For the first time in a while, DC Comics rolled into Comic-Con International in San Diego Friday afternoon with a DC Nation panel. How does DC Nation differ from other presentations by the publisher? "We're going to get a little silly," said DC Publisher Dan DiDio who began his introductions of the panel by mentioning DC's recent launch of Walmart exclusive comics.
"Are there any retailers here?" he laughed, acknowledging the strong response from comic shop owners to the mass market move before seriously saying "We've got to find a way to reach out to new readers and bring them into comics."
Leading that charge were some of the panelists, including writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, Mark Russel, Joshua Williamson (of whom DiDio joked "Our goal is to make him cry on this panel") and writer Tom King, introduced as "the man who made us think Batman and Catwoman were going to get married." Laughs were elicited when King brought with him a bodyguard that the convention assigned him, however the fact that SDCC felt the need to do it after the writer received death threats online for his comic book story remains a serious concern.
But fun was to be had at King's expense about the divisive Batman #50 in which Catwoman left Batman at the alter. "We're halfway into the story – the Nazis have stolen the arc of the covenant, Darth Vader has just grabbed Han Solo's gun, and we're all pissed," the writer said. "The anger and disappointment you felt? That's what Batman felt...now he has a new pain. From day one, this was always going to be a story about someone breaking Batman. It was always going to be a story about Bane breaking Batman."
King talked about his incoming Heroes In Crisis series, saying, "This is a big story about a masacre...a murder that happens in the safest place in the DCU." He went on to say that he will be reuniting with past collaborators Mikel Janin and Mitch Gerads. "What [Mitch and I] did in Mister Miracle is deconstruct one superhero...that was a prelude to Heroes In Crisis where we do that to every character in the DC Universe." He promised that the series would make the DCU different from any other fictional world out there because it will more strongly reflect the emotions of the readership.
The location of Sanctuary, which is the focal point of King's series, will except Wally West as a broken man after Williamson's "Flash War" arc. The panel joked that "You can't have a Crisis without killing a Flash," but the specific plans for what's in store for the recently resurrected '90s Flash have been kept under wraps.
Meanwhile in the core Flash book, Williamson is preparing an arc called "Force Quest." "Barry is realizing that all the things he knew about the Speed Force he was wrong about," he said promising that the character "would have to retrain and relearn everything he needs to know to be the Flash...it's definitely going to be an emotional rollercoaster. I love Barry Allen, but it's part of my job to put him through Hell."
Russell spoke to the next phase of his well-received Hanna-Barbera comic books with Green Lantern/Huckleberry Hound one-shot. The story is set in 1972 during the last days of the Vietnam War. "People have lost faith in the institutions that govern them, and Green Lantern has been assigned the toughest task of his career: to come back to earth and not use his powers," said the writer.
The cartoon character in this book follows on the heels of his Snagglepuss run. "It's actually the son of the Huckelberry Hound who killed himself in Snagglepuss," Russell explained, calling the recent series "The most inaccessible comic book ever." However, the series influenced by the Hollywood blacklist and Tennessee Williams has been a critical fave, and in the wake of that Russell said, "I don't want anybody thinking that my comic book about a blue dog is inaccurate and unrealistic."
Palmiotti was asked about he and Connor's work on an incoming Wonder Woman serial for the Walmart-based 100-Page Giant and how it was different from their Harley Quinn run. "Well, in the first issue, she marries Catwoman," joked the writer. More honestly, the team said they wanted to make the most accessible story for Wonder Woman fans who may have never read comics. "We're trying to show why we love Wonder Woman in the story...for us, we need to get new readers. We all know that...there's a lot of places in America that don't have comic shops in them."
The panel joked about the response to the Walmart release – how some diehard fans have been stymied trying to find them while others have turned to flipping the product on eBay. But long term, the team had faith that the series would bring new fans into comics.