ECCC12: DC All Access Panel

Two things that can always be counted on at convention panels occurred at DC Comics' All Access Panel at this year's Emerald City Comicon: technical difficulties and the promise of impending greatness! Once the technological challenges were overcome, Batman Editor Mike Marts moderated a group of DC's finest as they detailed upcoming events for the publisher.

Joining Marts on one side of the dais were editors Ben Abernathy (DC Digital), Brian Cunningham ("Justice League," "Green Lantern," "Flash"), and Rachel Gluckstern ("The Fury of Firestorm," "Catwoman"). The dais' opposite end was filled with DC talent, including writer Bill Willingham ("Fables," "Fairest"), artist Dustin Nguyen ("Streets of Gotham," "Batman Beyond"), artist Chris Burnham ("Batman Inc."), and colorist Nathan Fairbairn ("Swamp Thing," "Batman Inc."). As these talented gentlemen introduced themselves, they also gave the audience a tease of their upcoming works.

Willingham said that things continue apace with "Fables," which is now on issue "one hundred something-something-something." He is enjoying the "Fables" spin-off "Fairest," which allows him to focus more on individual characters. And with great excitement, he announced that the "Fables" original graphic novel "Werewolves of the Heartland" is complete and will be out this November. He said, "It's going to be huge!"

Nguyen went next and said he is currently busy with the "American Vampire" miniseries titled "Lord of Nightmares" that he is working on with writer Scott Snyder. He added that it picks up after "Survival of the Fittest" and will be out in June. The artist also encouraged readers to pick up his digital "Batman Beyond" work and explained, "it takes me three months to draw and you get it [digitally] for ninety-nine cents" - what a deal!

Artist Burnham followed and he enthusiastically attempted to describe "Batman Inc." (written by Grant Morrison) which will appear on shelves this May. "This is a crazy series. There's some serious Grant Morrison-ing going on in this comic." He then described his job thusly: "Grant gives me a plot, I draw it, and then he finishes it off with a full script. So I get to read the words in people's mouths after I've drawn the whole thing. It's the coolest feeling, like 'Oh, he based those words on that stupid drawing I made.'"

And regarding "those words" his collaborator writes, Burnham somewhat jokingly added, "It's super-Grant Morrison dialogue where he condenses [in one word balloon] what Brian Bendis would spend a full issue on. It's amazing!"

The slideshow DC brought with them then began with the cover of "The New 52!" comic that the publisher will be giving out on Free Comic Book Day, which occurs on Cinco de Mayo this year. Cunningham mentioned that it will include bits from several different series, including Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's "Justice League." He expressed great excitement over their work and added that we'll be seeing a four-page spread from Lee that looks "amazing."

The next slide showed the cover of "Batman Inc." #2, and Burnham told the audience that he and Morrison will be telling the life story of Talia. The artist believes he's read just about every Talia appearance and said this story "really pulls from the Denny O'Neal-Neal Adams stuff...It's kind of heartbreaking, epic, and awesome!"

Following this, the Adam Hughes-drawn cover to "Fairest" #2 was shown with a little blue genie kissing a character. Willingham teased the artist and said, "I think it's worth noting that Adam Hughes has become a bit typecast. Between the 'Fairest" covers and his new work on 'Dr. Manhattan'...he only draws comics that feature people with blue skin."

Nguyen's cover for "American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares" came next, and the artist had plenty of kind words for the book's writer, Scott Snyder. "Working with Scott is great because if you ask him what's going to happen in an issue, instead of just telling you a sentence, he'll go page-by-page and tell you what happens."

Colorist Fairbairn (who works with Snyder on "Swamp Thing") confirmed this as well by adding, "He's like the anti-Grant Morrison!"

At this point in the panel, the floor was opened to fans with questions. They queued up at the microphone in the room and let the queries fly.

First came a question about Green Lantern's varying personalities, in that he seems to act one way in his self-titled book and another way in "Justice League." Cunningham agreed that the Hal Jordan seen on the Justice League "can definitely be a handful." He explained that Geoff Johns had been writing "Green Lantern" so long that he's having to adjust the character to the new 52 realities. The editor said it's occurring, but subtly. He told fans to expect the Justice League Hal to show up "more and more" in "Green Lantern."

Someone then asked about Red Hood and how he fits in with the Batman mythos in light of the new 52. Marts responded to this by saying, "We have lots of origin-type material coming up, especially as to his relationship with Dick and his relationship to Kory." Answers are on the way.

An audience member next expressed dismay at the ending of "Static Shock" this April. Marts assured him, "We have a lot of plans for the character."

Some questions about the Flash followed, mostly centered around his speed and the fact that he seems to be "capped" at the speed of light. Cunningham answered that this wasn't exactly a "conscious choice, but if he always runs that fast, it can take the character past a level where the story is entertaining." He also added, "At the moment, we're playing with speed, his powers, and the consequence of those powers...There's lots of stuff coming up with the speed force, and we'll be exploring the consequences of being the Flash - and they are dire."

Stephanie Brown was the subject du jour for many fans at the panel, with one fan asking how they were going to deal with the transition of taking the Batgirl mantle and handing it back to Barbara Gordon. Burnham joked, "I'm curious about that too!"

To this, Marts said, "Stephanie is extremely important to us as well. We love her as a character and hopefully sometime in the future we can find a way to work her into the new 52." That being said, he added that "we won't be seeing her anytime soon."

Another question came up in the Bat-realm and dealt with a tooth punched out of Nightwing's mouth...by Batman! This event took place in "Batman" #7, and an audience member wanted to know why it was necessary for Bruce to punch the tooth out of Nightwing, as opposed to just telling him about it?

"There's more to that scene than just the tooth," Marts said. He explained that this moment was part of Snyder's plan even before the New 52 factored into things, and that they considered many ways of playing the moment. Marts then suggested, "Perhaps Bruce's reaction there is a sign of something else."

The final question of the panel concerned DC's digital plans and gave Abernathy a chance to speak. While he couldn't relay specifics, he said that DC would have some announcements soon about projects that are digital-first and digital exclusives.

So the panel ended on a note about the cyber-world, and fans ventured out of the convention hall to a very real and wet world at the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle.

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