The creative teams behind DC's most iconic superheroes took the stage at Comic-Con International in San Diego this year to talk the future of the Justice League. The massive panel included representatives from all nearly all core members of the League's pantheon, including Tom King (Batman), Dan Jurgens (Action Comics), Steve Orlando (JLA), Joshua Williamson (The Flash), John Semper Jr. (Cyborg), Nicola Scott and Liam Sharp (Wonder Woman), and Brad Walker (Aquaman).
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The panel opened with moderator Jason Inman (DC All Access) welcoming the massive talent roster to the stage.
The first book focus went to Justice League of America and Steve Orlando. Inman put Orlando on the spot with his love for the 90s run of The Ray.
"He had the best trading card when I was a kid!" Orlando joked, "And he's the perfect counter point to Batman, he's the Dark Knight, Ray is the Ray of Hope, it's a great dynamic."
Inman then asked about the relationship of the "King Butcher" story arc to the Lords of Order, which Orlando was quick to confirm that, yes, this arc and the King Butcher as a character are specifically calling back to the Lords of Order.
"Is there a chance for a Dr. Fate cameo?" Inman asked, to which Orlando smiled and responded "Well it's me, so there's a chance of an even more obscure character with "Doctor" in his name showing up very soon."
Inman then moved the focus to Orlando's other book, Supergirl where the first question went out about the relationship between Babs and Kara. "They come from this world that are almost diametrically opposed," Orlando explained. "...But to bring them together again really since the first time since the mid 80s is a great experience."
Orlando then went on to tease a bit of the next arc. "The Fatal Five's attack kicks off in issue 11, with Cat Grant," he explained, as the screens displayed an inked cover design for the arc featuring a rampaging Solomon Grundy.
The panel then turned towards the mechanical with John Semper Jr. and Cyborg. Semper Jr. was quick to praise Geoff Johns' willingness to allow him to do an 18-19 issue "epic" where Semper was able to start small and grow bigger and bigger. "He's going to find out something interesting about Mother Boxes soon," Semper explained, "If they've ever baffled you as they have me, you're going to get some answers."
Inman then asked if more cameos -- similar to the recent visit from Beast Boy -- have a chance, to which Semper jokingly responded that he's always listening for fans and who they want to see.
The Flash then took center stage, the first question for Williamson was focused on his collaborator, Howard Porter. Williamson related an anecdote about meeting Porter years ago, "He drew me a sketch of Robot Hourman and it was so hard to not just fanboy out on him when we started working."
Inman then asked about Williamson's recent work with Eobard Thawne. "I don't think I've really remade anything," Williamson explained about his own incarnation, "My favorite Flash story of all time is "The Return of Barry Allen" which tells a lot of Thawne's origin. Thawne's an obsessive fan [...] he looked up to Barry as if Barry was a comic book character, almost like the Barry looked up to Jay's comics in the 60s."
"And then Thawne met Barry and realized that he's just a person, he's got flaws, and he was heartbroken. It kind of drove him crazy. So that stuff was already all there." Williamson explained, "Barry is so full of hope, he's sometimes hard to write. With Thawne, it's the reverse! It's almost easier. And because he's such a fan, he knows all of [Barry's weak points.]"
Williamson went on to talk about the recent developments in The Flash and the "negative speed force" which is the speed force that powers Thawne, so when Barry goes into the Negative Speed Force, he becomes infected by it.
The screen then displayed a character design for Barry's infected "negative Flash" state, complete with ominous black lightning and rictus skull-like face.
"I think people are going to be very excited about the stuff that's coming up for The Flash, we're getting to get to a lot of things fans have been asking for." Williamson teased.
Brad Walker was up next for his work on Aquaman and is creative process for the covers of the series. Walker was quick to highlight the collaborative process behind his work between the editors, writers, and artists.
Inman then asked Walker if he loves or hates drawing Aquaman's chainmail. Walker was quick to laugh and admit that he never minded doing it.
Recent Eisner winner Tom King was up next for Batman, who was excited to thank the panel attendees for showing up to a "bunch of nerds who draw and writer comics at 10 AM on a Saturday."
After Inman asked how difficult it was to write riddles for "The War of Jokes and Riddles" but King was quick to deny it. "I'm using riddles and jokes from the 1600s," King laughed.
King went on to explain that "The War of Jokes and Riddles" is really about the difference between jokes and riddles, relating jokes to the idea of anarchy and riddles to the evolution of fascism. King then teased issue #29, "The whole issue is Joker and Riddler just having dinner for twenty pages," he explained, "That's not a joke."
Inman then pivoted from Batman to Mister Miracle where King related an anecdote about how the idea came from a dinner between him and Dan Didio where he was offered the entire New Gods pantheon when, King laughed, "very drunk."
King went on to explain the presence of "Darkseid Is." throughout Mister Miracle and how the mantra is a way to explain the negativity in the world -- everything that could potentially go wrong, can be explained by "Darkseid Is." "He's not good good, he's not bad. He is." King said.
The panel then turned to focus on Wonder Woman with artist Nicola Scott. Inman asked about Scott's chance to draw the first meeting of the Trinity. "These characters are all being exaggerated versions of themselves because they're all posturing to each other. Batman's really got the grumps and Superman is really bringing some extra cheese and in the middle of that Diana arrives and has no agenda, other than to say "I see you," she's just taking charge."
Scott then related an anecdote about how DC was actually willing to wait for her schedule to clear to allow her to write that moment, something for which she is immensely grateful.
"I find her one of the most accommodating and inviting characters," Scott explained, by way of explaining why Diana is her favorite character, "it's something that no one else has."
Wonder Woman artist Liam Sharp then chimed in, "She's fantastic, she's wonderful [...] she's sisterly and motherly at the same time, she's innocent and she's mature, it's very difficult to capture in drawing her."
Sharp then explained how much he enjoyed playing with fans' expectations with Ares -- the idea that fans were looking for a big, burly, scary person, and what Sharp was able to draw was a gentleman in chains, naked in a cave.
Dan Jurgens was up next to speak about Action Comics. Inman pulled a cover for Action Comics #983 featuring different Supermen from the DCU mid-fight. Inman joked that Jurgens looks like he's trying to pitch a Team Superman book, to which the fans cheered.
Jurgens then spoke about the evolution of the Superman Revenge Squad and bringing the Super-characters from Rebirth together. "We started this arc thinking that Cyborg Superman was really running the show, but it's eventually revealed that General Zod has assumed control of the situation."
"There's a surprise reveal at the end of next week's issue that I think is really going to shake up the way the Super family works," Jurgens teased, before confirming that Mr. Oz is going to be definitively revealed in Action Comics #987.
"How much will this change the Superman books going forward?" Inman asked, to which Jurgens responded that "It will certainly change the future of Action Comics, and I think it will have a ripple effect outwards."
The floor was then opened for fan questions.
A question from a fan named AJ went to the panel asking about "combining two characters in the DCU, who would they be?"
Williamson stepped up to say that combining heroes is something that they're working to do wth the evil Batmen in Metal.
The next question related back to the Doomsday Clock event, asking each panelist how they plan to tie into that event. King responded that "the entire DC Universe is existing as one thing. It's not a vacuum. It's all the same story."
An adorable Red Robin cosplayer asked about the Joker situation in the comics currently, King responded that "the answer is coming," but was quick to apologize that he can't elaborate further yet.
A fan then asked Jurgens about the upcoming Action Comics #1000, but Jurgens wasn't able to spoil to much. He assured the room that it was a very special issue that he is very excited to write.
Liam Sharp's son was next at the mic to ask the panel how long it takes them on average to write a script. The consensus came down to anywhere between a week to three days, under the right circumstances.