Going Beyond the DC Universe @ WonderCon

While the Beyond the DC Universe panel at WonderCon Friday evening was originally scheduled to be handled by DC's Patty Jeres and Wildstorm's Scott Dunbier, everything changed last minuted. Instead, comics fans in attendanced were treated to writer/editor Jonathan Vankin, writer Howard Chaykin, and (eventually) Josh Dysart as Bob Wayne did his stump slideshow routine. The announcements made during the panel were a mix of updating the old and new.

For example, "Astro City" will return with a 16 part maxi-series, "The Dark Age," which goes back to the 70s to tell the story of the Astro City Silver Age in four issue arcs by the usual team of Busiek, Anderson, and Ross.

And Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons will team up again to create "Albion" (sort of). Gibbons will be doing covers, Moore will be handing off the story to Leah Moore, with art by Shane Oakley. The story goes back to the 70s to resurrect obscure 60s British superheroes like Captain Hurricane and the Spider. This is part of the IPC deal announced last July.

Speaking of Alan Moore, the inevitable "Absolute League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" will finally be released, with the full script in the second volume, as before (look for a new LXG project from Moore and O'Neill next year). The Wachowski Brothers adaptation of "V for Vendetta" is shooting for a November Fifth release. And Halo Jones will get the DC/2000AD re-release treatment. (Sadly, Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell's "Zenith" is snarled in contractual problems.)

Tim Green ("Fraction") will be taking over the art on Josh Dysart's "Swamp Thing" as Dysart explores the history of Alec Holland, "the soul rattling around inside the swamp beast." The ambitious Mr. Dysart means to "take what Wein and Wrightson did, bringing in a monster every issue, and the politics and metaphysics of Moore, and make them gel -- hopefully not in a clumsy way."

Dysart promises "lots of sex and politics and drugs!" as he goes back to the 70s to reveal Alec's history. Explaining his take on Swamp Thing, Dysart says: "Interesting to me is to set the past line through the Nixon/McGovern election, because there are echoes of the last election." Dysart also promises to target environmental issues and companies like GM food creator Monsanto.

Third time's the charm for Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere" which, not content with being a TV show and a novel, will now be adapted by Mike Carey as a comic book series, with art by Glenn Fabry. Another Gaiman spin-off, "Dead Boy Detectives," will be written and drawn by Jill Thompson in manga style. Expect the sales-enhancing walk-on by Death.

There are plans for the new Garth Ennis/Steve Dillon collaboration, "City of Lights," in which Ennis goes back to the 70s to deliver what Bob Wayne says will be a more personal, autobiographical story, and "not gonzo wacky."

Howard Chaykin has just started on a sequel to "Bite Club" ("I literally got this on my computer today"), with David Hahn returning on art. Chaykin is also writing and drawing a new series, "City of Tomorrow," which he describes as "in the most Hollywood sense, 'Untouchables' meets 'Westworld.'" Our hero will have to deal with robot organized crime and romance. "I'm touching myself inappropriately, I'm having such a good time," Chaykin said. In other Chaykin news, not only will there be twelve new pages of material in the "American Flagg" re-release, but he's in discussion with Dynamic Forces for a revival of the character.

Responding to a question about building a female readership for comics, Chaykin revealed that even his wife won't read his books, recommended that "archetypal British art fag comic book"" Promethea," and lamented the way "fan boys" in the industry destroyed the female market by canceling romance comics.

"Romance fiction is the only genre that hasn't had a breakout book. I've been trying to decode romance fiction for then years, and I want to write a really good romance novel. Why not put graphic novels and chick lit together?"

Fulfilling this pledge, Chaykin promised a sequel to "Black Kiss," went on to describe "Mighty Love" as a romance comic, and then provided a possible key to the current nostalgia boom. Saying that he's "sentimental" and a "romantic realist" rather than the cynic he's painted as (using more colourful language than I can repeat), Chaykin is still unconvinced that comics actually have a future.

"Graphic novels are not going to save us. Graphic novel collectors are like LP collectors. My hope is that comic books outlive me, but I don't think they're going to survive much longer."

Nevertheless, DC will be produce two original graphic novels this year that trade on movie connections.

Breakout romance comic, "The Fountain," is written by film director Darren Aronofsky ("Pi," "Requiem for a Dream") and illustrated by Kent Williams. It's a companion piece of sorts to Aronofsky's upcoming movie of the same name, starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. (Bob Wayne quipped: "And whatever keeps Hugh Jackman away from the next X-Men movie is good for us.")

"The Quitter" is by Harvey Pekar, with art by Dean Haspiel, and finds Pekar also in a reflective mood, going back to his childhood, telling the story of how "he found approval by beating people up," as Wayne put it, though he added: "That doesn't mean you should call Harvey out, he's no longer a street punk."

"Dean is, though," said Vankin. And then Chaykin reminded everyone that he discovered Haspiel. "He used to be my assistant. He used to take his shirt off a lot." Ahh, the romance of comics, back in the glory days!

In additional Wildstorm news, don't miss CBR's interview with Andy Diggle concerning his new Wildstorm series "Silent Dragon."

Vampirella #2

More in Comics