Keen to dispense the traditional notions of a slow Sunday crowd, DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio began the DC New 52 Panel at the Kapow Comic Convention by asking the audience to cheer if they were enjoying a New 52 comic, eliciting a loud response from fans of DC's relaunched superhero line.
Joined by DC's Senior VP Bob Wayne, writer Scott Snyder, and artist Ian Churchill, DiDio received a warm reception from an enthusiastic crowd. Audience members were asked to reveal their favorite New 52 title, and DiDio used the wide variety of titles nominated to make his case for the success of the New 52.
"The plan was to broaden the spectrum, and make it so the DC Universe wasn't just about Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman." DiDio said he is often asked how long this relaunch would last, and his response was a passionate "Forever!"
The panel addressed some potentially controversial topics, the first of which saw DC admit mishandling schedules somewhat. DiDio joked that he used to go to conventions prior to the New 52 and tell fans, "If you keep buying late books, we'll keep publishing them," before adding "...and guess what? You stopped!" He said DC realized it had "taken fans for granted" and made a commitment to deliver on time. Thus far, only two New 52 issues have shipped late, both by one week, prompting applause from the appreciative crowd.
A second potentially thorny issue was raised by a fan who asked about the presence of LGBT characters in the New 52 DC Universe, and specifically DiDio's comments in a recent interview that they wouldn't change a character's sexuality. Why, the fan asked, did this remain immutable when they were happy to change virtually any other characteristic? DiDio effectively took back his earlier comments, saying that interviews prompt you to speak in absolutes which are not necessarily the case, and revealing that they were actually about to re-introduce a formerly straight character as gay, prompting Wayne to joke, "Like our President, Dan's position on this issue has evolved." DC did not disclose the identity of the character during the panel.
The Q&A portion of the panel contained a number of interesting teases, often notable by Wayne's swift intervention. One fan asking when we would see The Question was told by Wayne "you already have." A fan asking about the possibility of any New 52 animations was shut down by Wayne pointedly repeating that this was an "interesting idea." Avoidance of spoilers was also a concern with some characters. An enquiry about whether we'd see Wally West again was swiftly dispatched with a cry of "Next question!" which segued into another fan who asked about the fate of Booster Gold ("and Skeets!") and DiDio said, "There is a definite plan. I love Skeets! Just like I love Wally West." Asked whether Captain Marvel/Shazam would get his own New 52 title, DiDio replied "Not in the second wave..." Wayne again interjected, "We have not acknowledged a third wave!"
One fan had an easier time getting an answer when he asked whether the DCU version of Constantine would play any part in "Swamp Thing," with Snyder free to give an emphatic "yes."
The rest of the panel focused on the actual titles in DC's New 52 with Scott Snyder, writer of "Batman" and "Swamp Thing," the first to speak. Snyder spoke about writing the "Night of the Owls" crossover running through the Batman line of titles, saying he had never worked so hard on a series in his life, but emphasized that turning it into a crossover was a natural outgrowth of events rather than a "top down" decision. He said the story's events simply reached a point where the threat to Gotham meant that the extended Bat-Family could no longer be ignored, and rather than take those characters, he offered the other writers a chance to join in. The only constraint on the creators involved was to ensure the Talons behaved the same way as they did in the core "Batman" title. The other details were left open to interpretation, but Snyder hoped other writers would take the opportunity to tell stories about Gotham's past, since the story was really about "the history of the city" and about how it "brings people's nightmares to life," be they good or evil.
After showing a cover for the upcoming "Batman Annual" featuring Mr. Freeze, Snyder explained that his plan was to re-introduce Freeze as a "big and scary" villain, saying that although we've seen him before in the New 52 DCU, this will put him center-stage for the first time.
Moving on to discuss "Swamp Thing," Snyder was asked by Wayne whether he found the title intimidating to take on. "No," the writer joked, before admitting that he was "both thrilled and intimidated" to take over the title. He said his plan had been to make a version of "Swamp Thing" that was accessible without changing anything huge, and was proud that his work was acting as a gateway for fans to go and read the Len Wein/Alan Moore runs.
Showing off teasers from the series, Snyder addressed the return of Arcane, saying that there were "a lot of surprises" coming that would tell us who he is and why he's the way he is, morally speaking. As with "Batman," he said the forthcoming Rotworld crossover (with Jeff Lemire's "Animal Man") arrived naturally because had "we had more story than we realized."
Peter Milligan was unable to make the panel, so after skipping quickly through some "Red Lanterns" covers, Dan DiDio pulled a girl named Sophie from the crowd to explain what she enjoyed about "Demon Knights," prompting a cheer of support from the book's writer, Paul Cornell, who was revealed to be sitting in the audience.
DiDio mentioned one of the publisher's plans for the New 52 was not to do very many time travel stories, and instead use books like "Demon Knights" and "All-Star Western" to set up elements in the past which then come into play in books set in the present.
Moving on to the "Second Wave" of New 52 titles, which sees six new launches replacing six cancelled titles, DiDio emphasized the goal was to keep the line at 52 titles, although he acknowledged the recent cancellation of "Justice League International" leaves it at 51. He said the plan was to prevent overexposure, telling fans who asked why they can't see their favorite characters every month that "if you could, we'd be back in the pre-New 52 situation."
Of the omissions, the panel said the lack of a "Justice Society of America" title was one they were aware was missing, and had spent a lot of time figuring out what makes them different from the JLA. In this case, the new "Earth 2" title by James Robinson and Nicola Scott was designed to feel very different and accessible. Addressing the crowd, DiDio asked, "was anyone really confused by multiple earths?" One fan spoke up, telling DiDio that as a newcomer to comics he wasn't sure how the previous Earths had fit together, but that he "loved" the new "Earth 2" series, but was disappointed that Earth 2 Superman died. "Well yeah, but is he dead?" DiDio countered, prompting Bob Wayne to interrupt him with a fake coughing fit.
Discussing how they had "planted" Karen Starr in the DCU before the reveal that she was Power Girl, DiDio also pointed readers to the recent New 52 Free Comic Book Day story, which the Co-Publisher said contained "lots of easter eggs" that would pay off in the future.
DiDio invited artist Ian Churchill to discuss "The Ravagers," a Second Wave title he's launching with writer Howard Mackie, which spins out of "The Culling," a "Teen Titans"-centric crossover. Name dropping the book's cast, Churchill mentioned Ridge (a new, English character), Terra (now blonde again), as well as Thunder & Lightning and Beast Boy. Churchill described the series as "'Terminator' meets 'Logan's Run'" and said that the first two issues are already drawn.
Addressing Beast Boy's color change (from green to red), DiDio said editorial felt changing his color to red would be an appropriate way to allude to the character's connection with "The Red," which they didn't want to be isolated to series like "Swamp Thing" and "Animal Man," and which could develop into future storylines. Churchill then quipped that DC's Group Editor Eddie Berganza wanted the character to have a Justin Bieber haircut, too.Moving onto the Earth One line of original graphic novels, DiDio pointed out that "Batman: Earth One" would be released in the same month as Christopher Nolan's upcoming "The Dark Knight Rises" movie and hopefully interest the same crowd because "these [Earth One] books are movies." Moving on to "Superman: Earth One Vol. 2" by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis, DiDio said that there would be "a lot of risk taking" with the character's behavior in the story, hinting at a darker take on Superman, but insisting that it would remain true to the character and ultimately be recognizable.
Stay tuned to CBR News for more Kapow Comic Convention coverage and more on DC Comics and the New 52.