SAN DIEGO, DAY TWO: Discussing the Dark Knight

[Batman #619]The draw of Batman at the San Diego Comic-con International was undenyable this year thanks to Loeb and Lee's best selling "Batman" run. That energy carried into Friday's "Batman: A Knight in Gotham" panel. There was a slew of talent rounding out the panel including Brian Azzarello, Ed Brubaker, Klaus Janson, Paul Jenkins, Michael Lark, Jim Lee, Arnold and Jacob Pander, Eduardo Risso, Greg Rucka, and Bat-office editor Bob Schreck. Mr. Schreck thanked the creators and the fans alike for "one hell of a year" as "Batman" became the number one book.

[Batman: Death and the Maidens]Greg Rucka, who playfully razzed his "Gotham Central" penciller Michael Lark and writing colleague Ed Brubaker, discussed his upcoming "Batman: Death and the Maidens" series: "The tagline at DC is that it's 'the last Ra's Al Ghul story', so you can make of that what you will." Rucka's penciller on the title, the very humble Klaus Janson, praised Mr. Rucka for his work on the title: "This is the best Batman story you've ever done." The discussion turned to the controversial "Half a Life" storyline in "Gotham Central". A member of the audience shared his appreciation for the respectful and realistic portrayal of a homosexual character. Michael Lark, penciler on "Gotham Central" enthusiastically added that he was "proudest of ['Gotham Central' over] anything I've ever done."

Jim Lee remained relatively quiet during the panel simply wanting to thank the fans for supporting "Batman". Jeph Loeb wasn't present.

As recently solicited, after Loeb and Lee's run, Vertigo favorites Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso will be taking the reigns of "Batman." Understanding that they have big shoes to fill, both creators seemed confident of the strength of their run. Eduardo Risso: "I'm very happy doing Batman, this is a great project." Azzarello clued the audience in on the nature of his story: "We're going to focus more on what Batman is, why he is who he is and what makes him that way."

[Batman: City of Light]Also set to delve deeply into Batman's motivations is the Pander Brothers' project "Batman: City of Light." This new eight issue series, debuting in October, will explore Batman's internal struggles and his relationship with the city he protects.

Steve Dillon joins Ed Brubaker on a book titled "Batman: The Man Who Laughed." Set after the events portrayed in Frank Miller's "Batman: Year One," this new story features everyone's favorite evil clown. Ed Brubaker: "A guy [the Joker] with a sniper rifle comes to Gotham City and whacks the mayor." This is the story of Joker's first appearance in Gotham City and promises to be as dark and gritty as the character demands.

"Batman: Jekyl and Hyde," written by Paul Jenkins and pencilled by Jae Lee, compares the psyche of Batman and his schizophreniac villain Two-Face. Paul Jenkins: "Batman is two people in conflict just like Two-Face."

The mood at the Batman panel was very jovial. Paul Jenkins playfully "translated" for Eduardo Risso, and Michael Lark joyfully exclaimed his excitement about drawing the Joker in an up-coming "Gotham Central" storyline. Ed Brubaker, who arrived late to the panel, described the state of all of his books except for one that slipped his mind, "Detective Comics." All of this, and more, kept the panel light and entertaining for all involved.

Finally, when asked about the fate of "Gotham Knights," Bob Schreck answered that "there are things going on", but he couldn't discuss it any more than that.

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