DC Nation panels began as a continuation of the Crisis Counseling sessions DC Comics Executive Editor Dan Didio held during the run of "Infinite Crisis." They wrapped up their 2006 run on Saturday at Baltimore Comic Con. As expected (and as usual), there was little actually revealed at the panel, but many hints to upcoming events in the DC Uniiverse. One surprise announcement came at the end: writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray ("Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters," "Jonah Hex") have signed a two year exclusive to DC Comics.
As usual, Didio moderated the panel. He was joined by Palmiotti, writer Mark Waid ("52," "Supergirl and the Legion of Superheroes"), DC Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne and DC Coordinating Editor Jan Jones. Jones brought along a companion - a stuffed alpaca. When she was asked for some alpaca trivia, Mark Waid chimed in with "alpacas can multiply but not divide." "Alpacas have communal dung piles that are easy to clean," Jones added.
Waid was introduced by Didio as "our Mr. '52' of the day. Mr. 13 and a half." Waid added that the "52" writers have a communal dung pile as well. Didio replied, "I'd hate to sit in those meetings." Didio referenced Jonah Hex when he introduced Jimmy Palmiotti as "our own 'Civil War' writer." Palmiotti quietly muttered "yeah, and it'll come out on time."
Didio said he loves the DC Nation panels because of the "communal aspect, that you ask questions and we don't answer them." Then he turned the focus to "52" and was interrupted by a fan yelling "Booster Killer!" Didio retorted, "For the record - I did not know they would kill Booster Gold in that comic book until it landed on my desk." Waid backed him up, "Up until issues 12 or 13 we didn't know we'd kill Booster. At all the early meetings he was in it until the very end."
"I get all the blame anyway," Didio said.
The crowd was then asked for response to the different storylines of "52." The Ralph Dibny and John Henry Irons plots both received respectable applause. There was slightly more for the stranded space heroes, but the loudest, most vocal response was for the Question/Montoya and Black Adam stories. Several of the panelists thought that was interesting, because at another convention, the biggest response was for the Ralph Dibny story.
That exercise completed, Didio opened the floor to questions. The first, however, came from Bob Wayne, who wanted to know when "52" would begin tying in with the other DC Universe books. Waid says there's a lot that's going to be happening, many storylines being developed for the back half of the run. One of the first direct tie-ins should come next week in "Green Lantern" - eventually the ramifications will string out across the line.
The first fan question was about Martian Manhunter, and why he's now presented as such a jerk. Waid says issue 24 of "52" illustrates what happened to him during the missing year.
One attendee asked which "52" writer penned the scene in issue 18 of Montoya getting caught in the act by Black Adam. Waid replied slyly, "Who would want to write that?"
A fan asked about Waid's run on the upcoming "Brave and the Bold," and whether it'll be a Batman comic. Waid confirmed that though the character appears with Green Lantern in the first issue, it's not a Batman comic. The lineups are completely interchangeable. Waid also added that there'd be backups that would feature Adam Strange and Lobo.
Didio was asked about the future of "Manhunter." "It's a great book," Didio replied. "Thanks for giving it a second life." The series' next arc leads into Allan Heinberg's "Wonder Woman" run. Didio said that if it keeps going, there's a better story after that.
Is Diana Prince in "52?" Mark Waid says yes.
A Supergirl fan asked what's up with Kara Zor-El and how she can be in so many places. "She's all over the place," Waid said. "That's the beauty of time travel, she can be anywhere and everywhere." Palmiotti added that he and Justin Gray are writing an issue of "Supergirl," featuring the premiere of a new character (revealed to be a new Terra later in the panel) with Amanda Conner on art.
Is Ralph Dibny going to be the next Dr. Fate? Jan Jones didn't want to take it and passed the question over to Bob Wayne. His simple response: "52."
A Nightwing fan asked about the dangling plot thread of the Nightwing/Oracle proposal in the last issue of Devin Grayson's run on "Nightwing." Didio revealed that Mark Andreyko will write a "Nightwing" annual scheduled for the beginning of the year, telling what happened in the weeks after "Infinite Crisis."
Mark Waid confirmed that Bruce Wayne and Co.'s missing year will be followed up on in "52." "Oh yeah," he said. "Some of the best stuff in there." A John Byrne fan complimented the departing artist's work on the "Atom" - Didio revealed that "52" artist Eddy Barrow is moving to that series, with Trevor Scott continuing as inker.
Didio talked about the purpose of the One Year Later initiative, that the idea was to get every book away from "Infinite Crisis" as quickly as possible. "I didn't want six months of characters going 'can you believe what happened to us?'" Additionally, Didio wanted the time and ability to put the best teams on the top books, like "Justice League of America."
Didio said the OYL leap was also about taking chances. He referenced "Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters" as a book you usually wouldn't see. Jimmy Palmiotti, the book's co-writer, discussed the series' gestation, beginning with "Grant [Morrison] hitting us with a brainstorm with a stack like this! Stuff just oozes out of him, sometimes you slip and fall on it." Palmiotti says the focus is to make the Freedom Fighters not secondary characters, but the sort that could support their own series. Didio said it's one of his favorite comics, and liked the fact that the first issue introduces the characters very succinctly. "If you can't nail it in the first issue, you lose the audience."
One audience member had a very straightforward question: "I'm not trying to be a ballbreaker, but I was looking so forward to 'All Star Batman and Robin.' What's going on with Jim Lee and Frank Miller?" Didio, Palmiotti and Jones pointed out that Miller's got a lot going on, and Lee is busy with Wildstorm, 'Wildcats' and projects in other media. Palmiotti referenced his work with Joe Quesada and Kevin Smith on "Daredevil" as a prime example of not taking shortcuts in quality work. When asked why Jim Lee would take on a second ongoing title when he's traditionally not capable of doing a monthly, Jan Jones said Lee, as the head of Wildstorm, put himself on "Wildcats" and insisted on it. Palmiotti added that everyone waiting on "All Star Batman," pick up "Jonah Hex."
A Latino audience member complimented the new "Blue Beetle" title and its depiction of Hispanic characters. Didio says that it's something they worked very hard to get right, saying that attempts to diversify in the past resulted in little more than token characters. "Diversity makes the character interesting, you add that into his backstory and it makes him stand out as different compared to the other characters."
Didio received compliments on "Trials of Shazam" and Howard Porter's painted art for the series. Didio explained that Porter had been working on a "Jonny Quest" miniseries, and when the pages came in, "they blew us away." When the twelve issues of "Shazam" are finished, Porter will finish the incomplete miniseries.
A "Flash" fan expressed his dislike for the direction of the relaunched series. He said that having Kid Flash take over as Flash in "Infinite Crisis" was surprising, because "you did that already." "There's more story to be told that'll answer your questions," according to Didio.
When asked if Roy Harper was adopting more of a "Kingdom Come"-esque "Red Arrow" persona, Jan Jones said "not really."
A fan asked Didio when Flash would discover the second Earth, referenced in "JLA" #0. Didio paused briefly, then said "Next question."
When asked about what's happening with Ray Palmer, Mark Waid says DC hasn't charted that course.
A confirmation that Allan Heinberg is on "Wonder Woman" for five issues, and it'll be monthly after that. Adam Hughes' "All Star Wonder Woman" will be a six issue miniseries.
Is there a timetable for revealing the identity of Supernova? The panel has various answers: "never," "53," and "have to figure it out first."
A fan asked if, at the end of "52," the events in the DC Universe were all a dream, like the end of the television program "Newhart." Mark Waid picked up a pad and grinned, feverishly scribbling a note to himself.
What's Steel's motivation for "52?" What's his purpose? Mark Waid says the writing team is trying to relate it to the John Henry parable of the steel driving man against the big machine. Waid says the key is in the early issues of the series, in John's admonishing of his niece. "You've got to earn the power," Waid said. "If you have it handed to you, there'll be consequences" Waid says that issue 34 is where you'll see "really really really horrible consequences."
Didio was asked for a status report on his goal of distributing a half million DC Nation buttons. He estimates perhaps a hundred thousand, that they crossed 75,000 at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Didio reinforced that this would not be the end of DC Nation, just the end of the first year.
The audience had a series of questions for Mark Waid. Will Hamilton Drew be in "52?" "You've stumped the band," said Waid. "I've never seen him stumped," according to Palmiotti. The character was explained as a Sherlock Holmes analog from Starman. "Oh right," Waid said. "No."
Where's Blok? Waid says there's no plans for Blok, and that "Dream Boy" is now an official member of the Legion of Superheroes. "Superboy punches a wall, you never know." When will Suicide Squad pop up? "52" #24 and in "Checkmate." After the hype and splash of Batwoman's appearance, where is she? "Plenty more. She has a huge role in the third act." Any chance of her and Cassandra Cain hooking up? The panel erupts in a variety of porn references, including "Al Packa."
The "Terra" mini? Palmiotti says "it's coming." He reiterates that her first appearance is in "Supergirl" #12.
The panel blanked and even seemed embarrassed when asked about further plans for Vigilante. There are no plans for that character
Didio asked if "Brave New World" worked for everyone. After a strong round of applause, Didio confirmed that the format will be used again.
A man dressed as Wonder Woman said he was psyched about the Linda Carter statue. "If only Phil Jimenez were here," said Waid. The audience erupted in laughter. "If you spin, I'm gonna throw!" Wayne says when they'll be watching how the Lynda Carter statue does, but that you can expect a Batman and Robin statue done in animation style from the TV show credits.
Will L-Ron be appearing in "52?" No, says Waid, but not a bad thought. He says there's still some play with the last ten issues. Asked later if they'll kill him, Waid asks "was he in 'JLI?'" "Yes." Waid mimed a hunter with a shotgun and shouted "Pull!"
Will the Legion appear in "52?" Waid says yes. Will there be any more weekly comics? "Shut your mouth!" Waid shouted.
No "Absolute Infinite Crisis" on the schedule, according to Bob Wayne. "Not even on the shortlist for discussion, it needs to age."
An audience member announced that he was texting Gail Simone, who wanted to pass along that "'Secret Six is awesome and Catman rules!" Didio replied "Tell her we're waiting on script number five." The audience gave a collective 'ooooh.' "That one comes in, six comes in, we'll talk another number one."
As the panel began winding up, the legendary DC lightning began. Didio prefaced it by reminding the audience that answers could very well be lies.
How long is Marv Wolfman on "Nightwing?" "12 issues," says Didio.
Is Cassandra Cain evil forever? "Teen Titans East."
Metal Men ever headlining a book? "Maybe."
When is Superboy Prime coming back? "It's coming," says Jan Jones.
When is Rip Hunter? "Can't tell you," says Mark Waid. "Seriously, issue 36."
A checklist of what order to read the books in "Infinite Crisis?" "Someone does it for us, we'll print it," Didio replied.
Off topic - how about a DC fighting game? The panel has no clue.
A Wonder Girl/Robin romance? "Dude, that would be evil," Waid said.
The Golden Age Wonder Woman? "No longer exists," according to Didio.
Is Power Girl the third Kryptonian referred to in Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza's Action Comics? "No."
Are we stuck with the explanation of Jason Todd's return? "Start punching a wall hard enough."
The three heroes lost in space-are they all coming back to earth? "Uhhhhh. No," Waid said in a mournful tone.
In "52" - when they say it's all his fault, do they mean Booster or Skeets? "L-Ron," Waid said.
Will we see Wally West in person interacting with the new Flash (Bart Allen)? According to Jones, "Wally's stopped doing personal appearances."
Ambush Bug? A panel favorite, he's appearing in "52."
B'wana Beast? Maybe in "52."
Is Power Girl approved for "JLA?" Didio seemed as first to confirm it, then said "No. Thought you spelt it wrong."
The Time Trapper in LOSH? "Not anytime soon, not in Legion of Superheroes" said Waid.
Will we see Joker and Hush? "Yes and no," Didio said.
Wildfire in Legion? "Possibly," said Waid.
Any chance of an "Absolute Crisis on Infinite Earths" companion? Bob Wayne sid "There's not enough red ink for the red skies."
How is Detective Chimp in "52?" "He's great," Jan says. "This is an important year for Detective Chimp."
Will there ever be an "All Star Flash?" Would Mark ever write it? "Hard to believe we wouldn't cross paths again," said Waid. Didio says "No."
Metal Man, Doom Patrol - miniseries? "Maybe and no," Didio said.
Will we ever see "Seven Soldiers" again? "Next month, #1. Seriously," Didio promised. "We say that every month." Wayne added. "It'll crossover with 'All Star Batman and Robin' #6."
More of Isis? Waid says "Yes." Will she have a secret identity on Earth? "Yes."
Again, any plans for weekly comics after "52?" Still no distinct answer out of a fuming Mark Waid.
How many issues for Meltzer? "13," Didio replied. Including issue #0? "14"
Bizarro Brainiac any time soon? "If Bizarro Brainiac isn't in an issue of 'Brave and the Bold' I will have failed," Waid said.
Artist on "Nightwing" annual? "Next question," Didio said quickly.
Is Barry Allen coming back? Didio replies with a straightforward and serious "No."
The panel wrapped up with an announcement: longtime collaborators Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti are now exclusive to DC for two years. Palmiotti says he's really thrilled and glad to be able to focus on the work.