Dan Didio led the DC: A Guide to Your Universe panel last Saturday at Fan Expo in Toronto, and while there were no major announcements, the DC Comics Executive Editor and his creative cohorts -- fan favorite creator Keith Giffen ("Reign in Hell" and "Ambush Bug") superstar artist Ethan Van Scriver ("The Flash: Rebirth") and rising star penciller Francis Manapul "Legion of Super-Heroes") -- answered an hour's worth of thoughtful and thought-provoking questions from the assembled members of DC Nation.
Right out of the gates, a fan asked why Martian Manhunter was killed off in "Final Crisis," to which Didio responded, "We wanted to show the threat of who Libra is. Look at the history of Martian Manhunter. He is one of those characters who are extremely powerful on the level of Superman. In some places, even stronger than Superman -- change shapes, turn invisible. Except for that fire thing, he's got it made. So we wanted to show how strong and how dangerous Libra."
Staying with the theme of death, Didio said, "I don't think I ever said Bart Allen was dead. I am serious."
"We all wish it," added Giffen to a chorus laughs.
"There were changes that were going to be made," continued Didio. "There were stories that were going to be told and there were definite crossovers taking place at the moment of the death of Bart Allen. So there is a good chance there is going to be more resolutions to that character and what happened to him in the very near future or the very far future."
Indeed, in Rich Johnson's first post-Comic-Con edition of LYING IN THE GUTTERS, the CBR columnist shared news from the floor that Geoff Johns was overheard talking about Bart Allen with Manapul, who draws "Legion of Super-Heroes."
Following a discussion regarding the possibility of DCU proper being big enough for not one but four Flashes, Van Sciver revealed that one of the subjects he and Geoff Johns must address in "The Flash: Rebirth" is going to be to organize and answer that very question. "We are going to show you how unique and individual each of those Flashes are and what they're purpose is and what they can all do," he explained. "And to reinstate Barry Allen as the King of the Flashes. That's what we are out to do."
Van Sciver also teased that he had pages of "The Flash: Rebirth" #1 with him in the room and had shared them with Manapul. "But no one else can see them. It's a company perk," quipped Van Sciver, to which Manapul deadpanned, "They're not bad."
Van Sciver, the self proclaimed (next to Geoff Johns) second biggest Flash fan working for DC Comics, said he has been asking for the return of Barry Allen since he started with the publisher back to his days on "Impulse." "I used to ask if we could weave the ghost of Barry Allen, or at least the essence, into a story. I think he is so important to DCU. To me, he is just as important as Superman because he was the very first Silver Age hero, he ushered in the Silver Age and we need him back. Now's the time for Barry to be back and I think as a result of Barry Allen's return, all the other pieces will fall into line.
"I want to see Barry, I want to see Wally, I want to see Jay, I hope to see Bart someday. I'd like to see Jesse Quick and Johnny Quick and Max Mercury, I want to see them all working together and functioning as a group. By the way, one of those I let slip."
Jesse Quick is active in Johns' "Justice Society of America" as Liberty Belle, while neither Johnny Quick nor Max Mercury is currently active in DCU proper on New Earth.
Didio later said, "Our Earth, New Earth is not Earth-1. We've pretty well explained that as much as possible. As of right now, I can tell you there is no Earth-1."
Speaking of the Multiverse, Didio said it would be explored in this week's "Final Crisis: Superman Beyond."
Didio confirmed there is not one but two weekly series in the works to follow "Trinity," that James Robinson is working on a "Justice Society of America" project and that Matt Sturges will be penning a villain centric series that will be announced soon.
The executive editor also said the recent "Hawkman" Special by Jim Starlin was an effort to test the waters for the character. "It was to create an air of mystery around the character and to create questions around the character. With the chance that people might get interested and discuss the character and want to read about him further down the line."
As the discussion once again turned to death, Didio said there were three characters he had difficulty seeing coming back to the land of the living: Ted Kord, Ralph Dibny and Sue Dibny.
Van Sciver jumped in and said, quite seriously, "We're discussing him. We want a stretchy Black Lantern," referring to next summer's "Green Lantern" storyline "Blackest Night."
Didio said Grant Morrison's "Final Crisis" and Kurt Busiek's "Trinity" will, once everything is said and done, tie-in one another. "The story of 'Trinity' takes place prior to 'Final Crisis' but the events from 'Trinity' will play out following 'Final Crisis,' so it ['Trinity'] does have repercussions."
Following a question from the audience, Didio said the rumor that legendary writer Jim Shooter was off and then back on "Legion of Super-Heroes" deserved no validation. Van Sciver praised Manapul's work on the series and said he would love to see a Saturn Girl solo series.
Didio used the term "struggling" in terms of sales to describe the titles "Manhunter," "Blue Beetle," "Simon Dark" and "Jonah Hex" but did not say any cancellations were imminent. He noted to mix things up on "Jonah Hex," which is usually told in "one and done" stories, scribes Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray are writing a six-issue arc that will feature some classic DCU western characters including, most notably, Bat Lash.
From Bat Lash to Batman, Didio said there were "big plans" for Dick Grayson.
He also confirmed "Black Lightning: Year One" is coming in January.