Jim Lee & Dan DiDio need little introduction. Not only are they frequent guests of CBR TV, they are also the Co-Publishers of DC Entertainment, overseeing all of the publishing efforts of DC Comics. From the New 52 to DC You, their fingerprints have been felt on everything the company has done since they were named to the role in February 2010.
DiDio and Lee once again joined Jonah Weiland in the world famous CBR Tiki Room high above the convention floor at New York Comic Con to discuss nothing but the biggest news happening at DC Comics right now and into the future. From Frank Miller’s much buzzed about Superman cover from his “Dark Knight III” mini-comic to when Lee will find the time to drawn the final issues of “All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder,” his long-delayed collaboration with Miller, it’s all on the table in this wide-ranging interview. The duo gets candid discussing the highs and lows of the recent DC You initiative, what their plans are for DC Super Hero Girls moving forward and a whole lot more.
Kicking things off, DC’s Co-Publishers weigh in on Frank Miller, the celebrated and often controversial creator who ignited the Internet in recent weeks thanks to his first art from the upcoming “Dark Knight III: The Master Race.” DiDio and Lee discuss everything from the intense debate over his Superman cover to how Miller has managed to stay just as relevant today as he was when the original “Dark Knight Returns” was released in 1986, as well as whether or not they’re prepared for Miller’s most high-profile book to be released in the era of social media and every fan having a voice.
On the intense reaction to Frank Miller’s latest Superman cover:
Dan DiDio: I loved it. Honestly, I did. That’s one thing that Frank Miller does is evokes emotion in his work, in his storytelling, everything he does. The fact that the first art that came out from him associated with this project got that response is everything we could hope for.
On Miller staying relevant at 58 despite the entertainment industry having a habit of pushing out older creators:
Jim Lee: Frank’s made a whole career of not playing it safe, and I think there’s definitely a way to draw Superman where it looks like every other Superman you’ve seen, but Frank’s never done that game. So we embrace it, we applaud it, and at the end of the day I think he’s making a statement about who Superman is, it’s a very personal statement, and it’s one that’s born of years of experience working in comics. I think he’s at a point with his career where he’s looking at these characters saying, these are absurd at some level. These are characters that are wearing bright-colored costumes and flying through space and shrinking down, going into phone lines.’ And he’s embracing that and playing off of it. It has a Ralph Steadman kind of quality and I love looking at it, especially when he inks himself. It’s really gnarly, it almost looks like the texture of dinosaurs. I just love it because it’s so different from everything else. You know you’re gonna get people that aren’t gonna love it, but, you know, he’s never really embraced that. His work is all about ‘this is my vision for these characters’ and he follows through on that. So I think it’s the reaction that he anticipated and we love.
In the second part of CBR TV’s conversation with DiDio and Lee, the Co-Publishers address what their next big move is following the resurrections of “Watchmen,” “The Sandman” and now “Dark Knight.” DiDio also comments on why Telos, the villain of the recent “Convergence” event, was given his own solo series in its wake. Lee comments on one of the most frequent questions asked of him, which is when he and Frank Miller plan to finish their run on “All Star Batman and Robin,” and the fan-favorite artist explains the origin of the series’ famed Green Lantern issue. They also discuss Greg Capullo taking a break from “Batman” and who might be picking up the pencil in his absence.
On when Jim Lee actually plans to draw the final issues of his and Frank Miller’s “All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder”:
Lee: Frank mentioned that at the panel, but the speakers are pointed toward the audience. So I heard people kind of laughing [Laughter] and Frank kind of leaned over and he nodded his head. I don’t know if that meant we’re doing it, or if he’s saying like “no way in hell,” or whatever. [Laughs] Look, one of the great things about Brian Azzarello working with Frank is that I think it’s really reignited Frank’s passion for all things DC, and I did tell Brian, “Hey, can you mention ‘All Star Batman,’ because I would love to finish it.” Actually, I have scripts for, I think, two more issues, I just never got around to it. At the end of the day, he’s got this awesome ending and it really is a touching moment. It features Superman and, yeah, it would be great to tell that story and so it really kind of hinges on Frank’s schedule but he actually wants to do a lot more DC stuff moving forward. And actually, “Dark Knight III” is a chapter in the “Dark Knight” saga, so I will leave you with that as well.
On Greg Capullo taking a hiatus from “Batman” and whether the Dark Knight is in John Romita, Jr.’s future following his departure from “Superman”:
DiDio: I can’t say anything to that directly. We have teased what John is working on next.
Lee: You might as well. [Laughter]
DiDio: Might as well keep going!
Lee: There is a thing called the Internet and information is shared. [Laughter]
DiDio: So actually what John’s gonna be doing, he’s gonna be doing a 48-page special celebrating the 30th anniversary of “The Dark Knight [Returns],” which is actually a prequel to the “Dark Knight” book, and then we have plans for him following that.
But Greg is taking a break, and it’s interesting because everybody’s focused about Greg leaving, I just want to celebrate the fact that he did this incredible run for 50 issues, and not only that, he’s just gonna take a break and then he’s looking to come on back. The fact that, I think one of the great successes of Scott [Snyder] and Greg’s “Batman,” is the consistency of that team, I think they’ve built that loyal fanbase and that expectation of quality, and our goal is to make sure that if Greg’s off there for a period of time we maintain that high level of quality whether it takes an artist or an army of artists to accomplish that.
In the final part of their chat with CBR TV, Jim Lee and Dan DiDio look back on the diverse DC You initiative four months in, and whether it not it did what they were hoping for for DC Comics and its line. They also talk about “Omega Men,” one of the initiatives cancelled titles that almost immediately found new life due to fan support, and comments on why they feel like the positive side of the Internet embraced the book. Things wrap up with a discussion of DC Super Hero Girls, the publisher’s joint venture with Mattel, and how it all came to be.
On whether they feel the DC You initiative did what they originally intended:
Lee: I think it’s the first step toward a bigger, broader program. We went out there with a lot of new creators, a lot of new characters that we haven’t published before, but we wanted to seize an opportunity. It’s an emerging audience, the industry’s changing, and we wanted to really foster a community that was more inviting. We wanted to give people seats at the table, and you do that by hiring people, different creators, we set up a talent development program with Bobbi Chase to identify new kinds of talent — to train them, to educate them, to retain them. And then we looked at the portfolio of characters and said, “Hey, who deserves a moment in the spotlight?” We kind of pushed a lot characters to the front and center. That said, we pushed a lot of content to the front and center, and at the end of the day, you just can’t slap the label “diversity” on something and expect it to sell. At the end of the day, you saw the better content sell better than the others, and you have to have that in the back of your mind as you keep going forward and keep expanding this program. You gotta get really good creators working together. It’s a bit of alchemy, getting the right writer with the right artist on the right character. That said, we’ve got some big plans where we’re going to continue building on what we learned and what started with DC You.
On the birth of “DC Super Hero Girls”:
Lee: It’s partly born of the zeitgeist. Female empowerment is a big topic in pop culture. Obviously Mattel has always had a strong business in the girls category. We haven’t had a real push toward young female readers, so I think there’s a lot of things that were happening at the same time. Obviously Mattel is a huge partner in it, Random House is doing the books and they’re a big partner, and we’re kind of front and center with our characters. We have arguably the greatest female superheroes in the world between Wonder Woman, Batgirl, the list goes on and on. I think it just gives us the opportunity to reach these young female readers and it really shows these characters in a way they might not have been presented before.
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