One Year Later.
That was the bomb dropped by DC Comics President Dan DiDio during the Crisis Counseling Panel at the Wizard World Philly Comic Convention when he revealed that midway through this fall's highly anticipated "Infinite Crisis," the entire DC universe will jump one year into the future.
DiDio fielded questions alone in the hour-long question and answer session, explaining the motivation and underlying themes behind the numerous interlocking mini-series that are leading up to seven-issue "Infinite Crisis" in October and allaying, or in the case of Flash fans enhancing, fears about the revamped DCU.
The roots of the crisis go back to a meeting two and a half years ago, where DiDio met with Greg Rucka, Judd Winick and Geoff Johns, some of DC's most popular and prolific writers to map the next stage in the DCU.
"These guys were already writing like 25 percent of the books already" said Didio, so they were a natural choice to help plan the revamp. They'd already started, without DiDio or the editors' involvement, by writing small crossovers and plots that carried over into each other's various projects. Together, the group mapped out an ambitious plan that will carry DC comics through 2007.
"The most nerve-wracking thing is whether people will like it. What if they don't like Detective Chimp?" said DiDio, referring to one of the stranger characters of this spring's "Day of Vengeance."
The seeds for "Infinite Crisis" were laid as far back as "Graduation Day," where Donna Troy was killed, with the intent of bring her back when they moved closer to "Infinite Crisis." Other plot threads have been woven into titles like "Teen Titans," "Batman/Superman," and "Outsiders" since their very beginning.
DiDio say it's unnecessary to read all the books to get the whole story, but the people that do will get another level of enjoyment out of it. They're trying to build back the excitement about the monthly format.
"If you can wait for the trade," said DiDio, "Then we're not doing our jobs." DiDio believes the approach is working. Instead of fans talking about the latest artist squabbles or who is late this month, they're talking about the stories again. It was that kind of storytelling, where you can't wait for the next issue to find out what happens, that brought DiDio to comics, and it's what he wants to create for fans now.
The goal in the post-"Infinite Crisis" DCU is to find the core iconic concept that makes each character great and keep it while advancing the world around them. "Exciting, accessible and interesting" were the words DiDio used to describe the new stories of the DCU. Batman, for example, will move away from being what DiDio describes as an urban commando, a field marshal directing troops, and back towards what Batman is really about; a man who has molded his mind and body into the perfect weapon, with no need for a support crew or "Barbara Gordon as his OnStar unit." Preserve the old, but keep moving forward.
DiDio kept quiet about exactly what "Infinite Crisis" was about, although he did drop a few hints about what it isn't about. Although it falls on the 20th anniversary of the continuity-crushing "Crisis on Infinite Earths," this Crisis will not be another reboot. While the DCU will focus on refining their characters and getting back to their roots, it will not revamp any of the past comic. What happened, happened. The new Crisis is about moving forward, not redoing the past.
Similarly, we won't see an "All-Star JSA" or one set in the past anytime soon. While many characters are generational in the DCU, the big three; Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, aren't. Those three remain rooted in the present and original, with no previous version to include them in the distant past. Every new layer of past event erodes those core characters a little, weakening their foundations, he said. DiDio reiterated the new goal: Keep the universe moving forward, not looking back.
The Crisis also won't see the return of former Flash Barry Allen, who died saving the universe in the original Crisis. Some stories, says Didio, are so strong that undoing them would be a crime. The DCU would be a lesser place without Barry's sacrifice, or the crippling of Barbara at the hands of the Joker.
DiDio headed the crowd off by explaining that Hal Jordan's recent return was a different animal entirely. Hal died, but but he never really went away, returning as Parallax, as a time traveling version of himself, and as the Spectre, all wearing a version of his Green Lantern costume, all while supposedly dead.
"I think Hal made more appearances in the 10 years after his death than he did while he was alive," joked DiDio.
"Infinite Crisis" isn't about ubiquitous uber-baddie Darkseid either. While Darkseid is one of the best villains the DCU has, said DiDio, he's gotten overworked. Part of the plan hatched by DiDio and company was to give some of the DC villains, including Darkseid and the Joker, a rest to make their appearances special again.
Several secondary characters will have big parts in the "Infinite Crisis," including Nightwing and fan favorite Booster Gold. After the "Omac Project" mini series, Booster Gold will finally come into his own.
"It's funny. Some said to me that you guys finally figure out how to write Blue Beetle and you kill him. Well, it's easier to write characters when you know where they're headed. And we've got big plans for Booster Gold."
Booster Gold is also an example how the best laid plans can change, sometimes for the better. Booster was supposed to have sworn off the tights business. But a mistranslation between the writers of Countdown and artists Ed Benes had Booster back in the familiar blue and gold. And it worked. The scene with him out of costume, says DiDio, was boring. But the scene that Benes drew was beautiful.
The new Eclipso was another example of serendipity for the master planners of the DCU. She wasn't intended to become the new Eclipso when "Identity Crisis" was written, but after the success of "Identity Crisis," they realized the Atom's murderous ex was the perfect person to become the new God of Vengeance.
Beyond the leap one year into the future, the post "Infinite Crisis" DCU will experience other changes. Expect new costumes and identities for some major characters, and some unexpected new directions for others.
And what about the Flash? When asked about a new permanent writer for the title, DiDio quipped, "Why would I need one? There is a crisis coming you know." But he was joking.