DC Comics kicked off their weekend of Comicon discussion panels with “Batman: Year Of The Bat,” featuring Bob Schreck (Editor), Bill Willingham (writer, “Robin,” “Fables”), Greg Rucka (writer, “Gotham Central,” “Omac Project”), Joey Cavilleri (Editor), and a tardy but most welcome Jim Lee (“All-Star Batman & Robin”).
The consistently jovial panel began with Greg Rucka’s announcement of a forthcoming stand-alone issue of the critically acclaimed “Gotham Central” will be illustrated by his “Whiteout” co-creator Steve Leiber. The second pairing of the two creators on the title, it will, believe it or not, tie in quite directly with “Infinite Crisis.”
“Four words,” Rucka teased. “Shazam. In. Gotham. City.”
Enthusiastic Bill Willingham invited audience members to confront him about his controversial “Robin” storylines.
“So I can shift the blame.”
The Year Of The Bat panel brought forth several announcements of Batman projects by creators not normally associated with the character. “Legends of the Dark Knight” editor Joey Cavilieri was pleased to announce an upcoming three-issue story written by Will Pfifer (“Who writes everything else not written by Geoff and Greg …”) and illustrated by Chris Weston, as well as a special double-sized issue written by Eddie Campbell with art by Bart Sears. Even more enticing was Bob’s Shreck’s announcement of “Batman: Year 100,” a prestige format four-issue miniseries starting early next year by writer/artist Paul Pope (“100%,” “Heavy Liquid”).
Schreck talked shop briefly before the Q&A, explaining that DC is no longer working in their traditional editorial structure.
“It’s an interesting switch-up of players,” Schrek remarked. Previously, titles had been categorized into groups and were overseen by a Group Editor and his subordinates. “We’re no longer in groups, but in two-man teams. Pete Tomasi is editing ‘Detective Comics’ and ‘Batman,’ but has no purview over ‘Robin’ or the other Bat-titles. It’s an experiment. Change is inevitable. Life is change, and if you don’t know that right now … leave.”
When asked whether or not Willingham’s “War Crimes” would affect “Gotham Central,” Rucka answered that he didn’t know, as he hasn’t actually seen the story.
“What we try to do is put together stories so if you want to play,” Bob Shreck interjected. “You can play with it, but if you don’t you don’t have to.”
“One of the things we’re trying to do with ‘War Crimes,'” Willingham added, “Is get a new Batman out of it. We’ve had the biff boom pow Batman, and for a long time we’ve had the grim n’ gritty Batman. What we’re trying to do is introduce the warm and hugging Batman.”
“Come on, Joker! Let’s hug it out!” Rucka joked.
The crowd became noticably tense when one fan thought to ask about whether the One Year Later post-“Infinite Crisis” plot device would yield any new titles, and whether or not existing titles would be renumbered, similar to Marvel’s events in the past. Renumbering critics can relax, as that will not be happening post-“Infinite Crisis.”
“To the best of my knowledge,” Schreck said.
Likewise, the “All-Star” books won’t affect the regular Batman or Superman titles.
“I think DC is a remarkably brave company,” Rucka said. “We have the characters with the longest supehero legacy. DC has to preserve those legacies, but at the same time does really courageous stuff. [With the ‘All-Star’ books] everyone can get the Batman they think of. With that freedom, over in the main DCU, that will allow us to test the boundaries a little more. Some writers bitch and moan about this, but these are not our characters. They are licensed characters. They are far bigger than any writer here.”
Jim Lee arrived to tremendous applause, proclaiming that he had just finished issue 5 of “All-Star Batman & Robin.”
“No, really!” the artist said. “I started at midnight last night and finished at 7 a.m. this morning. I sent it in but if the file is corrupt, just let me know and I’ll resend it … in a couple days.” Bob Schreck seemed particularly receptive to that joke, while Rucka praised Lee for his ingenious ass-covering.
Predictiably, Rucka was asked if he holds any ill-will towards Keith Giffen and his much-beloved run on the “Justice League” family of titles in the ’80s and early ’90s.
“In all honesty, I love those characters,” Rucka answered. “I love that run. But I’m of the school that says you never kill a character you don’t like. As much as you might hate it, there is one person out there who lives and dies on that character. You only kill the ones it hurts to get rid of.” Rucka went on to say that only a few months ago, he was complaining to an editor that not only fans would get the idea that he disliked Giffen’s JL run, but that he truly feared Giffen himself would be offended. But Giffen, upon hearing of Rucka’s distress, placed a call to the guilt-ridden writer.
“KILL ‘EM ALL! OF COURSE MAX WOULD DO THAT!”
One poor audience member began his question by explaining that he lives in a national park, and that as such, he only gets new comics every Christmas.
“WHAT IS UP WITH JASON TODD!?”
“NO COMMENT!” Rucka yelled.
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