SDCC: DC Brings Justice League Into The Rebirth Era

With Rebrith, DC Comics has started a whole new initiative that's redefined the tone and mission statement of its superhero line. As more and more heroes enter the Rebirth era, a group of DC creators gathered at San Diego's Comic-Con International to reveal what's in store for the company's headlining heroes -- the Justice League. Moderator (and DC's SVP Editorial Strategy & Administration) Hank Kanalz introduced the panel: artist Brad Walker ("Aquaman"), writer John Semper ("Cyborg"), writer Joshua Williamson ("The Flash") and writer Robert Venditti ("Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps").

Kanalz kicked off the presentation with "Cyborg," introducing writer John Semper. The first issue of the series arrives in September, and Semper called the issue "so spectacular you won't want to read anything else." He recounted a conversation he had at the show, where an interviewer called Cyborg disabled. "I've never thought of him as being disabled," said Semper. "He's a superhero. You never think that Kryptonite makes him disabled. I think the biggest change for me in terms of the way I want people to perceive him. He's not crippled in any way. He's going to be doing superheroic thing. We're going to focus in on his personality and his life and in doing so I think that will augment the notion of him as someone we admire. I did this 20 years ago when I reinvented Spider-Man for animation. You take a hero and you find his good qualities and you make him as interesting as possible."

Pages from "Cyborg" #1 by artist Paul Pelletier were shown. Semper said he' still surprised at how quickly artists can turn in "epic" art, especially compared to the lengthy process of animation. He said that he gave Pelletier instructions in one upcoming issue that he wanted to "feel the weather" in the issue, and that Pelletier nailed the feeling of fall in every panel. The splash page from the "Cyborg: Rebirth" issue was shown, which features a new villain created by Semper named Malware. "This is going to be an exciting book," the writer said. "He's in the middle of a huge battle at the beginning. At the same time in the 'Rebirth' issue, you'll also get an understanding of his past and his private anguish. It's a great issue if you're a longtime fan, but if you're just picking it up for the first time, you're going to get started and I intend to take you interesting places." Semper talked about the artist, saying that Will Conrad will alternate issues with Paul Pelletier. "I couldn't be more excited."

Artist Brad Walker talked about "Aquaman," saying that "he's so many things all at one time. He's a monarch and a politician and adventurer and superhero. He's gone through so many drastic incarnations, any other character those would've been 'Elseworlds' stories -- but all of them are in continuity with him. You can do sociopolitical stories, outright fantasy stories, sci-fi/horror, at the turn of a page it can switch to any other one." Walker shares art duties with Phil Briones, and the book is written by Dan Abnett. "The thing I love about the first arc is the pace of it," said Walker. "The pace builds from a sweet introduction in the first issue to an all-out action mess in issue #6 where Aquaman's in conflict with the U.S. government." Superman will clash with Aquaman in issue #6. Walker said the team approached the character saying there was nothing to fix with him, that he'd been in good hands during the New 52.

Of his conflict with the government, Walker said that Aquaman is trying to bring Atlantis "onto the world stage and have it regarded as a world power, justifiably. The running gag of the fan community of Aquaman not being taken seriously is sort of played out through the surface world in the book now. Aquaman is in charge of the largest group of world citizens but they're not regarded as part of that community. He wants to bring Atlantis in and other people don't want him to." Walker praised the biweekly schedule, saying that there's "less of a chance to let up. It hews closer to trade reading, which the audience seems to respond to, and you don't have time to get distracted with another book." When Superman arrives, though, the fact that this is the pre-"Flashpoint" Superman -- a character that Aquaman doesn't really know -- will be front and center in the story.

"Flash" writer Joshua Williamson took the spotlight, focusing on "Flash" #3. Williamson caught the audience up on the series' plot, which sees dozens of citizens now having speed powers. "Some want to live their lives now, some want to become criminals. Barry and August are trying to stop the citizens that have powers now and are robbing banks," said Williamson. "We're going to be meeting new people." Art showed the Speed Force training center at S.T.A.R. Labs, and a new character called Godspeed will be introduced. "He'll use his powers to kill people, and he's going after the speedsters." There are two new women speedsters, Mina and Avery.

Williamson praised his artist Carmine Di Giandomenico, saying that he loves the character and has a passion for "doing a great 'Flash' story." The artist will also sneak in homages to past "Flash" stories that will fly by the rest of the creative team. "When he got this job, it meant a lot to him to do this book," said Williamson. "He's been doing cool stuff with the lightning to guide your eye to tell the story." Neil Googe is the alternating artist on the series. Williamson stated that he's always wanted to write the Flash, and his initial instinct was to just focus on Barry alone. But he thought about it and decided that having multiple speedsters in the story will make Barry question what makes him specifically special.

Kid Flash came up, and Williamson said he's fallen in love with his character. "He's like an adoptive son. I feel passionate about his story." Williamson will help show his journey to picking up the Kid Flash mantle and carrying on that legacy. "In October's 'Flash' #9, the two Wally Wests will meet in a story called 'Kid Flash of Two Worlds."

"Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps" took focus next, with writer Venditti saying that the "Rebirth" issue is a good jumping on point for readers. The series will see Hal Jordan reclaiming the Green Lantern mantle and searching for the Green Lantern Corps. "Ethan Van Sciver is amazing and he's synonymous with 'Rebirth' and the Green Lantern mythology," said Venditti. "To have him as one of the artists on the series is a benefit. He knows their personalities and he can communicate so much."

Sinestro has now moved War World in the center of the universe and made them the universe's police force. "Sinestro has become aged through the exertions of power he's used in order to become the police force of the universe, and that's where we're picking up with him." Venditti said Van Sciver brings energy and enthusiasm to the book that is "infectious." "We'll talk over email about stories and feed off each other in that way," said the writer. "I've already written twelve scripts and we have six issues completely drawn. Both artists are so enthusiastic." The alternating artist on the book is Rafa Sandoval. Venditti praised Sandoval's pace, noting that he designed 10 new Yellow Lanterns from scratch in order to draw a cover of the comic.

"Sinestro does find a way to rejuvenate himself," said Venditti. "I'm enjoying writing the relationship between Sinestro and his daughter. Soranik used to be a Green Lantern and now she's a Yellow Lantern, and I love writing them." The next page from an upcoming issue was shown, to Venditti's surprise, showing the Green Lantern Corps -- including John Stewart and Guy Gardner and Kilowog. Venditti added that the team is doing something "secretive" with Kyle Rayner. "Kyle's definitely going to be on the board and do some important things," Venditti said.

The floor was opened to questions, with Kanalz asking some fan questions from Twitter. Semper talked about what drew him to Cyborg, citing his affinity for technology. "I think he's a very timely character. He's a character of color and there's a timeliness to doing a story about a black man living in Detroit. I couldn't have picked a better character for me to be writing right now." Semper added that he will be exploring Cyborg's relationship with his father and also his "outside environment," interacting with people in Detroit. "Detroit is going to be his Gotham or Metropolis."

A fan asked Semper to clarify his comments about Cyborg being disabled, asking why Cyborg can't be disabled and a hero. Semper talked about his sister, who is blind, and said he just personally doesn't like the term "disability." "If I see someone in a wheelchair, I don't think of them as 'disabled,' I think of them as someone in a wheelchair and equally capable of being a superhero. One thing that's bothered me about the way Cyborg has been approached in the past is that I don't want to see his limbs being hacked off or him pulled apart. That undermines the strength and dignity of the character. You could have Batman getting shot and wounded in every issue, but they don't. We're not going to do that anymore, at least not in my run." Semper added that "words have power, and sometimes you have to make it clear how you're using a word and what the word means. Maybe some people are comfortable with the word disabled, but I wasn't in the context of the conversation I had the other day. This is a good point."

Semper answered another question, saying that he's looking forward to building out Cyborg's "pantheon" of villains, starting with Malware. "I'm especially interested in giving him his own kind of Joker," teased Semper.

Williamson and Venditti discussed passing the "Flash" torch from one writer to the other. Williamson said he loved going back through previous runs, including Venditti's, and "grabbing" the "bread crumbs" he could see and run with them. "There's so much generation and legacy, and I love reading a comic and picking up on something as a reader that ties into something from the past. We're passing it on," said Williamson. Venditti added that he thinks Williamson's "Flash" is great.

A fan asked Brad Walker how he feels about "Big Bang Theory's" jokes about Aquaman. "I don't watch it," said Walker. "I'm guessing they just make the hacky 'he talks to fish' jokes? I'm not bothered by those jokes at all. I'm an Aquaman fan since I was a kid. Aquaman fans enjoy that stuff as the people that are saying it that believe it. Geoff [Johns] incorporated it into the story a great deal in the New 52. The surface world is the audience, and views him as that segment of the audience views the character. His fans are Atlanteans, like me. We deal with that a lot in the series, and deal with it a different way than Geoff did. I'm not angry about those jokes at all. They work in our favor. People talk about Aquaman, that's fine with me."

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