C2E2: DC's Batman Panel Makes 75 Years "Eternal"

DC Comics did their best to squeeze 75 years of celebration into 60 minutes Saturday afternoon at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (AKA C2E2) when their Batman panel took the stage.

There to speak about the character three quarters of a century old were MC and VP of Marketing John Cunningham who introduced "Batman" writer Scott Snyder, "Batman Eternal" writer James Tynion IV, "Eternal" artists Jason Fabok and Dustin Nguyen, "Batman & Robin" writer Peter Tomasi and artist Pat Gleason. DC's Jim Chadwick also joined in on the action.

Cunningham teased that DC would be celebrating the 75th anniversary with a special "Batman Day" at some point in July, the details of which will be announced soon. Then after a brief problem getting DC's new Batman animated shorts to play, the discussion swung to the books.

On the incoming "Grayson" book, Snyder said that after Tim Seeley's pitch - which he's a big fan of - was approved, the team came up with the marketing slogan "You think you know Nightwing, but you don't know Dick." The writer said he was unsure if DC would stick with it, but if it doesn't appear on posters, he thinks fans should lobby the publisher to use it.

Snyder continued to talk about his own "Batman" #30, showing off some of partner Greg Capullo's art on the final act of "Zero Year" where Batman fought a lion in a brutal battle. "This arc where he faces off against the Riddler in a post apocalyptic Gotham...this is a reward [for our readers.] This is the fun part," he said, thanking the fans. "F-16s are coming to Gotham, and there are explosions everywhere...this arc is meant to be fun and over the top."

The writer revealed that the scene with the lions came when the pair of creators were trying to one-up each other's ideas and Capullo said, "Let's have him burn this lion's face off!" On a personal note, Snyder said he relates to Bruce Wayne for turning his psychological trauma and anguish and turned it into something positive. "Everyone has their dark moments, and this arc has a big revelation about that for young Bruce Wayne," he said noting that under the wild fun, the story will deal with depression, anxiety and anguish. "That balance is what this is really about. It's my favorite thing we've done."

Speaking on the weekly "Batman Eternal," Tynion and Snyder said they only agreed to do the book if they could figure out a story that was big enough and mythology-breaking enough that 52 issues would feel too small to tell it and if they could expand upon the cast of Gotham City in a way that put the reader on the ground. "We approached artists we really admired and writers we really admired and said 'Let's rock out,'" Snyder said. Tynion added that the opening needed to change the entire feel of Gotham City in a moment, and that move was taking Jim Gordon off the table.

After the opening, the arc of the series will follow what happens when Gotham's classic crime organizations strike back at the vigilante who turned their playground into a haven for costumes. "This is huge in terms of how it changes everything for Batman, but this is barely beginning," Tynion said.

Fabok spoke about the task of launching the series with three big issues that set all the pieces in motion. "I wanted to go all out for these first issues. That added some extra time to draw these crazy, crazy scenes these guys wanted. I'd go 'Why are you making me draw this?' but when you'd send your pages in and watch your editors freak out, it was all worth it," he said.

Issue #4 of the series ships next week as written by John Layman and drawn by Nguyen and will start Batgirl's more adventure-based storyline as she tries to prove her father innocent. "The first three issues we view as the pilot for the TV series that is 'Batman Eternal,'" Tynion said. "In the next three issues we'll see the seeds of the other stories that will spin out of the central core." The next several issues will set up more of the long-running plotlines revolving around the crime element of the series, the supernatural and other threads vital to "Eternal."

Asked where the "Batman" #28 flashforward issue would fit into "Eternal," the panel said that it would reappear around issue #35 once Catwoman has established herself as Gotham's crime kingpin. The issue represents a turning point for that story and "Eternal" as a whole. "You can spin whole new stories out of the ways these characters adapt to the book," Snyder said, citing Catwoman's journey as particularly important for where the character will go in the future.

Tomasi and Gleason spoke about the just-announced "Robin Rises" story which will complete the "Hunt" story that's been running through their series. "It's actually not the ending where any Robin comes back. It's the beginning of a story where Robin will come back," the writer said, noting that a new Robin will be by Batman's side in December.

"Robin Rises" #1 will be marked as an "Omega" issue in July as drawn by Andy Kubert, and the December issue will be labeled as "Alpha." "Between then, Pat and I will be continuing that story as it gets crazy-ass epic. We put Batman through paces he hasn't been through before," he said. "In the New 52, you want to break some characters to humanize them. He can't be the expert detective all the time."

Tomasi revealed that in the hardcover for the "Hunt For Robin" arc, readers will see the original art from the Frankenstein issue of what was under the sheet that covered Robin's body. Gleason expressed gratitude at getting to draw so much of the DCU in this story, including an Aquaman issue which is the character he started on at DC years ago.

Chadwick spoke about "Batman '66" which continues as a digital first series. Currently, artist Jonathan Case has returned to work with writer Jeff Parker in a story that features all the major characters from the original Adam West TV show. "Why the hell is Batman laughing?" joked Tomasi.

The discussion then moved to "Batman '66 Meets The Green Hornet" - a co-production with Dynamite Entertainment written by film director Kevin Smith. "It's note perfect. It absolutely feels like it could have been on the TV show," Chadwick said. Alex Ross will paint the covers for the series and Ty Templeton will do the interior art.

The panel then got the animated shorts directed by Bruce Timm and Darwyn Cooke to play for the crowd. Watch them on CBR here and here.

Fan questions opened up with a young fan asking after a return for Rene Montoya in this year. "The key is finding the right way to reintroduce those characters," Snyder said, comparing the desire for Montoya to come back to the return of Stephanie Brown in "Eternal." The writer said that DC's mandate is that reviving a character has to back them feel very important to the world of the story. Tynion added that Montoya was almost part of "Eternal," but they didn't just want to make her a background character in the Gotham police force. "We could have done that just to say 'Hey we brought these characters back,'" Snyder said. Cunningham then added that fans of Montoya should watch Fox's drama "Gotham" when it debuts this fall.

In a discussion about spoilers and how the writers hold them back, Snyder spoke briefly about when the Joker will return to Gotham. After "Death of the Family" was a story focusing on how the Joker wanted to show Batman how much he loved him - and after it ended with the character's metaphorical death at Batman's hands - the next story featuring the Clown Prince of Crime will be about how much he hates the Dark Knight. "It was always a two-part story, but you're going to have to be patient," Snyder said.

Nguyen talked about how he's stuck with the character for so long. "You've got to love the character," he said. "My samples when I tried out at DC were Batman samples, so that tells you how I feel about him." Fabok and Gleason echoed the statement saying that drawing Batman was essentially a dream job.

The Harper Row character's new identity of Bluebird was asked after in terms of whether she'll get a solo spotlight at some point. Snyder promised the character's future would be "bigger than a mini or a one-shot."

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