NYCC: Jim Lee, Dan DiDio Address the State of the DC Universe

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Thursday morning at New York Comic Con kicked off in a big way for DC Comics with the DC Meet the Publishers panel, featuring co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee.

The panel kicked off with a promo for the newly launched DC Universe streaming service, then Lee and DiDio took to the stage.

"Everyone aware of the DC Universe online?" DiDio asked.

"We actually showed the first two episodes of Titans," Lee added, referring to last night's premiere. He then praised the upcoming Doom Patrol series, noting how the DC Universe service affords them the opportunity to explore more adult, R-rated content. DiDio followed up by praising the live-action incarnations of Hawk and Dove.

"We also have Young Justice: Outsiders and Harley Quinns," Lee said. "You guys are in for a real surprise and a lot of fun."

Referring back to the comic book source material, DiDio went on to praise Batman writer Tom King and Superman/Action Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis. He also praised Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's Doomsday Clock, as well as King and Clay Man's first issue of Heroes in Crisis.

Lee then steered the conversation to DC's young adult lines, Zoom and Ink. "We're really making a dedicated effort to reach out to young kids who're fans of our media. We're bringing in marquee talent and pairing them up with the characters they want to work with."

"A lot of what we're doing is expanding our reach," DiDio added. "We start to find that if we can't get the people to the stores, we have to find another way to get them in. We're also pushing out our Black Label line. When you look at Watchmen and even Dark Knight Returns, these are evergreen products."

Lee and DiDio then brought up DC's recently launched line of Wal-Mart exclusive titles. "Bendis is doing Batman, and it's one of the best Batman stories I've read in a while. And if people find it and get excited, hopefully they'll find the comic shops."

"I've been with DC now for almost 17 years," DiDio said. "It's good to see people come in when new attitudes, new points of view. This past year, we celebrated Superman's 80th birthday and next year, we're ready to celebrate Batman's with Detective Comics #1000. It's pretty impressive to be even more relevant today than these characters were 80 years ago. Detective #1000 hits in March and we want to make it even bigger and better than Action Comics #1000."

On the Vertigo line, Lee discussed the new creator-owned books such as Border Town. "What's special about that is that you guys loved it. It sold out, and we haven't had that happen with a Vertigo book in some time."

Regarding the Sandman Universe, DiDio addressed the notion of it being a pop-up imprint. "It gives a sense of authenticity to the books, because you know you have someone you trust taking care of it."

DiDio then welcomed Brian Michael Bendis to the stage. "I've never done a panel with you," DiDio said before joking about what's going on with Spider-Man. "We really enjoyed the youthful tone you bring to so much of your material."

Bendis then announced a new imprint, Wonder Comics, featuring a teaser image with Young Justice, Dial H for Hero, Bart Allen, Conner Kent and more.

"These characters mean a lot to each other personally. Some of them not in this continuity, so they're gonna meet each other for the first time," Bendis said. He then joked about how he's been excited about bringing Conner Kent back for quite some time.

"People have been asking for them over and over again," DiDio added. "But we don't want to bring them back and have nothing to do with them. It wasn't until Brian came back and said he wanted to do Young Justice that we decided it was time to bring them back."

"These characters really love each other," Bendis said. "We're also introducing a new character named Ginny Hex, the great, great, great, great, granddaughter of Jonah Hex. She'll debut in the next Wal-Mart Batman." Bendis also said he'd be introducing Teen Lantern as a part of the new team lineup. Young Justice will launch in January, DiDio confirmed.

"We've got to make sure these books work on every level," DiDio said about the comic book industry as a whole. "Retailers have a hard job, and it's our job to either make it harder or easier for them. The greater the challenge, the greater the effort we've got to put in."

Lee then introduced Marv Wolfman to the stage, who received a standing ovation from the crowd.

"Dan can be real excited and infectious and you start thinking what he's saying makes sense," Wolfman said about DC's recently announced Primal Age action figure line. "It's a great exercise because I love the characters and have since day one, and getting to write the characters as if they existed in that setting but now is really something."

Lee then confirmed that Wolfman would be writing a comic based on the Primal Age, exclusive to Target stores.

"Miles Morales in a cartoon?" DiDio abruptly asked Bendis, joking about going off-panel from DC for a moment. "Oh, it's a great cartoon," Bendis said.

A fan then asked what sparked DC getting back into its groove over the past few years.

"Low sales?" DiDio joked. "I think it was the New 52," Lee added. "We rode that for many many years. Then when we went to Rebirth, having that experience allowed us to do things smarter, faster, bigger. You can't do it too often, though, because that dilutes it. We're in a really good spot because we have creative teams to pull off these big events."

Another fan asked which Robin would be on Young Justice, to which Bendis replied, "Tim Drake."

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