CCI, Day 2: "52"- A Year in the Life of the DCU

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Dan Didio opened up DC Comic's "52" panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego by introducing the panelists: editor Steve Wacker, writers Geoff Johns, the "Eighth Soldier of Victory" Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, and Greg Rucka, and artists Chris Bautista and J.G. Jones.

Didio started with a brief history of the impetus for "52." "We created a very cohesive universe, and we wanted to get all the books back into business again," and DC's intent was to get away from "Infinite Crisis" ASAP, so there was "One Year Later." To chronicle the missing year, the idea was to release a series of specials, but DC President Paul Levitz didn't like jump. However, he said, "I love the show '24.'" He wanted to create "a real-time comic, a weekly comic." And "52" was born. As a side note, Didio said that Greg wanted to write them all, but "we knew we had to create a team."

And so, they "created a rock band for comic books."

According to Rucka, "you get better ideas, because everyone's throwing everything at the wall."

And Morrison: "It's like a band of brothers, someone gets shot, we're all diving in the way of the bullet."

Waid added, "Just because four of us are working on the book, it's not 1/4 the work, sadly. But it's rewarding as hell."

Bringing the panel to the artists' side, Didio mentioned that to keep the art reasonably uniform, Keith Giffen does the breakdowns for each issue. Didio then asked Chris Bautista what it was like to work from someone else's breakdowns.

"It's a bit of an adjustment." Batista said, "You can learn a lot from the eyes of another guy, like, I never would have thought of that, and sometimes you have no idea how to do it."

There's also mention of a book that will collect all of J.G. Jones' covers (he's doing them all) from "52."

Rucka says that the covers are amazing.

"If he puts in his sketches, you'll see the process. He'll put out four or five potential cover sketches for a week, and then you'll see the one image, and we'll be like, 'that's it.'"

Jones is also doing some of the character designs and redesigns for '52,' adding, "it's pure party time for me. Thanks for paying me for that!"

Discussion then turned to the new back-up feature for "52," the two-page secret origins of the DC Universe's major players. Waid is writing them all, and even with some of these characters having 50 years or more of history, Rucka says, "he hits it every time."

For the rest of the panel, Steven Wacker randomly called out artists on the feature as he remembered them. These included Eric Powell on Metamorpho, George Perez on Nightwing, Jerry Ordway on Wildcat. Other artists mentioned included Brian Bolland (who has done three of them), Kevin Nolan, Adam and Andy Kubert, and Ivan Reis.

At that point, Didio opened the floor for questions.

One fan wondered why Wonder Girl seemed so out of character and zombified by the Cult of Conner. "Keep reading. Those are all fair, honest questions."

Regarding the Barbara Gordon Batgirl, Didio said to, "ask that at tomorrow's DC panel."

Talky Tawny will appear in issue #16 of "52." Mr. Banjo will be in the backups for "Tales of the Unexpected."

The question of Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon's relationship "will be addressed in another project," and Nightwing's relationship with the Outsiders, "will be dealt with pretty soon."

Next up was a "former Marvel fan," that came over mostly due to DC's fair treatment of gay/lesbian characters. He was concerned that not as many people of color writing were people of color in the DC Universe. Rucka responded that he wants more diversity, too. Everyone's pursuing it, but, "we're not going to tokenize it. I think far too many people have done that."

The team believes that it's not enough to say we need more ethnic and social minorities, and that creators need to give those people purpose in the books. "Renee Montoya in '52' is a lesbian and a Latina. But those are part of her character, she's not our 'gay hispanic' character. She's a person, she's Renee. Those are elements of the character," Morrison said. "She's also Roman Catholic."

When the fan protested, "You're still a white man writing --" Morrison leapt in, "You're tokenizing me, I'm not a white man, I'm a Scot!"

The next fan asked if, after week 52, the band was going to break up. Morrison was quick to respond, "Nope, the second album's coming soon."

Fans will find out why Kathy Kane is more qualified to be Batwoman than Renee Montoya. According to Rucka, Montoya's not a "female Bruce Wayne." She would never put on a costume, she's a cop. It's not in her character.

Morrison was asked what heroes need a spiritual overhaul in the DC Universe, and he responded that "Animal Man is the poster boy for that." But all the heroes "want to help us, and there's automatically something spiritual about that." It's not about making them all New Age Mystics.

The Legion Of Superheroes may show up in "52." Rucka had a sudden revelation, seemingly during the panel, of how to do it.

If the "52" writing team was the Beatles, Grant would be John, Geoff would be Paul, and out of Rucka and Waid, whomever "despised Ringo less" would be him.

A suggestion that Rip Hunter's blackboard, and the comment "Where is the son of Superman?" could herald the return of Hypertime, Didio at first feigned ignorance of what Hypertime was, then said, "good question." (Superman and Wonder Woman's son from "The Kingdom" miniseries was the guardian of Hypertime).

Black Adam will not be changing back into Teth Adam.

Asked about ideas they won't be using in "52," Rucka mentioned the idea for a Humanist religion that "came about as result as Conner's death." It morphed into the Conner cult, but that doesn't mean it won't turn into something resembling the original idea later. Waid mentioned that they're constantly finding ways of fitting initially discarded ideas in.

The mysteries of "52" will not be heavy-handed, they will play fair with the reader.

Rucka said "the funniest thing in all '52,' is Grant's opening to week 23."

A heavy-handed question about whether "the 52" are around one year later provoked disagreement in Grant and Greg. Grant said no, but Greg assured "yes, the 52 ARE around one year later."

Dan Didio turned the question around on the questioner and asked who he thought "the 52" were. "They're the 52 characters changed during 'Infinite Crisis,'" said the fan. Didio remarked, "Good theory."

Super Chief and Ambush Bug will be appearing in "52." We will also see the foundations of the new Checkmate. But Wally West's family story will be dealt with "elsewhere."

Morrison revealed that we will soon see some new super-characters from Japan: "Crazy kids who want to be superheroes ... Most Excellent Superbat!"

Lex will be dealing with the death of Conner "some in '52,' but mostly in "Action Comics.'"

We will also see the Red Dart.

Kathy Kane is related to Betty Kane.

Regarding how evil Lex Luthor is, and how Natasha Irons and the population in general doesn't realize it, Rucka said, "Are you a voter? You understand how these things can happen." Wild applause ensued.

Finally, we will see the New Gods "a little" in "52," but there will be a big New Gods appearance later. It will be in keeping with their appearance in Morrison's recent "Mr. Miracle" series.

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