DC Comics kicked off the long Comic-Con weekend with the ominously titled DC Countdown... to the End? panel. DC fans – some dressed as Batman, Superman and Red Robin-- showed up early Thuesday afternoon, slowly but surely dominating and drowning out the audience of the large meeting room's still in-progress event, which appeared, interestingly (or maybe not so interestingly), to be something having to do with "Biker Mice From Mars." The room finally filled to capacity, with no vacant seats left. But that's what we're here for, right?
In attendance were DCU Executive Editor Dan DiDio, Senior Group Editor Mike Carlin, and "Countdown" creators Paul Dini, Tony Bedard, Adam Beechen, Sean McKeever, Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti. Artists Dan Jurgens and Jim Calafiore and editor Mike Marts were also on the panel.
DiDio introduced each member of the panel one by one, concluding with "Countdown" head writer Paul Dini, who didn't have a chair, but somebody got one for him.
"We wanted to follow '52,' which was more of a world building book, with more of a world destroying book," DiDio said. "If 52 is the Academy Award-winning movie, then Countdown is the big summer blockbuster."
DiDio immediately turned the floor over to Paul Dini, asking the writer how he felt about the weekly format.
"It was pretty daunting," Dini said, explaining the extensive story sessions and character discussions. "But a fun one, also," Dini said.
Dini and Mike Marts then explained the change of "Countdown" editors from Mike Marts to Mike Carlin, who found the change not too difficult because while the Superman group editor in the 90s, he oversaw the release of a new Superman title every week. Still, the "Countdown" grind is a hard one, and Carlin did remark, "I'm going to kill Marts."
DiDio went down the panel and asked the group to detail their history with DC, as many of them have been involved with the publisher in different capacities over the years, particularly Tony Bedard, who was a DC editor in the DCU and Vertigo before going on to CrossGen.
The audience was then asked if they go to the store to buy new books every week, and the crowd responded with a pronounced applause. "I always remember the fun of seeing every new comic on the shelf and picking what I want to read," DiDio said, explaining his fondness for the weekly format.
Jimmy Palmiotti remarked that even though he gets his DC comics for free – adding that he had to buy his Marvel books while working for them – he still goes to the comic store not only to get out of the house, but to interact with people who enjoy the artform and the work he and the "Countdown" team are doing.
The applause was lukewarm, and DiDio then assured the crowd that there is a reason why Jimmy Olson knows who Jason Todd is.
When asked about Mary Marvel, the crowd reacted more favorably, and the panel promised more answers to her mysteries soon.
"When are you going to explain the Villains Countdown poster?" asked a fan.
"I think it's pretty self explanatory," DiDio joked.
"Can you tell us anything about what's going on with the Legion and the various versions running around?" asked another fan.
"There is a story to all the versions," Mike Marts assured. "By this time next year you'll have a lot more clues as to what's happening."
"Supergirl #21 and #22 touches on that," Tony Bedard indicated.
Another fan asked if Amanda Waller is involved with the appearances of Suicide Squad. A panelist remarked that it's not her pulling the strings in the DCU, but rather Dan DiDio. The fan then remarked that there is a resemblance between DiDio and Waller, earning an interesting reaction to the crowd.
"The Suicide Squad are key players in the DCU," DiDio confirmed.
"If you could take back one editorial or policy decision in all of DC's history, what would it be?" asked another fan.
"Let's do the whole panel on that question!" DiDio said.
"Even though it's one of my favorite stories of all time, I would take back crippling Barbara Gordon," said Mike Marts.
"I would have to say, taking SUperboy out of the Legion because it messed up EVERYTHING," Jurgens stated, which Tony Bedard seconded. The crowd really liked that one.
"When is Red Hood going to be Red Robin?" asked another fan.
"Soon," DiDio answered.
"Yes," the panel laughed. "The problem with Vertigo and DC, the reason they can't reconcile, is because Vertigo are mature content book. We don't want to do something in our regular line that will drive younger readers to something that isn't for them. It's not fair. We don't want to drive people to improper material for younger audiences. But we know what Vertigo represents and we want to do something that captures that style."
A fan asked if the adventures of the All Star Squadron during WWII will ever be detailed.
"Hitler was defeated," the panel said. "Sorry, spoiler!"
DiDio then confirmed that there is a project in the works for an All Star Squadron project in the current DCU.
A fan then remarked, "Jason Todd, who I voted to kill many years ago --I kind of what a refund on that-does everybody in the world know he's the Red Hood? If Jimmy can't figure out Batman is Bruce from that…"
"It's part of the Jimmy Olson story!" DiDio said.
"Is Final Crisis really going to be Crisis done the way you wish had been the first time?" asked another fan.
DiDio advised the audience to go to tomorrow's DC Nation panel for more on that question.
Is Booster Gold going to get involved at any point in Countdown?
"I think one thing we identify in 'Booster Gold' is that time is still broken," DiDio said. Dan Jurgens that confirmed that Booster will play a role in the events in Countdown, and that readers can expect more answers in "The All-New Booster Gold."
"When will we see Earth One? " asked another fan.
"We have no answer on that one, sorry," DiDio said. "Earth 4, we could have answered."
"We're governing it very tightly," DiDio said, explaining that multiverse stories will all be about New Earth characters traveling to other worlds to explore them and that there will not be multiple versions of series taking place on different Earths.
A fan tried to ask about Deadman's appearance in "Justice League of America" and how that reconciles with the Deadman in Vertigo, but DiDio ssshed him, asking that he keep quiet because he managed to get Deadman in the JL title clandestinely. DiDio then confirmed that Deadman will not have a DCU series anytime soon.
Another fan asked if anymore characters from DC animated series will be transplanted into the DCU, as Harley Quinn and Renee Montoya was. DiDio said there are no plans as of right now.
"Out of all the 52 uniuverses, is this one of them?" asked another fan.
"Yes, this is Earth You," the panel laughed.
"And it's the first one to be destroyed," DiDio said.
The panel then assured that Superman's post iCrisis origins will be fully explained.
"Is it officially a curse to be a member of Young Justice?" asked another fan.
"Well we killed all the Justice League International members, now we're working our way through Young Justice," DiDio joked.
Another fan asked, "Is the world safe for Tim Drake?"
"One of the things we've dealt with in the book is how much this life costs," Adam Beechen answered. "We've tried to build a little stability into his life in this last year, we haven't been killing as many people around him."
Along those lines, another fan asked what else can be done to Jason Todd considering that he was beaten to death with a crowbar and blown up. "Jason has a lot of unused potential and especially unused heroic potential," Dini answered, confirming that he will be developing Jason Todd as a hero.
Another Vertigo Vs. DCU question was asked, this time about referencing the Alan Moore Swamp Thing stories. "Have you met Vertigo editor Karen Berger?" DiDio asked the fan. "She's the Monitor of Earth V."
When asked what his favorite and least favorite characters, Mike Carlin remarked, "Least favorite: Blue Devil," which prompted boos from the audience. "Most favorite: Bibbo," which the crowd definitely liked.
"What is the process of killing off characters? Do you have to get a unanimous vote or something?" asked another fan.
"We discuss it, we have long discussions about it, the long term story potential," DiDio said, before indicating that readers can expect the death of a main character very soon.
DiDio later confirmed that the "Anti-Monitor" seen in the pages of "Brave New World" will definitely be explained.
"When Wally came back and he's talking to Iris West, some of her memory of the future was lost. What exactly is happening to her?" asked a fan.
DiDio answered, "A lot of it is she's aware of a lot of the future and she doesn't want to reveal it. Also we haven't made those stories up yet."
DiDio then indicated that all the Legion and other time-related mysterious in the DCU, including events surrounding Booster Gold, will all be explained in a "big Legion story" in the future.
"Are we ever going to see the DC One Million future again?" asked a fan.
"With Grant Morrison writing, you can count on it," DiDio answered.
Many questions seemed to imply a belief among the fans that Batman is going to die in "Final Crisis," which the panel seemed genuinely vexed by. A fan asked that if Batman dies in "Final Crisis," are there plans to replace him with Terry McGuinness.
The panel sat quietly and confused and then laughed, "No!"
Concluding the panel, DiDio announced that as of issue #26, "Countdown's" title will be changed to "Countdown to Final Crisis."
Now discuss this story in CBR's Countdown forum.