The first panel of the Kapow Comic Convention saw DC Entertainment's top brass presenting previews of their forthcoming schedule alongside some of the creators involved. Chaired co-publisher by Dan DiDio, Will Dennis and Bob Wayne, much of the panel was spent discussing the company's most controversial project, "Before Watchmen." DiDio opened proceedings by thanking the audience for attending so early in the day and telling the assembled fans of his amusement that the pub they had been waiting in beforehand was "upset" about the amount of business they'd be doing today. After introducing the attendees, he segued into the presentation, beginning with a simple question: "How many of you are looking forward to Before Watchmen?"
The reaction was tentative, with maybe a third of the capacity crowd clapping in approval and the rest remaining politely silent. DiDio was unfazed, admitting that the UK was where the material was, in many ways, "most personal." He attempted to allay fears by explaining that the company had gone to a lot of trouble to assemble the creators, and they wouldn't have moved forward with it if they didn't have a story worth telling.
The presentation of "Before Watchmen" was initially fact-heavy, with DiDio concentrating on listing the creative teams and displaying the covers of the various series. Talking specifically about some projects, DiDio described "Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre" as "the quietest" and "most personal" of them, and said that Jae Lee's visuals on "Before Watchmen: Ozymandias" were the furthest departure from Gibbons' style, but that he thought fans would be excited by them.
As well as the standard covers, art shown included a Jim Lee variant cover for "Before Watchmen: Comedian #1," and several uncolored internal pages, which were flicked past in rapid succession. Discussing variant covers, Dennis said that the plan was to have a different artist doing each of 35 variants, and announced that legendary artist Jim Steranko had just delivered a variant cover for the Rorschach series.
Moving onto the Vertigo portion of the panel, the editorial team invited a selection of creators onto the stage, including Mark Buckingham ("Fables"), Peter Milligan ("Hellblazer"), Mike Carey ("The Unwritten") and Scott Snyder ("American Vampire").
First up, DiDio introduced Sean Murphy's "Punk Rock Jesus," described as a "simple high concept - Jesus is cloned and given his own reality TV show." "The New Deadwardians" by writer Dan Abnett and artist I.N.J. Culbard was also shown, described as "Downton Abbey" meets "Murder, She Wrote" though Snyder interjected to correct this to "Downton Abbey" meets "Walking Dead."
When asked about "Fables" spin-off "Fairest," Mark Buckingham said that he was "not yet" directly involved in the series (hinting that he soon might be) but did mention that following the current arc, frequent "Fables" collaborator Matt Sturges would be doing a one-shot on it.
Talking about the core "Fables" series later on, Buckingham was asked if he planned to do any more writing on the series as he did in "Fables #100." Buckingham said that he had no plans to, but would keep "interfering" on occasion while concentrating on art. He also mentioned that the current backup strip had been extended from 8 to 10 parts, and that Gene Ha would be joining the series for a 2-part story. He also took the opportunity to announce that the regular Fabletown panel at the Comic-Con International in San Diego would have a free print for all attendees in case anyone needed a reason to make the trip to CCI, but DiDio joked that this wouldn't be much of an incentive for fans to make the trip to a convention that had sold out not just its own tickets, but the rooms of every hotel within a 50-mile radius.
Discussing the Vertigo publication of the best-selling novel, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" being adapted by Denise Mina (Preview), editor Will Dennis admitted that the project is one that "keeps him up at night" but noted that Volume 1 was nearly done, and that the adaptation by the Scottish crime writer Mina had been "given a lot of latitude" and that while the story was the same, you wouldn't necessarily expect to see - for example - the dialogue from the books or films appearing.
Snyder was asked to talk about plans for "American Vampire" and he described the forthcoming arc as by far the biggest of his "blockbuster" stories, and one that would "bring back everything from the first arc" and that "nothing would be the same" for the series afterwards. Snyder, it should be noted, received perhaps the warmest applause from the audience whenever he spoke, and was clearly very popular with the attending fans.
Current "Hellblazer" writer Peter Milligan talked about his current plans for the series, including a werewolf-centric arc with art by 2000AD legend Simon Bisley, whose artwork was described as "insane, in a good way." Milligan joked that he imagined Bisley "baying at the moon" to create it.
Plans for "Hellblazer" beyond this arc involved a topic Milligan was keen to explore over whether Constantine ever had a choice in how he would turn out, or whether it was "in his blood" to become a magnet for dark forces. The story involves the discovery of a previously unknown relative, and is called "The Curse of the Constantines."
Finally, Mike Carey was invited to talk about his series "The Unwritten" and after describing how current arc "The Wound" would see the series getting "darker and darker" and was about "a very slow end of the world," he notedthere were two forthcoming spin-off projects that he was very excited about, but which couldn't be discussed just yet.
With the discussions concluded, the panel turned to the audience for a Q&A, and there was some tension as the first questioner asked, not without some degree of awareness, whether Alan Moore had anything to say about "Before Watchmen." DiDio defused the room by pretending to mishear the question, answering "What's that? Thanks for making the trip to your country? You're welcome!" before saying that anyone interested in what Alan Moore - or, indeed, any industry professional - thought about their publishing plan need do little more than look online, where plenty has been written.
The next questioner asked about the specific choice to do a pirate backup in "Before Watchmen" and DiDio said that since in the original the Black Freighter material had served as a counterpoint to the story, writer Len Wein had come up with a "very particular" way to do that for the prequels, telling a story that would reflect the changes both in the world of "Watchmen" and the world of comics at the time.
Several of the questions centered on whether "Before Watchmen" would invite extensions, a sequel movie or even "After Watchmen," and in all cases editorial was fairly evasive, neither confirming nor denying that there would be future "Watchmen" projects. DiDio in particular was keen to say they were taking this "one step at a time" and that they just wanted to get through the current one before thinking about what comes next.
Finally, an audience member asked about the future of Vertigo, following the "Vertigo-isation" of the DCU. DiDio said this was a good question and that to some extent the DCU had "caught up" with Vertigo's storytelling in titles like "Swamp Thing" and "Animal Man." In response, DiDio said they would re-focus on Vertigo this year and that fans could expect to see a lot more projects in 2013 as the imprint finds its new face as part of DC's publishing plans.