about his leads and their possibility for happiness saying, "If they get too happy for too long, the book sort of finishes." He added that next is Doomsday which "is not happy stuff." The crossover between this title, "Superman" and "Action Comics" shows the villain who once killed Superman (in a publishing sense if no longer a continuity one) on the rampage.

Soule also spoke about his run on "Swamp Thing" where the main character is soon to confront a deadly disease during his quest to save the earth's plantlife. "The book very much has a global scope. Anything can happen," he said talking about Lady Weeds - the half antagonist/half ally of Swamp Thing who once held Alec Holland's powers and caused the Irish Potato Famine as a result. Additionally, Vandal Savage will appear in the series to show the long scope of the DC earth's history. "This book has a lot going on." Aquaman will appear in the upcoming #32 where Swamp Thing will change his look to a more seaweed-like form as he travels to the ocean's bottom.

In "Red Lanterns," Soule played up the wild and wacky nature of the book including Guy Gardner's mustache and more seriously, Kara Zor-El's joining of the corps that is driven by anger. Meanwhile, Atrocitus awaits in the background for a battle with Guy but not before the real-life lawyer Soule can bring in his latest legal-themed character in The Judge.

Greg Pak then took over talking about his "plot-first" writing on "Action Comics" for artist Aaron Kuder who is currently also writing DC's "Superboy." Pak explained that each new issue of "Action" leads to hour-long story conferences between the two where they break down each issue beat-by-beat. "It's a really gratifying way to work. I'm able to look at what he's done on those character's faces and find the words after he's drawn them," he said. The most recent issue #30 leads into the "Doomed" one-shot by Soule before the story continues in "Action" #31, "Superman/Wonder Woman" #8 and "Superman" #31. Pak noted that he'll be introducing a new version of Steel - a vague tease indeed - in "Action" #31 as well as some action with Lois Lane and Krypton. Lois will also appear in Soule's issues of "Superman/Wonder Woman" as he's made an effort to not play into fan debates over "Who Superman should be with" when putting the two women on the page together.

The writers promised that "Doomed" will feature a very different kind of story from the original "Death of Superman" tale, and Pak promised that by the end of the one-shot opening, the differences will be clear.

Pak will welcome guest writer Jeff Lemire to "Batman/Superman" #10 for a story which will introduce the New 52 Atom. When Pak returns, he has a plan for a story that will team Batman with Lois Lane and Superman with Catwoman. "It's interesting to see characters who are built to interact with other characters, but when you switch them around it's a whole new dymanic...it's going to be a lot of hijinx and crazy things going on."

Nicola Scott spoke about her collaboration with Tom Taylor on "Earth 2," and she explained that the writer has added a sense of humor to the very serious series in the form of characters line Jimmy Olson. But the battle will continue as Green Lantern rallies the troops soon. "There is stuff coming, and I don't even know how to talk about it...it's crazy," she said. The artist joked that she was happy to "sneak in a butt shot" of Alan Scott in a recent issue - her own version of the infamous "brokeback pose" often employed on female comic book characters. She also spoke to the long-in-development "Earth 2" spinoff which has morphed into DC's third weekly series. "At the very end of issue #26, which is the August issue, stuff goes down...some things we've been planning since the very beginning," she said. Originally, Taylor was going to write a spinoff series about Batman before he took over the whole cast, and she said "It's been pretty tricky...he's done an incredibly good job of finding a way for everyone to have their own moment while also subtly breaking out our core team who are kind of reuniting."

The artist added that Superman is Taylor's favorite here and if the writer could only write shiny, happy tales with the Man of Steel, Lois and Krypto, he would. But in the meantime, the writer who also helms DC's digital series "Injustice: Gods Among Us" has thrown himself into two versions of evil Superman with glee.

Higgins spoke about his run on "Batman Beyond 2.0" saying that the current Justice Lords crossover will lead into a story that gives the answers as to how Bruce Wayne and Terry McGinnis saw their partnership crumble. "I know everyone always says this, but I really think we're going to break the internet on this one," he said. Before that, the Justice Lords arc will see Terry teaming up with an alternate universe version of himself who is essentially a douchebag.

The panel wrapped with each panelist giving a DC recommendation that they do not work on.

Soule: "The Wake...that's one hell of a book."Pak: "Wonder Woman...I'm a sucker for anything mythological."Scott: "Wonder Woman as well...the hardbacks are the only ones I'm keeping."Higgins: "Wonder Woman...but for Cliff [so Brian got no more praise on the panel.]"Jurgens: "Batman Beyond"Azzarello: "I don't read comic books...but when I do I read Trillium."Snyder: "Green Arrow is one of the comics that Jeff [Lemire] is doing that's just reinventing the character."

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