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Still pumped from from last weekend's New York City Comic-Con, at which DC Comics Senior VP/Executive Editor Dan DiDio let slip a couple of heretofore closely guarded secrets (Barry Allen in a red Flash costume? Jason Todd as Red Robin?), the panelists were careful to keep their secrets close to the vest at this year's WonderCon.
Serving as the moderator, DiDio was joined by VP/Sales Bob Wayne, Senior Editor DCU Matt Idelson, Coordinating Editor DCU Jann Jones and Judd Winick, writer for "Green Arrow," "Trials of Shazam" and "The Outsiders."
Rather than deliver a scripted presentation, DiDio opened the floor up to questions and let the interests of the audience dictate the agenda of the panel.
Much of the proceedings focused on the wrap-up of "52" and the run-up to "Countdown," DC's next year-long, weekly-published project.
DiDio said, "Not only do we have '52' coming to its roaring conclusion, ending naturally on 5/2 – coincidence? – and since we decided that we want to go with another weekly book and we didn't want to give anyone a break, we're going to start 'Countdown' the next week on 5/9."
Five easels were set up with posters that served as teasers for the dramatic themes of "Countdown": "Jimmy Olsen Must Die"; "The Search for Ray Palmer"; "The Seduction of the Innocent," featuring Mary Marvel; "Villains Defiant," apparently featuring Trickster and Pied Piper; and "Unto Man Shall Come a Great Disaster," bringing back Darkseid to prominence in the DCU.
Of the last, DiDio said, "We've purposefully kept Darkseid out of the DCU for a while. Now we want to re-establish the importance of Darkseid. There's a lot of things that will be happening in 'Countdown.'"
Before "52" ends," "World War III" arrives. On the week of "52" #50, DC will publish four special issues that chronicle the big event. According to DiDio, "It's basically Black Adam versus everybody."
The specials also wrap up many of the "One Year Later" storyline jumps that occurred after the "Infinite Crisis" miniseries. "I know a lot of people enjoyed those things when they first came out," DiDio said, "but there are a lot of questions hanging."
One aim of the new maxi-series is to establish the nature of time in the DCU. "What we do with 'Countdown' is try to move the DCU in real-time for a year," DiDio said. "Every month in 'Countdown' is a month of time in the DCU. We want the sense that the DCU is moving forward as one whole unit."
That strategy will have repercussions in various on-going series. DiDio obliquely asked Winick how one of his books might be affected. Apparently not sure what he was supposed to say, Winick asked whether they were discussing a June issue. Given an affirmative, Winick said, "So, it'll be a June wedding."
DiDio shouted, "No! You weren't supposed to say that!"
Because Green Arrow and Black Canary have such a long history together as part of the Justice League, the implications of Queen's proposal will play out throughout the DCU. Winick said, "While things are pending with them, you'll get commentary about them in other books." Also planned for later in the year are a "Green Arrow: Year One" and a Black Canary miniseries.
Other "Year One" projects still ahead include Teen Titans, Metamorpho and Black Lightning.
Questions from the audience involved the possibility of a memorial to Steph (aka The Spoiler) in the Batcave (not going to happen), the status of the "All-Star" books (DiDio: "We've got #5 and #6 of 'All Star Batman and Robin' done. We won't launch any other All-Star books until we've got a couple issues in the can, so we don't get into trouble like that again."), whether "Blue Beetle" and "Hawkgirl" become "interesting anytime soon" ("Next question.") and why Jack "Starman" Knight hasn't appeared in "52."
DiDio spoke about the evolution of that series. "Stories grew, other things got bumped. If the writers didn't feel a natural place for it, they didn't put it in. It didn't seem natural to put Jack in there. It would have been forced."
Winick expounded on the original intentions of "52." "'52' was originally going to be all of the 'One Year Later' stories in the DC Universe, all of them. It took not time at all for that not to happen. I think there would have to be three issues a week to cover all of that, and there were only four guys writing it. These are now the most beaten-down, burnt-to-a-crisp writers you'll ever see."
Winick sees "52" as an incredible achievement, despite its having veered from its purpose at the outset. "The stories took hold. The characters they were embracing became more interesting than this so-called master plan."
DiDio finished the panel with a lightning round of fast questions and terse answers: "Are lesbians the only ones having sex in the DC Universe?" ("Yes!"); Spectre on-going series? ("Not right now, but he will be appearing somewhere else."); more Scott Free? ("Big time."); Superboy Prime series? ("Sorta."); and will Swamp Thing return to the DCU? ("We ask every day.")
The citizens of DC Nation may have left without having been granted all the answers they desire, but at least they received a handful of nifty "Countdown" promotional buttons on the way out.