This past Comic-Con International in San Diego was a newsworthy one for DC Comics, with the surprise announcement that Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham were teaming for Arkham Asylum 2, a sequel of sorts to the seminal 1989 graphic novel Arkham Asylum by Morrison and Dave McKean -- this one featuring the adult Damian Wayne from 2007’s Batman #666.
The publisher also made Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 2 official, by Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette, and gave a glimpse more of its vision for the future of stalwart mature readers imprint Vertigo -- with former Batman group editor Mark Doyle, one of the highest-profile editors in the industry, in place as Executive Editor of both Vertigo and the Young Animal imprint.
On the show floor last month, CBR talked with DC Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee about all of the above and more, including when teases of the return of Legion of Super-Heroes might pay off, what the recently debuted (and universally acclaimed) Mister Miracle may mean for the New Gods as a whole, the importance to sticking to a $2.99 cover price when possible and the future of off-the-wall crossovers like the DC/Looney Tunes and DC/Hanna-Barbera one-shots from earlier this year.
CBR: Dan, Jim, let's talk some of the news from the convention -- staring with the announcement of Arkham Asylum 2, which was not something anyone necessarily expected to hear. That came along with news of the second volume of Wonder Woman: Earth One. It's not like Grant Morrison had been out of DC fold, but this is more new stuff from him than we've heard about in a while. What does that mean for DC to have these books coming up?
Dan DiDio: We always knew Grant would be doing Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 2. That's been in production now for about six to eight months with Yanick. They've got about 40 to 50 pages of art done.
Jim Lee: We showed it at the panel, Yanick's also posted it on social media.
DiDio: That one's been under way, we just didn't want to announce it too far in advance because we knew how long the first one took. [Laughs]
But Arkham Asylum 2 is something Grant's been talking to us about for a while. It's a story he's been wanting to tell. He never thought he would, but he finally felt he got the right spin for it. It really is more of an extension of his Batman run. It's not something that stands apart from the line -- it actually makes sense if you follow the continuity he was creating with Batman and Damian back to #666. I think that's what makes it a lot of fun, because it really is something he has a lot of pride in, and a lot of interest to still go out there and tell more stories of Batman. We'll always be excited to publish it.
Lee: The funny thing was, yesterday, walking through the Hilton, I ran into Chris Burnham. "Congratulations on doing it!" He's like, "Yeah, I heard I'm doing it too!" But he had talked to Grant about it before -- they just hadn't figured out exactly when they would do it.
We're thrilled to have Grant do work for us. He's super-busy, he's got this Happy! show that he's working on. But DC fans love him. When we brought him on stage as a surprise guest, the place just went crazy. The fact that he still has these amazing stories that he wants to tell, and is building off of something that was a huge book back in , is really exciting.
Let's talk a bit about Vertigo, which seems to be gaining something of a renewed focus. We've talked before about how that line has been something of a challenge to build up in recent years, and putting Mark Doyle in the position as executive editor is a sign of how much DC wants Vertigo to grow. What's your philosophy of what makes Vertigo important in 2017, and what you're hoping to see from its future?
Lee: With someone like Mark coming in, and hiring new staffers in addition to the people that he's got with Jamie Rich and Molly Mahan, I think this commitment on the company's part that this is something that has to thrive. We have a couple of books that we are continuing through the year, obviously Astro City and John Ridley's The American Way: Those Above and Those Below, Everafter, but really look for a fresh slate of new content in 2018.
That's all I can really share with you at this point, other than that it will be a mix of some of the premier Vertigo creators, and a lot of new material, as well. A fresh direction.
Looking at the main superhero line, one of the big changes that Rebirth has brought is sticking to a price point of $2.99 for many of the titles. It must be a challenge given cover prices going up across the industry -- why do you see it as important for DC to hold onto that price?
DiDio: I feel it's really important. I think once DC goes to $3.99, it could start a decline in the industry in a way that just makes it unaffordable to people. We put out a lot of books and we sell a lot of product. Everything we do is to try and be more inclusive and bring more people in, not be exclusive. I could give you every reason that we could raise the price -- it makes a little bit more money for the retailer, we don't have to sell as many books. That's not the right way to go. We have to challenge ourselves to make ourselves better, to have more people reading, than finding ways to have less people buying. $2.99 is a key, important part for this.
It's interesting -- we could be in New York or Los Angeles and the $3.99 price is a little more palatable there. But if you go to some other areas of the country, it's not. These people are making hard choices, and now all of a sudden they're saying, "I can't buy it." The problem is, when someone leaves comics, they don't leave just one book, they leave the industry. We're seeing too many people do that these days. We've got to find more reasons to keep people buying and bring people back to buying. That's what Metal's great about, that's what Doomsday Clock is about. Those events are there to draw people back to the business, put things in that they remember they love about comics, and make sure the rest of the line is as interesting and as affordable, so they stick around and don't just come in for the one event and leave.
I'm going to fish on a couple of specific things -- in the Rebirth one-shot last year and in "The Button," there were teases involving the Legion of Super-Heroes. Should fan look for announcements any time soon?
Lee: Geoff set up those parts so well in the Rebirth special and Doomsday Clock is set one year ahead in DC continuity, so nothing will tie into it until the DC timeline matches up with the end of Doomsday Clock -- I think that gives you the window in which some of these things he's teased out for a reason may appear again in ways impacted by the Doomsday Clock.
DiDio: Otherwise known as, a lot of these characters are key to these storylines, so we can't really serve them up until there's a right moment and an important way to roll them out. Three questions keep on coming back: Legion of Super-Heroes, Justice Society of America and Shazam. We've seen reboots on all of these characters over and over again. We don't want to do just another relaunch -- we want to make sure we get it right.
So there's not another relaunch in another couple years.
DiDio: We want to make sure it has the right platform, and more importantly, the right creators. In order to do that, it's going to take time.
The good part about Rebirth is, so much of the stuff is going well right now, we aren't desperate to throw books against the fire just to keep it going. Rebirth is running steady. The steadiness of Rebirth allows us to try event books, to make it a little bit bigger. We have all the new Dark Matter material to really broaden the DC Universe with new ideas and new characters. We have so much stuff going on in so many different places -- I know there's interest in these characters, and people are asking for them a lot. It's not that we're ignoring them, it's not that we're avoiding them, it's not that we're never going to do them -- we're just waiting for the right time.
Something that has been announced is Mister Miracle -- that book represents another group of characters that readers haven't seen much from lately, the New Gods. Are you also looking at that series as a new way to introduce all of those characters in the Rebirth era?
DiDio: It's a way to re-envision them. It's a way for us to look at Mister Miracle through a different lens, and that's what Tom King is doing. Again, it's about finding the right creators to have the right take -- what we just said with the Legion applies to the New Gods. But I'm very happy to say that with this year in August, it's Kirby's 100th anniversary, so you'll be seeing every Kirby creation with a new story, with creators really looking to enjoy so much of what he created and brought to the DC Universe. You'll be seeing a lot of New Gods in August, and hopefully we'll see more coming up.
Lee: Mister Miracle is not him rebirthing the New Gods universe, I think it's a very distinct story that focuses on Mister Miracle. Having read a lot of it -- you've got Mister Miracle talking about Highfather on the beach, saying, "I'm sorry I can't be there for your birthday" -- he's kind of deconstructing it. But it's a very human story, it's very focused on Mister Miracle; his character, his sense of reality. I wouldn't want to doubt Tom, but I don't see it really as a vehicle for re-envisioning the entire line. It is a cool, never-done-before Mister Miracle story, and it's worth checking out. It is awesome.
One of the unique successes that DC has had this year are the DC/Hanna-Barbera and DC/Looney Tunes one-shots. Are there plans for follow-ups -- at least spiritual follow-ups?
DiDio: I would love to do more follow-ups. We were just talking with Jimmy [Palmiotti] and Amanda [Conner] about doing Harley Quinn and Gossamer in the run of the regular series, so you might see some of that. [Laughs] Batman/Elmer Fudd was a hoot. Jim did a great cover for us on Wonder Woman/Tasmanian Devil.
Lee: When you have characters like Kite Man in the DC Universe, we have room for Elmer Fudd.
DiDio: Yeah, exactly! I think Elmer Fudd's more dangerous than Kite Man, personally. [Laughs]
But you will see more of that stuff going on there. I love the Hanna-Barbera characters, I love the Looney Tunes characters. And we're looking at other things that are part of the Warner Bros. stable that we'll be able to have some fun with, and play against the DC Universe. We've been enjoying crossovers with other companies, but we realized DC and Warner Bros. has all this rich material -- it doesn't hurt to cross over with ourselves every once in a while.