WonderCon: Jim Lee & Dan DiDio Preview DC's Future at Publishers Panel

The current state of DC's multifaceted publishing plans -- which now includes the DC Universe, Vertigo, Young Animal, DC Black Label, MAD, DC Zoom, DC Ink and more -- was discussed Saturday morning during the DC Publishers panel at WonderCon in Anaheim, with Jim Lee and Dan DiDio joined by some surprise guests.

Following a video highlighting the various eras of DC superhero history, Lee and DiDio took the stage. DiDio said they're continually trying to reach out to new audiences -- naming Zoom and Ink specifically for that effort -- and Black Label as an imprint to appeal to older fans, who are looking for a more mature style of storytelling.

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Circling back to the middle-grade line Zoom and Young Adult imprint Ink, Bobbie Chase, executive editor of the lines, joined the stage. "It's been a long time coming," Chase said. "We've been planning and dreaming -- we've been working on this since 2012."

"They're going to be very different in tone and feel," Chase said of the upcoming books from the imprints. "The art in the books is going to be very different. The style of the books are going to be very different."

Lee asked about DC recruiting new talent for the initiative. "We're working with some authors who are just top of their game, so well-known in the middle-grade and YA space," Chase said.

DiDio asked about the difference between Zoom and Ink. Chase said Zoom is "coming of age with a safety net," aimed at ages 8 to 12. That led to a video of creators working on the Zoom line discussing their books, including Franco and Art Baltazar on Superman of Smallville; Ridley Pearson, writer of Super Sons; Minh Le writer of Green Lantern: Legacy; Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen, the team behind Batman: Once Upon a Crime; Shea Fontana, writer of Batman: Overdrive; and Meg Cabot, writer of Black Canary: Ignite.

Mariko Tamaki joined on stage to discuss Ink book Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass, illustrated by Steve Pugh. "It's about her figuring out the lay of the land in Gotham," Tamaki said, including dealing with gentrification. The story will co-star Poison Ivy.

"Teenagers, as we know, are very complicated," Tamaki said of her thoughts towards approaching YA storytelling. "Being a teenager is a very frustrating and difficult thing. Everything, because you're younger, feels 10 times more difficult than being an adult."

DiDio asked Tamaki about her interpretation of Harley Quinn. "It's about imagining, what is the essence of this person? Harley is a villain, but Harley is a lovable villain. It's about really staying true to the character, while also finding new ways of interpreting her."

Chase said the lines will launch in spring 2019. A video of DC Ink authors including Tamaki, Melissa de la Cruz (Batman: Gotham High), Lauren Myracle (Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale) and Danielle Paige (Mera) was shown to the audience.

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Next imprint up: DC Black Label, with Mark Doyle (executive editor of Black Label and Vertigo) joining the stage.

"This is something we've been talking about for a long time," Doyle said. "I was always very excited about it. It sounded like the kinds of books that I love, and the kinds of books that I want to read."

That led to a video of Black Label creators discussing their books, with Brian Azzarello calling Batman: Damned a "12 out of 10" on the creepy scale, Scott Snyder saying that Batman: Last Knight on Earth is essentially the Dark Knight Returns of his and Greg Capullo's run on Batman, Kelly Sue DeConnick saying that Wonder Woman Hisoria: The Amazons "goes from the creation of the Amazons to the moment when Diana's story traditionally begins," John Ridley saying The Other History of the DC Universe will be "telling stories that so many people are very familiar with, but just altering that lens a little bit," and Frank Miller saying that Superman: Year One will "not upset the apple cart too much, but feel like brand new material."

Doyle said that the Black Label books will typically be larger in page count, but also format -- with books like Batman: Damned being wider to better show off Lee Bermejo's artwork.

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The panel then shifted to Vertigo. "We're talking to creators about what's going on outside right now," and what stories can be told that interpret that.

Turning to the recently announced Neil Gaiman-curated Sandman Universe, Doyle said, "People understand a shared universe, and that's why it made the most sense to call this that."

Nalo Hopkinson, writer of House of Whispers, joined the panel. "Neil sat us down and said, 'What I want you to do is take these toys I created, and tell your own stories,'" Hopkinson said. "I've been able to take the bis of Sandman that resonated with me, and bring them back out."

This led to a video of Gaiman discussing the conception of the Sandman Universe. Sandman ended in 1996 on the creative team's own terms, Gaiman said in the clip, but "There were corners of the Sandman world waiting to be explored, and we're going to explore them."

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Next up: MAD Magazine, with executive editor Bill Morrison joining DiDio and Lee on stage. Rather than a polished video of creators talking, Morrison showed a nonsensical clip from a cheesy old sci-fi movie, in suitably irreverent fashion.

"We're relaunching the magazine with a new issue #1," Morrison said, also revealing the new cover and logo -- with the logo, which Morrison called "classic and iconic," hearkening back to the oldest days of the magazine.

Morrison recapped when DiDio asked him to join as executive editor of MAD. "We're having lunch, and I'm sitting there trying to be Mr. Cool, and he's telling me, 'We'd like you to be the guy to take over MAD Magazine.' This has really been a wonderful opportunity. MAD is sort of the comedic version of a Fabergé egg. I feel like I've been given this very precious thing, and a lot of people have told me, 'Don't screw it up.'"

Legendary cartoonist and MAD Magazine mainstay Sergio Aragonés joined the panel. Aragonés will continue to be involved with MAD, and expressed his excitement for working with Morrison, who made clear that many of the magazines longtime contributors will remain on board, including Al Jaffee and Peter Kuper.

DC Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras joined the panel to talk the future of the superheroes of the DC Universe, starting with the DC Nation #0 one-shot out on May 2. "We're just stepping on the gas and bringing the most exciting stories to you," with a glimpse of the big arcs unfolding in the summer, namely the weekly Justice League: No Justice miniseries, Batman and Catwoman's wedding and the Brian Michael Bendis-written Man of Steel miniseries.

This led to a video of DC Universe creators, including Bendis saying that Action Comics #1000 will introduce a villain that is "a real threat to him. He can beat Superman -- he is Superman's equal, if not better, and Superman has no idea who he is, or where he came from. This is a villain as scary and dangerous to Superman as anything to come about." Tom King discussed Batman and Catwoman's imminent nuptials -- specifically Joker's reaction, as he's not happy to see Batman being happy. Snyder recapped the plot of No Justice, with Brainiac forming four super-teams.

Back to the live presentation, Snyder joined Lee and DiDio. "There are things we haven't even seen yet that defy all sort of laws of comic book storytelling," Snyder told the crowd. "From No Justice, we're spinning a whole new ideology of what Justice League could be, called 'New Justice.'" The Justice League team will return to operating out of the Hall of Justice -- complete with magical portals.

"We're taking the characters you love, and we're honoring what you love about them, and going crazy," Snyder said. "Metal was a testing ground for that. This has been the best time and the most fun in my eight years at DC. I'm no shill for DC, it's true."

"his is the book, for me, that is my opus," "I want this to be my superhero soap opera that shows everything I learned at my time in DC. IF I never get to write another superhero comic, this is the one I want to end on -- not that I'm looking to retire."

June's Justice League #1 will include DC One Million, Kamandi, the original Monitor and an energy source looking to end the multiverse -- "and that's like page 1," Snyder said.

"Because we're using the biggest superheroes in the DC Universe, it only makes sense that we use the biggest villains," Snyder said. "So we're bringing back the Legion of Doom." He wouldn't name any members, but said it's "everyone you want, and more."

Justice League Dark will return with the creative team of James Tynion IV, Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez and Brad Anderson, and a team roster of Zatanna, Swamp Thing, Man-Bat and Detective Chimp, and Wonder Woman as team leader. "Because of what happened with Dark Nights: Metal, magic has been disrupted. It's the biggest magical war -- Klarion, everyone you can imagine is in this book."

Justice League Odyssey will launch out of No Justice from the creative team of writer Joshua Williamson and artist Stjepan Sejic. That book will have a roster of Cyborg, Starfire, Jessica Cruz, Azrael and -- wait for it -- Darkseid. "He is their Hannibal Lecter," Snyder said, adding that it advocated for it to be called "Justice League WTF."

Also on the horizon post-No Justice: the return of Teen Titans written by Adam Glass, and the return of Titans written by Dan Abnett, with a team including Nightwing, Raven, Beast Boy, Steel and Miss Martian.

Lee and DiDio wrapped the panel by reflecting on the variety of current offerings from DC -- and Lee telling audience members that there were 120 boxes of Girl Scout cookies from his house up for grabs at the exits.

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