ECCC: DC Comics: Champions of Justice

The talent behind some of the most unique successes in DC Comics' current slate gathered Saturday afternoon at Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, for the "DC Comics: Champions of Justice" panel. Talent on hand include the "Batgirl" team of Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr, plus "Sinestro" and "Lobo" writer Cullen Bunn and "Batman '66" writer Jeff Parker.

DC's Hank Kanalz, moderating the panel, asked about the genesis of the current "Batgirl" run. Stewart shared that originally he was approached to write and draw the series himself, but had just committed to "Fight Club 2" at Dark Horse Comics -- thus bringing in his longtime friend Fletcher as co-writer, and Tarr, who he discovered on Tumblr and had never drawn sequential pages before. Stewart had been drawing layouts for "Batgirl," but Tarr revealed that she's taking on sole art duties with issue #41.

"#41 on June is kind of like our real first issue," Stewart said of "Batgirl," with the series going forward with fun stories that are "unburdened by the past."

Fletcher said that future issues of "Gotham Academy" (which he co-writes with Becky Cloonan) will explore the history of the city, and its founding centuries ago. "Karl [Kerschl]'s style is so laborious," Fletcher said, commenting that every page by the series artist looks like an animation cel. "Each page takes a lot longer than a traditional comic book page, but it's worth it."

Fletcher also writes DC's latest take on "Black Canary," set to debut with a #1 issue in June 17. Fletcher said he's looking to reestablish Black Canary as the premier martial artist in the DC Universe, and, "while she's doing it, she has to suffer through being on tour with a band, which is just her current circumstances. It's not something she's comfortable with. People are going to be hurt. Music will be made. I can't spoil anything, but it all ties back to Dinah's origins."

Bunn talked "Sinestro," saying he definitely sees the title character as a villain, though Sinestro sincerely believes in what he's doing. "He's struggling with the idea of saving his people and building up his forces," Bunn said. "He's building up these forces for something only he knows is coming -- we won't reveal that for a while." Bunn also wrote a "Sinestro" annual, out next week.

Next up: "Lobo." "I don't consider him an antihero, he's a pretty terrible person," Bunn said. An upcoming issue of the series will have, Bunn said, "One of the most violent climaxes of a battle I've ever written, it's really grotesque. I think it's just the tip of the iceberg in where Lobo is going, in terms of how mean and violent he is." Bunn said he's playing the two sides of Lobo -- "super-sexy" and "uncomfortably violent" -- against each other.

Bunn also writes "Green Lantern: The Lost Army," which starts in June, and he called a "big, epic story" with the Green Lanterns in a "completely different environment than they're used to."

Parker's run on "Aquaman" just concluded, saying he referred to his final arc of the series internally as "where's my mom?" "This has been a blast. Paul Pelletier and I really enjoyed it. He knocked it out of the park. Now I can sit back and read 'Aquaman,' because I don't know what's going to happen!"

"Convergence" starts imminently, and Parker is writing two of the tie-in series -- "Convergence: Hawkman" and "Convergence: Shazam." "Hawkman," illustrated by Tim Truman, returns to the Joe Kubert era of Hawkman and Hawkgirl fighting crime while acting as museum curators. Of "Shazam," Parker said he realized he couldn't "phone this one in" after reading the Stewart-illustrated "The Multiversity: Thunderworld." Parker said the real star of the issue is artist Evan "Doc" Shaner, and that Shazam is the character he was meant to draw.

Parker also talked "Batman '66," and said that if Solomon Grundy -- who features in an upcoming installment of the comic -- appeared on the '60s "Batman" TV series, he would be played by Ted Cassidy, Lurch from "The Addams Family." "But officially, he's not Ted Cassidy," Parker clarified.

Turning to audience questions, a young fan asked if the pulled "Batgirl" #41 variant cover meant that there will be references to "The Killing Joke" in the series. "Pretty sneaky, somebody sending a kid up there to ask that question," Parker joked.

"The whole purpose of the storyline we just concluded was to kind of move past 'The Killing Joke,' and not have that be a defining aspect of the character," Stewart answered. "'Killing Joke' still exists, it's still canon, but we're not going to dwell on it anymore." "That dancing scene is the final answer to it," Fletcher added. "Batgirl wins."

Stewart said upcoming issues of "Batgirl" will see more familiar DC characters brought to the mix. "We have a pretty familiar villain coming in #42, which Babs did an awesome redesign of," Stewart said. Fletcher added that a "classic Batgirl villain" will appear in #43.

Parker thanked the "Batgirl" team for making a cool neighborhood in Gotham, Burnside. "I've always wondered, why do people move to Gotham?" Parker said.

A fan asked about the collaboration between the "Batgirl" creative team. Fletcher and Stewart said they talk over Skype when they can, and they both like to write to Tarr's strengths. "They're very collaborative," Tarr said.

Bunn was asked about the differences between the old Lobo and new Lobo, and the writer clarified that the redesign happened before he wrote the character. "I was a fan of Lobo in the '90s, but I'm writing a new version of Lobo," Bunn said. "Most of [original] Lobo's appearances were humor appearances. That's not the story I'm writing. I think this Lobo is so much meaner than the old Lobo."

The next audience member asked about Tarr's online presence. She has two Tumblrs -- a portfolio blog with finished pieces, and a more casual, personal one with sketches. "That Tumblr has more followers than my portfolio. It just recently surpassed that. And I think that says a lot."

The last fan at the mic asked Parker about other characters that can be introduced to "Batman '66" -- like the '70s Wonder Woman. "Yeah, I'd consider that. I'd totally consider that," Parker answered. "Marc Andreyko pretty much leaves a message a day about how we need to get that going." Parker said he's going to do Bane in the series. "Everybody's been asking for years about how they would do that, so I'm going to answer that."

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