Dan DiDio can work a room.
More specifically DiDio can work a room of ever praising always critical comic book fans like he was meant to do it. From his introduction of legendary creator/editor Len Wein to his subtle tongue-and-cheek comments on DC's competitors DiDio, sporting a modest ball cap and long sleeve shirt, truly lived up to his reputation as a fan favorite at Fan Expo in Toronto Canada on Friday..
"What we like to do with DC Nation is keep it interactive, this is really just for you...an open honest discussion about what's going on with DC Comics, both good and bad."
Starting things off with recent events in DC's multiverse spanning event, "Blackest Night," audience members were more than happy to voice their praise for Geoff Johns' latest creation.
"This is something Geoff has been talking to me about for probably two years - probably since the end of 'Sinestro Corps War,'" said DiDio.
Asking the audience for their thoughts on the first issue, the black lanterns seem to have grabbed the attention of panel attendees.
"I smell a mystery," commented one audience member among the full room of costumed and casual dressed fans.
"When that page came in we all got really excited," DiDio proudly exclaims "we thought 'boy the fans are either going to love us or hate us for that one.'"
Incorporating the death of Batman into the story line, particularly the skull of Bruce Wayne as the focal point of the black rings was the next matter brought up by a fan.
Without giving anyway any significant details, DiDio promised fans that there'll be some interesting crossing over between Blackest Night and the cowl clad vigilante very soon.
Regarding the death of Hawkman and Hawkgirl in the final pages of the first issues, panelists felt their deaths set a strong precedence for things to come.
"We thought that was really interesting, we had a lot of fun with it," DiDio said "I guess that sounds weird, we're having fun killing people, but it's been part of our M.O. for awhile."
Elaborating on the decision to off DC's resident avian couple, DiDio explained that there's always been a revolving door of death in comics. With "Blackest Night" being a story driven by emotion, DiDio feels DC is trying to bring some much needed sensibility to that notion.
"When the hero died it actually had some value and they stayed dead for a long time," claimed Wein.
Arriving late artist Ethan Van Sciver ("The Flash: Rebirth", "Sinestro Corps War" and "Blackest Night") joined the panel to well received applause from the audience.
Returning to his previous comment, Wein stated that use of death in comics has lost much of its value.
"It's become a trick, everyone sees how you do it and it doesn't seem so impressive anymore."
DiDio explained that with "Blackest Night," DC hopes to reinvent this old trick for fans.
Taking more comments from the crowd, one question came up regarding Brother Power the Geek's current whereabouts in the DC Universe. Much to DiDio's amusement he proudly stated that the shaggy haired character will be appearing in an upcoming issue of J. Michael Straczynski's "Brave and the Bold."
"The fact that we even approved that is psychotic enough," laughed Didio.
Following with the theme of returning characters it doesn't look like Kamandi will be making a return anytime soon, outside of his current run in the weekly "Wednesday Comics." See our interview with Dave Gibbons for more details.
On to Wonder Woman, what's happening?
Responding to a fan that was promised a year ago readers would be seeing more of the iconic female. "Well, we cut the top a little lower." DiDio joked. A lengthy laugh from the crowd ensued.
Longtime writer/editor Joey Cavalieri appeared on stage to join the panel shortly after.
Fans of "Green Arrow and Black Canary" can rest easy as DiDio, responding to recent rumors, assured the audience that the series is not cancelled. Moving forward, one of the agendas for the book is to introduce new characters and concepts to the DCU. Similarly Grant Morrison's "Batman and Robin" is accomplishing very much the same with new personalities that feel very fresh to the books.
Jumping on to another monumental ongoing arc, the return of Barry Allen, fans and panelists alike showed obvious excitement toward the character's resurrection. Readers can expect a more in depth look at the positive and negative speed forces in upcoming issues according to Sciver.
"The negative speed force is much different than the positive speed force, you're going to see what its effects are."
"How great is it to see Bart Allen again? I started on Impulse...I fed my family drawing Bart Allen as a young husband," Sciver recalled "the look on Bart's face in issue #4 was the look on my face when I drew it."
The Panelists warned that there's a "nasty trick" coming up for fans of the recently resurrected red hero.
"Keep reading, it'll all make sense," said Sciver.
On the topic of digital comics, Didio says there is much discussion on it, but a large issue is the royalty system for giving artists and writers the appropriate compensation for their talents.
"The model isn't there yet."
Receiving praise for the new status quo in the Batverse, DiDio compared the strange direction Morrison's "Batman and Robin" has taken to an amalgamation between "The Dark Knight" film and Adam West's TV series.
"That is the weirdest, fun book possible," said DiDio. "Grant has his run pretty well figured out for the next year."
DC is scheduled to present its editorial panel Saturday afternoon.