LAS VEGAS: "What's New With the DC 52?"

At the "What's New With the DC 52?" panel at Las Vegas Comic Expo, writers Scott Lobdell ("Superman," "Teen Titans," "Red Hood and the Outlaws"), Kyle Higgins ("Nightwing"), Brian Buccellato ("The Flash"), Joshua Hale Fialkov ("I, Vampire") and J.T. Krul ("Captain Atom") discussed their work on DC Comics' superhero titles, touching upon the pitfalls of crossovers, fan desires for the return of Wally West and Stephanie Brown, and plans for a "Teen Titans" spinoff.

The panel was moderated by Lobdell, who offered chocolate poker chips to all fans who asked questions, along with autographed comics for the best questions about each writer's characters.

After polling audience members about which New 52 books they were following, and whether they read single issues or collected editions, Lobdell opened the discussion to questions. The first fan asked Higgins whether Nightwing will face off against the Joker during the upcoming "Death of the Family" crossover. Higgins promised that following "Nightwing" #13-14, written by Tom DeFalco, his story in issues 15 and 16 will be "the biggest, most bombastic, scariest Joker encounter you will see."

When asked whether there was a chance of seeing Static Shock in "Teen Titans," Lobdell replied, "Nothing would make me happier." However, he said "legal issues" prevent the characters from joining the title.

A Flash fan asked Buccellato about the possibility of Wally West appearing in the series. "This is comic books, so nobody stays away forever," the writer said before noting there are no plans at the moment for the character. Characterizing the decision as "above my pay grade," Buccellato said he and "The Flash" co-writer/artist Francis Manapul pitched a Wally West story but were turned down. However, fans should look for a character named Daniel West in the zero issue, which was released last week.

Continuing on the Flash topic, another fan asked whether Kid Flash will cross paths with Barry Allen. Buccellato and Lobdell both said they're working on that story, although it may not happen for some time.

Lobdell then paused to survey the audience again, asking how many people actually cared about Wally West and how many wouldn't mind never seeing him again; a majority of fans wanted to see the character. He then posed the same questions about former Batgirl Stephanie Brown, with a slightly less enthusiastic response for her return. Lobdell concluded his informal poll by asking who in the audience had ever posted nasty comments about creators on Internet message boards; two people raised their hands, with one admitting he had wished cancer on certain creators.

A fan asked Lobdell about the possibility of a crossover between "Teen Titans" and the "Young Justice" animated series, a proposition the writer seemed to find baffling. He dismissed the idea, but he did reveal plans for a "Teen Titans" spinoff series following Issue 25, with a new team to be led by Raven. The other panelists expressed amazement that Lobdell is secure enough to be making plans for the 2th issue - Issue 12 was released just last month - leading the writer to admit "all that could completely fall apart."

The next fan asked how the creators feel the first year of the New 52 has gone, and what they've found frustrating. Lobdell said he was frustrated with "The Culling" crossover among "Teen Titans," "Legion Lost" and "Superboy" because "it smooshed all my plans into one month." Higgins said his biggest frustration was knowing the reveal he had to build to in the seventh issue of "Nightwing" and not getting there in the most elegant way.

Fialkov said he's just happy "I, Vampire" is still going, with 13 straight issues of the same creative team. He said he's been able to accomplish 85 percent of what he wanted to do with the series, and "they let me make the main character evil." As a fairly low-profile series, "I, Vampire" has had more issues with guest stars than without, but Fialkov said he likes including other characters. He said Stormwatch were the only guest stars he added on his own initiative, but that Issue 15 will feature a guest appearance that not even editorial knows about yet.

Krul's highlight was working with artist Freddie Williams II on "Captain Atom," while the obvious low point was the title's cancellation with Issue 12. Still, he said he did everything he wanted to do in those issues. Asked by Lobdell whether he thought the series might have succeeded with a more mainstream approach, Krul said he thought the New 52 relaunch actually hurt "Captain Atom," as it was overshadowed by so many other new books. He said he had originally pitched a similar sci-fi focus for a Supergirl series, and then brought that approach to "Captain Atom."

A fan asked whether "I, Vampire" main character Andrew Bennett would retain the powers he had gained from the entire Justice League Dark, and Fialkov said he won't, "but he will change the rules of how vampires work," and that now they will be much harder to kill.

In response to a question about the chances of Blue Beetle joining "Teen Titans," Lobdell said the character might be featured as part of Raven's team in the planned spinoff series. Fialkov revealed he had pitched a story in which Blue Beetle turned into a vampire, but was shot down.

The next question was about crossovers, and whether they are helpful or hurtful from a storytelling standpoint. "It depends on what you have planned," Krul said, explaining that sometimes a crossover can derail carefully planned stories, while at other times it can work well. "What they're doing in the Bat-books is really strong." Fialkov agreed the Bat-books were a strong example of crossovers done right, because "you have a visionary in Scott Snyder." Higgins said the crossovers in the Bat-books all stem from Snyder's ideas, and Snyder creates stories in which it makes sense for all the characters in the Bat-family to be involved.

Although Buccellato said "Francis and I are on our own island" with "The Flash," Fialkov brought up another of his unused story pitches of that would have seen "I, Vampire" and "The Flash" cross over, as the evil Andrew Bennett came to Central City and turned all of the Flash's rogues into vampires. The Flash would have only 72 hours to turn them back before the change became permanent. However, that idea never made it past the pitch stage.

Lobdell again expressed frustration with "The Culling," but promised the upcoming "H'el on Earth" crossover in the Super-books would go much more smoothly.

A Starfire fan asked if the character would be keeping her new space outfit in upcoming appearances. "Yes, against my objections," Lobdell conceded, although the fan was pleased. A Flash fan asked Buccellato about plans for Professor Zoom, to which Buccellato replied, "Not exactly, but sort of."

What characters that haven't yet debuted in the New 52 would the panelists wish to write? Lobdell and Fialkov both requested to write the Creeper but were turned down. Krul wanted to write The Question, but DC had other plans for the character. Fialkov said he pitched a series featuring Brother Power the Geek as "a mannequin who comes to life in the swinging '60s," but was denied.

Asked about the potential difficulty of incorporating Wildstorm characters into the DC Universe, Fialkov said, "I put [Stormwatch] in my book on purpose. I love those characters."

Asked about changing attitudes toward gay characters since he revealed Northstar as gay two decades ago, Lobdell noted that Bobbie Chase was his editor for both that story and the appearance of gay character Bunker in "Teen Titans," and in both cases there had been no objections. DC's only request was that Bunker "not be too gay."

Returning to the West family, Buccellato was asked about Iris West, whom he said would eventually make another appearance in "The Flash." A man in a Harley Quinn costume got the final question, with news that his favorite character would be appearing in "Death of the Family" in addition to her regular role in "Suicide Squad."

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