NYCC: DC Comics: Champions of Justice

DC Comics brought some of its biggest creators to the Champions of Justice panel, discussing the sphere of its "Justice League"-centric books and beyond, including "Wonder Woman," "Superman/Batman," "Grayson" and much more. The panel included DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns; David Finch; Aaron Kuder; Jimmy Palmiotti; Greg Pak; Paul Levitz, Tim Seeley, Ray Fawkes, Tony Daniel and Tom King.

After introductions by moderator John Cunningham, the panel started off with "Justice League" -- and Johns discussed the current post-"Forever Evil" status quo of the series.

"They are saving a lot of kids and people," Johns said. "The whole idea was we wanted to add someone who would shake it up in a fun way and Luthor certainly does it. It's funny hearing Lex's version of what helping people is, and what the Justice League's taught him. ... There;s some beautiful artwork, we see the League in action. This all leads up to Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne joining forces. What this does is allow Bruce to go into LexCorp and open any door."

Behind the closed doors, there is the Amazo Virus, which will get out during the appropriately-titled story arc. "It's about Lex turning over a new leaf, but he can't erase his past," said Johns. The virus causes a quarantine and at the same time, someone's put a price on Luthor's head, and the League has to choose between saving a lot of people and Lex Luthor. "As Flash says, 'That's not a hard choice to make.'"

Johns is also writing "Superman" with John Romita Jr. on art, and the book is trying to focus more on the man than the super. "John's so good at illustrating power, but he's also good at illustrating emotion," said Johns. "We're going to do three big things to Superman that will send him off in another direction. One they've never done before. ... Coming up, we have a lot of new villains." Issue #40 will be a "Lois Lane issue" and they're going to be celebrating her birthday. The next storyline will feature Romita drawing a lot of characters he's never drawn.

Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder were up next, with Pak saying that the next arc of "Action Comics" would be "Horrorville," which features things that might "even be hard for Superman to fight."

"It's not just about the creepy crawly thing that's coming after you, it's what it does to your soul," said Pak. "Lana and Steel both play a huge role in this." For those interested in romantic sides of character, there will be more of Lana and Steel.

Kuder said he was excited to come back and draw monsters again. "It's going to be creepy, awesome, gooey, sticky icky fun," he said. "It's going to be like being four again."

There will be an element of trouble with the people of Smallville themselves, as well.

Pak's next "Batman/Superman" arc will deal with Satannis -- who has stripped Batman and Superman of their memories and start from scratch. "Superman discovers he's got powers, Batman discovers he's got this secret identity," but without their memories, it's unusual. Superman gets involved with Catwoman who manipulates him, while Batman thinks it's awesome that he's a millionaire. "Lois Lane actually teams up with Bruce Wayne and sparks may fly," said Pak.

Levitz discussed "Worlds' Finest," where Levitz is exploring the secret history of Earth 2. In "Earth 2," the trinity was killed in the first issue, and Levitz plans to explore that world five or six years -- and in some cases, all the way back to Krypton. "It's not how it met its doom in how we're familiar with," said Levitz. "You get a really exciting first moment between Superman and Wonder Woman. ... He's about 8 and she's about three or four hundred years old. ... We learn how Lois Lane managed to survive to be put into the Red Tornado body. ... There was some special instances that allowed Lois to go through that." The writer said it leads into the "World's End" weekly series, calling it "aptly named."

Finch's "Wonder Woman" was up next, and the artist said he was "so pumped" for the first issue to hit stands. "I've put so much work in it and so much love into it," he said. "Swamp Thing plays an important role in the story -- for my role, I'm not really the brains of the operation."

Meredith Finch was also at the panel and jumped up on stage to discuss Wonder Woman. The panel showed an image of Wonder Woman fighting Swamp Thing. "We are so lucky to have Richard Friend and Sonia Oback on this book," said Meredith Finch. "If nothing else, this is going to be a beautiful book. I think the story's okay, too."

Coming this month is the new "Deathstroke" ongoing, and Tony Daniel discussed his take on the series. "With the new series, I basically am putting my own stamp on the character and it's a semi-reboot," he said. "There's a lot of stuff I can't talk about. I'm establishing one of his many hideouts. We get to see Slade Wilson looking at his arsenal, preparing to go on a mission." The art displayed showed a lot of mayhem in a way that only Deathstroke can enact. There were a lot of plot points he couldn't give away, but said the book was way over the top. "I get to do as violent of a book as I'd ever want to do," said Daniel. "That was one of the things when I agreed to take on the project -- the way I see this book is ultra-violent, sexy and more violence. If you're a Deathstroke fan and you like this type of stuff, you should be able to get into it and enjoy it."

"Harley Quinn" features a three-part team-up with Power Girl, and Palmiotti says Harley slowly convinces an amnesiac Power Girl that they were a superhero fighting team. "Half the issue is Harley trying to get Power Girl into a Harley fighting suit," said Palmiotti. "They go shopping, they have an adventure, they get shot at -- by the end of it, they find themselves in a very 'Guardians of the Galaxy' situation without it being 'Guardians of the Galaxy.' Amanda and I and Chad Hardin are having fun writing pretty much the most insane comic I've ever worked on in my life. ... We figured Power Girl was natural to put in the book ... since we missed writing her."

The "Harley Quinn Annual" features rub-and-smell technology and 38 pages of story. "It's all about Poison Ivy thrown in Akrham Asylum and it's up to Harley to get her out. During that, you'll have the wonderful opportunity to rub your comic and actually smell it," said Palmiotti. "You'll be able to smell some action. You can rub Harley's suntan lotion. It sounds rude, doesn't it? But you have permission to do it. It's a little crazy, we're trying something different. This will be the strangest book you've ever purchased on every single level."

Palmiotti said Harley Cat and Hairball feature in the book as a crime fighting duo. "Harley imagines herself as a crime fighting team with a sidekick named Hairball, and she has to cough him up," he said. "She coughs him up and they fight crime. There's no rubbing and smelling the hairball, but I'm sure if you have a cat, you can smell it."

The writer stressed that "you cannot rub and smell 'G.I. Zombie,'" his other book at DC. "G.I. Zombie" is about a soldier zombie working in the United States taking down militia groups. "They try to protect America and once in a while he has an appetite he needs to fulfill and he has to eat a person," said Palmiotti, discussing the next issue. "A virus gets let loose in a small town and everyone gets infected ... and the whole town decides [our hero] is the next meal they're going to have."

The panel transitioned to Seeley and King's "Grayson." Before "Grayson," the duo never met, but DC put them together on the book. "We combined our ideas to make Dick's story after 'Forever Evil,'" said Seeley. "Batman thought it was the perfect opportunity to infiltrate the group named Spyral. ... Dick is a double agent for Batman and Spyral."

"My mind is freaking blown by this," said King. "I wrote that page and it's up at New York Comic Con! It's also the filthiest page I've ever wrote." The page features Dick seducing and being seduced by Agent 8. King said that Dick has a problem shooting, and Agent 8 gives him a little lesson, "and then they give each other a little lesson."

Part of the issue will deal with what it means for a superhero to have a gun. A brand new character will get introduced: the Tiger KIng of Kandahar. "He's the top agent for Spyral. He's the top spy in the DCU right now," said KIng. Dick and the Tiger King will tangle in the third issue.

Ray Fawkes' "Constantine" will see the title character face off against a different kind of magic -- in the hell of Earth 2 under attack by Apokolips. "John is trying to survive alongside the rest of the people on the streets," said Fawkes, noting that as soon as Constantine crosses over, every mage on Earth 2 realizes they can cross over to Earth 1 through him. "John is going to go on a pretty horrific journey -- he's going to make his most horrific and traumatic sacrifice." Fawkes said it will change the character moving forward. This story will also tell readers why John wants to kill Doctor Fate.

Fawkes is also responsible for "Gotham by Midnight," which is set to debut in November. "This is Ben Templesmith who I think is a genius, and I are calling all freaks on this. This is the book that will just weird out the normals," said Fawkes, nothing that readers will find out how crazy things can get in Gotham City -- the problems so freaky that even Batman can't handle. "We're going to be taking the populous of Gotham where they have to deal with questions of faith and madness and what's in Gotham that would produce all these super villains and a person like Batman."

"This book is going to blow your minds. I promise you that," said Fawkes.

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