Friday afternoon at Fan Expo Canada was busy as fans lined up for DC Entertainment's All Access/DC Comics 101 panel. Fans filled every chair in the room as moderator Larry Ganem of DC Entertainment brought out a look at incoming DC releases in the video game, television and comic book arenas.
The biggest discussion point of the panel was the lineup of celebrations prepared for Batman's 75th Anniversary. "We don't want to say he turned 75, although he looks pretty good for 75," Ganem joked. "It was 1939 [when] 'Detective' #27 hit the stands, story by Bob Kane and Bill Finger introducing the world to Batman. And Batman has been the top superhero in the world ever since."
Batman's notoriety meant it was important for DC comics to honor the hero from the beginning of his career to the way we view Batman today. "We wanted to celebrate in a number of ways," said Ganem. First off, Batman Day was instituted in July in bookstores and comic shops and libraries.
Ganem joked that he wished Scott Snyder were at the panel. If the best-selling "Batman" writer were, Ganem said, he would get really close to the mic and ensure fans in the deepest voice possible that "every day is Batman Day."
"Another one of the things we did was a couple of animation shorts," continued Ganem, and these can be found online. "There's this guy who loves Batman named Bruce Timm and he introduced Batman to a whole generation of new fans in the '90s." At the mention of Timm's involvement in "Batman: The Animated Series" the audience cheered wildly at the memory of the Saturday morning cartoon.
"We approached him and asked him if he would do a Batman short for this anniversary," Ganem finished before showing the short -- a true to the original series set in grey scale, with plenty of shadows and an appearance by Golden Age mad scientist Hugo Strange.
"That's Bruce Timm doing a throwback early days Batman kind of style," Ganem said. To match that the team at DC approached Warner Bros to see what Batman might be like moving forward into the future. "We wanted to do something a little crazy and we wanted to create a bookend and go into the future a little bit," Ganem explained. "So, we went to a man named Darwyn Cooke." The film set within the world of "Batman Beyond" utilizes primary colors, sharply drawn lines and of course, being the future and all, robots . . . lots and lots of robots.
The celebration didn't end there, however. 75 years is after all a milestone anniversary. "The other way we figured we would celebrate is to publish some good comic books," Ganem said, finally getting to the Bat's true roots. "Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have been on the flagship Batman title. They have been knocking it out of the park.
"Right now the final issue is on stands of a story called 'Zero Year.' It's the retelling for the New 52 version of Batman's origins for the early days. It is bombastic. It was an epic eleven-part story that is just a terrific read," Ganem said. This arc has come to a close but after a couple stand-alone stories "Scott and Greg are back on the book together a little later this year and they will start a brand new storyline, which I'm not going to say anything about but that's going to make all the others look small."
Knowing Batman fans have a particular penchant for Batman's nemesis the Joker and that the Joker has a taste for the weird, DC prepared a Joker themed collection with the recent New 52. "If you have been reading the New 52 you know the joker cut his face off and it's been floating around for a while," Ganem said. "In the 'Death of the Family Collection' he gets his face back and he's wearing it as a mask. So, we thought it would be cool for when we published the hardcover collection of 'Death of the Family' if you wanted to read it wearing the Joker's face you could. So we created the 'Death of The Family Book and Mask Set.' Which is coming out at the end of the month.
"We also want to point out that while 'Batman' is the flagship title, we also have Francis Manapul doing great work on 'Detective Comics,'" Ganem added, pointing out Manapul is local to Toronto.
DC also started a weekly epic called "Batman Eternal" Ganem teased, "Issue #21 is out now. I don't want to give you a spoiler but there is a big reveal in that one." He drafted a fan in the audience that had read the book to stand up confirm the reveal is in fact juicy. "We are only at issue #21, and it's a year long event," he reminded fans. "We're not even half way through."
Additionally, DC continues on with its "New 52 Futures End" weekly series. "It's written but Jeff Lemire, Brian Azzarello, Dan Jurgens, and Keith Giffen. This is set five years in the future, it's a very dark and bleakish story, and it also features a big reveal," Ganem said, stating also that Constantine would play a big part in issue #18.
The buck doesn't stop with two weeklies. This fall DC Entertainment is going all out. "Earth 2: World's End" spins out of the "Earth 2" monthly and will be written by novelist Daniel H Wilson, Ganem said. "We have a lot of artist on it because it's a weekly book."
"I don't want to say too much about this," he teased. "This is a weekly event for six months and it's leading into something even larger...It's called 'World's End' for a reason. This is like the fuse that lights the bomb. It's not a bunch of people in a room just talking."
"We have this other superhero sitting around...Superman," Ganem continued. "Last month, Geoff Johns and John Romita, Jr. -- two up and coming new talent who I think you are going to hear a lot from -- took over this book," he joked about the seasoned creators. Issue #33 is now out with #34 hitting stands at the end of the month.
"John Romita, Jr. has been drawing comics for years and years and years and years over at another company, and this is his first work for DC, and we wanted to put him on the biggest story we could. This is it; this is a good Superman," Ganem explained.
Speaking of big deals, Ganem then previewed the newest "Multiversity" title written by Grant Morrison. "Grant Morrison imagines things mere mortals can not and every once in a while he puts them on paper," he gushed. "This is something he has been working on for a long time. It's a multi-part mini-series. This is the start of a truly mind bending story." With that, Ganem passes out a few copies of the "Multiersity" book to fans nearby.
"Every once in a while we do some direct to DVD movies," he changed the subject moving to televised releases. "This is our first foray into the world of the Batman 'Arkham' video games, and this is called 'Assault on Arkham.' The trailer is truly violent, offering the same dark, seedy and criminal underbelly of the video games.
"Also in November we add another title to our very popular 'Earth One' graphic novel line," Ganem said. "Now Canadians Jeff Lemire and Terry and Rachel Dodson bring us their version of 'Teen Titans,' and that's going to be spectacular. We've seen the galleys of this, and it's amazing."
Also in November, DC Entertainment will see Meredith and David Finch come to "Wonder Woman." "David Finch is one of the greatest artists in comics right now, and the fact he wanted to come onto 'Wonder Woman' is an incredible thing," Ganem said. "David can draw Wonder Woman like nobody else."
Moving into new video game releases a fourth "Arkham" series game will be released this fall. "The Arkham video game has set the standard for video games just blowing everything out of the water," he said. "We have been building for this one for quite a while." The tag line at the end promising the game lets you "Be The Batman."
"But you know, we don't want batman to be dark all the time," Ganem continued. "Not everyone can play the mature themed games so every once in a while we have to lighten it up a little bit and that's were Batman Lego comes in. This is 'Batman Lego 3.' As great as the Arkham ones are this one is just hilarious...It's worth noting that no Lego ducks were harmed in the making of that trailer," Ganem chided as the trailer came to a close.
"The one big story we are missing is that DC Entertainment is poised to dominate network television," Ganem said, saving perhaps the biggest front for last. "I've never seen this before. When I was a kid I used to wish for this. We used to hope for maybe one show but we have a whole new raft of shows, network television shows."
"The first one we are going to talk about is 'Gotham,' and it premiers September 22 on Fox," Ganem said. "They showed us the pilot for this series and it's pretty great."
"So we've also got this show called "Arrow" and season three begins October 8...also known as not soon enough," Ganem joked as the audience cheered. DC will also release a digital first series to tie into new episodes of the CW hit. Written by Marc Guggenheim and called "Arrow Season 2.5," the producer's continuation of the show was something Ganem assured audience members would "fills in the gaps between seasons two and three."
"We also have a show called 'The Flash,'" Ganem said referring to the "Arrow" spinoff. "This pilot is a lot of fun. There's nothing but fun about it. There's no pretention, no higher meaning to it; it is just fun." Like with "Arrow," "The Flash" series will also have a weekly digital first comic series called "Flash Season 0" which is written by producer Andrew Kreisberg.
Finally, on Friday nights in October a series called "Constantine" premiers. "He's British, he talks with a British accent, and he's blonde," Ganem said about the main character. "He doesn't smoke though." The crowd booed that last sentiment as Ganem laughed.
Then Ganem gave fans a little teaser. "They just cast a man named Michael James Shaw for the role of Papa Midnight," he said as the audience erupted in cheers.
"Speaking of Easter Eggs we just recently released a Flash poster for the series and I am told there are a lot of Easter eggs in that poster as well," Ganem added. "But you have to be good to spot them.
"Finally, we also have a new show 'iZombie' based on the Vertigo book from last year," Ganem added. "That we hope to be a midseason replacement."
At long last Ganem opened up the lengthy panel to the audience for questions, where much of the interest settled around the upcoming television announcements. Of course fans wanted to know if Wonder Woman would be the next superhero to hit the small screen?
"Who else has a question?" Ganem said laughing. "Wouldn't that be great? She's in the movie. Be happy with what you have, come on." Ganem smiled indicating he knew the troubles faced with getting the Diana Prince character televised.
So then, audience members want to know if they can look forward to some other superhero cameos in "The Flash"?
"There will be a whole lot of characters in the show," Ganem said. "If you read DC comics you are going to recognize a lot of names. I'm not making any promises but you'll recognize many names."